Tamil Christian epitaph of significance found in Kayts

[TamilNet, Sunday, 21 June 2009, 02:15 GMT]
An interesting early 19th century Tamil epitaph found on a tomb in Kayts, off Jaffna, evidences the usage of the word ‘Aariyar’ in Christian context, says Professor P. Pushparatnam, Head of the Department of History of the University of Jaffna, who brought the epitaph to notice and read it. According to local media reported his finding, the tomb of one Ales Francis Cruz, died in 1827 was found behind the old customs building at the Kayts port.

The text of the epitaph, which is in Tamil and read by Prof. Pushparatnam follows:

Tomb epitaph in Kayts
The tomb located near the old customs building of Kayts port
Tomb epitaph in Kayts
The epitaph found on the tomb
“1827 (in Tamil numerals) Thai month 27th date (in Tamil numerals and symbols for month and date) Naakapad’nam Aariyar Ales Piraagnchis Kurus”

It was a tomb of a Christian, Ales Francis Cruz, from Naakappadinam in the Coromandal Coast of Tamil Nadu who died on the 27th date of the Tamil month Thai (Jan-Feb) of the year 1827.

According to Tamil dictionaries made in the 19th century, one of the several shades of meaning for the word Aariyar (Arya in Sanskrit) is a foreigner or a person of a foreign faith.

The epitaph comes out with the title ‘Aariyar’ for the deceased probably to indicate his Christian faith, priesthood or to indicate that he was a Christian of foreign (European) origin even though coming from Naakappaddinam.

Cruz (written as Kurus in Tamil) is a common title even today, especially among the Catholics of Mannaar.

Following the old tradition of Tamil writing, as seen in inscriptions and palm leaf manuscripts, dots on consonants are avoided in the epitaph.

The location of the tomb is believed to be a burial ground for war or epidemic victims of the by-gone centuries, as locals remember seeing large number of skeletons in collective burials when the place was cleared sometimes back, Dr. Pushparatnam said.

Kayts, Oorkaavat-tu’rai or Ooraath-thurai was an important harbour in ancient and colonial times. The celebrated Saint, Francis Xavier, visited the harbour in mid 16th century and introduced the faith, according to Catholic traditions.

 

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