1450 Nagappatinam Tamil Bell In New Zealand

Ancient India had a well structured society with social responsibilities  demarcated clearly.

While the King was responsible was defending the borders, external affairs, judicial appellate authority,the spiritual side was looked after by the Brahmins,  and trade by  group called Vaisyas.

One must remember this practice was common to the Tamils and Sanatana Dharma.

I am mentioning this as there is misinformation that Tamil and Sanatan Dharma were inimical to each other.

I had written how untrue this is.

The business people formed themselves into a Group /corporation on All India Level, without borders.

This Business corporation was called ,in Tamil,திசை வணிகர்  ஐந்நூற்றுவர், meaning ‘the Five Hundred Business Group for All Directions(East, South, West and North)

They traveled throughout India and abroad in pursuit of Business.

They contributed to the Kingdom, at times of war, food and other materials free of cost to the forces.

Considering the facts that,

Ramayana refers to Cookes’ Island, New Zealand in detail,

Agastya is found in New Zealand legends  and

Sanatana Dharma/Tamil practices re found among the aborigines of New Zealand ,

it is not surprising to find that an ancient religious bell belonging to  Muslim trader from Nagappatinam,Tamil Nadu, is found in New Zealand.

What is more intriguing is that if trade  had taken place, the poeple with whom they trded with!

New Zealand .

Sometime between 1250 and 1300 CE, Polynesians settled in the islands that would later become New Zealand, and developed a distinctive Māori culture. In 1642, Abel Tasman, a Dutch explorer, became the first European to sight New Zealand. In 1840, representatives of the British Crown and Māori Chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi, making New Zealand a British colony. Today, the majority of New Zealand’s population of 4.7 million is of European descent; the indigenous Māori are the largest minority, followed by Asians and Pacific Islanders.(wiki)

Yet the traders from Tamil Nadu transacted business  there.

Obviously New Zealand had   well structured society to trade with.

Am checking this.


Tamil Bell in New Zealand


William Colenso says that he found Maoris using the bell as a cooking pot in a village which he thought had not previously been visited by Europeans. The date was thought to have been 1836 or 1837 (the most recent estimate given is 1840). The village was either “near Whangarei” or “in the interior of the North Island”. The Maoris told Colenso that the bell had been found in the roots of a large tree which had been blown over in a storm many years before. It appears to me possible that the use of the bell as a cooking pot, with the resultant changes of temperature, may have caused the lip to crack off. Presumably the bell had been hidden under the tree for a long period. As the inscription (see below) tells us that it is a ship’s bell, I presume that the ship which owned it was probably wrecked on the west coast. It has been thought that a section of wreckage, of teak timber with trenails, could have been the Tamil ship which carried the bell, but this wreckage has since been connected with H.M.S. Orpheus wrecked on the Manukau Bar in 1863. There is little chance of finding a wreck with evidence of Tamil origin, especially as such a ship would have been wrecked about 500 years ago.


As the inscription is the vital clue for the story of the bell, it will be described in some detail. The inscription, which does not run right around the bell, has been protected by flanges running above and below the lettering, which explains why it is still in almost “mint” condition. Instead of the letters being cut into the bronze after casing, they protrude from the surface as though they had been added later. – 478 Some of the letters appear to show file marks, and where they should have rectangular form they are made with curved lines like the rest of the lettering. Another variation from standard Tamil writing is that four letters which should carry dots over them are left without them. Reading from left to right, there are 24 letters in all, forming six or seven words. The first 11 letters form the name of the ship’s owner, in two or possibly three words; the remaining 13 letters relate to the ship and the bell itself.

The inscription suggests that the owner was a Moslem Tamil, probably from one of the well-known ship-owning families based on the port of Nagapattam on the eastern coast of Tamiland in south-east India. As the owner’s name was probably an Arabic one, in accord with his religion, the founder of the bell would have had difficulty in converting it from the Arabic alphabet into Tamil letters. Arabic writing consists of consonants only, while Tamil writing has a syllabary rather than an alphabet….

My own attempt at translation was made possible by the excellent photographs provided by the Dominion Museum, and the advice of two leading experts on the script, Mr D. Yesudhas, M.A., of the Scott Christian College at Nagercoil, and Mr R. Raneer Selvam of the Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies at Copenhagen, Denmark. Both of these experts dated the script on the bell between 1400 and 1500; Langdon 4 quotes Professor Visvanathan’s estimate as 400 to 500 years before 1940, i.e. 1440-1540. Mr Selvam also provided some information about the ship-owning Tamils of the Moslem faith who were engaged in the Arab trade routes in that period. He suspected that the owner’s first name may have been derived from Tamil words meaning “an owner of wooden ships”.

In the transliteration which follows, the inscription is divided into two parts. The first line in each case is a copy of the Tamil characters on the bell; the second line is the modern Tamil equivalent, and the third line is the most likely equivalent in European letters:


The two identical words in the lower line, “Utaiya”, mean “owning” or “possessing”; “Kappal” means “ship” and “Mani” means “bell”. The upper line, being the owner’s name, has been translated by various authorities through the years as “Mohammet Buks”, “Hohoyiden Buks”, “Muhideen Bhakshi” and “Moha Din Buksh”. My own preferred translation is “Mohaideen Bakhsh”, with a second possibility as “Moha Din Bakhsh”. The full inscription therefore can be read “Bell of the Ship of Mohaideen Bakhsh”. The date of casting can be placed at c.1450.”

Citation and Reference.



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