This book presents the earliest South Indian inscriptions (ca. second century B.C.E. to sixth century A.D.), written in Tamil in local derivations of the Ashokan Brahmi script. They are the earliest known Dravidian documents available and show some overlap with the early Cera and Pandya dynasties. Their language is Archaic Tamil, with a few borrowings from Prakrit and influences of old Kannada, both resulting from the early presence of northern Jainism. The widespread occurrence of pottery inscriptions indicates that the Tamil-Brahmi script had taken deep roots all over the countryside, leading to the cultured society visible in the classical Tamil poetry of the Cankam (Sangam) texts of the early centuries C.E. The work includes texts, transliteration, translation, detailed commentary, inscriptional glossary, and indexes.
Iravatham Mahadevan is a retired Indian Administrative Services officer.
Harvard University Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies