26 March 2007

Area's seismic past

An undocumented inscription has been recently found on the compound wall of the fifth prakaram, in front of the Elephant Shed at the Arunachaleswarar Temple, which throws light on the seismic character of the region.

A rectangular stone on which a Tamil inscription is engraved is part of the compound wall. The first three lines of the inscription reads: "Prabava varusham aadi matham 16-il bookambamakayil mathil adimattamaga vizhunthu pokayil." Which states that the compound wall completely fell down due to an earthquake on the 16th of the Tamil month Aadi in a Prabhava year.

The last three words of the inscription starting from the half of the third line is somewhat ambiguous, but has something to do with the reconstruction of the wall. Experts have said that the rudimentary style of writing of the inscription suggests that it may be around four hundred years old (i.e. early part of the 16th Century).

There is no mention of this inscription in previous books relating to inscriptions at Arunachaleswarar Temple, thus it is believed to be especially important in that it undermines all previous assumptions of seismic activity in this region.

Though the year in which the tremor shook the Temple City has been mentioned in the inscription as 'Prabhava', first of the 60-year cycle in Shalivahana calendar, it could not be clearly determined in which Prabhava year it was supposed to have happened.

Pandurangan, a 94-year-old Tamil pundit, closely associated with Temples and their traditions, said that he had heard about an earthquake that hit Tiruvannamalai from his ancestors. But he never came across any reference about this inscription in any of the books that documented the temple inscriptions. According to him, the quake could have occurred over 400 years ago because if it was within 200 years then he would have heard more about it from his elders. Experts have concurred with the Pundit, and all agree that the tremor must have happened around 400 years ago.

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