Showing posts with label Tamil Brahmi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tamil Brahmi. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Heritage Trails Villupuram: Tirumundeeswaram and Jambai 2

Jambai Inscription - Dasimadam. Dr.Padmavathi Explanation
 After spending our forenoon time in visiting Thirumundeeswaram temple, it was time to have our lunch. Thiruvennainallur and Thirukovilur temples will remain closed between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Our lunch was arranged at Thapovanam town. Here Sri Gnanananda Thapovanam meaning, "forest of penance is a place of pilgrimage established by Swami Gnananandagiri. We proceeded to Sri Gnanananda Thapovanam located 3 km away from Tirukoilur, on the Tirukoilur - Tiruvannamalai highway. We had delicious South Indian vegetarian variety rice for our lunch. After lunch we porceeded to Jambai.

Jambai (ஜம்பை) is a village in Mugaiyur taluk (முகையூர் வட்டம்), Villupuram district (விழுப்புரம் மாவட்டம்), Tamil Nadu, India PIN 605754. The historical village is located on the northern bank of the river Thenpennai River (தென்பெண்ணையாறு). The  Thenpennai River (aka Dakshina Pinakini in Kannada) covers 105 km in Villupuram district. It is the main source for irrigating over 25000 acres in Villupuram district. The Jambai village is at the geographic coordinates of 11.468 N latitude and 77.643 W longitude. The rural village is part of Jambai village panchayat and as per census 2011 it has a population of  3,684 people and 76.68 % literacy rate. The main occupation of the area is agriculture and allied activities.

After reaching the village Jambai we rushed towards the hillock located about one kilometer to the east of the village. Al least ten of the village boys accompanied us. We crossed a small dry lake and reached the foothills. The local boys guided us to two natural caverns 1. Dasimadam and 2. Sanyasimadam. First they escorted us to Dasimadam, the south facing deep natural cavern having narrow access. The flat surfaced Sanyasimadam cavern would have served either as the bed or at least the seat for the Jain monks' shelter. The inscriptions point out Jambai as Valaiyur (வலையூர்). The inscription of Parantaka Chola I (ARE. 446 of 1937-38) also observes about the presence of Valaiyur Nattu-p-perumpalli (வலையூர் நாட்டுப் பெரும்பள்ளி). Some other inscription of Rajaraja Chola III (ARE. 448 of 1937-38) also refers about the Kandaraditta-p-perumpalli (கண்டராதித்தப் பெரும்பள்ளி), dedicated to Neminatha, the 22nd Tirthankara of the Jains.

Rock Shelter (Sanyasimadam)
Pit found near Rock shelter (Sanyasimadam)
Even Stone beds under Rock Shelter (Sanyasimadam)

Ashoka's period Brahmi inscriptions in Prakrit were also discovered in the rock shelters in Sri Lanka. Inscriptions using Brahmi characters have also been discovered in Tamil Nadu in rock-shelters and potsherds of different types, and the language used is Tamil with a mixture of Prakrit words. The most ancient writings so far found out in Tamil exhibit characters which are closely resembling Asokan Brahmi inscriptions. The script used is known as Tamil Brahmi and the script  closely resembling Brahmi and used for writing the Tamil language.Tamil Brahmi inscriptions used peculiar Tamil but certainly not the classical Tamil of the Sangam Period. It is now well established that the earliest known Tamil and Ceylonese scripts are derived from the Brahmi script employed by the Mauryan Emperor Asoka..

We trekked to the cavern Dasimadam (தாசிமடம் குகை) in the Cool and breezy evening on 4th October 2015, 34 years after the discovery of the Tamil Brahmi inscription (தமிழ் பிரம்மி கல்வெட்டு), linking Atiyaman Netuman Anci (அதியமான் நெடுமான் அஞ்சி), the renowned chieftain of Takatur (தகடூர்) (present Dharmapuri district), with the Tamil Sangam Age (தமிழ் சங்க காலம்) (the Eight Anthologies (எட்டுத்தொகை) and Ten Idyls (பத்துப்பாட்டு) and the Tamil-Brahmi age (தமிழ் பிரம்மி காலம்), by K.Selvaraj, a budding epigraphy student in the Tamil Nadu State Department of Aarchaeology, Chennai in October 1981 during his regular field exploration.  Similarly the Tamil Brahmi inscriptions of Pandyan Nedunchezhiyan at Mankulam near Madurai (2nd century B.C.), and Chera king Irumporai at Arnattar hill in Pugalur near Karur (2nd century A.D.) also link the Sangam age with the Tamil Brahmi age.
Every one of us had the  great desire of viewing the one line Tamil Brahmi inscription. We hopped from rock to rock and the narrow rock crevices. Yes! the one line Tamil Brahmi inscription deeply etched on the rear-rock wall of the Dasimadam cavern could be viewed clearly. The deep natural cavern, communicated the one line message of Atiyan Netuman Anci, after safeguarding the inscription from the vagaries of weather. English and Tamil transliteration of the Tamil Brahmi Inscription: 

Jambai Dasimadam Tamil Brahmi Inscription - E-stamping
‘சதியபுதோ அதியன் நெடுமான் அஞ்சி ஈத்த பாளி”
  Satiyaputo atiyan netuman anci itta pali 

"சதியபுதோ அதியன் நெடுமான் அஞ்சி ஈத்த பாளி”  

Cave-shelter (paIi) gifted by (itta) Atiyan Netuman Anci, the Satyaputra (satiyaputo).

The Tamil Brahmi inscription records the endowment of a cave-shelter by the Velir chieftain Atiyan Netuman Anci. He is also known by the honorific title "Satiyaputo." The title satiyaputo is also mentioned in the Second Rock Edict at Girnar. Ashoka's rock edict also mentions other names such as Coda (Chola), Pada (Pandya) and Ketalaputo (Keralaputra). The inscription refers Atiyan -  the name of his Velir clan, Netuman, the name of his father and Anci the king who ruled over the Tagadur Nadu (modern Dharmapuri, Salem districts) and made the endowment. It is believed that Atiyars have introduced sugarcane cultivation in the Tamil country. Netuman Anci is believed  to have won seven notable chieftains in a decisive battle. He also captured Kovalur (modern Tirukkoyilur near Jambai) from Thirumudi Kari Malayaman, the local  Velir  chieftain of the Malaiyamān dynasty. Occurrence of this inscription recording an endowment at Jambai nearer to Thirukovilur also stands as evidence on the reign of the king Netuman Anci and this endowment could have been made to commemorate his victory.  However the inscription does not mention about the name of the recipient.

Many poems in eight anthologies i.e., Purananuru (புறநானூறு), Akananuru (அகநானூறு), Kuruntokai (குறுந்தொகை), and the ten idyls i.e., Patirrupattu (பதிற்றுப்பத்து), and Cirupanarruppatai (சிறுபாணாற்றுப்படை) of Tamil Sangam literature glorifies the  valor and philanthropy of Neduman Anci and his son Elini. The poets who composed poems on Neduman Anci include  Avvaiyar (ஔவையார்), Nakaiyaar daughter of Anciyathai (அஞ்சியத்தை மகள் நாகையார்), Paranar (பரணர்), Nattattanaar from Itaikkazhinaaattu Nallur (இடைக்கழிநாட்டு நல்லூர் நத்ததத்தனார்), Arisl Kizhaar (அரிசில்கிழார்), Perunchitranaar (பெருஞ்சித்திரனார்) and Mamulanar (மாமூலனார்). Avvaiyar, the poetess of the Sangam Age, has composed 59 poems in total and 33 of them forms part of  Purananuru itself. The poetess has composed 22 poems on Neduman Anci and 3 songs on his son  Elini. He was being referred to as one of the seven celebrated philanthropists of Kadai Sangam Age (3rd Tamil Sangam) i.e., Kadai ezhu vallals (7 great patrons) of arts and literature in ancient Tamilakam.

Arruppatai (ஆற்றுப்படை): Arruppatai is one of the 96 minor literary genres collectively known as ‘Sittrilakkiyam’ in Tamil. It is a type of Sangam Tamil poetical form and forming part of  the Pattupattu (பத்துப்பாட்டு) Ten Tamil Idylls - the anthology of ten mid length books from Minor Eighteen Anthology Series (பதினெண்கீழ்கணக்கு). The poems comprise descriptions of Tamil country, Tamil landscape and Tamil seasons. In Aarrupadai, a literary form in which you will find the treatment like travelogues. "A bard or a minstrel (பாணன்) who has received bountiful gifts from some wealthy patron is supposed to direct another to the same Maecenas." The poetical form takes every chance to bring out in depth the nature, landscape, irrigation, social life,   and wealthiness of the territory that has to be traversed to reach the palace of the patron and his philanthrophy. There are 19 songs have references to Athiyaman by bards or minstrels (பாணன்) and female dancers (விரலி).

The inscription uses Tamil words such as itta and pali. However the honorific title "satiyaputo" is in Prakrit language. The inscription uses the northern Brahmi character 'sa' and the Tamil Brahmi character 'Li.' 'The inscription is in Tamil-Brahmi script found in early Tamil epigraphs.  The scholars debated about the identity of "Satiyaputo" (Satyaputras): Satyaputra suggested for some as "Satavahanas"; some others understood as Satputas of Maharashtra; few of them located their land in northern Kerala. But few scholars rightly guessed "Satiyaputo" as the well known dynasty of the Tamil land. The occurrence of  the Cholas, the Pandyas and Keralaputras in the rock edicts prompted them to guess like this. The Tamil Brahmi inscription of Jambai provides inviolable certainty for the scholars to identify the "satiyaputo" (Satyaputra), the dynasty under reference in Girnar Rock Edict II. The chieftain Athiyaman Netuman Anci  referred in Tamil Sangam literature with a personage figuring in the Tamil-Brahmi inscription as well as in Asoka's Girnar Rock Edict II. It was Dr.R.Nagaswamy, Director of Archeology, who deciphered the inscription and published articles in few newspapers, but reported the discovery after a long interval. He has suggested the most probable date of the Jambai Tamil Brahmi inscription as the first century A.D.  

Great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273–232 BCE)

Great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (273–232 BCE), the third monarch of the Indian Mauryan dynasty, is being regarded as one of the most exemplary rulers in our history. The cruel and ruthless monarch who converted to Buddhism and thereafter established a reign of virtue. During 19th century larger number of rock edicts of this monarch were discovered in more than thirty places throughout India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Ashoka's rock edicts etched on rocks and pillars formally declared his reforms and policies and brought out his advice to the mankind. 

Ashoka used four scripts: Brahmi script rock edicts from Prakrit - a colloquial form of Sanskrit language (Indian origin); Kharoṣṭhī script rock edicts from Aramaic language but with additional letters and vowel marks; Aramic script rock edicts from the bilingual Greek and Aramic (Kandahar); Greek script rock edicts from Greek language (Kandahar). Brahmi was the most common script used by Ashoka. In 1837, James Prinsep succeeded in deciphering a large stone pillar inscription in Delhi and in his edicts monarch called himself "Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi." The European scholars rediscovered those rock edicts and translated them in the 19th century.  "It was not just the religion and philosophy of Buddhism that came to light, but also its many legendary histories and biographies." 

Ashoka's First Rock inscription at Girnar (The Fourteen Rock Edicts) version, issued in 257 B.C:

Girnar is the collection of mountains in the Junagadh District of Gujarat, India, situated near Junagadh at a distance of 327 km from Ahmedabad. The 2nd and 13th rock edicts of Ashoka  refers  the Satyaputras Velir clan in his inscriptions along with the Cholas, Pandyas and the Keralaputras. The Satyaputra Velirs wielded sufficient power in the time of Ashoka (3rd century BCE) almost on par with the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas.

Girnar Rock Edicts of Ahoka
Stanza Two: 

Ye Ca anta ata Choda, Pandiya, Satiyaputo, Ketalaputo, Tam bapanni, Antiyogo naama, Yonalaja (Ashoka Brahmi text)

Everywhere in the conquered dominions of king Priyadarsin, the Beloved-of-the-Gods, and the dominions on the borders as those of the ChOdA (the Cholas) (சோடா), PANdiyA (the Pandyas) (பாண்டியா), Satiyaputo (the Satiyaputras) (ஸதியபுடோ), KEtalaputO (the Keralaputras) (கேடலபுடோ), as far as Tam bapanni (Tamraparni) (தம் பபன்னி) the Yavana King named Antiyogo naama (Antiyoka) and the other neighbouring kings of this Antiyoka, [The Cholas and Pandyas were south Indian peoples living outside Asoka's empire. The Satiyaputras and Keralaputras lived on the southwest seaboard of India. Tamraparni is one of the ancient names for Sri Lanka.] [Antiochos II Theos of Syria (261-246 B.C.), Ptolemy II Philadelphos of Egypt (285-247 B.C.), Antigonos Gonatos of Macedonia (278-239 B.C.), Magas of Cyrene (300-258 B.C.) and Alexander of Epirus (272-258 B.C.).] everywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown. Wherever medical roots or fruits are not available I have had them imported and grown. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals. [By so doing, Asoka was following the advice given by the Buddha at Samyutta Nikaya, I:33.]  

How to Get There?

This place is in the border of the Villupuram district and Tiruvannamalai district. It is located 54 km towards west from District head quarters Villuppuram, 32 km from Mugaiyur, 41.5 km from Thiruvennainallur, 19.7 km from Thirukovilur, 26 km from Thiruvannamalai, 94 km from Pondicherry and 202 km from State capital Chennai.  

Nearest railway station: 15 km from Andampaliam railway station; 16 km from Tandarai railway station;  20 km from Thirukovilur railway station; 27 km from Tiruvannamalai railway station.
Nearest Airport: Chennai.


  1. King Atiyaman - Tamil Myth Controversies in History June 05,2007
  2. Recent Discoveries Of Jaina Cave Inscriptions In Tamilnadu. by Iravatham Mahadevan. in. Jainsamaj. 
  3. Satyaputra Inscription. Nagaswamy. R. Tamil Arts Academy. 
  4. Some portions of Early Tamil Epigraphy. by Iravatham Mahadevan. in. Issue 29 November 16 - December 15 2006.
  5. Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions are the only record of old Tamil. T.S.Subramanian. Frontline. Volume 26 - Issue 14, Jul. 04-17, 2009
  6. The Edicts of King Ashoka. An English rendering by Ven. S. Dhammika. Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka. The Wheel Publication No. 386/387. ISBN 955-24-0104-6. Published in 1993. (
  7. Velirs Explained

About inscriptions in Jambai - 1 Parthasarathy Manivannan

About inscriptions in Jambai - 2 Parthasarathy Manivannan

Jambai climb to jaina pallis Ramiah Krishnan

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tamil Brahmi Unicode Font: Adinatha

Adinatha Font Picture Courtesy: Virtual Vinod
History of Tamil Script Wikipedia

Brahmi Unicode and digitization

'Unicode Character Standard provides (encoding) a unique number for every character, no matter what the platform, no matter what the program, no matter what the language.' This computer industry encoding standard encodes scripts rather than language. To be precise, 'more than one language shares a set of symbols that have historically related derivation, the union of the set of symbols of each such language is unified into a single collection identified in a single script.' The Unicode (the "Universal Alphabet") Consortium, a non-profit, charitable organization which develops, maintains and promotes the software internationalization standards and data, particularly the Unicode Standard.  The Consortium works closely with W3C and ISO. The latest electronic version of the Unicode Standard is Version 7.0. This standard specifies the representation of texts in modern software products and standards.

There are the collection of symbols (i.e., scripts serving as inventories of symbols) drawn to write Brahmi. Brahmi was added to the Unicode standard in October 2010 with the release of version 6.0. There is an Unicode Block U+11000–U+1107F specifically developed for Brahmi which lies within Supplementary Multilingual plane. Since from August 2014 two free licence (the Open Font Licence) fonts that support Brahmi are made available: 1. Noto Sans Brahmi from Google which covers all characters; 2. Adinatha which only covers Tamil Brahmi  (dialect of Brahmi)

Adinatha Tamil Brahmi Font

Three Tamil epigraphy enthusiasts namely S/shri Shriramana Sharma Vinod Rajan and Udhaya Sankar have undertaken and brought out the free license Tamil Brahmi font to encourage its utilization among academicians, researchers and professionals as well as to promote its use and (computer) application in epigraphy and digitization. The team of researchers have worked out Adinatha within the Unicode Block U+11000–U+1107F specifically developed for Brahmi. They have imbibed from Early Tamil Epigraphy, the classic work by Iravatham Mahadevan for the shapes of glyphs.

The font is named after Adinatha, the first of the twenty-four tirthankaras who founded the Jainism philosophies and teachings. Only Jain Munis are credited for ushering Brahmi in ancient Tamilakam and applied Brahmi script to document and communicate with the rest of the world. Hence the Jain Munis are bestowed with honor and respect. Since the Unicode font includes both OpenType & Graphite table, they will promote digitization of the inscriptions in Tamil Brahmi in a wide variety of systems . The font package also includes an AAT version for compatibility with OS X applications that do not support OpenType. NHM Writer 2.0 renders software support to Tamil Brahmi.

Tamil Brahmi epigraph
Digitized version of the epigraph using Adinatha Tamil Brahmi font

If interested the font package may be downloaded  here. Also download the font manual or can be read from here.

History of Brahmi and Tamil Brahmi Scripts

The earliest script used in India was Brahmi. The best known inscriptions in Brahmi script are the lithic inscriptions of Ashoka (269 - 232 B.C. ruled over 37 years) discovered in the north central India dated to 3rd - 4th century B.C. The script was used to inscribe edicts in Prakrit language by the Mauryan ruler. As viewed by Iravatham Mahadevan, the Brahmi script was used in Andhra and Karnataka regions as well as in Tamilakam during 3rd century B.C. when Jain and Buddhist monks migrated to the Southern parts of India. Tamil Brahmi is the script variant (dialect) of the Brahmi script (Southern Brahmic alphabet) used in South India to write in Tamil, the language of administration in Tamilakam. Tamils have adopted the Brahmi script to suit the phonetic system of Tamil language and proscribed the imposition of Prakrit language.  

Inscriptions in rock shelters and caves near Madurai were the earliest breakthrough. 'Dates for Tamil-Brahmi as early as the 6th century have been claimed, but all dates before the 3rd century are uncertain or controversial.' Scholars like Iravatham Mahadevan and Y. Subbarayalu hold the view that Tamil-Brahmi was introduced in Tamil Nadu after 3rd century B.C. Few others like K.V. Ramesh, retired Director of Epigraphy, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)  deliberate the period as Pre-Asokan.

The term `Tamil-Brahmi' is used when the script is in Brahmi but the language is Tamil. The Brahmi script was predominantly used for Prakrit from the Mauryan (Asokan) period. The Brahmi script was brought to the Tamil country in the third century B.C. by the Jain and Buddhist monks during the post-Asokan period.

The three more recent excavations in different places of Tamil Nadu have reignited debate on the date of Brahmi : 1. Urn with human skeleton in it along with miniature pots and Tamil-Brahmi in a rudimentary form inside an urn were discovered  at the Iron Age burial site at Adichanallur in 2005; 2. A cist-burial excavated in 2009 at Porunthal village, 12 km from Palani in Tamil Nadu 3. Kodumanal excavation, near Erode more than 20 pot-sherds with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions were found in 2012. There are contentious views regarding the origin of Tamil Brahmi. Dr. Satyamurthy claims the Tamil Brahmi script discovered inside the urn at Adichanallur to 5th century B.C. Dr.Rajan considers the Porunthal Tamil script to 490 B.C. based on the paddy grain dating. The 20 pot-sherds with Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions excavated at Kodumanal also the team of three scholars including Dr.Rajan arrive at similar views.

  1.  2200- year-old Tamil-Brahmi inscription found on Samanamalai T.S.Subramanian. The Hindu March 24, 2012 
  2. Adinatha Tamil Brahmi Font in Virtual Vinod.
  3. Brahmi (Unicode Consortium)
  4. Brahmi Script (Wikipedia)
  5. Is Tamil-Brahmi pre-Asokan?
  6. NHM Writer 2.0
  7. Palani excavation triggers fresh debate TS Subramanian August 29, 2011  
  8. Porunthal excavations prove existence of Indian scripts in 5th century BC: expert. Kavita Kishore. The Hindu. October 15, 2011.
  9. Rudimentary Tamil-Brahmi script' unearthed at Adichanallur T.S.Subramanian. The Hindu February 17, 2005.
  10. Tamil Brahmi in Virtual Vinod.
  11. Tamil Brahmi (Wikipedia)  
  12. Tamil-Brahmi script found in village. T..Subramanian. June 28, 2009. 
  13. Tissamaharama Tamil Brahmi inscription (Wikipedia) 
  14. Unicode (Wikipedia)
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