Tuesday, 6 September 2016

2,200-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscription found on Samanamalai

A Tamil-Brahmi inscription that pushes back the association of Samanamalai (“Jaina Hill”), 15 km from Madurai, with Jainism to 2,200 years, has been discovered on the hill. Although scholars in Jainism in Tamil Nadu know the existence of bas-relief sculptures of tirthankaras and Tamil Vattellutu inscriptions on the Samanamalai, both datable to 9th-10th century CE, what has surprised them is the recent discovery of the Tamil-Brahmi script on a boulder on the hill's terrace. The script is engraved on the boulder in which a drip-ledge has been cut and beds excavated on the rock floor for the Jaina monks to rest.
V. Vedachalam, former Senior Epigraphist, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, and V. Muthukumar, research scholar from Tamil University, Thanjavur, discovered this inscription. The script, which is datable to second century BCE, has 13 letters.
Iravatham Mahadevan, a scholar in Tamil-Brahmi script, called it “a good discovery of genuine importance” and said he was “surprised that it has been overlooked for such a long time.”
Different interpretations of the newly found script have been given by specialists in Tamil-Brahmi. Mr. Mahadevan, who read it as “Peru Thorur Kunra Ko Ayam,” said it recorded the gift of a mountain pool/spring by the chief of the hill at a place called Peru Thorur. He said: “It is clearly an inscription with Jaina affinity because you can see the drip line cut above the inscription, which is carved on the brow of the rock. The letters are very archaic and they are tall and narrow. They belong to the Mankulam and Arittapatti [both situated near Madurai] style of Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions. The archaic nature of the Samanamalai script can be seen from the spelling of the word ‘ayam,' which means a mountain pool of water or spring.”
Dr. Y. Subbarayalu, Head, Indology, French Institute of Pondicherry, and Dr. Vedachalam have read it as “Peru Tho Ur Uzhithegne Ayam.”
According to Dr. Subbarayalu, the word “ayam”, besides occurring at Samanamalai, had been used in the Tamil-Brahmi inscription at Mudalaikulam, about 10 km to the west of Samanamalai. “We can call ‘ayam' a spring or a cave. The Mudalaikulam inscription uses the word ‘Perayam', which means a big tank. There is more of a possibility to call it a cave,” Dr. Subbarayalu said. There were chances of obtaining different readings for the Samanamalai script. For instance, “The Ur” could be read as “Tho Ur.” The word “Uzhithegne” could be a personal name, he added.
In Dr. Vedachalam's interpretation, the script refers to an “ayam” dug by a man called Uzhithegne of Perunthevur. Specialists had argued that the word meant a water tank (“Kulam” in Tamil). “Ayam” could also mean a “crater” (“pallam”). A water tank did not fit into the context of where Jaina monks stayed, the Senior Epigraphist said. So “ayam,” in the Samanamalai context, could refer to the drip-ledge cut on the rock's brow or the beds cut on the floor. Thus the word “ayam” established that it was a place where the Jaina monks stayed, Dr. Vedachalam said. “Perunthevur” could have existed near where the inscription had been found. Both “Uzhithegneyan,” the name of a person, and “Thevur”, the name of a village, belonged to the Tamil Sangam age.
Dr. C. Santhalingam, former Archaeological Officer, Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology, called it “a remarkable discovery which pushes back the association of Jainism with this hill to more than 2,200 years.” He read it as “Peru Te Rur Kuzhiththai Ayam,” which meant these rock beds were carved by the villagers of Peru Therur. The word “Therur” could be read as “Thenur” because the fourth letter in the script looked like the dental “nu”. Thenur, now located near Sholavandan in Madurai district, found mention in the Sangam texts, Dr. Santhalingam said.
Kuzhiththai meant dug out or excavated. Ayam meant rock shelter or bed. Ayam was the corrupt form of “ayanam” or “sayanam.”

Monday, 5 September 2016

How many are familiar with weights and measures that were used in olden days?

How many are familiar with weights and measures such as Kuzhi, Maa, Veli and Muntiri that were used in olden days?

(A monthly column that unravels fascinating facts about heritage, art and architecture, this one throws light on measurements used in medieval period)
Writing in the 19th Century, a British official complained, “the number of viss in a maund differs in a bewildering way, both according to local custom and to the substance which is being weighed… a ‘measure,’ is a most varying quantity – any old compressed beef tin of any size passes as a measure, if you will accept it. The only way is to get accustomed to your providers’ peculiarities and pay accordingly.” The same traveller would be surprised if he was in the medieval Tamil Nadu! Weights and measures from inscriptions are complex. They vary with region, dynasty and many kings created their own!
Different calculations
Weights and measures are frequently found in inscriptions that deal with gifts of land and produce to temples. The Chola and Pandya territories seemed to have had different measures but with many local variations. Some calculations can be made.
Land was measured in Kuzhi – which was one rod in length and one rod in width. Three Kuzhi made aMaa. 20 Maa made a Veli (sometimes called Sey as well). A Maa approximates to 33 cents. Because a rod length varied it’s difficult to say that a Veli in one part of the state was the same elsewhere. 1/80 of aVeli made a Kani and 1/320 of a Veli made a muntiri. Smaller land fractions went to as low as 2.81 sq.ft. Such small fractions were useful since land was taxed not just by spread but fertility as well. By colonial times, a Veli was equal to 6.6116 acres.
Grain was measured as eight Naazhi that made a pucca padi or a pattanam padi in the Pandya country. Surprisingly in Thanjavur, eight Naazhi made only half that quantity and was called a china padi. Amarakkal was used to measure grain. A Nerai Naazhi approximated to a little less than a kilo, possibly 850-900gms.
Gold and gems had a separate calculation. One gold kasu (coin) was four kunrimani (a seed). TwoKunrimani made a manjadi and 20 manjadi made a kalanju. 2.5 kalanju made a sovereign of pre-independence proportions, around eight grams today.
Land measures are most commonly encountered. Several temples such as those in Kanchipuram (Varadaraja temple), Srirangam and others have alavu kols – lines etched into the stone wall that are a measure for land. These come in varying lengths, 12, 16, sometimes even 18 ft. The ends are differentiated with a zig zag or some decorative feature, and the alavu kol, usually has a name to it. Raja Raja called his, Adavallan after the Chola tutelary deity Nataraja of Chidambaram. These measures continued even in the 19th centuries, temples in the Pudukottai district have such measures from the reigns of the Sethupathis. The Kols were based on a human span – (chaan) or a foot (adi). A rod was named after the number of spans and feet it comprised. 16 span rods were most common but mostly in the northern districts. Foot rods become more popular in the 12th century. The 18 foot rod was more popular in the Pandya country. We have evidence of land surveys being conducted during the reigns of Raja Raja I and Kulotunga and Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I in the 11-13th centuries. The person responsible for it, being honoured with the title “Ulagalanda” or one who surveyed the world.
In the 18th century, the documents in the Thanjavur Sarasvati Mahal library give us insights into the measures of that period. One Manjadi was 260 mg, One kalanju was 5.2 gms, One tank was One gm, Onetola was 2.9 gms, One palam was 35 gms, Oneseer was 280 gms and One marakkal was three Kg. 12 tolasmade One palam (35 gm), eight palams made One seer (280 gm), five seers made One veesai (One kg and 400 gm), eight veesai made One manangu (11 kg and 200 gm), 40 manangu made One baram (448 kg).
In another system prevalent in the Maratha times One padi made 750 gm and four padis made Onemarakkal (three kg). This was used mostly for agriculture produce. Land was measured by a rod fourteen feet in length. 20 maa made one veli (6.5 Acres). 100 kuzhi made a maa. The Marathas also had taank (rhyming with ‘Monk’). One tola (three gm), in 1820, made three taank, whereas in 1780, Onetola was equal to One taank. Gold and silver had a separate system. One kunrimani made 13.3 mg, twokunrimani made One manjadi (26.6 mg), 20 manjadi made One kalanju (5.320 mg), 60 kunrimanimade One poun (7.98 gm).
During the colonial times, measures included One padi, ½ padi and ¼ padi. Two aazhakku made ¼padi. ½ and aazhaku was a Veechampadi. Another unit was a Maakani. In Kumbakonam a ½ padi was a chinna padi. In many places down south liquids were sold as a Chombu- about 1/4th padi. Old timers still remember these units and can swiftly calculate and convert without modern devices – perhaps in some ways modern technology has made us mentally less agile!
Soure : (The writer can be contacted at pradeepandanusha@gmail.com)

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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Original Nandhi

Most of the people think that the nandhi present in the Thanjavur big temple is considered to be the original Nandhi that was placed by Raja Raja Chola. Unfortunately NO!

At the top the pyramid is reduced into a neck and holds the Vimana or Sikhara which is a monolithic huge rock spherical in shape. Its approximate weight is 81.28 tones.

 Above the Vimana is the shining Kalasam (bowl) made up of gold is seen whose height is 12 feet and was originally presented by Rajaraja-I. At the top of the pyramid above the 13th stage 8 nandhis are seen on corners.

Before keeping it over there, a sample was made. Even Today you can see the sample nandhi in the temple complex. 

It was chiseled by kunja mallar (Raja Raja I's favorite chiseler) himself.  

Present day worshiped nandhi is below (donated by Nayakas)

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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Experience Foot Trail

  First of all we welcome proudly,you, to our authentic city, where our predecessors built a world heritage center a thousand years back. Really astonishing!

The aim of this walkwithus.in, is, we are eagerly waiting to see our pride temple city through your eyes. Though we work in IT companies that are far away from our home-town, our satisfaction really lies in meeting so many travelers from all over the world and explaining self glorification that had been accomplished long long ago.

We are relatively new to tourism in Thanjavur and hope that we can expand on the free tour concept. Tips to our guides are welcome ,but there will be no pressure to tip. We have faith in quality tours and we strongly believe that we have something to offer everyone .No matter about the budget, because all of us are childhood friends.

We are to launch our walking tour, next week. So please await our further details which will be shared now and then.

This is apt time, for tour in South Tamilnadu, which is travelers paradise especially for those interested in ancestral history.