In the last three decades of his life, the Padma Shri-laureate had devoted himself to the study of India’s early writing systems
Iravatham Mahadevan, 88, one of the world’s leading scholars on the Indus Valley Script, the pre-eminent scholar on the Tamil Brahmi script, passed away in Chennai early on Monday after a brief illness.
Mr Mahadevan is survived by his son Sridhar Mahadevan and two grand children, Vandana Vidyasagar and Vinay Vidyasagar.
A former member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Padma Shri-awardee joined the service in 1954 and took voluntary retirement in 1980. He was awarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellowship in 1970 for his research on the Indus script and the National Fellowship of the Indian Council of Historical Research in 1992 for his work on the Tamil Brahmi inscriptions.
In August 1987, he went on to serve as the Editor of the Tamil daily, Dinamani, where he succeeded A.N. Sivaraman, who held the post for over 45 years.
In the last three decades of his life, he devoted himself to the study of India’s early writing systems. He kept in active touch with leading scholars of early India, including the historian Romila Thapar and the Finnish specialist on the Indus Valley Script, Asko Parpola.
‘The Indus Script – Texts, Concordance and Tables,’ compiled by Iravatham Mahadevan with a grant from the Indian Council of Historical Research and published by the Archaeological survey of India in 1977, continues to be a definitive and an indisputable resource for Indus Valley scholarship.
His ‘Early Tamil Epigraphy’, first published jointly by Harvard University and Cre-A in 2003 and later by the Central Institute of Classical Tamil as a thoroughly revised version in 2014, is regarded as the most authoritative work on early South Indian epigraphy. Mr Mahadevan also established the Indus Research Centre at the Roja Muthiah Research Library with his personal funds.
Mr Mahadevan was awarded the Padma Shri in April 2009.
A man of letters, principles, and philanthropy, he founded the Vidyasagar Educational Trust, in memory of his late son, to support under-privileged students.
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