Hero stones, Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu

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A temple for seventh century hero stones

M T Saju | Villagers construct temple for seventh century hero stone in Tiruppur, TNN | Jan 16, 2017

The stone is said to have been erected for a hero who died during an encounter with a tiger to save cattle

CHENNAI: Despite being a great source of material for historic studies, the hero stones found in various parts of Tamil Nadu face threat due to lack of care and maintenance. They lie abandoned and neglected in many parts of the state. Even though some experts have documented them, their preservation is still a non-starter.

But here's an exception. A couple of months ago, the research team of the Virarajendran Archaeological and Historical Research Centre discovered a 17th century hero stone with Tamil inscriptions on it from S Kumarapalayam, a village, 25 km from the hosiery town of Tirupur. A study further revealed that the stone must have been erected for a hero, who died during an encounter with a tiger to save cattle in the village. On hearing the story, villagers came forward and built a temple for the hero stone.

A hero stone is a memorial paying tribute to a hero, mostly a chief of a local clan or community. "Many hero stones found in many parts of TN are yet to find shelter. On learning about its historic importance, villagers decided to preserve the hero stone. They joined hands and built a small temple. This is a rare case," said S Ravikumar, a member of the research team.

Cattle was considered an important source of wealth in ancient times. It was considered the wealth of a nation. "Whenever a cow or bull was attacked by a wild animal, it was the duty of a responsible citizen to fight with the tiger and save the animal. It's considered a great act of bravery. If the hero died in action, the villagers would erect a stone in his memory. This shows how the villagers of those days were concerned about their cattle," he said.

The three-and-a-half foot high hero holds a sword in his right hand pointed to the tiger's stomach. "We found Tamil inscriptions in three lines below the pedestal. It said 'Podarappa Gounder', who died while protecting the cattle from a tiger. The ornaments on his neck and ears showed how the villagers paid their respect to him for his great act of valour," said K Ponnusamy, another member of the team.

When the team informed the villagers about the significance of the hero stone, they were very cooperative. "They wanted to protect the stone at any cost. Even though building a small temple didn't cost much, it's their devotion that should be taken seriously. It should be considered a noble act to be emulated by others," he said.

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