Nainativu Tamil Slab Inscription of Parakramabahu I

Nainativu Inscription of Parakramabahu IA Tamil slab inscription containing an edict by King Parakramabahu I (1123-1186 A.D.) of Polonnaruwa has been discovered from the island of Nainativu (present Nagadeepa/Nagadipa) in Jaffna District, Sri Lanka. The epigraph is considered an important archaeological heritage found from the Jaffna Peninsula as it reveals the commercial activities that existed in the time of King Parakramabahu I (Dias et al., 2016; Indrapala, 1963).

The slab was found at the entrance of the famous Hindu shrine, Nagapooshani Amman Temple on Nainativu Island (Indrapala, 1963). At the time of its discovery, a portion of the slab had been broken off and built into the wall of the Hindu temple (Indrapala, 1963).

Presently, the inscription is placed in the museum of Nagapooshani Amman temple.

The inscription has been engraved on both sides of a stone slab about 4 ft. tall and 2 ft. 5 inches wide. The obverse side which contains the first part of the record has been completely mutilated and obliterated by the sharpening of metal implements on it by the temple labourers (Indrapala, 1963). However, the reverse side is free from mutilations and contains details about the purpose of the edict and the name of the ruler who issued it (Indrapala, 1963). Without the portion of the obverse side and the last few lines of the reverse side, the inscription has 23 lines survived (Indrapala, 1963).

The inscription has been written in Tamil scripts interspersed with Grantha belonging to about the 12 century A.D. (Indrapala, 1963). The last two lines as well as the main portion on the obverse side of the inscription, according to Indrapala, are in Grantha characters (Indrapala, 1963). The main language used in the inscription is medieval Tamil but contains a few lines written in the Sanskrit language (Indrapala, 1963).

As mentioned in the inscription itself, it has been indited by Deva Parakramabhujo, Sakala Simhala Cakravartti, which means, King Parakramabahu, the overlord of all Sinhalas (Dias et al., 2016). According to Indrapala, this is the only known Tamil inscription erected by this great Sinhalese monarch (Indrapala, 1963).

The interpretations for the Nainativu inscription by K. Indrapala (1963) are given below,

  • Nainativu Tamil slab inscription

    Reign: Parakramabahu I (1123-1186 A.D.)
    Period: 12th century A.D.
    Script: Tamil & Grantha
    Language: Medieval Tamil & Sanskrit
    Reference : Indrapala, 1963. p.68-70.

    Transcript: ..nankal..c..uratturai (yil) paratecikal vantu irukka venumenrum avakkal raksaippata .....>>
    Translation: ..we..that foreigners should come and stay in Uratturai, that they should be protected .....>>

The inscription contains certain trade regulations enacted by the king. It proclaims that the foreigners who disembark from their ships at Uratturai port (present Kayts) will remain under the security of the state. It further says that the foreigners who disembark from any other port should be assembled in the Uratturai port premises and the ships that suffer wreckage in transit through the waters of the port will be charged based on the type of cargo [wrecked vessels carrying elephants and horses for the king will be charged a forth share of their cargo but the vessels carrying ordinary merchandise will have to pay a half share to the state treasury  (Dias et al., 2016; Indrapala, 1963)].

It is further revealed by this inscription that, this decree was written on a granite slab as well as on a copper plate.

Uratturai is the Tamil name used to identify the island of Kayts. The earliest literary references to this place are found in several Sri Lankan chronicles such as Pujavaliya, Rajavaliya, and Culavamsa (Indrapala, 1963). Karthigesu Indrapala, a Sri Lankan Tamil scholar, has described how the Tamil name Uratturai evolved from its early names;
In Pali it was known as Sukaratittha while the Sinhalese form was Huratota or Uratota. With the settlement of the Tamils in this area it became Tamilised. In Tamil while the first element of the Sinhalese name was retained, the second element came to be replaced by a Tamil synonym. Thus, it became Uratturai (turai=tota). It appears in this hybrid form in the inscription of Rajadhiraja II and in our record. This form has come down to modern times and is still used in popular parlance. But scholars have distorted its form and given it a pure Tamil look in its written form. This is how it has come to be written ar Ur-kavar-rurai. The Hollanders gave it a Dutch name, Kayts, by which it is still known in English.
Citation : Indrapala, 1963. p. 68.
A protected monument
The Nagadeepa inscription situated in the Grama Niladhari Division of Nainathiw bearing No. J-34 in the Divisional Secretariat Division of Velenai Northern Island is an archaeological protected monument, declared by a government gazette notification published on 23 February 2007.

1) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. pp.175-177,202.
2) Indrapala, K., 1963. The Nainativu Tamil Inscription of Parakramabahu I. University of Ceylon Review. Vol. XXI; No, I. University of Ceylon. Peradeniya. pp.63-70.
3) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: No: 1486. 23 February 2007. p.129.

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This page was last updated on 27 April 2023

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