Whispering of Inscriptions, v. 1 – Short titles, contributors and abstracts

Murugaiyan, Appasamy & Parlier-Renault, Édith (Sep. 2021) (Eds) Whispering of Inscriptions: South Indian Epigraphy and Art History: Papers from an International Symposium in memory of Professor Noboru Karashima (Paris, 12–13 October 2017), v.1. Oxford: Indica et Buddhica. Short titles, contributors & abstracts.

Introduction – Contribution of Noboru Karashima, Y. Subbarayalu

Professor Noboru KARASHIMA (1933–2015) was one of the few outstanding Japanese historians who has enriched Indian historiography during the last five decades. He will be remembered for long for his path-breaking studies in the agrarian history of South India, particularly of mediæval Tamil Nadu. Son of a Professor of Chinese language, he had been working on South Indian history using Tamil inscriptions as primary sources ever since he submitted his graduation thesis on an aspect of Cōḻa history (in Japanese) in the Department of Oriental History in the University of Tokyo in 1958. Japan being a Buddhist country, the major Indian studies in Japanese Universities had been related generally to North India using Sanskrit-related sources. Hence KARASHIMA's choice of Cōḻa history using Tamil sources was a revolutionary change in Japanese universities. ...

I – Araiyan names in inscriptions, Y. Subbarayalu

The social and political developments in mediæval South India may be understood to a considerable extent by studying the names of persons using the title araiyaṉ and its variants (araiyar, araicar, arasar, arasu). A general pattern may be noticed in the titles and attributes of the chiefs, somewhat different from those of the contemporary kings. From the 10th century and after, all these titles lose their earlier tribal connotation and become titles of general ranking among the ruling elite. Thereafter a distinct ruling class, with high-sounding titles, was brought forth by the exigencies of complex administration. The higher the status of a person the longer becomes his name, with one or two titles added to the given name. The proportion of the araiyaṉ names are found to fluctuate over time and gradually increases over the centuries and reaches a peak in the 12th–13th centuries. The metamorphosis of the araiyaṉ-titled officials into locality chiefs is an interesting development during these centuries.

Y. SUBBARAYALU was Professor in the Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur (1983–2001). He co-ordinated the Digital Historical Atlas of South India (2005–8) at the French Institute of Pondicherry, and is presently Affiliated Researcher in the same Institute. His research interests are in historical geography, and social and economic history of mediæval Tamil Nadu. His publications include Political Geography of the Chola Country, Madras, 1973; A Glossary of Tamil Inscriptions, Chennai, 2002–3; South India under the Cholas, New Delhi, 2012.

II – Voices of Pāṇḍya women, V. Gillet

Three Pāṇḍya queens of the first Pāṇḍya Empire have their donations recorded in inscriptions in temples of the Kāvēri region: an unnamed Paṇḍya queen in Tillaisthānam at the end of the 9th century, then Kiḻavaṉ Tēcapukaḻ, assigned to the 10th century, in the temples of Tiruccāttuṟai, Tillaisthānam and Tiruppaḻaṉam, and Atiyirāmaṉ Kuntappāvaiyār, in the early 11th century, in the Tiruvicalūr temple. This paper intends to explore patterns of endowments made by these queens. I shall discuss the identity of each of them, and place their donations in the network of gifts made by other royal figures in the very same places.

Valérie GILLET joined the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) in 2007 and was posted at the EFEO centre of Pondicherry, of which she became the Head in 2011. Since 2017, she is posted in Paris, where she teaches at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) besides her research activities. A specialist of South India, she works mainly with material culture and Tamil epigraphy of the first millennium found in the territories of the Pāṇḍya, Pallava and Cōḻa dynasties, covering almost the entire Tamil-speaking country. Her recent research has focussed on patronage patterns, on the role of Minor dynasties and on the history of selected sites. She is also working on the development of an important divine figure of the Tamil Land, Subrahmaṇya, which led her to begin the exploration of material of the Andhra Country in 2016.

III – A Mediæval Cōḻa inscription about a Śaiva ascetic, G. Vijayavenugopal

There are several studies about the Śaiva Mutts and their activities in Tamil Nāṭu: some attempt to trace their origin; some explain their distribution; and some speak about the personnel in the Mutt and their activities. However an interesting inscription of Mediæval Cōḻa period, which missed the attention of the scholars who studied Mutts in Tamil Nāṭu, narrates how an ascetic of a Śaiva Mutt helped the King in driving away the enemies by simply performing japa, homa and arcana for which he was rewarded by a donation of a village completely tax free. This paper tries to trace out the nature of development of Śaiva Mutts in Tamil Nāṭu and their relationship with the temple and the kings with the help of some new inscriptions noticed by the present writer in Piranmalai and Thirunallar in Tamil Nāṭu.

G. VIJAYAVENUGOPAL studied at Annamalai University where he obtained an M.A. in Tamil language & Literature (1961), an M.Litt. (1963), a Diploma in Linguistics (1963), in Telugu (1965), in Epigraphy and Archæology (1975) and a Ph.D. (1975). After teaching at the Annamalai University (1965–8) he joined the Madurai University (1968). He served as Professor of Comparative Literature, Professor of Art History and Æsthetics, and as Special Officer for Planning and Development. He was Founder – Principal of the Madurai Kamaraj University College, and Director of the Evening College. He taught at the College of Wooster, Ohio, USA (1971) and at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA (1977–9). After retiring from Madurai Kamaraj University he joined the Pondicherry center of the École française d’Extrême Orient in 1997. His present areas of specialisation are Epigraphy and Tamil linguistics.

IV – Cōḻa copper plates: languages and issuers, E. Francis

Indian copper-plate grants, initially issued by ruling kings (from the 3rd century CE onwards) and, increasingly, as time passed, by private individuals, are very specific documents, since they are kept by the grant beneficiaries as title-deeds. This paper is an overview of the copper plates of the Cōḻa period (10th to 13th century) issued in Tamil Nadu. The aim is to underline the variety of the documents in this corpus, with regard to the issuing agencies and the languages of redaction. We will review, on the one hand, bilingual Sanskrit and Tamil royal copper plates, issued by the Cōḻa chancellery and recording a royal order, and, on the other hand, copper plates, entirely written in Tamil and dated to the regnal years of Cōḻa kings, but issued by an agency other than royal. Copper plates issued by ‘magnates’ of the Cōḻa realm, ancient forgeries, and some epigraphical mentions will also be discussed.

Emmanuel FRANCIS has a Ph.D. from the Institut Orientaliste, Louvain-La-Neuve (2009). He worked at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Culture (CSMC SFB 950 Universität Hamburg) before joining the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) at the Centre d’Études de l’Inde et Asie du Sud (CEIAS UMR 8564 EHESS) in Paris in 2012. He studies manuscripts and inscriptions in Sanskrit and Tamil in order to write a socio-linguistic history of the Tamil speaking area of South India. He is currently leading two research programs. Texts Surrounding Texts 2019–22 (TST, ANR & DFG, FRAL 2018) is about two exceptional collections of manuscripts and their paratexts (Paris BnF and Hamburg Stabi) while The Domestication of ‘Hindu’ Asceticism and the Making of South and Southeast Asia 2019–25 (DHARMA, ERC Synergy Grant 2018) is about the religious, political and social history of South and Southeast Asia between the 6th and the 13th centuries, based mainly on epigraphical sources, but investigating also manuscripts, literature, material culture.

V – Spatial organisation of brahmadēyas, N. Athiyaman

In Tamil Nadu, brahmadēya settlements started from about the 6th century CE, though grants to individual Brāhmaṇas are referred to already from the early Pallava Period (about the 4th century CE). These settlements were made in two ways: i. by converting some existing (non-Brāhmaṇa) settlements into brahmadēyas; and ii. by creating new settlements by reclaiming forest and uninhabited land for cultivation with new irrigation facilities. In either case, it seems that the irrigation system of these brahmadēyas was well designed to form a grid pattern to supply water to the lands. This could be understood from the descriptions of the fields and canals in the inscriptions. It is interesting to note that the boundaries of the land donated were marked in cardinal directions by some irrigation channels denoted by the terms vāykkāl, kaṇṇāṟu and vati. The vāykkāl and kaṇṇāṟu are generally found to flow perpendicular to vati, creating a sort of grid pattern. This grid pattern was necessary and useful to allot equal shares of land to each of the Brāhmaṇa settlers. An analysis of the irrigation system as gleaned from mediæval inscriptions will throw light on the spatial organisation of the brahmadēya settlements over the period. In this paper an attempt is made by a sample survey through collating all the inscriptional data in the Kaveri delta, namely the Pāpanācam region. Inscriptions of this region are found in the publications of the State Department of Archaeology. All the inscriptions containing data on irrigation systems are thoroughly scrutinised and an analysis is made on the spatial dynamics of Brāhmaṇa settlements, and a proposition is made that wherever an organised grid pattern of irrigation system is found, that settlement was newly created. A clear description of the typical irrigation pattern in the brahmadēya is also attempted.

N. ATHIYAMAN (1963–2018), was Professor and Head, Department of Maritime History and Marine Archaeology and Dean Faculty of Manuscriptology, Tamil University, India. He earned his Ph.D. on Sangam Age Architecture from the Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology, Tamil University. He started his career as Diver-cum-lecturer in 1987 and was appointed as professor in 2007. He was an Underwater Diver and has carried out diving on the coastal area of India. He was doing research in Maritime Archaeology, History of Science, Tamil literature and in Megalithic culture of South India. He has published four books and edited fifteen books and published forty-eight research papers.

VI – Measurements in Mediæval Tamil Nadu, V. Selvakumar

Measurement formed an important component of mediæval administration in South India. Measurement of land areas was possible with the use of a kind of a yard stick, namely, daṇḍa or kōls, for which the dimensions were marked at many sites and temples. Weight and volume measures were used for various economic activities. They were essential for taxation and various economic transactions, including sale and purchase. The weight and volume measures had several names and they are often mentioned in the inscriptions. Some of the linear measurement rods that were used for land measurement in the mediæval period are marked on the temples and rocks at several sites in Tamil Nadu. These rods were documented and measured to understand the nature of measurement rods used during the Cōḻa period. Mediæval inscriptions mention the area of land in terms of traditional measurement units. The data from inscriptions on the linear measurement units was collected. Measurement of mediæval temple structures and contemporary rice fields was undertaken at a few locations. Based on the analysis of the dataset, this paper presents a descriptive and analytical account of the measurement rods of the Cōḻa period.

V. SELVAKUMAR is currently Associate Professor in the Department of Maritime History and Marine Archaeology, Tamil University, Tanjavur. He received a B.A. degree in Indian Culture from Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirappalli, in 1987, an M.A. in Ancient Indian History and Archaeology and an M.Phil. in Archaeology from the University of Madras, in 1989 and 1990. He obtained a Ph.D. in Archaeology from the Deccan College Pune (University of Poona) in 1997. He completed post-Doctoral research at the Deccan College Pune with an ICHR fellowship. He was a faculty member at the Center for Heritage Studies, Tripunithura, Kerala from 2003 to 2007, and at the Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology of the Tamil University, Tanjavur, from 2007 to 2017. He was a NTICVAM (Nehru Trust for the Indian Collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum) Visiting Researcher at the Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Southampton University, in 2004. With a NTICVAM UK Visiting Fellowship in 2018, he was trained in Ceramic Studies at the UCL and the British Museum. His research interests include Indian archæology, prehistory, heritage management, maritime history and archæology, archæological theory, heritage management, history of science and technology, ceramic studies, Indian Ocean Cultural interactions, and ecocriticism.

VII – Vaṭṭeḻuttu and Tamil palæography, S. Rajavelu

Several new inscriptions of the early centuries of the Common Era that have been discovered in the Tamil Country in the last few decades help us to understand the gradual development of the major scripts of Tamil Nadu. It is generally accepted that the Vaṭṭeḻuttu and Tamil scripts evolved from the Tamil-Brāhmī script and attained their distinct forms around the 6th century CE to suit the Tamil Language. There are several pioneering researches on South Indian palæography by A. C. BURNELL, T. A. GOPINATHA RAO, T. N. SUBRAHMANIAN and C. SIVARAMAMURTI. In 1990 R. GOVINDARAJ reviewed the earlier works in the light of new discoveries and brought out a good monograph on the first stage of development of the palæography of Tamil and Vaṭṭeḻuttu scripts with elaborate charts. Some other attempts have also been made by scholars like Iravatham MAHADEVAN, RAGHAVAVARIER, Natana KASINATHAN and RAJAGOPAL to study the palæographical features of Vaṭṭeḻuttu and Tamil scripts. However, there still remain a few stages to be explored in the chronological development of scripts in Tamil Nadu in general and particularly of Vaṭṭeḻuttu. In this paper, in the light of several recently discovered inscriptions belonging to the 6th–8th centuries CE, we are trying to fill some of the gaps in the palæographical charts of both the Vaṭṭeḻuttu and Tamil scripts, and to present more evidence for an understanding of the origin and development of these scripts.

S. RAJAVELU has received his M.A. in Ancient History and Archaeology from the University of Madras in 1980. In 2003 he earned his Ph.D. on the Historical Geography of Pudukkottai region, Tamil Nadu from Tamil University, Thanjavur, under the guidance of Prof. Y. SUBBARAYALU. He started his career as Epigraphist at the Archaeological Survey of India. He joined the the Tamil University as Professor in 2010. He had discovered a number of new inscriptions and archæological mounds in Tamil Nadu. He has published and edited 18 books and a number of research articles. He is a member of University Grants Commission (India) and National Test Academy New Delhi. He has also served as one of the coordinators of International Workshop on Tamil Epigraphy organised by École Pratique des Hautes Études and CNRS-Mondes iranien et indien, Paris.

VIII – Pronominalised nouns in Tamil inscriptions, A. Murugaiyan

This paper has two objectives: firstly, to adduce a selection of further Tamil epigraphic data in support of assertions made in Pilot-Raichoor (2012); and secondly, to analyse the use of kuṟippu viṉai, pronominalised nouns, in Tamil inscriptions. In Tamil traditional grammar and in later Western and / or modern grammars, kuṟippu viṉai is known under several exclusive terms, including pronominalised noun, appellative verb, conjugated noun, personal noun, and more. Viewed from a historical perspective, this form is very significant in the sense that it exhibits a process of simplification, a turning point in the way that the Tamil language developed in the modern period. This pronominalised noun (hereafter PNN) is formed by affixing the Person Number and Gender (PNG) marker to a nominal stem. PNN forms in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons are attested in many Classical Tamil verses with distinctive grammatical functions as argument or predicate. In Modern Tamil, by comparison, the PNN forms occurring in 1st and 2nd person nouns have almost fallen into disuse, although those in the 3rd person are in use. The 3rd person Modern Tamil use, however, tends to be generalised, and to have lost its Person distinction. In marked contrast to Modern Tamil, Tamil inscriptions seem to have frequently used the PNN. A detailed analysis of the data from inscriptional Tamil reveals not only that PNN occur in wider grammatical contexts and preserve their multifunctionality, but also that they are found to exhibit a unique feature where the proper names are pronominalised. Based on this preliminary survey, we will hypothesise that pronominalisation of proper names is a grammatical stratagem proper to the inscriptional Tamil. We will show that the PNNs are multifunctional, and that their grammatical structure closely correlates with the information structure (information packaging). The study of the PNN in inscriptional Tamil bridges a gap between Classical and Modern Tamil, and sheds more light on the diachronic development from Classical Tamil to Mediæval Tamil, and finally, to Modern Tamil.

Appasamy MURUGAIYAN received his Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Paris 7 (1980). He has specialised in foreign language teaching methodologies, Modern Tamil and Comparative Dravidian linguistics, Tamil epigraphy and the Tamil diasporic studies. He taught in several Universities: École Pratique des Hautes Études, University of Paris 8, School of Oriental Languages and CREOPS-Sorbonne University. He has published and edited several books and published widely in international journals and chapters in books on modern and historical Tamil linguistics, Tamil epigraphy and Tamil diaspora. His current areas of research include Tamil epigraphy, Tamil historical linguistics and identity construction among the Tamil diaspora of Francophone islands. He has completed two digital archival projects of preservation of manuscripts (17th–18th centuries) from the Bishop’s House of Jaffna funded by the Endangered Archival Programme of the British library. He is currently building a grammatical and lexical database of Tamil inscriptions, jointly organised by the Tamil Virtual Academy and CNRS-Mondes iranien et indien, Paris. He has been organising the International Workshop on Tamil Epigraphy since 2004.

IX – Mahendravarman's inscription in the so-called ‘Rock-Fort’ of Tiruccirāppaḷḷi, S. Brocquet

This article proposes a new analysis of Mahendravarman's poetical epigraph engraved on the two pilasters by which the Gaṅgādhara relief is flanked, in the ‘rock-cut’ temple situated on the slope of the Tiruccirāpaḷḷi hill. It focuses on its eighth and last stanza, that proves to be particularly enigmatic. This inscription, which has been repeatedly studied over time, raises many difficulties, mainly in the sixth and eighth stanzas, that contain double entendre, based not only on polysemy, but also on the referential indeterminacy of a few syntagms: anena liṅgena (6th stanza), bhautikī mūrtiḥ (8th). The lack of knowledge of the referential context makes interpretation even more difficult, especially when it comes to the potential presence of sculptures other than the Gaṅgādhara relief – one must keep in mind that in the interpretative process of any statement, the main role is played by the referent, which governs the construction of meaning.

The present study, after a few general remarks about the functions of royal inscriptions engraved in temples, provides a full translation of the text, followed by a line-by-line commentary, intended to support the interpretations that are assumed. It has recourse to a few simple methodological principles: i. not taking into account hypothetical referents, allegedly inferred from the text, in order to avoid tautology; ii. having recourse to an interpretative approach, rather than to traditional semantics based on lexicology; iii. considering the epigraphical poem as a whole, duly patterned according to a rhetoric design, in which each and every part signifies in the light of its entirety; and iv. relying on the treatises on poetics, in order to delineate as precisely as possible the range of ambiguity wherever it arises. Applying these few rules leads to the anthropologically acceptable hypothesis that the inscription is nothing but the founder-king's mūrti-, just as the relief is that of the god, his physical manifestation and his glorious body (since it is qualified as kīrtimayī) – while the temple, which is the central point of the ritual that unites the sacrificing devotee and the deity, may be considered the mūrti- of both. In the same way, the word liṅga- designates both the relief, which, after it has been duly consecrated, ensures the god's lasting presence in his temple, and the epigraph, as the token by which the king is sustainably identified. Correlatively, the hypothesis of a Śivaliṅga should be rejected as anachronistic and not empirically evidenced. The hollowing out of the temple, the relief's consecration, and the engraving of the inscription, which all make appeal to the stone's power of perpetuation, must be considered the three sides of one and the same process.

Sylvain BROCQUET is professor of Comparative linguistics and civilisation at the University of Aix-Marseille. He specialised in Sanskrit language and literature and most of his teaching bears on these topics. He received in 1997 his Ph.D. on the Sanskrit inscriptions of the Pallavas, with a focus on their poetical and ideological aspects. He wrote articles on Sanskrit epigraphy, literature and poetics. He published a translation and a study of Sandhyākaranandin's Rāmacarita, a court epic with double meaning, and is completing the first translation of another poem belonging to the same genre, Kāvirāja's Rāghavapāṇḍavīya. His main topics are actually the figures of speech in Sanskrit poetics, double meaning and poetry with several meanings, Indian epigraphy and history of Indology. He also published French translations of major Sanskrit literary works (theatre, poetry, and narratives), a handbook and a textbook of Sanskrit for French students.