Friday, December 11, 2020

Tamil Conch (instrument), Colombo National Museum

Tamil Conch (instrument)
A unique conch with an inscription in Tamil is being exhibited in the National Museum of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The conch is noticeable among the other objects in the museum, as it is in the official logo of the Department of National Museums.

The conch is a Valampuri type one that has right winding spirals. This type of conches is rarely found by sea divers in the fishery. Locals believe that these conches possess auspicious qualities and because of that reason, they are widely used in temples (Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) and in certain rituals and ceremonies (Pathmanathan, 2005).

The monument
The conch has been designed as a composite monument. Some bronze pieces have been attached to both the front and rear sides of the conch. As a whole, the conch has the appearance of a swan (Pathmanathan, 2005). 

The conch with its other composites is 30 cm in length and 13 cm in height (Pathmanathan, 2005). The spirals of the conch are covered with a bronze coating and texts of the inscription have been engraved on it. Miniature figures related to Hinduism are found on the central portion of the conch. They include an image of bull Nandi, a Siva linga covered by a hooded serpent, and a figure of peacock with its head turned backward (Pathmanathan, 2005). From these representations, scholars such as Pathmanathan believe that this conch was an object donated to a Saiva temple (Pathmanathan, 2005).

The inscription
Tamil inscription
The inscription has been engraved on the bronze coating that covers the spirals of the conch. It doesn't contain any indication of the date when the inscription was recorded or the name of any king or institution (Pathmanathan, 2005). Depending on the palaeography and other factors, scholars have provisionally dated this inscription to the 16th or 17th century A.D.  (Pathmanathan, 2005).

The inscription mentions two names; Pulan Natar and Cuppiramaniya Natar, as the persons who made the conch (Pathmanathan, 2005). They have made it for a person named Narayan Cuvami and given it as a donation to God Palani (Pathmanathan, 2005). The name "Palani", according to Pathmanathan, could either be a personal name or a designation of God Murukan (Pathmanathan, 2005).

Tamil Conch (instrument) .
References
1) Pathmanathan, S., 2005. Tamil inscriptions in the Colombo National Museum: Spolia Zeylanica. Vol 47. (2010). Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka, pp.79-85.

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