A rare 550-year-old sati stone sculpture found in Srivilliputhur town in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district provides insights on minstrels of that period. The artefact was discovered by Noorsahipuram Sivakumar, Assistant Professor of history, SBK College in Aruppukottai in the Amaichiyar Amman temple complex at Madavar Vilagam.
Rajaguru, the head of Ramanathapuram Archaeological Research Foundation who along with Sivakumar examined the sculpture told India Narrative: “The Sati stone found is two-and-a-half feet high and three feet wide and is carved in granite stone. It depicts a man playing a musical instrument called mridangam and his wife with both her hands raised. Both have long ears and are seated with their left leg folded and right leg dangling. Placed near the woman’s feet is a lyre-like structure.”
Highlighting the significance of the sculpture, Rajaguru informed India Narrative: “The musical instruments in the sculpture shows that it is a Sati stone of minstrels (Panars) who worked in the temples of Srivilliputhur. This establishes that the minstrels had a practice of Sati. This is a rare minstrel Sati stone. Based on its sculptural style, it can be considered to belong to the 15th Century AD.”
According to RARF’s Press release, during the Sangam age, musicians were known as Panar and Padini (minstrels). Padini, the female minstrels were skilled in the art of dance (koothu) and in reviving the musical instrument called the lyre. Thus, the man and woman in the discovered sculpture are designed as Panar and Padini.
Rajaguru added that these musicians may have played music, sung songs and performed dances in the temple. He said the Andal temple inscriptions indicated that they had increased the number of melakars – a band of musicians playing pipe drum and cymbals – from 45 to 50 for festivals and that land was donated to minstrels at Panankulam.
Rajaguru has made an appeal to the authorities to preserve this rare Sati stone.