Saturday, 10 August 2019

Elucidating Lord Siva’s Mongolian Avatar

Veteran epigraphist Prof. Y.Subbarayalu  - Photo credit: Jaya Kumar

The popular line Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir… (All towns are ours. Everyone is our kin) by the ancient Tamil bard Kaniyan Pungundranar from his song in Purananuru, a Sangam period work, stands testimony to the socialist character of the Tamils in regarding mankind, cutting across nations, as their kin. If not, they would not have reverred a Mongolian emperor as Lord Siva, constructed a temple for his welfare and even named the deity after him at the port town Quonzhou in China in 1281 CE.

“The bilingual Tamil-Chinese stone inscription, which is found in a state of two broken slabs today at the Xianmen University Museum in China, reads that one Sambantha Perumal had built a shrine for the welfare of the Mongolian emperor Kublai Khan after the firman (meaning ‘order’ in Persian) from the king” said eminent epigraphist Y Subbarayulu, who is also the former head, Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur.

Interestingly, the name of the deity was after the ‘Khan’ in Kublai Khan, and the inscription calls the god as ‘Thirukhaneeswaramudayar’ (Thiru +Khan+ Eswaran +Udayar)
Addressing the 29th symposium of Tamil Nadu Archaeological Society, a two-day conference held at the PSG College of Arts and Science recently, Subbarayalu pointed out:

“Due to the difficulty in deciphering the text in the inscription, with its being broken into two pieces, epigraphist T N Subramaniam had earlier decoded the name of the deity as

‘Thirukadhaleeswaramudayaar’. But, later on, when the late Japanese historian Noboru Karashima and I took a closer study of the inscription, we found that it was ‘Thirukhaaneeswaramudayar’ after the suffix ‘‘Khan’ in the name of the emperor Kublai Khan. The inscription throws light on the maritime trade of Tamil merchants in the bygone era and their settlements in China.”

Risha Lee, a researcher and curator, who holds her PhD from the Columbia University, in her book Constructing Community: Tamil Merchant Temples in India and China, 850-1281, says:

“If the latter name (Thirukaaneeswaram) were an accurate transcription, it would have alluded to the temple traditions in India, where shrines were commonly named after kings, such as the Rajarajesvaram temple in Thanjavur after the Chola king Rajaraja and Gangaikondacholapuram after King Rajendra I, whose title was Gangaikonda Cholan (The Chola king, who conquered the Ganges).

Describing the broken slab of the epigraph, Risha Lee writes in her book:

“The slab is inscribed in two scripts. The majority of the inscription appears in Tamil, the language of India’s deep south, while the last line is in syntactically indecipherable Chinese”
The symposium included the release of Aavanam, an annual international journal of Tamil Nadu Archaeological Society, which documents the archaeological findings by history enthusiasts every year. Also, the participants were taken a trip to the historic Perur Patteeswarar Temple to study the sculptures and inscriptions found in the shrine.

Senthee Natarajan, President, Tamil Nadu Archaeological Society, released the magazine. History enthusiast Venkatesan Ravi received its first copy. S. Rajavelu, Secretary, Tamil Nadu Archaeological Society, R, Poongundran, former Assistant director, Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department, Arumuga Sitaraman, a popular numismatist, V Vedhachalam, former District Archaeology Officer, Kumaragurupara Swamigal, the Pontiff of Siravai Adheenam, T.Kannayyan, secretary, PSG College of Arts and Science, D Brindha, Principal, S.Padmawathi, Head, Department of Tamil and S. Ravi, Associate professor of Tamil and in-charge of epigraphy studies, spoke in the function.

Photo credit: Jayakumar
Link to the article in The New Indian Express :

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