Mahadevan deciphered the earliest Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions. The term Tamil-Brahmi is his coinage, to distinguish it from other variants of the script such as Mauryan Brahmi, Asokan Brahmi, Southern Brahmi and Sinhala Brahmi. Gregory Possehl called Mahadevan a "careful, methodical worker, taking care to spell out his assumptions and methods. ... 'Tentative conclusions' and 'working hypotheses' are more his style than set ideas and fait accompli".
Iravatham Mahadevan's "The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables (1977)" is the only openly available corpus of the Indus Script. He has written over 40 papers to further the Dravidian hypothesis of the Indus Script, and argues for a continuity between the written records of Indus and the oral transmissions from the Rig Veda. He has been instrumental in firmly establishing the view of K.V. Subrahmanya Aiyer that the writings found in the caves of Tamilnadu in a script similar to Brahmi is a variant of Brahmi, which Mahadevan calls Tamil Brahmi, and in ascertaining that the language of the script is indeed Tamil. Mahadevan went onto read the names and titles of several generations of Pantiya and Cera kings in Tamil Brahmi writings, all corroborated in early Tamil literature.
Awards and honors
Iravatham Mahadevan was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1970 for his research in Indus script and the National Fellowship of the Indian Council of Historical Research in 1992 for his work on Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions.
In 1998, he was elected the president of the Annual Congress of the Epigraphical Society of India and in 2001 he became the general president of the Indian History Congress. He received the Padma Shri award from the Government of India in 2009 for arts. He was conferred the Tolkappiyar award for lifetime achievement in classical Tamil by the Government of India for the year 2009-2010.
He was conferred the Campbell Medal by the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, formerly the Royal Asiatic Society, in November 2014.
- Corpus of Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions (1966)
- The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables (1977)
- Early Tamil Epigraphy : From the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century A.D. (Crea-A:; Harvard Oriental Series, 62) (2003)
- Early Tamil Epigraphy : Tamil-Brahmi Inscriptions. Revised and Enlarged Second Edition: Volume 1 (Central Institute of Classical Tamil) (2014)
- Akam and Puram : ‘Address’ Signs of the Indus Script (2010)]
- Dravidian Proof of the Indus Script via the Rig Veda: A Case Study (2014)]
- "Straight from the Heart — Iravatham Mahadevan: Interview with Iravatham Mahadevan". Varalaaru.com.
- Ancient Indus Valley Script Iravatham Mahadevan Interview
- Gregory L. Possehl, Indus Age: The Writing System (1997), p. 130
- Early Tamil Epigraphy. Revised Enlarged Edition. Iravatham Mahadevan. 2014. pp. 96
- Corpus of Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions. I. Mahadevan. 1966; Early Tamil Epigraphy. I. Mahadevan. 2014.
- Early Tamil Epigraphy. I. Mahadevan. 2014
- Review of Mahadevan (2003).
- "Honour for Iravatham Mahadevan". The Hindu. April 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- "Presidential awards for classical Tamil presented". The Hindu. October 10, 2013. Retrieved 2013-10-10.
- excerpts from Early Tamil Epigraphy: From the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century A.D. - This link does not exist anymore.
- Biography at harappa.com
- 'Murukan' in the Indus Script
- Towards a scientific study of the Indus Script The Hindu Magazine, Sunday, Feb 04, 2007.
- An interview
- Akam and Puram : ‘Address’ Signs of the Indus Script - presented at World Classical Tamil Conference, June 2010 - The Hindu