Hero stone

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Hero stone, 1220 AD, Arasikere, Karnataka
10th-century AD hero stone, Kaathaadi Kuppam, Tamil Nadu

Hero stone (Virgal in Kannada language, நடுகல் naṭukal[1] in Tamil) is a memorial commemorating the honorable death of a hero in battle. Erected between the 3rd century BC and the 18th century AD, hero stones are found all over India. They often carry inscriptions displaying a variety of adornments, including bas relief panels, statues, and figures of carved stone.[2] Usually they are in the form of a stone monument and may have an inscription at the bottom with a narrative of the battle. According to the historian Upinder Singh, the largest concentration of such memorial stones are found in the Indian state of Karnataka. About two thousand six hundred and fifty hero stones, the earliest dated to the 5th century, have been discovered in Karnataka.[3] The custom of erecting memorial stones dates back to the Iron Age (1000 BCE–600BCE) though a vast majority were erected between the 5th and 13th centuries AD.[4]


The Tamil Nadu Department of Archeology found several hundred hero stones that had been erected in the memory of warriors who sacrificed their lives defending their community or region. Those that are carved with inscriptions detail the acts of the hero, the battle involved, and the name of king in whose name the battle was fought. The stones are found alone or in groups, usually near an irrigation tank or lake outside a village. [5] A hero stone has been unearthed, dating from 9th century of the Pallava King Dantivarman, in which the hero is riding a galloping horse, beautifully dressed and carrying a spear.[6] Another was recovered at Pappapatti in Usilampatti taluk and probably dates from the 18th century. The ancient stone shows a warrior posed heroically, accompanied by his wife who holds a flower. Many of these statues have been recovered over southern India depicting heroic warriors in battles. Creating hero stones had been prevalent since the Sangam period, dating back 2,300 years,[7] and continuing until the Nayak and post-Nayak period around 200 years ago.[8] In March 2014, a hero stone dating to the 8th century Pandya country, with an inscription in Tamil vatteluttu script, was found in Vellalankottai in Tuticorin district.[4]

Hero stones were not always made in honor of a person(s). The Atakur inscription (also spelt Athakur) is one such hero stone. It is dated to 939 A.D. and includes classical Kannada poetic inscription commemorating the death of the favorite hound of Ganga King Butuga II (the hound died fighting a wild boar).[9]



  1. ^ Filliozat, Jean (1991). Religion, Philosophy, Yoga: A Selection of Articles. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. p. 151. 
  2. ^ "Hero-stone Memorials of India". Kamat Potpourri. Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  3. ^ Chapter "Memorializing death in stone", Singh (2009), p48
  4. ^ a b T. S. Subramanian (March 30, 2014). "Hero-stone discovered in Tamil Nadu". 
  5. ^ "Dolmens, Hero Stones and the Dravidian People". Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  6. ^ "Pallava period 'herostone' unearthed in Vellore dt.". Retrieved 2007-03-15. 
  7. ^ "2,300-year-old hero stones found in Theni district". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 2006-04-05. Retrieved 2008-05-14. 
  8. ^ "'Hero stone' unearthed". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2006-07-22. Retrieved 2007-03-17. 
  9. ^ Altekar (1934), p351


  • Singh, Upinder. A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India:From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. India: Pearsons Education. ISBN 978-81-317-1120-0. 
  • Altekar, Anant Sadashiv (1934) [1934]. The Rashtrakutas And Their Times; being a political, administrative, religious, social, economic and literary history of the Deccan during C. 750 A.D. to C. 1000 A.D. Poona: Oriental Book Agency. OCLC 3793499. 

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