From the exploits of warriors, to the benevolence of kings, the knowledge of the high priests and the laws of the land, temple inscriptions record accomplishments and the way of life of our ancestors. Among these an uncommon discovery was a 16th century Tamil inscription slab belonging to the Nayaka period with details of temple land being donated by a Devadasi. The stone slab was found abandoned in Vadivelkarai, a village in Tirupparangunram in Madurai.
Unlike contributions of kings, records of donations by Devadasis are neglected, says senior epigraphist S Rajagopal who deciphered the inscription. The inscription reads: Devadasi Sokki Thummisi of the Shiva temple here donated the paddy land on the outskirts of Thattankulam village to one Manickam. “It was during the time of Sadasivaraja (who ruled the Vijayanagar kingdom) and Visvanatha Nayaka (who ruled Madurai) that the inscription was engraved by Vinotha Brahmathirajan,” said Rajagopal.
The inscription slab was discovered by B Athmanathan, coordinator of the Centre for Historical Research of the Mannar Thirumalai Naicker College, Madurai, and research scholar Udhayakumar. The two sent the estampages of the inscriptions to Rajagopal to decipher it.
“When we visited the site, the inscription slab was lying abandoned and covered by shrubs. After cleaning the surroundings, and the slab with water, we took estampages of it. No one in the locality was aware of its significance,” said Athmanathan.
This inscription was engraved in the Saka Era 1480 (equivalent to 1558AD). “The inscription has a charter of the year of Uttarayana (movement of the sun towards north) and the seasons, yoga (calculation for the separating distance of the sun and moon) and karna (half a lunar day) marked on it. The characters, however, are not clear because the charter might have been constantly written depending on the orders issued in the name of the Shiva temple,” said Rajagopal.
Inscription slabs help us know about the social and cultural life of our ancestors.
“We have been documenting abandoned and neglected inscription slabs in Madurai and surroundings for long. We will study these inscriptions in detail with the help of a team of epigraphists soon so that we get a clear idea about the significance of the inscription slab,” said Athmanathan.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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