Saturday, August 22, 2020

Tamil Inscriptions of Fort Hammenhiel

Tamil Inscriptions of Fort Hammenhiel
A pillar containing two Tamil inscriptions has been discovered from Hammenhiel Fort in Jaffna District, Sri Lanka. 

Discovery
The pillar which had been attached on the outer wall of the Hammenhiel Fort was discovered by Herbert Keuneman while spending a holiday at the fort (Indrapala, 1991). The pillar is said to have been built into the outer wall of the fort on the eastern side at a height of nearly eleven feet from the base (Indrapala, 1991). Subsequently, it was removed from the fort wall by the Department of Archaeology and is presently kept on the display in the Archaeological Museum of Jaffna.

The pillar, due to the ornamental carvings it has, is believed to be a door jamb that once had formed part of a Hindu temple (Indrapala, 1991). That Hindu temple, according to the view of Indrapala, may exist at Mathottam in Mannar District and the pillar along with other stones were transported to the Hammenhiel by sea later to repair the Dutch fort (Indrapala, 1991).

Inscriptions
Two inscriptions are inscribed on two sides of the same pillar and are written in Tamil scripts mixed with Grantha letters (Indrapala, 1991). Depending on the palaeography, both inscriptions have been dated to the eleventh century A.D. (Indrapala, 1991).

The inscription on the first side of the pillar was copied in 1968 by the Department of Archaeology and it is said that the second inscription was not noticed by them as it completely covered with lime plaster at the time (Indrapala, 1991). However, after the lime plaster was removed, the second inscription was read for the first time by Indrapala on 20 February 1978 (Indrapala, 1991).

Content
The context of the two inscriptions is nearly identical. They record about the conquest of Sri Lanka and the capture of King Mahinda V of Anuradhapura (982-1017 A.D.) by a South Indian Cola commander named Jayankonta Cola Muventa Velar in 1017 A.D. (Dias et al., 2016; Indrapala, 1991). These are the only epigraphs from Sri Lanka confirming the fact that Mahinda V and his queen were taken away along with his treasures by a Cola commander.

Reign : Rajendra I (1012-1044 A.D.)
Period: 11th century A.D.
Script : Tamil, Grantha (used for writing Sanskrit words)
Language: Tamil
Content of side I: Hail Prosperity! Governor and General Muventa Velar alias Jayankonta Cola of Mathottam, Mannar (Rajarajapura) conquered Sri Lanka and took away King Mahinda and his consort.
Content of side II: Hail Prosperity! The Adhikara Dandanayaka who took away the crown that the Pandya had deposited as (part of) his family treasure in Ilam alias Mummaticola-mandalam, the crown of the King of Ilam and the crown of his queen, as well as the ladies and treasures (of the king of Ilam)...Iraje....
References: Dias et al., 2016; Indrapala, 1991.

References
1) Dias, M.; Koralage, S.B.; Asanga, K., 2016. The archaeological heritage of Jaffna peninsula. Department of Archaeology. Colombo. pp.224-225.
2) Indrapala, K., 1991. Inscription no. two from fort Hammenhiel, Kayts. Epigraphia Zeylanica being lithic and other inscription of Ceylon: Vol: VI Part: II. Archaeological Survey of Ceylon. Sri Lanka. pp.154-160.

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