Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Road once travelled: A 10 A.D. inscription in the Palghat Pass that describes Rajakeseri Peruvazhi, a historical highway that passed through the Kongu region. –

Coimbatore: For those attuned to reading NH-45 or NH-4 or whatever number as they drive on the national highways, this may sound as a different sign board or indication altogether. Have you heard of a ‘Peruvazhi?’ Archaeologists explain that it is the ancient nomenclature for highways. Located at Aiyyasamy Hills, almost 20 km from Coimbatore, in a forest area is an inscription on a rock, dating back to 10 A.D. It speaks of the “Rajakesari Peruvazhi”,also known as “Kongu Peruvazhi.”

The inscription identifies the path as the “peruvazhi,” which connected the west and the east coasts, and passed through the Palghat Pass , Perur, Vellalur and Sulur . It was once even used by the Romans who came to these places for trade.

Though familiar to the local people and those interested in the subject, the rock is still not known to many.

Inspite of surviving for centuries, this rock has only the wooded canopy to protect it from sun and rain.

Discovered nearly two decades ago, the rock earlier had inscriptions in Tamil and Vattezhuthu. Now only the words in Vattezhuthu remain clear. It has a four-line (“venbha”) verse on the Chola King Adhitan, who is said to have strengthened the highways around 10 A.D.

Protecting the rock alone does not need a huge budget, yet the work will involve the Departments of Archaeology and Forest, says an official of the Archaeology Department. “We can ensure that there is no further damage to the inscription due to the vagaries of nature,” he adds.The District Forest Officer, I.Anwardeen, says that even now access to the site is regulated since visitors can enter the forest only with permission from the department. There will be no problem in protecting the rock. The fencing work can be taken up immediately, he says.

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