(Last Updated on : 17/05/2013)
Memorial stones erected during the ancient days in memory of a hero who martyred his life for noble cause are called, Hero stones (called virakal in Tamil and viragal Kannada). These hero stones are popularly found in many areas of South India.
Hero Stones are usually found on the outskirts of small towns and villages and the people of these areas, usually the family members of the deceased hero, worship these memorial stones with flowers and kumkum. The men thus consecrated are those who sacrificed their lives protecting their town, village or families from attacks by enemy soldiers or vandals, or from aggressors who tried to steal their cattle, from attacks by wild animals or some such unselfish and courageous act.
The sculptures on these hero stones usually depict the brave man and the event in which he lost his life. A few even graphically portray the event such as a fierce fight which led to the death of the hero. The men are seen wielding various kinds of weapons like spears and swords and also as carrying shields, sometimes seated on horseback. Some of these stones bear inscriptions explaining the event and also the name of the hero. Based on the alphabet of the inscription, archaeologists are able to date the period of the hero stone was installed. They are in fact very important records for understanding the social and cultural milieu of the ancient period in South India.
Literary works of ancient Tamil Nadu describe the hero stones which were planted in honour of men who performed some daring acts to protect their community or village.
A very interesting slab of this type from Mulbagal taluka (Karnataka) of 950 A.D., has an inscription which gives a brief account of two brave dogs, Loga and Thalaga. The two canines accompanied their master in many hunting expeditions in which 75 boars were killed by Loga and 25 by Thalaga. A figure of these 'hero' dogs chasing and mauling boars is beautifully sculpted in this panel. Large numbers of hero-stones are preserved in museums in various parts of South India