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Silent Witness to History

R. Champakalakshmi

Edited by Appasamy Murugaiyan
Cre-A, Chennai, 2012, pp. 354, Rs. 750.00


Epigraphic studies need special training and interpretative skills. Appasamy Murugaiyan, the editor of the present collection of essays, reiterates this by hailing the Indian epigraphic tradition and the contributions of the pioneers to South Indian epigraphy. In his introduction he sets out the range of topics covered, organizing the essays under different thematic heads. Each contributor to this volume is claimed to be engaged in a unique dialogue with the text, drawing particular attention to the ‘Whisperings of inscriptions’ (after N. Karashima) and the ‘Space of Silence’ (after Franco Ruffini) in inscriptions as also its limitations. The essays try to relate the socio-cultural contexts and adopt a multidisciplinary approach for a correct reading and interpretation of the texts. However, the relevance of some essays to this volume is doubtful as shown below.   In the section ‘Epigraphy and Philology (and History)’, Daud Ali’s paper on the Epigraphic Legacy at Gangaikondacholapuram, brings to light some of the discrepancies related to the spatial and chronological distribution of the inscriptions in the temple, for a better understanding of Chola and post- Chola history. Each and every inscription, however fragmentary, contributes to the understanding of the other and the history of the site. Inscriptions recording the grants da-ted from the 23rd regnal year of Rajendra I (1014-44), the founder of the temple and the city, are posthumously engraved. The Gangaikondacholapuram inscriptions do not give the impression of a carefully orchestrated ritual and political order as at Tanjavur, nor was there a unified programme for the ‘textualisation’ of the monument. The decampment to Gangaikondacholapuram, though politically motivated, may not have been economically and institutionally sustainable, leading to a sort of ‘fragmented urbanism’.   The paper is important as it shows how incorrect location and recording of inscriptions influence assumptions on the origin and history of a temple. Daud Ali’s study of the temple’s architecture, which has undergone later renovations and repairs, and the placement of the inscriptions, has enabled him to revise previous interpretations. The eulogy of Kulottunga I, duplicated at Chidambaram, is claimed to be primarily a statement of royal authority and legitimacy, one being at a key royal centre and the other at a key religious centre. The curious presence of a Gahadavala Prasasti, juxtaposed with that of Kulottunga, is explained as due to Gahadavala influence on the erection of the first Sun temple in the Chola region by Kulottunga I. The ...

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