Published: 27th December 2020
How Adhiyaman Ilangovan is promoting the ancient Tamil script Vatteluttu through his artwork on Instagram
We speak with Adhiyaman Ilangovan AKA Ayaz Ebrahim Najeeb about his Instagram page with posts containing the ancient Tamil script Vatteluttu
An Architecture student, Adhiyaman Ilangovan was first introduced to ancient Tamil scripts as part of his research project on Tamil language and literature in architecture. Among them, he found Vattellutu — a script that adorns the Brihadishvara Temple in Thanjavur — to be the one that most resembles the modern Tamil script. Fascinated by the script, he began learning and researching it. "A friend of mine wanted me to write his name in the script as a birthday present. That is when I realised how much this old script could mean to the average Tamilian," he says. Adopting a pseudonym — his real name is Ayaz Ebrahim Najeeb — he started an Instagram page @vattelligraphy to promote the script through art.
So, why is he doing it exactly? "While studying Architecture at MEASI Academy of Architecture, we were also trained in art. Ever since then, I have been sketching and painting. Doing this on Instagram combines my love for art and the ancient Tamil language," says Adhiyaman. He first stumbled upon Vatteluttu while doing a Google search seven years ago, but didn't know what it was. "Most people know about the existence of a language chart that chronicles the evolution of Tamil language. It is present in various museums. After some research, I found that it was used during the 10th and 11th centuries, mainly in the temples built during the Chola dynasty," he says. His research on Tamil language museums drew him to Thanjavur, where he visited the Rajaraja Chola Manimandapam. "There, for the first time, I saw modern Tamil and Vatteluttu together," says Adhiyaman.
Through his Instagram page, Adhiyaman uses Vatteluttu to create artwork to mark special occasions. "I would create an artwork to mark an International Day or some famous celebrity's birthday," he says. So there are Vattellutu greetings for V O Chidambaram Pillai, Rajinikanth and even Aditi Rao Hydari. "I like to post about pop culture and even about Tamil literature. I have also created comics with Vatteluttu," he says. Adhiyaman states that he not only wishes to promote the script but develop a better understanding of Vatteluttu. "I want to be able to read the ancient Tamil inscribed on the temples from the Chola dynasty," adds Adhiyaman.
While he initially struggled with integrating art and calligraphy, Adhiyaman has now found his niche. "Initially, I would just draw it on paper and use a screwdriver to write the letters to make it look like inscriptions. But I thought that would look boring on Instagram. Now, I am integrating art and calligraphy and microcalligraphy," he says. To ensure that people can understand what is written, Adhiyaman ensures that he restricts the posts to only a couple of words or letters in the ancient script. "I post whatever I have written in the artwork in the caption in modern Tamil so that people can understand," he adds.