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Memorial Inscriptions with Special Reference to Hero Stones

Malini Adiga


Memorial Inscriptions with Special Reference to Hero Stones

Dr Adiga has specialised in Ancient Indian history and has done research on the early medieval history of Karnataka. Her PhD thesis on the socio-political history of Southern Karnataka under the Western Gangas was later published by Orient Blackswan as The Making of Southern Karnataka: Society, Polity and Culture in the Early Medieval Period (AD400-1030) in 2006. Subsequently she has availed of a Post-doctoral Research Associateship from the ICHR (1998-2000) and the UGC (2004-2009) during which her research focus has been on gender, kinship, family and violence in the early medieval period in Karnataka.

Memorial inscriptions, engraved on memorials to the dead, are a major category of epigraphs in India. These memorials can be broadly categorised as hero stones, sati stones and memorials to those who died observing a religious vow. Principally in the third category, we have Jain memorials, nishidhis, to their monks and nuns as well as laity who died observing the vow of sallekhanaor sanyasana, which means a graduated fasting unto death.

Hero Stones

The practice of setting up hero stones to commemorate warriors who had died in battle is one that was probably connected to the funerary practices of the Megalithic period. Megalithic burials in earthenware jars or marked by menhirs, stone circles, dolmens, etc., are to be found in a large area of the peninsula and can be dated to the second half of the first millennium BCE. These practices are often mentioned in the poems of the Sangam anthologies. Given the stress on commemorating the fame of the warriors, the setting up of hero stones, while it connected to the funerary practices already existing in the society, also agreed well with the worldview of the poetic corpus. The Tolkappiyam mentions the setting up of the hero stones as a poetic theme and also describes it as a ceremony which involved the search for the appropriate stone, fixing an auspicious time, the ceremonial bathing and setting up of the stone, the celebration and feasting on the occasion, and praise and worship of the stone. The poems repeatedly mention the ‘writing’ of the name of the warrior. While detailed epigraphs might not have existed in this period, the name of the hero might have been inscribed and perhaps some representation of the heroic episode in which he met his end.[1] Cattle raids are mentioned in one instance as the incident leading to the death of the warrior, and this continued in the early medieval period as well to be of frequent occurrence. The continuity between the practices of the Megalithic period and that of the later historic period can be seen in the fact that many of the hero stones were in the form of dolmens with three upright stones and a capstone with the inscription and figure of the hero on the rear stone facing the entrance. In a sense, this was a shrine dedicated to the memory of the hero.[2] Such dolmen-like memorials to heroes continued to exist up to the Chola period. 

The Sangam period was marked with proto-state chiefdoms. However, the regular class-divided state in the early medieval period still had the presence of multiple political structures. The continual struggles between these led to a state of constant conflict. With villages fighting their neighbours and feudal lords at every level to expand their frontiers and gain resources, particularly cattle and sometimes men or women, every able-bodied man had to be available to fight. The heroic ethos which marked the puram poetry of the Tamil Sangam corpus continued to be relevant in the early medieval period as well. However, there is an objective difference between the bonds between the warrior and the chief in the pre-state polity of the Sangam Age, and the ties between the lord and retainer in the early medieval states with their hierarchical societies. Whereas the former was characterised by kin-based ties[3] the latter was based on loyalty to the lord who maintained the warrior.[4]

Occasions for Heroism

Literary works in Kannada from the tenth century onwards clearly express the obligations of the servant (bhritya) to the lord who nourished him. ‘Abhritya should sacrifice his wealth and life for his master and fight without accepting aid and without fear. If he can, he should fight to win; if not, he should put in his best effort and die fighting. Such is the duty of the servant. If he should slip away from the field without doing either, his honour would be tarnished.’ Thus Ranna’s Duryodhana defines the duties of the subordinate to his lord.[5] This obligation is termed joladapali, literally debt of the millet, or to put it more comprehensibly, of subsistence.  It is interesting that in Pampa’s Vikramarjunavijayam (also known as the Pampa Bharatam), Duryodhana chides Bhishma for only recollecting his ties of kinship with the Pandavasand requests him to remember his debt of subsistence to the Kauravas (joladapaliyumaninisibageyimnimmoë).[6] That Bhishma,who is a Kaurava elder, should be asked to remember the debt of subsistence is striking in marking the shift from kinship to class in the sociopolitical sphere. Likewise, in the Gadayuddham, Duryodhana rails against Drona and Ashvatthama for disregarding their debt to him.[7] Karna is repeatedly extolled in both the works for refusing to default on his debt to Duryodhana which, as he explains to Kunti, would tarnish his fame.[8] Loyalty to the lord is repeatedly held forth as the greatest virtue. Karna exemplified the values of truth (nanni), seen in his adherence to his promises and loyalty, generosity (caga) seen in his unflinching giving away even his natural armour to Indra, and valour (anmi) seen in his conduct on the battlefield.[9]

The literary works of the tenth century also hold forth on occasions for a warrior to put forth his prowess. ‘In a cattle raid (turugolol), when women cry for help (penbuyyalol),when the king commands (erevesadol), in defence of one’s kinsmen (nentanedar) and when one’s village is being destroyed (uralivinol) if a man does not put forth his valour to the touchstone, he is no man but a eunuch (shanda).”[10] In essentials this differs little from the list of occasions that one can glean from the heroic poetry of the Tamil Sangam works: ‘Cattle raids and their reverse, defence and recovery of cattle stolen; besieging an enemy’s fort, with its reverse, the defence of one’s town; and invading and conquering a neighbouring territory.’[11] Essentially, as mentioned earlier, the objective situation of decentralised power and a lack of concentration of force made constant conflict and its corollary of heroism in defence necessary, but what had changed was that now power was based on social  hierarchy. In addition to these occasions for valour, we also have, in the medieval period, the institution of the velevali or, as it became known after the tenth century, the lenkaor garuda warrior who died with his lord. We also have widow immolation which becomes popular in the post-tenth-century period and develop a style of expression peculiar to themselves. We shall deal with these one by one. 

Inscriptions which proliferate in the early medieval period, which are particularly numerous in Karnataka, attest to all these occasions for valour which were recognised and celebrated in the local record.  The Kogodu hero stone (Belurtaluk, Hassan district) of the early eleventh century gives us an instance of a combination of these reasons for valour. It records the death of Màcayya, the nephew of Shivara Gavunda (henceforth Gauóa) of Kogodu in a raid by their village on Tagarenadu (territory) in which they encountered Gandara Dumma Katayya, the general of Niti Maharaja, a Kadamba chief. The raid is described as an act of destruction of the village, an assault on mothers and a cattle raid.[12]

Cattle Raids

Cattle raids are the most frequently mentioned episodes in inscriptions and are a pointer to the importance of cattle rearing and pastoral elements in the economy of the period.  They are also geographically the most widespread, and are frequently indicated on hero stones by the depiction of cattle on the lowest panel of the memorial. The context of the cattle raids might have been political in some cases, as is exemplified by the raid on Guduve (Sorabtaluk, Shimoga district) by the Kadamba chief Shantayyadeva in retaliation for an attack on the fort (kote) of Banavasi.[13]

But in most cases, the context is purely local where the aggressors and cattle thieves are the forest-dwelling Bedas. Thus, inscriptions from Bettadakurali (Sorabtaluk, Shimoga district) of 954 and 964 CE[14] respectively refer to cattle raids by the  Bedas while the Cikkacavuti hero stone registers the death of PiriyaAttiyaGauóa of Kaccavikola in defence of cattle that were being driven away by the Bedas.[15]

In many instances, the raiders were from a neighbouring settlement. Thus, the Bharangi hero stone (Sorabtaluk) of 957 CE records a cattle raid by Pebba Gauda of Bharangi on Kannasoge (Shikarpurtaluk, Shimoga district).[16] Baisarikaruva Muddanna, one of the raiders, died in the skirmish. Likewise, the Niduvani inscription (Hole Narsipurtaluk, Hassan district) of 970 CE records a cattle raid on Niduvani by Kenca Gauda of Bidirhaka (same taluk).[17] References to gaudas  engaging in cattle raids outnumber the rest but we do have references to merchants and artisans engaging in them as well.

A striking instance of mercantile cattle raid appears in the Alattur hero stones of the ninth century (Gundlupettaluk, Mysore district) which refer to a cattle raid by a group of merchants led by Ammana Shetti probably in Chola nadu where they had gone to trade (paradu pogi).[18] The circumstances of merchants turning into raiders is unclear. Artisans are in most cases seen defending the cattle of their village, as in Kodakani (Sorabtaluk, Shimoga district) in 1015 CE where the cattle were being carried away by the servants of Cattayya deva and which were rescued by Arjuna Kamma Ÿa (a smith),and sixty kammas (a measure of area which was a  hundredth of a mattar or nivartana which varied over time and space) of land were given in his memory to his successors.[19]

Battle at the Command of the Lord

While heroes who fell in minor inter-village skirmishes got small bequests, those who fought for their superiors received generous grants of land. Thus, the heirs of Ràceya Ganga, who died in an invasion of Uttarillaga kote (fort) in the course of a battle against the Nolambas,received the villages of Iggali and Dudugere as kalnad.[20] This would be a hero stone commemorating the erevesa (command of the lord) category of occasions for valour in Ranna’s list. Similarly, we have Erigari, who died in the battle against Rajaditya Calukya of Uccangi in 971CE and received the grant of Nettur in Kalkalinad as a kalnad grant.[21] Kalnadus were service assignments, with no discernible conditions attached, that were made to heroes who distinguished themselves in battle. If they died, it went to the descendants, though the inscriptions always declared the recipient to be the hero. 

Assault on Women

Ranna’s category of penbuyyalol (women’s cry for help) is usually expressed as pendirudeulcal (loosening of the girdle of women) in hero stone inscriptions, a phrase which is much more expressive of the violence involved.We have already cited the Kogodu virgal (hero stone) inscription which was a combination of a cattle raid, a destructive raid on a village and an assault on mothers. Similar combinations occur in later records too. The Uddhare hero stone of 1128 CE[22] (Sorabtaluk, Shimoga district) records that the siege of Ishapura by Permadi Shantara was relieved at the orders of Mahapradhana Dandanayaka Masanayya by his mayduna (brother-in-law or cross-cousin) Kaliga Nayaka. The siege is said to have been marked by the destruction of the settlement and rape of the women. The hero stone commemorates Barmmu Santa who was a warrior of Kaliga Nayaka. The stone was set up by his mother Santati.

In a hero stone from Kaginele (Hirekerurtaluk) of 1135 CE, we are told that the agrahara Hahanur was besieged by the forces of Mahamandaleshvara Bittidevarasa (Hoysala Vishnuvardhana probably) and the fort was occupied and the women assaulted. On that occasion, Ekkatiga Rajana, the younger brother of  Jióugur’s Malleya Nayaka, fought away the cavalry, protected those who were frightened, and killed many of the enemy, before rising to heaven, having upheld the name of his brother and his own heroism.[23]

Women were also frequently carried away by the raiders but apparently not always rescued. Thus,in the Talagundahero stoneof 1169 CE[24] (Shikaripurataluk, Shimoga district), we have a record of  the death of Kaleya Nayaka, son of  Sovi Setti of Mukkaóa, who rescued the cattle of Alahur in Shantalige which was being carried away by Dandanayaka Keshimayya Heggade of Banavase nad. The inscription had in its beginning referred to the women being assaulted and carried away along with the cattle, but there is no reference to the women being rescued.In the Silavantanakoppa inscription of 1180 CE[25], the local ruler had attacked Uddhare and carried away Udeyabbesåëe and the cattle of the place. As in the Talagunda hero stone, the cattle were rescued but the woman apparently remained with the ravisher. However, this is not always the case. The Kuppatur hero stone[26] of 1177 CE (Sorabtaluk, Shimoga district) specifically mentions the women being rescued. Hadedeva of Uccangi and Gamundasami attacked Kuppatur in order to collect the taxes thereof. We are told that they besieged the village and assaulted and captured the women. Thereupon Keteya Nayaka was commanded to have the cows and women released,which the hero proceeded to do. Another instance of the rescue of the cattle and women is recorded in the Mallegaudana Koppalu inscription of 1036 CE (Mysore taluk), wherein the hero, Panciya Muddayya, rescued both the cattle and women being carried away by the Changalva forces before dying.[27] The emphasis is on the valour of the men who exerted themselves rather than the plight of the women or other captives who were or were not rescued. These events were viewed as opportunities for men to display their heroism.


Women are brought into the discourse of heroism in the context of sati or widow immolation. Like other aspects of the discourse on heroism, this too is elaborated on by Pampa and Ranna.  In the context of the eve of a battle a warrior is depicted as looking forward to a heroic death and the company of celestial nymphs. His wife then resolves to preempt her husband and await him in heaven to prevent the heavenly nymphs from enjoying his company.[28] A similar sentiment is expressed by Ranna in his Ajita Tirthakara Purana tilakam wherein he records the self-immolation of Gundamabbe. She was the younger sister and co-wife of Ranna’s patroness Attimabbe, and died with her husband Nagadeva. On her husband’s death, Gundamabbe, who was apparently childless, considers that in widowhood a kulavadhu had only two options—either the acceptance of Jinadiksha or a death worthy of pure conduct.[29] She does so to the praise of all and the dismay of the celestial nymphs who bemoan their inability to enjoy the company of the handsome Nagadeva since the chaste Gundamabbe had accompanied him to heaven and become his beloved there too.[30]

One of the fascinating inscriptional descriptions of sati comes from the Belatur hero stone (Heggadedevanakotetaluk, Mysore district) of 1057 CE[31] which describes the sati of Dekabbe whose lineage on both the paternal and maternal sides is spelt out in detail. Descended from gauda families holding nadadhipati  (head of nada) status, she was married to Eca of Pervayal KuŸuvanda family who ruled the Navalenad. Eca was executed at Talakadfor killing his collaterals (dayiga) in a wrestling match. On hearing of this, Dekabbe resolved on following him in death and set out to cast herself into a firepit. Her parents and other relatives begged her to desist but she was adamant.Her counter-argument is worth quoting: “Being the daughter of Raviga, the Nugu nadadhipati and the wife of the Navale nadadhipati if I continue to live, the fame of both my marital and natal families will be destroyed.’ Here, it is not even the desire for reunification but rather one of conduct worthy of status that seems to impel the woman. It is significant that the gaudas were the land-holding aristocracy at the local and nadulevels.[32] They patterned their conduct on that of the Brahmanas and the putative Kshatriyas who held high rank at the imperial courts and ruled the regional feudatory states.They were warriors too, and thus the code of conduct that applied to the warriors, which had been crystallised in the period between the eighth and tenth centuries, and given expression in the works of Pampa and Ranna, was adopted by them consciously.It is noteworthy that the many instances of sati in the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth centuries came in the context of the local skirmishes with the dead hero, usually of gauda status, being followed by his wife.[33]


Closely linked to sati is the practice of self-sacrifice among warriors who were bound to die with the king (later feudal superiors of lower rank too had their bonded warriors). These warriors were known in Karnataka as velevali. It was usually male warriors who undertook the oath of vele (velegondu) which involved following the lord (or his consort) to death. An inscription from Kotur (Saundattitaluk, Belgaum district) from the ninth century records the death of an individual named Sambhu who had taken the oath of vele for a Chalukyan prince named Parahitarajan and entered the fire meditating on Shiva.[34] The editor of the inscription, Fleet, interpreted this as a case of religious death of a Shaiva ascetic, but the term velevadicha applied to the warrior, and the act of taking oath which is specifically mentioned are facts too emphatic to be ignored. 

There are a number of Ganga inscriptions which attest to the practice in the southern part of Karnataka from the ninth century. Thus,manemaga (son of the house) Agarayya became kilgunthe (supporting the king’s corpse from below whether in a grave or on a funeral pyre[35]) with Nãtimārga Ereyanga I in 870 CE.[36] The term kilgunthe implied that the individual was buried or cremated on the pyre with the king, supporting the corpse from below. Babiyamma entered the fire on the death of Nitimarga Ereyanga II[37] and Bedante Racheya accompanied Ganga Rachamalla (II?).[38] Ankada Katayya died with Butuga II’s queen Revakanimmadi.[39] All these heroes’ families and descendants were given villages to be enjoyed in perpetuity.


The ethos of the day as expressed by the literature of the period is emphatic on the point of the warrior paying his debt to the lord who nourished him, with his life, if necessary.  In a scenario, where every warrior was expected to repay his debt, the obligations to the lord of the velevali were particularly close and exacting. The term manemaga applied to Agarayya is illuminating in this regard. A velevali was expected to be totally dedicated to the lord’s interests. We have a record of a velevali Akatega who vowed to sacrifice his head if the queen were to conceive and the king get an heir. He fulfilled his vow and had himself beheaded.[40] Even a late thirteenth century record from Lakshmeshwar[41] (Shirhattitaluk, Dharwar district) records the self-sacrifice of two warriors, Khaiya and Mayiga,on the death of Lakkhale, wife of their lord Chamunda Dandesha, stating that on losing their mother, they had no purpose in living. These instances bring out the close bonds of the velevadicha (a person who depended on his master or mistress for his livelihood and took a vow of death voluntarily at the court when his king or queen passed away) and the lord. In the lifetime of the king they were expected to fight in his battles, and when he died they had to accompany him into death. This is what set them apart. This institution is found in various forms in Tamil Nadu and Kerala as well and formed the core of the armed forces of the rulers.[42] Until the eleventh century, it was only the warriors who apparently followed the lord or lady into death. We have no evidence of their wives or retainers following suit. Nor are there any grounds to believe that the grants given to velevalis carried the hereditary obligation of following into death. This seems to have developed in the Hoysala period.

A series of inscriptions from Agrahara Bachahalli[43] show that the Hoysala rulers were followed into death by generations of their vassals of the Mugilu family, who were rulers of Kabbahunad and enjoyed the rank of mahasamanta (Head of the underlord). They were not alone in following the king, but were accompanied by their wives and retainers, male and a little later, female as well. The numbers of those accompanying the king increased over time. The record of 1291 gives a comprehensive list of the rulers and their vassals and retainers over the generations. It commences with Gandanarayana Shetti in the first generation of the family, who, accompanied by his wife Marave Nayakiti and five male retainers (lenkaru) followed Ereyanga Hoysala,and culminates with Rangeya Nayaka in the seventh generation who followed Narasimha III Hoysala with his wives Ketavve and Honnavve Nayakiti, ten female retainers (manisa lenkitiyar) and twenty-one male retainers(manisa lenkar). The members of the last two generations, Kanneya Nayaka and Rangeya Nayaka are said to have embraced the garudasix times on the back of the elephant. The expression is clarified by an inscription of the mid-twelfth century from Halebid (Belurtaluk, Hassan district) which records the self-sacrifice of Cennamallana Ravalabova.[44] This was done not to follow the king or queen but only out of bravado in order to impress the king with his bravery in facing death.This he did by embracing the garuda sword so that the two sides of the blade pierced his chest and eight other parts of his body. He was followed by his wife Cattale out of patibhakti  (devotion to husband). Their son Kolliya Bamma seems to have been recognised as a lenka and might have received land, though the fragmentary character of the epigraph at this point makes this speculative. Perhaps it was this mode of self-sacrifice which was adopted by Kanneya and Rangeya Nayaka.

The Agrahara Bachahal inscriptions exemplify the growth and elaboration of the feudatory hierarchy.  In the Ganga period, the warriors under the vele vow had been low-ranking warriors, but now the velevalior lenka enjoyed a higher rank of mahasamanta and their fiefs consisted not merely of villages but of whole nadus. They had retainers under them who were also bound to follow them when they fulfilled their vow. The vow was symbolised by the wearing of the golden anklet (hontoóar) on the left leg which is referred to specifically in the case of Kanneya Nayaka.[45] Members of this family also served as the loyal retainers of the kings as documented in another record from Agrahara Bachahalli dated 1179 CE. Here, Mahasamanta Babbeya Nayaka,the son of Hoyisana Shetti (a second generation lenka) was directed by Ballaladeva to lead the attack on Sankamadeva’s camp (kanaka) in the course of which he died fighting and became a beloved of the celestial nymphs, seated in the assembly of the gods.[46] It is interesting to note that Babbeya Nayaka did not accompany his brother Kureya Nayaka in following Narasimha I Hoysala.[47]

Another celebrated high-ranking lenka was Kuvara Lakshma who enjoyed the rank of mantri (minister) and chamupati (commander-in-chief of army) under Ballala II. His closeness to the king is stressed by stating that he had been brought up by the women of the king’s harem and was the king’s foster son.[48] This is reminiscent of the title of manemaga that was applied to velevalis in the earlier period. Kuvara Lakshma is said to have worn the todar on his left leg as a token of his acceptance of the vow and, interestingly, his wife Suggala devi, too, wore one. The similarity between the position of the velevali with respect to the king, and the wife vis-à-vis the husband, is strikingly brought out here. Like the wife, the velevali was closely bound to the king and was beholden to his favour for whatever status he enjoyed. Therefore, it was equally ignoble, particularly after having ceremonially bound himself by a vow, to survive the lord. 

The Form of Hero Stones

We have already seen that in Tamil Nadu, at least till the Chola period, hero stones retained the dolmen form. In Karnataka, they usually were slabs of stone, with at least three panels. The lowest depicted the battle scenes. The one above usually showed the hero being taken to heaven by heavenly nymphs, and the uppermost usually showed the hero worshipping a linga, or sitting at ease in heaven, with the sun and moon sculpted to show the perpetual nature of the record, and sometimes a cow and a suckling calf to show its sacred nature. 

Literature and epigraphy bear out the belief that was in vogue at the time that the hero had nothing to lose: if he won, he would win wealth, and if he died, the company of the nymphs would reward him for his heroism. This is expressed in a verse that is frequently found in epigraphs:

Jitena labhyateLakumi mritenapi surànganà

Kshane vidhvamsanekayakacintamaranerane

(If we win, we gain wealth and if we die, the company of the celestial nymphs.

The body dies in a moment, why worry about death in battle.)[49]

Ranna, too, speaks in his description of Duryodhana traversing the battlefield, of apsaras carrying away heroes to heaven.[50] It is this belief that is depicted graphically on the middle panel of hero stones. The lowest panel(s) are of interest in showing the methods of war in the time. Perhaps the most interesting memorials are those to the garudas of Agrahara Bachahalli which show them mounted on elephants, and face to face with Garuda, and with their wives behind them. Probably these depict the phrase ‘embracing Garuda while mounted on the elephant’. Three of these pillars stand in the place along with scores of hero stones commemorating this family that seems to have contributed a great deal to the war effort of the Hoysalas.

A pillar also commemorates the sacrifice of Kuvara Lakshma at Belur. However, his wife does not seem to have been commemorated even though she is said to have died with him.

Dekabbe’s sati is commemorated in a detailed stone engraving that shows every stage of the story given in the record. This is an exception as satis are usually shown in a much simpler manner; a woman facing a man or merely a bent arm with bangles on it.

Hero stones in Rajasthan and Sindh are much simpler in comparison with those seen above. Generally, they tend to depict merely the image of a horseman or warrior. Camel riders are also depicted in some and these were probably Rabaris, or camel breeders of Sindh, who died fighting. Various terms are used here to denote these memorials and the type of heroism denoted thereby. Thus, the term paliyaor pariyo denotes a warrior who has died fighting, perhaps derived from palaor guardian. Khambi is used for memorials to those who died by self-immolation, mostly satis.[51] Folk epics such as Pabuji speak of various types of heroes: the jhujharwho continues fighting even after he is beheaded, and the bhomiyowho died defending cattle are the two major categories of heroes recognised in Rajasthan.[52] It has been suggested that the practice of setting up hero stones was usually utilised by tribal Bhils to effect upward mobility and secure higher rank as Rajputs.[53] The symbol of the carved horseman on these memorial stones were less the appropriation of a warrior ethos than a growing pretence to high Rajput-like status.   



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Religious Memorials

As mentioned earlier, the largest category of religious memorials is that of the Jains who died observing the vow of sallekhanaor starvation to death. These are found distributed widely with a concentration in places like Shravanabelgolaand Koppal, which were considered sacred. Shravanabelgola,in fact, became known as Kalbappu or Sepulchral Hill as a result of its fame as the resting place of a large number of monks and nuns who chose to end their lives on its bare expanse between the seventh and the ninth centuries. The Gommata colossus was set up only at the close of the tenth century, but until then, the fame of this centre was primarily as a sacred place for inviting death. The memorials in the initial phase of the seventh to the ninth or even the tenth centuries were simple single line inscriptions with the name of the monk or nun and sometimes the name of their preceptor and the year of their death. An instance is number 11 which merely states that Panada Bhatara of Nedubore died after adopting the vow.[54] A slightly modified version of this type of memorial specifies the vow and the duration of the vow which ended with the death of the individual. Sometimes the preceptor and the monastic affiliation are also specified. An inscription on a rock to the right side of the Parshvanatha basadi on the small hill records the death of an old teacher (modeya) Kalapakada Guravaḍigaë, a disciple of Kalavir Guravaḍigaëhailing from Per̥jeḍe in Tarekadu,who died after observing the vow of sanyasana for twenty-one days.[55]

Around the close of the tenth century, we have the memorial of the Ganga king Marasimha II who died at Bankapura, having adopted the vow of aradhanavidhi (propitiation ritual) at the direction of Ajitasena Bhattaraka on the third day after initiation to the vow. His memorial however stands at Shravanabelgola, an elaborate pillar known locally as the Kuge Brahmadeva pillar, that enumerates his military achievements.[56] A similar military eulogy of Chavundaraya, his general, is also given on the foot of the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar on the large hill at Shravanabelgola though it is not clear that he had adopted any vow ending in his death.[57] This seems to have set off the tradition of setting up eulogies of Jain generals who were prominent patrons and set up structures at the small or the big hill at Shravanabelgola. We have a eulogy of Gangaraja, the loyal general of Vishnuvardhana Hoysala who is said to have set up the suttalaya, the shrines of the Tirthankaras around the Gommata statue at Shravanabelgola. The inscription is an elaborate military eulogy of the general only recording his guru’s name, Shubhachandra Siddhantadevar, and his efforts in constructing the shrines.[58] This inscription stands on a regular stone near the surrounding wall of the large hill and perhaps would not qualify as a memorial inscription. But it points to the changing character of the sacred hill. From being primarily the site of performing the vow of sanyasana or sallekhana, it had become a centre of temples.

Elaborate eulogies of Jain monks who died by ritual vows continued to be set up at Shravanabelgola,and unlike the earlier memorials these were lengthy records engraved on pillars and given a mantapa (tower). The entire pontifical chain is sometimes elaborated therein before commemorating the monk who died. The memorials were set up by influential lay disciples. For instance, a mantapa in the vicinity of the Gandhavarana basadi has the memorial of Prabhachandra Siddhantadeva, the senior disciple of Meghachandra Traividyadeva of the Mulasangha, Kondakundanvaya and Desiga gana.  The memorial was set up by his lay disciple, Macikabbe, the mother of the Hoysala queen, Shantala.[59] This is a lengthy record of 192 lines engraved on a pillar within the mantapa. Similar pillar memorials were also set up for influential lay disciples such as Baladeva, the grandson of Baladeva Dandanayaka,and the lay disciple of Prabhachandradeva who died at Morimgere by sanyasana.  The memorial was set up by his sister Echiyakka and his mother Nagiyakka who also built a pattadasale (a reading hall) and a tank in his memory.[60] This record is also engraved on a memorial pillar in a mantapa and is 84 lines long. 

In the case of Koppala or as it was known in the early medieval period, Kupana, the centre was recognised early on as a tirtha and it was both a centre with temples and a centre where people chose to attain liberation by adoption of vows. Thus, a record dated 881 CE registers the death of Shri Sarvvanandibhatara,the disciple of Ekacattugabhatara,by adoption of the vow of sanyasana[61], while another early eleventh century record states that after the death of Simhanandi muni by Inginimarana, the place became the preferred spot where Abhayandimunindra and Gunachandramuni among others chose to die also of the same vow after severe penances(kadutapam). The spot was also marked with the establishment of an image of Shantinatha.[62] But in the ninth century itself, it was becoming the centre recognised as a tirtha where influential people sought to increase merit by constructing or adding to Jain shrines.[63] It attained further fame at the close of the tenth century when several queens of the Ganga dynasty chose to die by sanyasana there.[64] By this time, the memorial records were much lengthier and elaborate, giving a eulogy of the deceased monk or lay person and of his preceptors.[65] It is also noteworthy that even in cases where the renunciant had died elsewhere, often the memorial was set up at Koppal, much in the same fashion as the memorial for Màrasimha II being set up at Shravanabelgola because of its sanctity. Thus, in 975 CE, we hear of a monk Sadhusena Bhatarar who, having ruled Kupana for sometime, adopts the vow of sanyasanaat the Ekacattuga basadi at Manyakheta and dies. His disciple, Siddhasena Bhatarar,set up the nishidhi in his memory. In this case, the control of the monk over Kupana might have been a factor in placing his memorial there, though it is not quite clear why he chose to adopt the vow at Manyakheta.[66]

Over time, we find the memorial inscriptions growing more and more elaborate and lengthy, with the pontifical chain given, with eulogies of each major monk, whereas before only the monk or nun being commemorated was mentioned. Either their monastic or lay disciples usually set up the stone in their memory. This trend may be compared to the elaboration of other memorial stones over time. For instance, the manner in which the Bachahalli records commemorate more and more individuals dying with the king and also becomes more ornate both physically and textually.


[1] K. Kailasapathy, Tamil Heroic Poetry, Colombo: Kumaran Book House, 1968 (reprint 2002) 235-237.


[2] R. Nagaswamy, “Dolmens, Hero Stones and the Dravidian People’, in

[3] Rajan Gurukkal, “Tribes, Forest ad Social Formation in Early South India”, in Social Formations of Early South India, by Rajan Gurukkal (New Delhi: OUP, 2010), 121-135.

[4] This came to be known as the debt of salt, or in Karnataka, the debt of the millet. 

[5] R.V. Kulkarni, ed. and trans., Sahasabhamavijayam of Ranna (Gadayuddham), (Bangalore: Kannada Sahitya Parishat, 1985), II. 21,22.

[6] N. Anantarangachar, ed. and trans., Vikramarjunavijayam (Pampa Bhàratam), (Bangalore: Kannadóa Sahitya Parishat , 1977), XI.15.

[7] Kulkarni, ed. and trans. Gadayuddham II. 11.

[8] Anantarangachar, ed. and trans. Pampa Bhàratam, IX. 84.

[9] Kulkarni, ed. and trans. Gadayuddham, Vol. 17, 22.

[10] Kulkarni, ed. and trans. Gadayuddham, II. 24.

[11] Friedhelm Hardy, The Religious Culture of India: Power, Love and Wisdom, (Delhi: CUPi, 1994), p. 112.

[12] A.V.Narasimhamurthy et al. eds., Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. IX, Belur 524. (Mysore: University of Mysore Prasaranga,1990)

[13] B.L.Rice ed, Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. VIII  Sorab 60-63, (Mysore: Mysore Dept.of Archaeology, 1904)

[14] Ibid, Sorab 202, 203.

[15] Ibid, Sorab 240.

[16] Ibid, Sorab 326.

[17] B.R.Gopal et al. eds. Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. VIII, HN 130, (Mysore: University of Mysore Prasaranga, 1984).

[18] B.RGopal et al .eds. Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. III (Mysore: University of Mysore Prasaranga,1974), Gundlupet 36,37.

[19] Rice ed,  Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. VIII, Sb 16.

[20] Gopal et al eds Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. III  Nanjanagudu 204 of 892 CE.

[21] A.V. Narasimhamurthy et al ,eds. Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol X (Mysore: University of Mysore Prasaranga 1997), Channarayapatna 102. 

[22] Rice ed. Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. VIII  Sorab 141.

[23] N.L. Rao ed South Indian Inscriptions, Vol. XVIII, (New Delhi: ASI, 1964) No.169.

[24] Rice ed. Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. VII  (Mysore: Mysore Dept.of Archaeology,1902), Shikaripura 181.

[25] Ibid,  Shikaripura 300.

[26] Riceed EpigraphiaCarnatica, Vol. VIII Sorab 251.

[27] Gopal et al eds. Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. V (Mysore: University of Mysore Prasaranga, 1975), 114.

[28] Anantharangachar, ed, Pampa Bharatam X. 45.

[29] B.S. Sannayya and Rame Gowda ,eds. Ajita Tirthakara Puranam of Raima, (Mysore: Geerha Book Depot, 1988), I. 46.

[30] Ibid, I. 48.

[31] Gopaled Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. III Heggadedevanakote 60.

[32] Kesavan Veluthat, “Landed Magnates as State Agents: The Gavudas under the Hoysalas”, Paper presented to the 50th session of the Indian History Congress, Gorakhpur, 1989; Malini Adiga, The Making of Southern Karnataka: Society, polity and Culture in the Early Medieval Period, (Chennai: Orient Longman , 2006) , 168-177 on the position of the gaudas.

[33] Narasimhamurthy ed, Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. IX  Bl 185 of 1122, Epigraphia Carnatica XII  Kadur 99 of early eleventh century, Rice (ed) Epigraphia Carnatica VIII Sorab 396 of 1200, Mysore Archaeological Report (MAR) 1930, No. 61 of 1201, MAR 1931, No,60 of 1208, Rice(ed) Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. VIII Nagar 29 of 1228, etc. Epigraphia Carnatica   vol. IV  Chamrajapet 226 of unspecified date records the death of a warrior of indeterminate status in a cattle raid on his village and his wife is said to have become a masati.

[34] Indian Antiquary, Vol. XX (1891), pp. 69-71.

[35] M.Chidanandamurthy, Kannada shasanagala Samskritika Adhyayana, (Mysore: Mysore University Press, 1979), 312-313.

[36] Gopal (ed) Epigraphia Carnatica Vol. V, TN 257.

[37] Narasimhamurthy (ed.) Epigraphia Carnatica VIII, Ag 26.

[38] Ibid, Ag 24.

[39] Ibid, Ag 41.

[40] Rice (ed) Epigraphia Carnatica, VIII, Sb 479.

[41] South Indian Inscriptions  Vol. XX, No. 217.

[42] K. Veluthat, “The Nature and Significance of the Institution of Velevali in Karnataka in Historical Perspective (AD 800-1300)’ in Proceedings of the Indian History Congress (PIHC) 57th session, (Calcutta: Calcutta University, 1990), 151-159.

[43] Gopal (ed) Epigraphia Carnatica Vol. VI (1977) Krishnarajapete 84and 82 are the most important of these. Other references to this family show them fighting and dying in battles.

[44] Narasimhamurthy ,ed, Epigraphia Carnatica IX  Bl 268.

[45] Gopal (ed) Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. VI Krishnarajapete 82 of 1256.

[46] Ibid, Krishnarajapete 77.

[47] Ibid, Krishnarajapete 84.

[48] Narasimhamurthy et al. eds Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. IX  Belur 300.

[49] Narasimhamurthy et al (eds) EpigraphiaCarnatica, Vol. IX, Belur 522.

[50] Kulkarni, ed. and trans. Gadayuddham IV. 22.

[51] Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, “Vanishing Visual Heritage: Sati and Hero Stones in Nagarparkar,  Sindh”, in Journal of Indian Society of Oriental Art, Vol. XXVII, p 231-239.

[52] Alf Hiltebeitel, Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims and Dalits: Rethinking India’s Oral and Classical Epics, (New Delhi: OUP, 2001), 95.

[53] Marco Fattori, “The Bhil and the Rajput Kingdoms of Southern Rajasthan”, in Narratives from the Margins: Aspects of Adivasi History of India, eds. by Sanjukta Das Gupta and Raj Sekhar Basu , (New Delhi: Primus Books, 2012), 127-152.

[54] Gopal et al (eds) Epigraphia Carnatica, Vol. II  SB 11.

[55] Ibid, SB 36.

[56] Ibid, SB 64.

[57] Ibid, SB 388.

[58] Ibid, SB 355.

[59] Ibid, SB 173 of 1145.

[60] Ibid SB 174.

[61] Devarakonda Reddy (ed) Kannaḍa University Epigraphical Series III, Koppal district, Kpl 45. (Hampi: Kannada University,  1999).

[62] Ibid, Kpl 62.

[63] Ibid, Kpl 34 of 883CE.

[64] Ibid, Kpl 98 of 971, Kpl 101 of 975, Kpl 84 of 987, etc.

[65] Ibid, Kpl 85 of 997 which has an elaborate eulogy of the preceptor, Maladharideva of the commemorated monk, Shridharabhattaraka. The nishidhi was set up by a nun, Poleyabbekantiyar. 

[66] Ibid, Kpl 86.



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நடுகல்லும் நடுகல் வழிபாடும்

     அண்மையில் வெளியான நூல், “தொல்குடி-வேளிர்-அரசியல்” என்பது. எழுதியவர் தொல்லியல் அறிஞர் முனைவர் அர.பூங்குன்றன். நடுகற்களைப் பற்றிய விரிவானதொரு ஆய்வு நூல். அந்நூலில் தொறுப்பட்டி” என்னும் தலைப்பில்  உள்ள செய்திகளைப் படித்துக்கொண்டிருக்கும்போது, அதை ஒட்டிச் சில தரவுகள் எனக்குக் கிடைத்தன. அதை இங்கு பகிர்ந்துகொள்கிறேன்.
நடுகல் வழிபாடு-ஓர் அறிமுகம்
     கால்நடை வளர்ப்புச் சமுதாயத்தில், மேய்ச்சல் நிலம் வேண்டிப் புலம் பெயரவேண்டியேற்பட்டது. மேய்ச்சல் தேடிக் குடிபெயரும் தன்மை பூசலை உருவாக்கியது. புதிய இட்த்தில் ஏற்கெனவே உள்ள மேய்ப்பவர்களுக்கும் குடி பெயர்ந்தவர்களுக்கும் இடையில் மேய்ச்சல் நிலம் தொடர்பாகப் பூசல் உருவாகியது. சங்க காலம் முதல் பல்லவர் காலம் வரை மாடே கேடில் விழுச்செல்வமாக விளங்கியது. எனவே, ஆநிரை கவர்தலும், ஆநிரை மீட்டலும் நிகழ்ந்தன. மேய்ச்சல் நிலத்திற்காகவும், நிரைக்காகவும் நடைபெற்ற பூசல், மறவர் குலம் உருவாவதில் கொண்டு சென்றது. இவ்வகைப் பூசல் தொறுப்பூசல் என்றழைக்கப்பட்டது.  மாடுபிடிச் சண்டையில் தம் புகழ் நிறுத்தி மாய்ந்த மறவர்களுக்கு நடுகல் எடுத்து வழிபட்டார்கள். நடுகற்களில், தொடக்கத்தில் வீரனின் உருவம் ஓவியமாக வரையப்படுதலும், பின்னர் சிற்பங்களாக வடிக்கப்படுதலும் நிகழ்ந்தன.
எழுத்து - ஓவியம்
       கால்நடை வளர்ப்புச் சமூகத்தில் எழுத்துப்பயன்பாடு குறைவு; எழுதிவைக்க வேண்டிய அவசியம் இல்லாத வாழ்க்கை. சங்க காலத்து வணிகம் வீழ்ச்சியடைந்த பின், வணிகர்கள், கால்நடை வணிகர்களாக மாறியிருக்கவேண்டும். அவ்வாறு மாறியபோது அவர்கள் நடுகல் பகுதியில் தங்கினர். இவ்வணிகர்களே பெரும்பாலும் எழுத்தை அறிமுகப்படுத்தியிருக்கக் கூடும். கி.பி. ஆறாம் நூற்றாண்டிலிருந்து எழுத்துடை நடுகற்கள் மிகுதியும் கிடைக்கின்றன.  நடுகல் வழிபாடு பழங்குடியினரின் ஆவி வழிபாட்டிலிருந்து தோன்றியது. தன் இனக்குழுவில் வாழ்ந்த மனிதன் இறந்த பின்னும் தன்னுடனே வாழ்கிறான் என்ற நம்பிக்கையின் அடிப்படையில் நடுகல் வழிபாடு தொடர்ந்தது.
தொறு (சங்க கால ஆநிரை) கால்நடைக் கூட்டத்தைக் குறிக்கும் சொல் தொறு. தொழு என்றும் வழங்கும்.
தொறுப்பட்டி (நெய்த்தோர் பட்டி)  நடுகற்களில், மாண்ட வீரனுக்கு அளிக்கப்பட்ட நிலம் பற்றிய செய்தி கி.பி. 9-10-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டிலிருந்து சுட்டப்படுகின்றது. இது, அரசு உருவாக்கம் நிலைபெற்ற காலத்துடன் தொடர்புடையது என்பதற்குச் சான்றாகும். மாண்ட வீரனுக்கு அளிக்கப்பட்ட நிலத்துக்கு நெய்த்தோர்பட்டி என்று பெயர். நெய்த்தோர் என்பதற்கு இரத்தம் என்று பொருள் கொண்டு இரத்தம் சிந்துவதற்காகத் தரப்படும் நிலம் என்று பொருள் கொள்ளப்படுகின்றது. இத் தானத்தினைக் கல்நாடு என்ற சொல்லாலும் கூறுகின்றனர்.
வெ.கேசவராஜ், தென்னிந்திய வீரக்கற்கள் – ஓர் ஆய்வு” என்னும் தலைப்பிலான  தம் பிஎச்.டி. ஆய்வேட்டில், கல்நாடு என்பதற்கு எல்லை வகுத்துக் கல்நாட்டிக் கொடுத்த நிலத்தானம் என்று பொருள் கூறுகிறார். ஆனால், நடுகல்லிற்குக் கொடுக்கப்பட்ட வேளாண் நிலம் அல்லது நிலம் என்ற பொருளில் அச்சொல் ஆளப்பட்டிருக்கவேண்டும்.
மேலே சொல்லப்பட்ட செய்திகள் யாவும் பூங்குன்றனார் அவர்களின் நூலிலிருந்து பெரும்பாலும் அவர் எழுத்துகளிலேயே தரப்பட்டவை. இனி வருபவை, அவருடைய ஆய்வுக்கருத்துகளுடன் ஒட்டிய – எனக்குக் கிடைத்த - சில தரவுகள்.
என் தரவுகள்
·  நெய்த்தோர் -  நெய்த்தோர் என்பதற்கு இரத்தம் என்று பொருள் கொள்ளப்படுகிறது. இக்கருத்து மிகச் சரியே. கன்னட மொழியில் இரத்தம் என்பதற்கு “நெத்துரு”  என்ற சொல்லே வழங்குகிறது. தெலுங்கு மொழியிலும் “நெத்துரு”  என்னும் சொல்தான். கொங்கு நாட்டில் “ரத்தம்என்பது “நத்தம்” என வழங்குவது கருதத்தக்கது. “நத்தம்”, “நெத்துருஇரண்டும் நெருங்கிய தொடர்புள்ளன என்பது புலனாகிறது. கருநாடகத்தில், நடுகல்லுக்கு வீரகல்லு என்ற பெயர் வழங்குகிறது. கருநாடகக் கல்வெட்டுகளில் வீரகல்லு (வீரக்கல்) கல்வெட்டுகள் மிகுதியாக உள்ளன. அவற்றில், இறந்துபட்ட வீரனின் குடும்பத்தார்க்கு நிலம் கொடையாக அளிக்கப்பட்ட செய்திகள் காணப்படுகின்றன. கொடை” யைக் குறிக்கும் கன்னடச்சொல் “கொடகெ” என்றும் “கொடுகெ”  என்றும் பயில்கின்றன. இரத்தத்தைக் குறிக்கும் “நெத்துரு”, “நெத்ர” ஆகிய சொற்களுடன் சேர்ந்து “நெத்துரு கொடகெ”, “நெத்ர கொடகெ” என வருகின்றன.
மைசூர் மாவட்டம், ஹிரியபட்டண(ம்) வட்டம், ஜோகனஹள்ளி என்னும் ஊரில் உள்ள நடுகல்(வீரகல்லு) கல்வெட்டு கீழ்வருமாறு அமைகிறது:
1 பஹுதான்ய சம்வத்சரத மார்க
2 சிர .... மருளிஹரதி
3 ய நாகப்பகள மக்களு பைச்சண்ண
4 னூ ஜோகனஹள்ளிய இசுவண்ண
5 ஹுலிய இறிதனாகி நெத்ரகொ
6 டகெய கொடகெயனூ ஆரொ
7 பரு அளுசிதவரூ சத்த
8 நாயி திந்தவரு ஸ்ரீ
கல்வெட்டின் தமிழ் வடிவம் கீழே:
1 வெகுதான்ய வருடம் மார்கழி
2 மாதம் மருளிஹரதி ஊரைச்சேர்ந்த
3 நாகப்பனவரின் மகன் பைச்சண்ணன்
4 ஜோகனஹள்ளி ஊரைச்சேர்ந்த இசுவண்ணன்
5 புலியைக் கொன்றதற்கு (கொன்று இறந்துபட்டமைக்கு) குருதிக்
6 கொடை. இக்கொடையை யாரொருவர்
7 அழித்தவர் (கேடு செய்தார்) இறந்துபோன
8 நாயின் புலவை உண்டவர்க்கு ஒப்பாவார்.  ஸ்ரீ
கட்டுரை ஆசிரியர் குறிப்பு :

” எழுத்தை முதலாகக் கொண்ட தமிழ்ச் சொற்கள் பல, கன்னடத்தில்  ஒலிப்பாக மாறுதல் இயல்பு. எடுத்துக்காட்டாக :
இங்கே, புலி, ஹுலி ஆயிற்று. கொடை என்னும் தமிழ்ச் சொல் கொடகெ என்பதும்,
அழித்தவர் என்னும் தமிழ்ச் சொல் அளுசிதவர் என்பதும், கன்னட மொழி தமிழ் வேர்களைக் கொண்டது என்பதைப் புலப்படுத்துகின்றன. (தின்றவர்=திந்தவர் என்பது இவ்வகையானதே) தமிழ்க் கல்வெட்டுகளில் பயிலும் இன்னொரு சொல் “எறிந்து” என்பதாகும். அது, கொன்று” என்னும் பொருளையுடையது. அதுவே, கன்னடத்தில் “இறிது”  என்று திரிந்து வழங்கியிருக்கக் கூடும். கல்வெட்டின் காலம் கி.பி. 17-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டு.
மைசூர் மாவட்டம், யளந்தூர் வட்டம், யளந்தூரில் ஒரு வீட்டின் கொல்லைப்புறத்தில் இருக்கும் ஒரு பலகைக் கல்லில் காணப்படும் கல்வெட்டு. முதல் எடுத்துக்காட்டு ஒரு கன்னடக் கல்வெட்டாக அமைய, இந்த எடுத்துக்காட்டு ஒரு தமிழ்க்கல்வெட்டாக அமைந்திருப்பது குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. கல்வெட்டின் காலம் போசளர் (ஹொய்சளர்) காலம். கி.பி. 1266. அரசன், மூன்றாம் நரசிம்மன். கருநாடகத்தின் கங்கபாடிப் பகுதி, முதலாம் இராசராசன் காலம் தொடங்கிச் சோழர் ஆட்சியின்கீழ் இருந்தபோது, தமிழரும், தமிழ் மொழியும் இப்பகுதியில் குடியேற்றம் பெற்றனர். சோழருக்குப்பின் போசளர் ஆட்சிக் காலத்திலும் தமிழின் செல்வாக்கு உயர்ந்தே இருந்தது. போசளரின் கல்வெட்டுகளும் தமிழில் பொறிக்கப்பட்டன. அத்தகைய கல்வெட்டுகளுள் இந்தக் கல்வெட்டும் அமைகிறது. கல்வெட்டின் பாடம் கீழ் வருமாறு :
கல்வெட்டின் முன் பக்கம் :
1 ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ வீர ந
2 ரசிம்ஹதேவன் பிருதிவீரா
3 ஜ்யம் பண்ணி அருளாநிற்க
4 இளமருதூரான ராஜகேசரி ந
5 ல்லூர் நாலுகூற்றில் சமஸ்த கா
6 முண்ட
7 களும்
8 ஸ்தானிகரும்
9 இளமயரும்
10 வியாபாரிக
11 ளும் அய
12 ணிக்கு
13 மெங்க
14 ளூர் நாவித உடயச்சன் மகன்
15 கேத்தைக்கு பிரமாணம் பண்
16 ணிக் குடுத்தபடி க்ஷய சம்
கல்வெட்டின் பின் பக்கம் :
17 வத்சரத்து சித்திரை
18 மாசத்து இந்த நாவிதன் புலி
19 யெறிந்து வீரியஞ்செய்தது ப
20 க்கு இவனுக்கு நேத்தல் குடங்
21 கை கரிகூடபள்ளத்து குழி
22 60 இந்த குழி அறுபது இவ
23 ன் மக்களுள்ளதனை செலு
24 த்தி இவன் வம்சமுள்ளதன்
25 நாளுஞ்செல்லக்கடவதாக
26 தாராபூர்வம் பண்ணிக்கு
27 (டு)த்தோம் ஆசந்திராஸ்தாஹியாக
28 த்தை அழிம்பினார்கள் கங்
29 கைக் கரையில் குரால்பசு(வை)
30 கொன்ற பாவத்தில் (போ)
இக்கல்வெட்டில், இருபதாம் வரியில் “நேத்தல் குடங்கை”  என்னும் தொடருக்கு, நூலின் பதிப்பாசிரியர் “நெத்தரு கொடகெ”  என்றே பொருள் கூறுகிறார். கேத்தை  என்னும் நாவிதன் புலியெறிந்து (புலியைக்கொன்று) வீரச்செயல் புரிந்ததற்காக நெய்த்தோர் பட்டியாக (நேத்தல் குடங்கை) அறுபது குழி நிலம் கொடையளிக்கப்பட்டது. கொடையள்த்தவர்கள், சமஸ்த காமுண்டர்கள், ஸ்தானிகர், இளமயர், வியாபாரிகள் ஆகியோர். சமஸ்த, ஸ்தானிக  ஆகியவை ஊரின் நிர்வாக அமைப்பைக் குறிக்கின்றன எனலாம். காமுண்டர்கள் என்பவர்கள் ஊர்த்தலைவர்கள். இளமையர் என்பதற்குக் காவலர், வீரர் என்று பொருள். மிளை என்னும் காவற்காட்டைக் காத்து நின்றவர் எனலாம். (மிளை, இளை எனத்திரிந்திருக்கலாம்.) கால்நடைகளைக் காத்த காவலரான இளையரும் கொடையளிக்கும் பிரமாணத்தில் பங்கு கொள்வதைக் கல்வெட்டு தெரிவிக்கிறது. எனவே, ஊர்க்காமுண்டரும், இளையரும், வியாபாரிகளும், ஸ்தானிகரும் கொடை ஏற்பாடு செய்கின்றனர். தமிழ்க் கல்வெட்டுகளில் பயிலும் இளையர் என்னும் வழக்குச் சொல் கன்னடக் கல்வெட்டிலும் பயில்கின்றது. இது, தமிழகத்தின் கால்நடைச் சமுதாயத்தின் கூறுகள் கருநாடகப் பகுதியிலும் நிலைபெற்றிருந்தது என்பதை விளக்குகிறது.



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தொறு - எடுத்துக்காட்டு-1

  அடுத்து, தொறு என்னும் வழக்கும் கருநாடக் கல்வெட்டுகளில் பயில்வதைக் காண்கிறோம். எடுத்துக்காட்டாக, மைசூர் மாவட்டம், பிரியபட்டணம் வட்டம், கூரகல்லு என்னும் ஊரிலிருக்கும் வீரக்கல் கல்வெட்டு, தொறுப்பூசலைப்பற்றியது. தொறு என்பது கால்நடைக்கூட்டம் என்று முன்பே பார்த்தோம். கன்னடக்கல்வெட்டுகளில் “தொறு” என்பது “துறு”  என்று சற்றே திரிந்து காணப்படுகிறது. இக்கல்வெட்டு, கங்க அரசன் பெர்மானடியின் காலத்தைச் சேர்ந்தது. (கி.பி. 10-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டு). கொங்கல் நாடு-8000 என்னும் நாட்டுப்பிரிவை ஆளும் தலைவனான இறெயப்பன், நிலக்கொடை அளிக்கிறான். கூரகல்லு ஊரின் காவுண்டன், தொறுப்பூசலில் சண்டையிட்டு இறந்துபடுகிறான். அவனுக்கு மூன்று கண்டுகம் நிலம் “கல்நாடாகக்” கொடுக்கப்படுகிறது. ஆகோள் என்று இலக்கியங்களில் பயில்கின்ற ஆநிரை கவர்தல், நடுகற்களில் “தொறு கொள்ளுதல்” என வழங்கும். தமிழகக் கல்வெட்டுகளில் காணப்படும் “தொறு கொள்தல்” அல்லது “தொறு கொளல்” என்னும் தொடர், பழங்கன்னடத்திலும் காணப்படும் சொற்றொடராகும். மேற்படி கல்வெட்டில் “துறு கொளல்” என்று கன்னடத்தில் குறிப்பிடப்படுகிறது. ஆளுத்திரெ, சத்தர் ஆகிய சொற்கள் 
தமிழ் வேர்களைக் கொண்டுள்ளதை நோக்குக. மண் என்னும் சொல் மண்ணு என்று தமிழ்ச் சொல்லின் வடிவம் மாறாது பயில்வது குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. காதி என்னும் கன்னடச் சொல் சண்டையிடுதலைக் குறிக்கும்.

கல்வெட்டுப் பாடம்:

1  ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ பெர்ம்ம
2  னடிகள் பிரிதுவிராஜ்யம்
3  கெய்யுத்திரெ கொங்கல் நாடெ
4  ண்டாசிரமனு இறெய
5  ப்பனாளுத்திரெ குர்கல்ல
6  பூதுகனரசி பரமப்பெ
7  யாளுத்திரெ குர்கல்ல காவுண்ட
8  தம்முத்திர்பொர் துறுகொளல் காதி
9  சத்தர் இதக்கெ எறயப்பரசர்   
10 கொட்ட மண்ணு மூகண்டுக கால்நாடு இத
11 க்கெ சக்கி முதிரெ பூவய்ய பெள்ளென கர
12 குடி பாரதர் எறெயம்ம கெதறெயரய்ய
13 ப

கல்வெட்டின் தமிழ் வடிவம்.

1 ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ பெருமானடிகள்
2 ஆட்சி செய்கையில்
3 கொங்கல் நாடு
4 எண்ணாயிரத்தை இறயப்பன்
5 ஆளுகையில் குர்கல்லைப்
6 பூதுகனின் அரசி பரமப்பை
7 ஆளும்போது குர்கல்லைச் சேர்ந்த காவுண்டன்
8 ...... தொறு கொளல் போரில் சண்டையிட்டு
9 செத்தான் இதற்காக எறயப்பரசர் 
10 கொடுத்த மண் (நிலம்) மூன்று கண்டுகம் இது கல்நாடாக
11 ...........

தொறு - எடுத்துக்காட்டு-2
   மைசூர் மாவட்டம், மல்லெகவுடன கொப்பல் என்னும் ஊரில் உள்ள ஒரு நடுகல் கல்வெட்டும் தொறுப்பூசல் பற்றியதே. கி.பி. 1036-ஆம் ஆண்டைச் சேர்ந்த இக்கன்னடக் கல்வெட்டு முதலாம் இராசேந்திரனின் ஆட்சிக்காலத்தது. ஆநிரை கவர்தலும், ஆநிரை மீட்டலும் இக்கல்வெட்டில் செய்தியாக வருகின்றன. சங்காள்வா(ன்) என்பவன் தன் தம்பியோடு சேர்ந்து ஆநிரை கவர்கிறான். பாகுளி சிரியண்ண(ன்) என்னும் வீரன் ஆநிரை மீட்கும் முயற்சியில் சங்காள்வானுடன் சண்டையிட்டு இறந்துபடுகிறான். 
கல்வெட்டுப்பாடம் கீழ்வருமாறு :
1 ஸ்ரீ ராஜேந்த்ர சோழதேவர்க்கெ யாண்டு இப்பத்த மூ
2 ற மதறொ
3 ளெ த்து சம்வ
4 த்ஸரத ஆஷா
5 ட மாஸத
6 அமாவாச்யெ யந்து திலுகரமாரி சங்காள்வ கிறுசோதர கூடி
7 துறுவ கொ
8 ண்டு போகெ ஒ
9 ளி நாகய்ய
10 ர மக பாகு
11 ளிசிரியண்ண
12 சங்காள்வன
13 காதி துறுவ மகுழ்ச்சி பெண்டிர பெறகிக்கி காதி சத்த அவன
14 தம்ம
15 ஆ..ண்ண பரோக்‌ஷவினெய கெய்து
கல்வெட்டின் தமிழ் வடிவம் :
1 ஸ்ரீ ராஜேந்திர சோழ தேவற்கு யாண்டு இருபத்துமூன்று
2 ......
3 தாது வருஷம் ஆஷாட(ஆடி)
4 மாதம்
6 அமாவாசையன்று திலுகர மாரி (என்னும்) சங்காள்வானும் அவனது சிறிய சகோதரனும் கூடி
7 துறுவைக்
8 கொண்டுபோகும்போது (கவர்ந்து போகும்போது?)
9 ஒளிநாகய்யனின்
10 மகன்  பாகுளி
11 சிறியண்ணன்
12 சங்காள்வானுடன்
13 பொருது துறுவை மீட்டு,   பெண்டிரைக் காத்து
   சண்டையில் செத்தான் அவனுடைய
14 தம்பி
15  .... இறந்தவர் நினைவாக......
சோழப் பேரரசன் காலத்துக் கல்வெட்டாகையால், தமிழ்க் கல்வெட்டு மரபுப்படி அரசனின் ஆட்சியாண்டு சுட்டப்பெறுகிறது. ஆனால், கன்னடச் சொல்லுக்கு ஈடாகத் தமிழ்ச் சொல்லான “யாண்டு” என்பது கையாளப்படுவதைக் காண்க. ஆநிரை, துறு என இக்கல்வெட்டில் பயில்கிறது. ஆநிரையைக் கவர்ந்து போகும் நிகழ்வு, “துறுவ கொண்டு போகே” என்னும் தொடரில் தமிழின் தாக்கத்துடன் கூறப்படுகிறது. சிறியண்ணன் ஆநிரை(தொறு) மீட்கச் சண்டையிடுதல் காதி”  என்ற தொடரால் சுட்டப்பெறுகிறது. தொறுவை மீட்டல் என்பது “துறுவ மகுழ்ச்சி”  என்னும் தொடரால் அறியப்படுகிறது.தொறு மீட்டல் நிகழ்ச்சியில், பெண்களைப் பாதுகாத்தலும் நிகழ்ந்தது இதை,பெண்டிர பெறகிக்கி காதி” என்னும் கல்வெட்டு வரி விளக்குகிறது.பரோக்‌ஷவினய(ம்) என்னும் வடசொல், இறந்தவர்க்கு மரியாதை செலுத்தும் முகத்தான் செய்கின்ற செயலைக் குறிக்கும். அதாவது, இறந்தவர் நினைவாகச் செய்வது. கல்வெட்டின் காலம் கி.பி. 11-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டாதலால், மகுழ்ச்சி என்பது தமிழின் தாக்கத்தால் விளைந்த பழங்கன்னடச் சொல்லாக இருக்க்க் கூடும். ஆனால், இச்சொல்லின் தமிழ் வேர் எது எனப் புலப்படவில்லை.
எல்லை வகுத்துக் கல்நாட்டிக் கொடுத்ததால் கல்நாடு என்னும் வழக்கு ஏற்பட்ட்து என்னும் கருத்தைக்காட்டிலும், நடுகல்லிற்குக் கொடுக்கப்பட்ட வேளாண் நிலம் அல்லது நிலம் என்ற பொருளில் அச்சொல் ஆளப்பட்டிருக்கவேண்டும்  என்னும் பூங்குன்றன் அவர்களின் கருத்தே கருநாடகக் கல்வெட்டில் காணப்படுகிறது.
கல்நாடு -  எடுத்துக்காட்டு-1
மைசூர் மாவட்டம், திருமுக்கூடல் வட்டம் தொட்டஹுண்டி என்னும் ஊர் வீரக்கல் கல்வெட்டில், கங்க அரசனான நீதிமார்க்கப் பெர்மானடி இறந்தபோது, அவனது பணியாள் ஒருவன் (ஆகய்யன் என்பது அவன் பெயர்)), அரசன் மேல் உள்ள பற்றால் தன் உயிரை மாய்த்துக்கொண்டான். அவனுக்கு நினைவுக்கல் எடுக்கப்பட்டது. கல்நாடாக ஓர் ஊர் கொடுக்கப்பட்டது என்னும் செய்தி கூறப்படுகிறது. கொடையளித்தவன் , இறந்த அரசனின் மகன் சத்தியவாக்கியப் பெர்மானடி. கல்வெட்டின் காலம் கி.பி. 10-ஆம் நூற்றாண்டு எனக் குறிக்கப்படுகிறது.
கல்வெட்டின் பாடம்
1 ஸ்வஸ்திஸ்ரீ நீதிமார்க்க கொங்குணிவர்ம தர்ம மஹாரா
2 ஜாதிராஜ கோவளாலபுரவரேஸ்வர நந்த
3 கிரி நாத ஸ்ரீமத் பெர்மானடிகள் ஸ்வர்கமேறிதன்
4 ஏறிதொடெ பெர்மானடிகள மனெமகத்தின் ஆக
5 ய்ய நீதிமார்க்கப் பெர்மானடிகெ கீழ்குண்ட்டெ ஆத
6 பெர்மானடிகள் சுபுத்ர சதயவாக்ய பெம்மானடிகள் ..
7 பாடி ய
8 கல்நாடு
9 கொட்ட து
10 ப்பஹள்ளி
குறிப்பு : ஸ்வர்கம் ஏறித – சொர்க்கத்தை அடைந்தான்.
பெர்மானடிகெ – பெர்மானடிகளுக்கு
கீழ் குண்ட்டெ ஆத -  கீழ் குண்ட்டெ ஆனான்.
கீழ் குண்ட்டெ என்பது, தமிழகக் நடுகற்களில் காணப்படும் நவகண்டச் செயலை ஒத்தது. அர்சனுக்காகத் தன்னுயிரைத் தானே மாய்த்துக்கொள்ளுதல். கல்நாடாகக் கொடையளிக்கப்பட்ட ஊர் துப்பஹள்ளி.

கல்நாடு - எடுத்துக்காட்டு-2

   ”தொறு” வைக்குறித்த மேற்படி எடுத்துக்காட்டு-1, கல்நாடு என்னும் கருத்துக்கும் 
எடுத்துக்காட்டாக அமைவதைக் காண்க. தொறு கொளல் பூசலில் இறந்துபட்ட காவுண்டனுக்கு மூன்று கண்டுகம் அளவுள்ள நிலம் (மண்ணு) கல்நாடாகக் கொடுக்கப்படுகிறது. 

முடிவுரை :

     நெய்த்தோர் பட்டி என்பது தொறுப்பூசலில் இரத்தம் என்னும் குருதி சிந்தி இறந்து
பட்ட வீரர்களுக்குக் கொடுக்கப்பட்ட நிலத்தைக் குறிக்கவந்தது என்பதும், இதே கருதுகோள்
கருநாடகத்திலும் வழக்கில் இருந்தது என்பதும், இவ்வாறே, கல்நாடு என்பது தொறுப்பூசலில் இறந்த வீரர்களுக்குக் கொடுக்கப்பட்ட நிலம் என்பதும், தொறு என்னும் தமிழ்ச் சொல், கால்நடைச் சமுதாயப் பண்பாட்டின்  கூறுகளுள் ஒன்று என்பதும், இந்தப் பண்பாடும், இந்தச் சொல்வழக்கும் கருநாடகத்திலும் இடைக்காலத்தில் இருந்துள்ளன என்பதும் பெறப்படுகின்றன. 

து.சுந்தரம், கல்வெட்டு ஆராய்ச்சியாளர், கோவை.
அலைபேசி : 9444939156.



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Hero Stone Worship in North India (Post No.4286)


Image of Hero Stone in Karnataka

Written by London Swaminathan


Date:9 October 2017


Time uploaded in London- 18-15



Post No. 4286

Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks.


Hero Stones are erected by ancient Tamils for those killed in some community work. We have ancient hero stones found in different parts of Tamil Nadu from 5th century CE. Two-thousand-year-old Sangam Tamil literature also refers to it.


In Tamil Nadu and adjacent places Hero stones are placed in the road junctions and they are worshipped. The hero stones were erected for those who sacrificed their lies for others, particularly killing a tiger, or saving a village from an attack.

In Karnataka and Rajasthan, Pattinis, women who sacrificed their lives were worshipped. Thus India has 1000s of God like people who are elevated to the  status of divinities.


Tamil inscriptional Evidence

Tamil inscription names even a dog called Kovivan in a hero stone. Mahendra Pallava’s Eduthanur Hero Stone inscription praised Kovivan that died with his master in the battle. This Tamil inscription belongs to sixth century CE.


Erecting a stone or a pillar over the burial or the place of cremation has been practised by lot of communities around the world. Probably this pagan custom resulted in erecting decorative graves by the Christians where the pillar was replaced by a cross.


Hero Stone from Gotlur

Bridegroom’s Tragic Death mad him a Hero!

Dulhaa Deo (Bridegroom God) is worshipped in North India. Dulhaa Deo was an unfortunate bridegroom who was killed by lightning marriage ceremonies. People believed he and his horse were stoned into stones. Actually, people erected stones in memory of the horse and the rider like the Tamils.


General Sleeman gives a different version about this accident: In the valley of Nerbudda (River Narmada), near Bhopal, one may see on the side of the road, upon a spur of the hill, a singular pillar of sand stone rising in two spires. On the spur of a hill half a mile distant is another sand stone pillar not quite so high. The tradition is that the smaller pillar was the affianced bride of the larger one, who was a youth of great eminence in those parts. When the bride and bridegroom along with his uncle looked at each other discarding the rules (not to look at each other before the ceremony) they were converted into stones.”

This deity is one of the chief household gods of the tribal people. Flowers are offered to him on the last day of February, and a goat at marriages. In some places, even Brahmins worship him., and his symbol is a fetish battle axe, fastened to a tree.


In Mirzapur he is worshipped in the family cook room, where oil and turmeric are offered to him; when two or three marriages are taking place at the same time there is a combined offering of rice and goat.


Memorial Stone from Andhra Pradesh


In course of time, lot of different customs get mixed up, particularly among illiterate people. Hundreds of such customs exist in Tamil Nadu. Road side stones/deities are offered various things such as lemon, coconut, flowers and incense sticks. In several places like Sabarimala, Madurai Chitra festival even Muslims are linked with Hindu Gods.

Rev Osborne Martin, author of Gods of India even point out similar custom in the Bible:

“For a father afflicted with untimely morning, when he had made an image of his child soon taken away, now honoured him as a god which was then a dead man: Thus in process of time an ungodly custom grown strong was kept as law.”





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Date: 29 JUNE 2018


Time uploaded in London –  21-24 (British Summer Time)


Post No. 5163


Pictures shown here are taken from various sources such as Facebook friends, Wikipedia, Books, Google and newspapers; thanks. Pictures may be subject to copyright laws.


Hero stones are found throughout India. They are erected to honour those who lost their lives in protecting the community or saving the country. Even a dog has a hero stone in Tamil Nadu because it heroically fought with a tiger and save the people.

Sangam Tamil literature refers to hero stones and so we know that it has been the practice for at least 2000 years; but unfortunately we have not discovered very ancient ones. The ones we know now are from sixth or seventh century.

Hero(ine) stones are erected for women who lost their lives by climbing their husband’s funeral pyre. Rajasthan and Karnataka have such stones with had symbols. In short Super Men were celebrated in Bharat from very early days.

Though we don’t come across much in Sanskrit literature about Hero Stones, we know that Brahmin families even today bury a stone after the ten day ceremony in a garden or the backyard of the house. Perhaps in ancient days it was a big one. Now they just bury it in the crematorium or the place where the ceremonies are done.


One feature about the hero stones is that they are revered as gods or goddesses. Sangam Tamil literature is very clear about the Pujas done to you with flowers etc.


Several Tamil Hero Stones became Village Gods. We are fortunate to have two sets of Hero stones describing in pictures and words the ancient sea battles. One set of Stones is in Goa Museum and another set of six stones is in Eksar in Mumbai. It is one mile from Borivili station. But latest press reports say that some of the stones are missing. People in the village worship it as Goddess Boradevi. They are between four and eight feet high and intricately carved with ships and warriors.


After some historical awareness, people have discovered over 100 hero stones in Maharashtra. They are already well known in Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Karnataka.


The old Goa hero stones are from the Kadamba rulers who ruled for 400 years from CE 950.


Great Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar says in Tamil Veda Tirukkural that human beings who lead a virtuous life are considered Gods.

“A man who leads an ideal life in this world,

will be ranked amongst the Gods in the heaven”- Kural 50


Sea Battle

Moti Chandra in his book Ancient Trade Routes has given full details about the six stones found in Eksar. But there are different opinions about the identity of the king in the stones. One researcher says it was the battle between Yadava king Mahadevan and Silhara King Someswara as described by Hemadri Pandit in his work Chaturvarga Chintamani. Others think it wass a battle between the Kadambas and Silahara kings. Since the inscriptions on the stones are unreadable we don’t know the names for sure.


Another strange thing about these Eksar stones is they are called Veera Gal ( a mixture of Sanskrit and Tamil words Veera+ Kal)

Now it becomes essential to collect all the details and publish them in an Encyclopaedia of Hero Stones.


I am giving below the descriptions of six stones as found in Moti Chnadra’s book:-











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0. The Hindu concern for death and afterlife finds expression in a refined sequence of rites which aim at a twofold result: on one side, removing the pollution derived to the living from the contact with the mortuary remains, and, on the other side, ensuring the definitive transfer of the dead to their otherworldly abode. The funerary rituals are extensively described in the normative texts both in their practical and theoretical implications (Kane 1953: 180-679) and encompass a number of stages which include, among the others, the optional erection of a funerary monument over the post-cremation burial spot of the bones. The opacity of the terms recurring in the Vedic texts to indicate these monuments,1 paralleled by the paucity of references in the epic literature (Bakker 2007: 15, 16), contributed to shape an idea of Hinduism where structures in honor of the deceased, if any, seemed to be confined to the fringes of tradition, with their relegation to the fringes of the scholarly discourse following as a result.

In the second half of the last century a countertrend developed from the comparison between archaeological records and epic sources in local vernaculars. A different picture of the Hindu funerary monuments throughout India was thus progressively sketched, with particular reference to the so-called memorial stones and their most sizeable subgroup: the herostones.

Functions, typologies and local varieties of this class of materials were framed within a theoretical context for the first time (Nagaswamy 1974; Vanamamalai 1975; Blackburn 1978; Settar – Sontheimer 1982). Megaliths, hero-stones, satī-stones, samādhis, chattrīs, vṛndāvanas, thaḍes, temples and even unhewn stones appear today as tangible proofs of a very much alive tradition of dead cults in different epochs and regions. Yet, the global assessment of this phenomenon continues to be challenging: any evaluation so far carried out on Hindu memorials suffers from the lack of an integrated approach combining rigorous archaeological methods with the theoretical tools offered by disciplines like anthropology, history of religions and art history.

1. Definition of materials

English defines by the word compound ‘hero-stones’ some slabs or pillars erected in honor of individuals who perished in a certain range of circumstances or while carrying out specific sorts of deeds, perceived as extraordinary by the community they belonged to. Typically, they bear an iconographical and epigraphical apparatus which provides with information on the identity of the deceased and the context of his death.

It has to be noted that the expression ‘hero-stones’ somehow smooths over the variety of terms with which Indian languages designate these artefacts. Such a variety is not just a matter pertaining to the linguistic domain, rather it reflects the formal and structural changes of these materials according to the region where they were produced. A series of etymologically related  words like vīragal in Marathi, vīrakkal in Tamil, vīragallu in Kannada, vīrakallu in Telugu are the literal counterparts of ‘hero-stone’. Terms like chāyāstaṃbha, proper of the specimens from Andhra Pradesh (Murthy 1982: 210)2 or khaṃbha, and its alternative forms khaṃba, khaṃbhi, diffused in Northern and Central India (Sontheimer 1982: 92; Shah 1982: 102; Doshi

1982: 166), convey the meaning of shade-pillar and pillar, with reference to the memorial shape.3 Pāliya and govardhana from Gujarat and Rajasthan allude instead to the concept of protection (i.e. a memorial to the protector of the community), as the root of the first term (Doshi 1982: 165) and the iconographic repertoire suggested by the second term (namely the representation of Kṛṣṇa Govardhanadhara. Agrawala 1982: 151) show.

On the ground of the available data,4 the death cases recorded on the hero-stones can be summed up as follows:5

 people who died to protect their livestock from theft; while retrieving it after the attack

 people involved themselves in cattle raiding

 people who died while defending their community and ruler from external attack; people died on the onslaught of a stronghold

 people who died to defend women and children

 people devoured by wild animals, most commonly tigers; people who freed the village from the threat of wild animals

 people who died after a snake bite

 people who committed religious suicide

 women who died in pregnancy or childbirth / suicide victims.

The terminus a quo for hero-stones relies on Southern Indian materials, but it is not free from uncertainties. Until few years ago, one of the earliest cases as such could be identified in a 3rd-4th centuries AD cattle raider’s inscribed pillar from Andhra Pradesh (Murthy 1982: 210-211; Rajan 2000: 102). However, a fast-paced series of discoveries would ultimately prove –according to some – the existence of hero-stones already in the 3rd-2nd centuries BC Tamil Nadu.6 Less problematic seems instead the terminus ad quem, which stretches up to the present time, if the living practices among tribal communities of both Northern and Southern India are considered.

The scholarly tradition (e.g. Vanamamalai 1975: 41) maintains that a hero-stone was raised on the spot where the hero fell or where his remains were buried, or alternatively in his native village or in the place where his relatives lived. The current position of the materials, however, hardly corresponds to the original one. Many have been relocated inside museums or temple premises, either as freestanding elements or as structural components; but even when found at the crossroads of hamlets, under trees or next to water reserves, one cannot ignore that some transformative process must have intervened over the centuries and reshaped the landscape (e.g. due to the construction of a new road, or to cropland expansion).

Archaeological excavations never occurred systematically in the past, so that at present, threatened by an increasing urbanization, the veracity of both primary and secondary sources on this issue is de facto unascertainable.

2. Case Study: Maharashtrian Hero-Stones

Maharashtra shows a high concentration of hero-stones which differ from all the other regional specimens by two features: a codified iconographic apparatus combined to an almost total absence of inscriptions, which makes their chronological horizons rather opaque.7 The identification of the main figurative motifs – a research field still at an early stage –will be taken here as a focus through the analysis of seven prototypical steles from the South-Eastern area.8 As I will try to show, the paradigmatic value of the selected hero-stones encompasses both the iconographic and the iconological levels: beyond a series of formal variations on the basic themes, each sample illustrates in its own way two of the three types of heroism to which Maharashtrian hero-stones can be virtually ascribed, that is to say ‘martial heroism’ and ‘religious heroism’.9

3. Structure and layout

The narrative develops across a series of horizontal panels carved on the front side, ranging between three and five; the back and lateral faces are just rough-cut. At times, in place of the more common one-sided slabs, square-based pillars engraved on the four sides are found. The steles may have equal width at the top and bottom, but more often they taper upwards. Typically, a frame divides each scene from the other; it is usually plain, although it may bear geometrical decorations or

be replaced by a more sophisticated casing which imitates secular or religious architecture.

Often conceived to be looked from bottom to top, the panels show the physical and spiritual progression of the hero who ascends to heaven after passing through different kinds of trials in the worldly level which cost him his life. On the lowest panel the circumstances of the hero’s death are captured (battlefield, self-sacrifice), whereas in the middle and top sections he is portrayed while ascending to heaven and ultimately in association with the god of whom is devotee. Exceptions are frequently found in this sequence, the most common featuring the representation of the dead hero on the lowest panel (lying on the ground or on his funeral pyre), a stage which theoretically should be following the circumstances of his death. The slab is usually crowned by a kalaśa and by the sun and moon, symbols of the eternal glory of the hero which will last as long as the two celestial bodies endure.

The hero shows codified attire and attributes: he regularly wears dhotī, armlets and bracelets, having the yajñopavīta, belt with sheathed dagger and anklets as optional features; his hair is always tied in a bun.

He is in the company of different personages according to the scene: enemies, apsarases and ācāryas are the most regular characters, contributing in their own way to his achievement of each stage, namely ascension to heaven and enjoyment of the celestial abode with the supreme Lord. The scenes are enriched with more or less details to the point that in some instances we find the hero surrounded by a procession of figures, such as musicians, or carried on a palanquin and protected by a parasol, alone or with his wife, whose satī ritual might be represented as well.

Sometimes the horizontal panels can be vertically split into two halves, mirroring each other in terms of content. As a result, the same episode is replicated twice, and by this device two heroes happen to be honored on one stele. A further strategy to condense on one and the same stone the story of many heroes can be detected in the pillars carved on the four sides: each of them reproduces the same cycle of conflict-death-and-ascension with just slightly different details.



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 A free standing hero-stone in the village of Loni Bhapkar (fig. 1) is consistent with the features so far outlined except for a detail on the top frame. It has four panels: the lowest portrays the hero laying on the ground surrounded by his livestock. The second lowest scene shows him fighting against two enemies armed with shields and swords, while in the middle panel he stands between two celestial damsels (apsarases) taking him to heaven. The uppermost scene depicts the hero in padmāsana, his hands in añjalimudrā in the presence of a śivaliṅga accompanied by Nandi. On the right side (from the viewer perspective), a priest is performing a rite on the cult object. The top part of the stele reveals quite an unusual feature: in the place where a kalaśa is normally expected, a human figure is engraved whose interpretation is challenged by some unclear details depending on the bad preservation status of the relief (four arms are allegedly represented, and the body posture may either correspond to a cross-legged sitting or to a bust protruding from a balcony). In the lack of further data, the figure could be theoretically identified as a deity no less than as the hero himself deified, both cases being documented elsewhere.

The second hero-stone composition displays a comparatively higher degree of dynamism. A free standing slab from the village of Bawada is divided into four panels (fig 2). The lowest depicts the hero lying prone on a structure which can be reasonably identified as a funeral pyre.10 He is surrounded by six female figures (apsarases, in all probability), each of them raising a garland. Above a fight scene is portrayed: on the left, the horse riding hero faces a handful of enemies. Three of them move against him with their spears, while other six foot soldiers, equipped with shields and daggers, mill around the other side of an architectural barrier, likely the wall of a fort. A

sprawling figure is depicted below the hero’s horse. The middle panel displays the hero together with a female personage (likely his wife) resting on a seat which is apparently lifted up by two celestial figures fluttering about the bottom corners of the scene, adorned with anklets and a refined hairstyle. Behind them, a couple of standing female figures, wearing jewels and having their hair arranged in a bun, rises up two garlands. The top scene depicts the worship of the śivaliṅga by the hero in the presence of Nandi and an ācārya on the right edge. The priest holds a bell in his right hand, with an incense burner (?) in his left. On the left side, next to the hero, a standing male figure lifts a garland, showing no distinctive features beyond his dhotī and a classical bun hairstyle. The topmost section of the stele bears a kalaśa and a wavy decorative motif denoting the evident architectural inspiration of the design.

The same site reveals one more noteworthy stone, which exemplifies the case of two heroes celebrated on one and the same slab (fig. 3). Only three horizontal panels are carved, the lower ones divided into two halves. Although the whole right section of the stele is worn, its contents can be safely ascertained on the ground of their similarity with the left counterparts. The lowest level captures twin scenes of skirmish: both the halves show a hero standing on the left edge facing his foes (two, in the left section), who are armed with shields and swords/daggers. Each of the two middle scenes portrays a dead warrior standing between two apsarases. The uppermost panel shows instead the two heroes together, sitting cross-legged by the two sides of a śivaliṅga, above which a garland is hanging.

Both of them are in padmāsana, with their hands in añjalimudrā, and display the same attire. We can catch sight of a standing figure on the right edge, whose role is arguably connected with the ritual performance as in the samples illustrated above. The top section of the stele is occupied by a kalaśa, a common iconographical code in this area. The frame bears a garland motif decoration as a distinctive trait. Unlike the other slabs considered so far (cattle raid; fort assault), here no additional information are provided to the viewer as regards the context of the skirmish.

At times the hero is portrayed in the company of his wife. A unique specimen from the village of Kumbharvalan (fig. 4), unfortunately incomplete, offers a vivid representation of the couple burning on the funeral pyre: on the lowest panel the wife lies prone on her husband’s body, her left arm raised up in the flames. Above this scene, the skirmish where the hero sacrificed his life is shown. He appears in his traditional attitude on the left side, while his foes, who seem to be characterized to a lesser extent, face him standing on the right; once again no details are given about the reason of the violent dispute.

The iconographical patterns of Maharashtrian hero-stones can reach higher degrees of complexity as in the following example from the village of Velapur (fig. 5). This stele consists of four panels which frames are visibly more elaborated than in the previous instances, the narrative pattern itself displaying some variations. Both the lower panels depict indeed a battlefield scene. The hero stands in the center and is attacked head on and backside by six foot warriors wielding a sword in their lifted right hand, with a shield in their left. An irregular frame separates this scene from the upper one, providing the ground to a more complex battle episode, where the hero and his enemies fight on horseback. Interestingly, a figure stands on the left edge of the scene bearing next to the hero a parasol, one of the Indian royal symbols par excellence. A further intriguing but scarcely preserved figure is represented in the foreground in left profile view: a four-legged animal of medium size (a jackal?) with muzzle bent down. The middle panel features the hero flanked by six celestial damsels holding a cāmara (fly-whisk) in their right hands. A wavy motif crowns this scene, its pinnacle pointing to the center of the top panel, the spot where the śivaliṅga is represented. In the uppermost episode the hero is sitting in the classical worship attitude close to the liṅga, above which a garland hangs; on the opposite side are Nandi and an ācārya performing the ritual, with bell and censer/water pot (?) as his attributes. An unidentifiable element flanks the hero on his right. The whole composition is superseded by a stylized architectural frame reproducing a temple covering made of superimposed levels.

Hero-stones are not reserved just to those who lost their lives on the occasion of events having social implications, such as defensive or offensive deeds. The steles erected to perpetuate the memory of those who committed religious suicides are one of the most peculiar variants. Several types of self-immolations are recorded in Medieval Deccan (Sircar 1971: 206-220).

Beyond those committed by heroes on the battlefield as a consequence of their failure in achieving death by the hand of their enemies, suicides might have taken place in the fulfillment of a vow made to secure the accomplishment of a certain desire (winning a war, getting a son, etc.), or in order to propitiate a deity whose wrath was believed to get manifest through pestilences or other calamities in the village. Expiatory suicides by criminal are known as well, occurring as an alternative to the execution or to regain lost honor (Filliozat 1991: 144-145).

The immolation ritual could take the form of the hero’s beheading in front of the god or goddess, known as kamala pūjā (Sontheimer 1982: 163), or could alternatively be performed by throwing oneself under the wheels of a running temple cart, or even by piercing one’s own body on a sharp spiked pedestal (Rice 1909: 187-188). Through such practices, which transformed the suicide victim into the prototypical sacrificial animal of more traditional rites, the devotee aimed to obtain the God’s response or to get closer to him in the afterlife.

A huge-size slab from the village of Mangalwedha accounts for this custom (fig. 6). The stele is incomplete, the lowest panel being lost; nonetheless the story can be detected from the surviving four panels. The bottom one depicts a choral scene: it is a procession of men in army (left) and musicians (right). Both the groups converge towards the center, where a male figure sits on an elephant back. A dhvaja (banner) held by one of the men in army is topped by a composite animal, namely a makara, which recurs also in other spots of the depiction, as we shall see.

The focus of the second scene is on the sacrifice: the hero, portrayed on a bigger scale compared to the other figures and sitting in padmāsana, is beheaded. Once again, a procession takes place wherein we can observe his head being carried on a plate, preceded by the same makaradhvaja (likely, the family banner) represented in the panel below, and by a group of musicians (oboe and percussion players). The scene above features the hero’s ascension to heaven in the company of ten apsarases. Two of them embrace the hero by resting an arm around his back. The content of the last panel is consistent with the records we analyzed so far: the hero is eventually in the presence of the śivaliṅga. The officiant on his left holds a bell and a censer/water-pot (?); the right side of the scene displays three more ācāryas, similarly involved in the performance of the ritual as confirmed by their attributes, and again a group of musicians playing tambourines, drums and a conch shell. On the top section, beyond a variation of the architectural covering that we have already encountered on the other hero-stones, a makara is depicted on the right, echoing the family emblem of the banner depicted in the panels below. Even the interpretation of this fabulous aquatic animal as an apotropaic element could be considered.

The last hero-stone of this review embodies a synthesis between the classical heroism displayed on the battlefield and the type of heroism connected to the performance of selfmortification practices (fig. 7). This small size sample from the village of Kikli is divided into three panels, which apparent iconographic simplicity betrays a certain complexity of meanings. The uppermost scene includes the expected iconographical repertoire: the dedicatee of the stele is worshipping a śivaliṅga, upon which a garland hangs; interestingly, no officiants are portrayed. The middle panel depicts the hero involved in a skirmish. He is pierced by his two enemies’ spears while wielding his dagger. The lowest panel captures a sacrificial ritual performed by the hero: he moves towards a square based pillar bearing a triśūla-shaped set of spikes on the top. It will be noted that while the heavenly ascension is missing, two different ways of dying are represented on one and the same slab, which coexistence still awaits for a proper explanation. On one hand, self-immolation on spiked pillars is usually associated with extreme bhakti rituals, rather than with suicides on the battlefield, where the sword could reasonably serve the purpose; on the other side, the battlefield scene portrayed in the middle panel seems already to give proper account of the heroic death of the protagonist at the hand of his foes.

4. Conclusions

The seven samples we offered can be looked at as a small scale compendium of South-Eastern Maharashtrian hero-stones in relation to iconographic motifs and meanings conveyed. But what does it precisely mean, and which kind of data can we elicit by this review?

The very existence of a large number of hero-stones and the almost ubiquitous depiction of warlike contexts on them reflect a social milieu where disputes of different nature must have not occurred sporadically in the Medieval period, should they have been trigged by the defense/pillage of livestock (as the head of cattle around the dead hero indicate in fig. 1), or been connected to fort assaults (fig. 2) and other local controversies not always specified (fig. 3-5, 7). The higher concentration of cattle-raid steles in a particular strip (i.e. the Western Ghats) of the area under examination, in addition, would be indicative of the predominant pastoral character of the region, the hero-stones thus becoming authentic economic markers as well (Dandekar 1991).

Although produced in a rural environment by and large, these steles commemorate ordinary villagers as much as higherrank individuals whose identity is inferred by the presence of royal symbols like parasols, banners, attendants and horses (fig.5 and 6), with the stone size and refinement as further distinctive factors.

Interestingly, even when the steles extol practices of devotional heroism, according to the above mentioned variants of religious suicide, the warlike component is not necessarily excluded (fig. 7 and likely fig. 6, where the missing lowest panel may have represented a battle scene). Whatever the vow of self-sacrifice, either related to success on the battlefield or not, the devotional heroism it entails shares indeed the same nature with martial heroism: eternal glory is reserved to the hero on the worldly sphere – as the dedication of a memorial to him proves – no less than on the otherworldly dimension – through the attainment of the Śivaloka. Following Sontheimer (2004 [1976]: 125-126), on one side a hero-stone dedication may have permitted the hero to ascend to the world of gods. But the concept of hero and fame (vīra and kīrti) is also present and must have been a strong overriding motive in warring communities who did not have any claims as such to be called ‘Katryias’ but who aspired to rise in social and ritual rank. […] Death or victory in battle or in a hunt against a tiger [or in a self-immolation ritual] indicated special qualification for rank and honor […]”and ultimately equate the hero’s deeds to the yogi’s. The hero is perceived as such since by means of a death through trial (being it war or self-mortification) he obtains closeness to the Lord in the same way as the yogi does by means of his penance. “The fight in itself becomes a kind of religious, yogic exercise for achieving the supernatural” (ibid.): and by this martial and devotional heroism ultimately merge.

Beside the religious affiliation of the hero explicitly provided on the upper section of the iconographic program, these materials implicitly throw light on another set of religious data:

the beliefs on death and afterlife which are rooted in the socalled popular religion. The necessity to provide those who suffered from an akāla mṛtyu (untimely death) with honors must have played indeed a significant role in the decision to erect hero-stones to certain categories of dead far beyond a mere commemorative intent. The deification process occurred at times for some deceased would confirm it (Vanamamalai 1975).

Hero-stones erection and heroes’ apotheosis, in other words, can be interpreted as strategies to prevent potentially unsatisfied spirits in search for revenge or wish fulfilment from harming the living community (on spirits afflictions and their treatment see for instance Fuller 1992: 231-232).

In the light of these considerations it becomes clear that a proper evaluation of the “hero-stones heroism”, that is to say of the system of values conveyed by this class of materials, relies not only on dharmaśāstras and epic texts, but also on a broader understanding of the local context which produced it.

They consist of mounds, referred to as loṣṭa-citti; at times a sort of post (sthūṇa) is mentioned in connection with them. See Patil 1982: 49-52.

Chāyāstaṃbhas designate hero-stones in the strict sense as well as funerary monuments like the 2nd-3rd centuries AD pillars from the site of Nagarjunakonda.  fall beyond the present scope “because they were mainly raised for elite people who attainea natural death” (Rajan 2000: 105), rather than for heroic figures. This specification

becomes meaningful as to the definition of the hero-stones chronology, the chāyāstaṃbhafrom Nagarjunakonda being inevitably overlooked despite their remarkable antiquity.

3 All these terms have the same root of skaṃbha, pillar, mentioned in the Atharva Veda Saṃhitā as one of the epithet of the Purua [AVŚ X, 7]. A connection between this particular aspect of the sacrificial being par excellence, the historically attested memorial stones and the terms in use to designate them may be postulated. I am thankful to Prof. Y.Vassilkov for kindly bringing to my attention this passage and for sharing his notes on the topic.

The reported list results from the synthesis between secondary sources (among the others, see Rajan 2000) and my personal records.

Satī cases, although strictly relevant to the context, have been omitted due to methodological reasons. Satī- and hero-stones share the same function, structure and iconographic code, to the point that we often find the two types merged (see fig. 4 and description); however the ‘religious heroism’ connected with the satī-stones would lead us beyond the scope of the present contribution.

News of hero-stones findings in the Tamil region with Tamil-Brāhmī scripts periodically appear on the press: see for instance < tamilbrahmi-inscription-found/article3662994.ece>. Such discoveries would represent a turning point for a certain tradition of studies (Rajan 2000: 24, 105) which used to classify the hero-stones engraved in vaṭṭeluttu script, dated to the Pallava period, as the earliest examples of their kind in India.

These materials are normally dated to the Medieval period.

Namely the districts of Pune, Solapur and Satara. The proposed samples were recorded during a two-session fieldwork I carried out in 2013 and 2014 in the frame of my Ph.D. research (Trinco, in preparation). Unless occasionally appearing in the works by the late German scholar Günter-Dietz Sontheimer (1982, 1989, 2004 [1976]), these materials are still unpublished.

A third category is what I define “accidental heroism” (Trinco, in preparation). This theoretical distinction is so far substantiated by the data I collected during my fieldwork, concerning nearly 300 samples of hero-stones across 30 villages.

10 This interpretation relies on the comparison between the alleged funeral pyre on this specimen with the burning pyre unequivocally portrayed on other steles, such as that of fig. 4 in the present contribution.


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