Quite often we tend to think of ancient languages, scripts etc especially tamil to be confined only to palm leaf manuscripts or to temple inscriptions. There is another equally important source to study the evolution of the script but their main purpose was something more gallant. Hero Stones or Nadukkal are found not confined only to Tamil land but are spread all over India, they are raised to remember the bravery of a fallen solider or even a villager - usually who fought to save the village livestock from cattle raiders,or the village persay from enemy soldiers or even from wild animals.
I was fortunate to stumble across one very unique stone not in person, but when i was interacting with the great scholar Sri. Michael Lockwood, while searching for a pallava inscription, came upon his reference of a Hero stone in Chengam - Chengam Nadukarkal No 13 to be precise.
After the release of the recent movie Aravaan, there is renewed interest in such hero stones and their specific purpose. It would be interesting to read what is in this particular stone and why is it so unique.
For starters, the text is in two blocks around the central relief. The period assigned is the 7th C CE, Pallava period, the script used is Vatteluthu.
The portion on the top comprising 9 lines refer to the hero holding the bow and knife depicted below.
Text courtesy : Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology and Mr Michael Lockwood
1. Ko - Visaiya
3. muppattu nangavadu [|*] Vanako-
4. arasisaru marumakkal Porrokkai-
5. ar ilamagan Karundevakkatti tan-
7 puratte va-
8 di patta-
9 n kal [||*]
Meaning - : ” Records the death of Karundevakkatti, the younger son (ilamagan) of Porrokkaiyar who was the nephew ( marumakkal) of a Bana Chieftain.’
The portion to the side is what is interesting. The ancients did not stop with recording the death of the the hero, they go on to honor another…
10 [koviva] - [ read: Koriva - by Mr Lockwood]
12 n-nay i-
13 ru kalla-
16 ndavaru [||*]
Meaning: “Also mentions that a dog named Ko[ri*]van bit two thieves and kept watch.”
Images courtesy: http://tamilnation.co/heritage/dolmens.htm