From August 11 to 15, 2019, Emmanuel Francis (CNRS), Valérie Gillet (EFEO, Paris) and Babu N. Ramaswamy (EFEO, Pondicherry) surveyed sites with inscriptions in the Sivaganga, Viruthunagar and Madurai districts in the State of Tamil Nadu. The principal goal was to locate, document and read inscriptions of the Early Pāṇḍyas (9th and 10th c.) pre-selected on the basis of the corpus collected and translated by K.G. Krishnan (Inscriptions of the Early Pāṇḍyas, 2002, hereafter IEP).
In Cālaikirāmam சாலைகிராமம், the Varaguṇīśvara temple (09°36’43.61″N, 78°43’04.11″E; Figs. 1‒3), is currently under renovation, due to the initiative of a local committee. Pāṇḍya inscriptions in Vaṭṭeḻuttu and Grantha scripts are found on the door-jambs (IEP 64, IEP 112 and ARIE 1946‒47/B/35; Figs. 4‒5).
In Paḷḷimaṭam பள்ளிமடம், in the Kālanāthasvāmin temple (09°32’11.21″N, 78°12’24.51″E; Fig. 6), Tamil inscriptions in Vaṭṭeḻuttu script (IEP 14 and IEP 57) were located on the stairs’ balustrades brought here from another nearby site (Figs. 7‒8). On the base of the temple itself are also Tamil inscriptions in Vaṭṭeḻuttu script (IEP 92, 94, 97, 98, 103, 105, 115; Fig. 9).
In Etirkōṭṭai எதிர்கோட்டை, it took us two inspections of the Cuṉaikaṇṭhēśvara / Cuṉaikaṇṭaliṅkēsvarar temple (09°22’46.61″N, 77°43’26.73″E) compound to locate the pool/tank (Tamil cuṉai சுனை; Fig. 10) with its two rock Tamil inscriptions in Vaṭṭeḻuttu script (IEP 80 and IEP 110; Fig. 11).
In Rāmanāthapuram ராமநாத்ஹபுரம், the Tamil inscription in Tamil script on the surface of the rock (IEP 15; 10°23’32.12″N, 78°05’14.17″E; Figs. 12‒13) is today protected by a metal grid, closed by a lock, of which no one in the village has the key. Along with the inscription are depicted symbols of two of the major ancient dynasties of the Tamil south: the bow of the Cēra and the fish of the Pāṇḍya (Fig. 14).
In Perumpuḷḷi பெரும்புள்ளி, a local farmer kindly guided us to the inscribed boulder (Fig. 15). Without his help, it would have probably taken us much more time, under a fierce sun, to locate the Tamil inscription in Tamil script we were looking for (IEP 30; 10°29’10.85″N, 78°03’24.34″E; Figs. 16‒17), as it is engraved on the flat top of a high boulder, escaping view from ground level. The rock inscribed on its top surface is approximately 10 metres to the south of the Kaṉṉimār temple, which itself is to the east of a small hill west of Karaṭṭupaṭṭi (a hamlet of Perumpuḷḷi).