History enthusiast Ponnusamy at the hero stone with eminent archeologist Poongundran
An armed warrior standing guard to the cattle of a village is attacked by a tiger. He fights against the wild cat, which at last mauls him to death. The villagers, who were grateful to the slain warrior, honour him by erecting a Nadukal (Hero stone) in his memory and inscribe on it the event of his death. They worship the monument by adorning it with Peeli (Peacock feathers), as a rule formulated in Tolkapiyam, the earliest treatise of Tamils.
Though such hero stones have withstood the path of time and still found on some village borders, the one seen at Vaanavancheri in Tirupur district, dates back to over 1200 years, as the inscriptions on the monument are in ancient Vattezhuththu (Rounded script). What’s more, reminding the instruction in Tolkapiyam, the villagers call the monument as Peelikkal (Stone adorned with peacock feathers)
“Classical pieces of Tamil literature like Purananuru, Agananuru, Aynkurunuru, Thirukural and Silapathikaram contain references about hero stones” informs Ponnusamy, coordinator, Veera Rajendran Archeological and Historical Research Centre, Tirupur, an organization, which is on the mission of bringing to light the cultural glories of Kongu’s past.
“In those days cattle were considered as wealth that a king captured them from his opponent’s land and drove them to his country. Mentioned as Aakol in Tolkapiyam, the ‘cattle robbery’ brought wars between villages. And the ones, who died in the battle to redeem their cattle wealth, were honoured by their respective village people with the erection of hero stones in their memory” explains Ponnusamy.
After discovering the monument with inscriptions in Vattezhuthu, Kongu history enthusiasts Ponnusamy, Thooran Velusamy, Ravikumar, Nagaraj Ganesh Kumar and Sadhasivam informed Poongundran, eminent archeologist and former Assistant Director of State Archeology Department, who later deciphered the script.
Interpreting the inscription, Poongundran said:
“The script reads that Vaanavan, a local village ruler, fought against the tiger and was killed by the animal. In memory of his death, his widow, who is mentioned as daughter of Patti, another village ruler, erected this hero stone”
Pointing out its highlights, Poongundran also noted:
“Though many hero stones were discovered in the Kongu region, most of them date back just to the Vijayanagara rule of 16th century. However, this hero stone belongs to an ancient period with its inscription being in Vattezhuluthu. It is also strange, that it was erected by none other than the widow of the slain warrior” added Poongundran.
Picturizing a hero stone, the 264th song in Purananuru, reads thus in Vaidehi Herbert’s translation:
etched, on a mound with gravel, and decorated
it with split hemp leaves, a red flower garland,
and feathers of a pretty peacock.
Will the families of bards, who do not know
of his passing, the great man who brought cows
with calves and chased away enemies, still come?
Surrounded by a pile of stones, the hero stone at Vaanavancheri also resembles the one described in the ancient Sangam lyric!
Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/3744737