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Iravatham Mahadevan

Iravatham Mahadevan (Tamil: ஐராவதம் மகாதேவன் , transliteration: airāvatam makātēvan; born 15 January 1930) is an Indian epigraphist, specializing in Indus script and early Tamil epigraphy.


  • Biography 1
  • Awards and honors 2
  • Publications 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Iravatham Mahadevan was born in 1930 to a Tamil Brahmin family of Thanjavur district.[1] He was conceived in British Burma where his father Iravatham was practising as a doctor.[1]

Mahadevan was educated in the town of Tiruchirapalli. After graduating in Science and Law, he joined Indian Administrative Service.[2]

Mahadevan deciphered the earliest Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions, and has tentatively suggested a derivation of Brahmi from the Indus script,[3][4] rather than the hypothesis which derives Brahmi from the Aramaic script.

A longtime civil servant, he used a fellowship opportunity to put together the first script concordance of Indian seals in 1970. 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".[5]

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.[6]

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.[7] He was conferred the Tolkappiyar award for lifetime achievement in classical Tamil by the Government of India for the year 2009-2010.[8]


  • 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. (Harvard Oriental Series, 62) (2003)
  • Akam and Puram : ‘Address’ Signs of the Indus Script (2010)


  1. ^ a b "Straight from the Heart — Iravatham Mahadevan: Interview with Iravatham Mahadevan". 
  2. ^ Ancient Indus Valley Script Iravatham Mahadevan Interview
  3. ^ "Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions", p.6, Jagat Pati Joshi, Asko Parpola
  4. ^ "Senarat Paranavitana Commemoration Volume", p.277, Senarat Paranavitana, Leelananda Prematilleka, Johanna Engelberta van Lohuizen-De Leeuw, BRILL.
  5. ^ Gregory L. Possehl, Indus Age: The Writing System (1997), p. 130
  6. ^ Review of Mahadevan (2003).
  7. ^ "Honour for Iravatham Mahadevan".  
  8. ^ "Presidential awards for classical Tamil presented".  

External links

  • Early Tamil Epigraphy: From the Earliest Times to the Sixth Century A.D.excerpts from - This link does not exist anymore.
  • Biography at
  • '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
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