Monday, August 20, 2018

Samanar Hills – Inscriptions

Samanar Hills – Inscriptions
Archaeologists have also found 2000-year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and Vatteluthu writings. The inscriptions reveal that hundreds of Jain monks took sallekena (fast unto death) there. There are flat rocks, called stone beds, used by the monks to take rest. The findings through the Tamil and Kannada inscriptions show that there was a Jain monastery at the top of the hill known as Maadevi Perumpalli. Maadevi Perumpalli was an educational academy in which both Jain monks and nuns studied. The kings from the Pandyan Dynasty, who ruled Madurai, visited the academy. The Kannada students and senior monks from Shravanabelagola also stayed there.
A Tamil-Brahmi inscription that pushes back the association of Samana Malai (Jaina Hill), 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 Vatteluthu inscriptions on the Samana Malai, 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.
The script, which is datable to second century BCE, has 13 letters. Different interpretations of the newly found script have been given by specialists in Tamil-Brahmi. The Inscription has been read 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. 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 Samana Malai script can be seen from the spelling of the word ‘Ayam,' which means a mountain pool of water or spring.

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