History- Mannar

Puliyantin Island (Manner) tomb-stone. An inscriptions of a Muslim who died in the Hijra year 300 (900AD).” [Description Source: Colombo National Museum.]

This beautifully inscribed Arabic grave stone was discovered in Puliyantivu Island near Mannar town in the Northern Province about the year 1920. Then British Government Officials of the area sent it to the Stone Gallery of the Ceylon National Museum in Colombo, where it is still on display.

The text in this tombstone is written in the beautiful Kufic Arabic font style that was popular during the 7-12th centuries AD. Several other ancient Sri Lankan Muslim inscriptions like this have been found in Colombo, Trincomalee, Galle, Puttalam, Adam’s Peak, Kegalle, etc. They offer valuable glimpses to the life and times of ancient Muslims in Sri Lanka.

In addition to this ancient tombstone, numerous fragments of ancient bricks and pottery have been found in Puliyantivu Island. This suggests there could be more undiscovered ancient history lying hidden in the island.

This ancient Arabic inscription stone was found in the small, mangrove island of ‘Puliyantivu’ located between mainland and the Mannar Island. The island is square shaped and is approximately 1500 meter long and wide. Puliyantivu is the second of two islands linked by the Mannar railway bridge which serves to reach the Mannar Island by train. This uninhabited, mangrove island is now part of the Mannar Vankalai Wild Life Sanctuary, mainly frequented by fishermen and tourist. It is also an archaeological site dated from 6th century BC to 13th century AD.

The Puliyantivu island located in the near the ancient Mannar port which was one of the major ancient ports of Sri Lanka famous for pearl fishing. Numerous fragments of ancient bricks and pottery have been found in this island, suggesting further archaeological investigations might turn up more historical artifacts.

It interesting to note, there are two other islands named ‘Puliyantivu’ in Sri Lanka. The other two Puliyantivu islands are located in Eastern Batticaloa and Northern Jaffna.

Research Notes by French Researchers Ludvik Kalus and Claude Guillot

“Currently Colombo, Ceylon National Museum, No. (Since 1920) Fragment forming the upper part of an undoubtedly rectangular stela, In granite. Larg. 0.43 m; Break in the right angle. H. 0.43 m. ; Eph. Base 0.20 M; Ep. Top 0.02 m. The top is decorated with a round arch. The text is distributed between the right (A-1) and left (A-2) and the large field (B) where there remain a total of six lines, the first three lines being inscribed in the arc. Simple Kufic script, engraved characters. Without date (3rd or 4th century of The Hegira). According to Dr. M.A.H. Hobohm, a German Muslim, Press and Cultural Attache to the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, the stone is written in Eastern Kufi which was used during the 5th-7th Century after Hijra.

“At one time, this stele [] was reused, as evidenced for other purposes. The different elements of the text of the inscription are frequent and require no comment. Let us add only that the Qur’anic text Soul tastes death “was very widely recorded in the 3rd century in Egypt and Exceptionally in Arabia and Tunisia, and in the fourth century as a whole Of these three regions. Outside these three regions, it is found, in 411 H. in Derbend (Caucasus) (Thesaurus No. 16386) and in 421 H., in Ghazna (Afghanistan) (Thesaurus No. 25208). It was not until the 6th, or even the 7th, Century of the Hegira that it begins to be recorded throughout the Muslim world. Palaeographically, it is a rather sober Kufic, without elements flowers.” [Réinterprétation des plus Anciennes Stèles Funéraires Islamiques Nousantariennes, 2006]