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Anaikoddai Seal (Jaffna, Sri Lanka)

Anaikoddai seal

Anaikoddai seal (Sinhala: ආනෙයිකෝඩ්ඩේ ලෝහ මුද්‍රාව; Tamil: ஆனைக்கோட்டை முத்திரை) is a bronze seal discovered during an archaeological excavation done at a megalithic burial site in Anaikoddai in Jaffna District, Sri Lanka (Ragupathy, 1987). The excavation was organized by the University of Jaffna and it was conducted in December 1980, by K. Indrapala, P. Ragupathy, and S.K. Sitrampalam (Ragupathy, 1987). The seal was discovered by K. Krishnaraja of the same university (Dias, 2021).

The Burial

The burial where the seal was found is the first megalithic burial complex discovered in the Jaffna Peninsula (Indrapala, 1987). A skeleton of around 5 ft. in height with folded hands in the front was found in the burial (Ragupathy, 1987). The skull of it was damaged due to the effect of a Palmyra root (Ragupathy, 1987). Remains of a variety of burial offerings such as crab shells, edible oyster shells, edible conch shells, turtle shells, various kinds of fish vertebrae, and animal bones had been discovered placed around the skeleton (Ragupathy, 1987). The containers of these offerings were Early Carinated Black & Red Ware dishes/bowls, other Red & Black Wares, Early Red Ware pots, etc. (Ragupathy, 1987). A few of these shreds are said to have marked with graffiti marks (Ragupathy, 1987). Some bone points of fish with their natural needle eyes and polished shark vertebrae were found around the neck of the skeleton, which according to the view of investigators could represent the evidence of ornaments (Ragupathy, 1987). A bronze seal, iron slags, and an iron point were among the other findings of the burial (Ragupathy, 1987).

The Bronze Seal

The seal was found inside an ECBRW dish placed near the skull of the skeleton (Ragupathy, 1987). It is believed to be a part of a signet ring as some fragments of a circular bronze strap were observed in the same dish by the founders (Ragupathy, 1987). The seal is quadrangle in shape and measures 1.7 cm by 1.5 cm (Ragupathy, 1987).

The seal consists of two lines, believed to be two types of writings (Ragupathy, 1987). The first line has three graffiti marks usually found in Megalithic pottery and in the second line, there are three Brahmi Scripts. According to scholars, these Brahmi scripts can be dated to the mid-early historic period [(250 B.C.-100 A.D.) Deraniyagala, 1992; Dias, 2021].

Indrapala and Ragupathy believe that the inscription on the seal is Dravidian (Indrapala, 1987; Ragupathy, 1987) but Somadeva thought that it is not a Dravidian but a Prakrit inscription (Somadeva, 1998).

Reading by Indrapala

Karthigesu Indrapala identified three characters (or symbols) in the first line and three letters and an Anusvara (pulli = dot) in the second line (Indrapala, 1987). The symbols, according to Indrapala, have been written in the same way as the ideograms on an Indus seal (Indrapala, 1987). He further stated that this is the first known instance of these symbols occurring on a seal in the form of an epigraph alongside a Brahmi inscription (Indrapala, 1987).

Indrapala read the inscription from right to left. He identified the first letter as "", the second as "" and the third letter as "ta" but according to him there is an Anuswara (a dot) just above the letter "ta". The dot represents "n" and that can come before or after the letter "ta" (Indrapala, 1987). Therefore, two readings are possible: Kōvēnta or Kōvētan (Indrapala, 1987). Indrapala believed that both readings are Dravidian and have the same meaning. Indrapala interpreted his reading as follows;

Anaikoddai seal

Reading by Ragupathy

P. Ragupathy suggested a few adjustments to the reading of Indrapala. He showed that the dot which Indrapala has taken as an Anuswara can be part of the third Indus sign (third character) of the first line (Ragupathy, 1987). He read the Brahmi letters in the second line (without Anuswara) as "ta": "the property of  'Kōvēt'" [(Kōvēntanudaiya in the developed Tamil) Ragupathy, 1987].

Ragupathy divided his reading into three parts as "+t+a" and assigned them to the three Indus signs in the first line. According to him, "Kō" and "vēt" are represented respectively by the two tridents, and the "a" is indicated by the third sign (Ragupathy, 1987).

Views by Ramesh

Dr. K.V. Ramesh has commented on Indrapala's reading of this seal as follows;

After himself suggesting two alternatives, the scholar adopts the reading Kōvētan as the more likely one, through he does not adduce reason for taking a mere dot to represent the final consonant n. Since Kō, and vēta both mean 'king' in Tamil, he takes the two trident-like symbols on the top line also to be ideographic symbols standing for 'king'. Armed with these conclusions, Indrapala poses a very typical as well as topical question as to whether we have at last stumbled upon a bilingual inscription in the Indus and Brahmi scripts. Like some other exasperated scholars in the field, I too have come to believe, after protracted exertions, that the Indus symbols are purely ideographic and never carried any phonetic values at any stage in their usage. We have got to make them yield sense by subjecting them strictly to provenance-cum-context oriented ideographic and, in some cases, pictographic-cum-ideographic interpretation. It is in no way unnatural that these symbols had traveled far and wide spatially and, in terms of time, had preceded and outlived the Indus civilization itself. If the trident mark symbolised the 'king' for the megalithic people of the lower tip of South Asia, and if there was need to put down the name of Kōvētan in ideograms, what would have inevitably resulted is the Anaikkodai seal. However, whether the trident symbol represented the 'king' even for the Indus people is indeed a moot point. 
Citation: Ramesh, 1987.

Reading By Somadeva

Somadeva also identified three Brahmi scripts and three symbols (pictographs) on the seal (Somadeva, 1998). As was done by Indrapala, Somadeva too read the inscription from right to left. He identified the first letter as "Ke", the second letter as "ve" and the last as "ta" (Somadeva, 1998).

Here, Somadeva argued that the first letter which according to him is "Ke" has been misread by Indrapala as "Ko" (Somadeva, 1998). Also, he pointed out that the usage of long vowels in Sri Lankan Brahmi inscriptions is rare and by neglecting that Sinhala Prakrit rule Indrapala has come to an arbitrary assumption that it was written in a Dravidian language (Somadeva, 1998). According to Somadeva, in early Brahmi scripts, the Anuswara is usually put to the right of the letter (Somadeva, 1998). Therefore, he believed that Indrapala had misidentified a part of the last character in the first line as an Anuswara (Somadeva, 1998).

Somadeva further says that it is a great mistake by Indrapala to judge without any evidence that the present majority language of the Jaffna peninsula has entered into a seal with more than two thousand years of history just because the seal was found in that area. (Somadeva, 1998). Also, he emphasizes that no such/similar Tamil inscriptions belonging to the B.C. era have been found in Sri Lanka yet but, Vallipuram Gold Plate, a Prakrit inscription, gives a hint that during the 1st century A.D., the northern part of the country was under the influence of Anuradhapura (Somadeva, 1998). Somadeva identified this inscription as Sinhala Prakrit and interpreted his reading as follows;

Anaikoddai seal

According to Somadeva, this seal may represent the identity of a council of fishermen (Somadeva, 1998). The excavators of the burial where the seal was found have mentioned in their reports that a variety of burial offerings including crab shells, edible oyster shells, edible conch shells, turtle shells, and various kinds of fish vertebrae, animal bones were discovered around the skeleton.

Reading by Dias

According to the view of Dr Malini Dias, the word inscribed on the seal is Kovitham and it is written in the Brahmi script (Dias, 2021). Kovitham stands for the name of a Tamil who was the owner of the seal (Dias, 2021).

See Also

#) Tissamaharama Potsherd with Alleged Tamil Brahmi inscription
#) Tamil Inscriptions in Sri Lanka


1) Deraniyagala, S. U., 1992, The Prehistory of Sri Lanka, Part II, Department of Archaeological Survey, Government of  Sri Lanka. p.747.
2) Dias, M., 2021. The South Indian ascendancy depicted in the Tamil inscriptions in Sri Lanka from the 3rd century BCE to 12th century ACE. Ancient Ceylon. No.27. Department of Archaeology, Sri Lanka. pp.43-58.
3) Indrapala, 1987. Appendix II, Anaikkottai seal. Early settlements in Jaffna, An archaeological survey. Published by Mrs. Thilimalar Ragupathy. Madras. pp. 200-202. 
4) Ragupathy, P. 1987. Early settlements in Jaffna, An archaeological survey. Published by Mrs. Thilimalar Ragupathy. Madras. pp.115-126, 202-203.
5) Ramesh, K.V., 1987. Appendix II, Anaikkottai seal. Early settlements in Jaffna, An archaeological survey. Published by Mrs. Thilimalar Ragupathy. Madras. pp. 204. 
6) Somadeva, R., 1998. ආනෛයිකෝඞ්ඩායි ලෝහ මුද්‍රාව: ස්වරාජ්‍යවාදී ප‍්‍රවේශයෙන් ඔබ්බට; The Annaikoddai Seal. Beyond the homelands approach  (In Sinhala). (editors: Gunawardhana, P.; Gunatilaka, H.M.,; Dissanayaka, A.,; Kumaratunga, D.G.). Sarasavi. ISBN: 955-96402-0-3. pp.39-49.

Attribution would like to thank Dr Sumedha Weerawardhana for providing some necessary resources required for this article.

This page was last updated on 4 December 2023



    Fisherman in Sanskrit is spelt kēvárta not Keverta. Likewise Sinhala Prakrit is descended from Prakrit not Sanskrit.

    The Prakrit form for Fisherman is kēvāṭṭa or kēvāṭa. This is attested in one of the Ashoka edicts as �������� (kēvāṭa): (line 14, word 2)

    The Sinhala Prakrit form would have had retroflexion as indicated by the medieval form kevuḷā.

    kēvāṭa > kevuḷā

    Established Sinhala phonology supports this:

    "The intervocalic cerebrals (-ṭ-, -ṭh-, -ḍ-, -ḍh-) all become -ḷ - in Sgh"

    (The phonology of the Sinhalese inscriptions - page 271)

    Unlikely that Sinhala Prakrit lost the retroflexion from kēvāṭa and all other Prakrit forms, and then miraculously gained it back for the medieval form kevuḷā.

    A chieftain signet ring reading kēvēta ���������� therefore can not represent the word kēvāṭa ���…
    1. A valuable and updated comment. The original source (Somadeva, 1998) says it is Kevarta not Keverta. The typing error was corrected after your comment.
    2. Sanskrit influence is visible on Ceylonese Prakrit inscriptions. Here, Somadeva has argued that Keveta is the Ceylonese Prakrit form of the Kevarta in Sanskrit language. Identifying Keveta (fisherman) as a low status occupation is a poor argument because this is a legend belongs to the BC period and thought to be a ring related to a trade council. Discrimination on caste or occupation is a common thing in Tamil society but it is doubtful here as this seal represents the pre-christian era.
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