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Kerala caves yield engraved inscription

Kozhikode, Feb 15, 2012, PTI: 1:02 IST
The Edakkal caves, situated about 4,000 feet above sea level in the Ambukuthi hillock in Wayanad district of Kerala, have yielded a hitherto unnoticed inscription engraved in the early Brahmi characters.

A former professor of Epigraphy, Calicut University, Dr M R Raghava Varier, who discovered the inscription, recently read this record as ‘Sri Vazhumi’.

While all the records reported earlier at Edakkal are at a distance from the rock, carvings without any reference to them, the newly discovered one appears to be a label attached to a human figure, he said.

The inscription seems to be engraved exactly in the Edakkal style of drawing—a human figure, which is shown as having a huge phallus. It probably denotes the idea of fertility, and suggests Brahma, the Hindu God of creation, Varier said in an email interview. The term ‘Vazhumi’ could be the Tamil rendering of the Sanskrit name Brahma and the sound ‘zhu’ in the name of the figure is written in the Tamil Brahmi script, he said. Rest of the letters take the forms of the northern variety of the alphabet, Varier, now the editor of ‘Kerala Archaeological Series’, a publication of the Department of Archaeology, said.

Further, the cursive letter ‘zha’ represents a later stage of evolution. The text as a whole denotes a merger of the Sanskrit and the Dravidian language and script, he said.

“The latest discovery is important in many ways”, Varier said adding, “Firstly, the label provides us with a link to suggest some connection between the rock art tradition of Edakkal and the Brahmi writing in South India, thereby suggesting a continuity of a long heritage.” Secondly, it contains the name of deity, while other writings at the site contain names of rulers and heroes.

Thirdly, the text as a whole denoted a merger of the Sanskrit and the Dravidian lanugages and scripts as well as religious ideas and lastly and more importantly, this record with reference to its period can function as a specific horizon to interpret many a carving on the walls of the Edakkal cave, he said. An estampage (an impression of the incription made on inked paper) was prepared by Krishnaraj, designer in the Kerala State Department of Archaeology.

Edakkal caves, famous for its rich rock art and inscriptions, and the Tamil Brahmi inscriptions of Edakal was first reported in 1901 in ‘Indian Antiquary’, a government of India publication, by F Fawcett, the then Superintendent of Police of the erstwhile Malabar district.

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