MADURAI: Four stone inscriptions from different eras, the oldest of which is 2-1 century BCE, were found at a centuries-old religious institution (mutt) at Kinnimangalam near Usilampatti here. The inscriptions were identified and deciphered by a team of archaeologists and historians led by Deputy Director of the State Archaeological Department Dr R Sivanandam.
Tamizhi (Tamil Brahmi) inscription
Art historian KT Gandhirajan, who was part of the team that also included Archeologist C Santhalingam, said that Tamizhi inscriptions had been found at around 15 places in the district. Most were found on rocks, isolated places, and under the earth.
This has been the first time that an inscription assigned to 2-1 century BCE was identified at an existing institution. The Tamil word Kottam finds a unique mention in the inscription. “This inscription could be a memorial pillar”, said Sivanandam.
Rounded inscription mentions Pallipadai
Sivanandam said that the word Pallipadai (sepulchral shrine) has been mentioned for the first time in a rounded (vattaeluthu) inscription found on the premises of the mutt. Gandhirajan said that Pallipadai is mostly associated with kings, but here pallipadai is associated with a teacher (guru) of the institution. Sivanandam said that the institution is known among local residents as the Pallipadai temple even now.
Modern Tamil inspiration from 1722 CE
An 18th century CE Tamil inscription found on the premises is believed to have been commissioned by King Vijayaranga Chokkanathan; it has 43 lines. Gandhirajan said the inscription states the names of previous kings of the same (Nayak) dynasty and also those of another (Vijayanagara) dynasty. The mention of the kings’ names helped order their reigns in a time line. The fourth and the latest stone inscription is from 1942. The inscription names the institution as Jeevasamathi (close in meaning to Pallipadai). That the four inscriptions of different ages were found from one place is evidence of the continuous existence of the institution over the centuries, said Gandhirajan.