Trilingual inscription from Sri Lanka

Erik Seldeslachts erik.seldeslachts at RUG.AC.BE
Fri Apr 23 08:08:11 UTC 1999

Swaminathan Madhuresan wrote:

>  Dear Colleagues--
>          I have just come across an inscription, published in Epigraphia
>  Zeylanica, vol 3 (1928-33), called the "Galle Trilingual Slab" which was
>  discovered in Galle in 1911.  It records the gift of gold, silver, cloth,
>  etc. for worship, and is written in Tamil, Persian, and Chinese.  The
>  epigraphist (S. Paranavitana), along with earlier interpreters, regards
>  the object of worship is being different in the case of each of the three
>  records (a Hindu deity, a Muslim saint, and the Buddha, respectively),
>  but this seems to me highly unlikely.
>          I wonder if any of you know whether further examinations of this
>  inscription have been made since the time of its publication in EZ, or
>  whether further scholarship on the religious context of Sri Lanka in
>  the period of the inscription (c. 1400 AD) might illuminate its
>  significance.
>          Thank you for any suggestions or information you may have.
>                          Best wishes             --Leslie Orr
>                                                  Dept. of Religion
>                                                  Concordia University
>                                                  Montreal, Quebec
>                                                  Canada H3G 1M8
>                                                 orr at
The "epigraphist" S. Paranavitana is totally untrustworthy. The least you can say is that he had a
lot of fantasy, but he might be better called a scientific fraud.
He also "discovered" a long inscription in Sanskrit made by a Byzantine merchant, who gives a
learned exposition of the Greek and Roman culture and even - very anachronistically - propounds
the theory of the relatednes of the Indo-European languages.
The text, published in "The Greeks and the Mauryas", Colombo, 1971,  was shown to be fake by the
simple fact that the merchant uses English terms and pronunciations instead of Byzantine Greek
ones in his transcriptions of Greek words (e.g. GrIkabhASA "the Greek language" , YuropArAjya
"Europa"). See the review by Ludo Rocher in JAOS 95, 1975, p.141.

Erik Seldeslachts
University of Gent
Gent, Belgium

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