The inscription is engraved on a stone slab discovered in 1911 by H. F. Tomalin, the Provincial Engineer at Galle, in a culvert near the turn to Cripps Road within that town and afterwards moved to the Colombo Museum. The slab features inscriptions in three different languages, enclosed within a floral border: Tamil (top-left), Persian (bottom-left, IN0351) and Chinese (right, IN0352). The Tamil inscription is dealt with here.
Following the discovery of the slab, the Chinese inscription was successfully transcribed and translated by Edmund Backhouse. However, Rao Bahadur H. Krishna Sastri (Assistant Superintendent for Epigraphy, Madras) and J. Horrovitz (Epigraphist for Moslem Inscriptions in India) failed in their efforts to decipher the Tamil and Persian texts respectively. Sometime later, the Tamil inscription was transcribed and translated for the third volume of Epigraphia Zeylanica (1933: 331–341) by Senarath Paranativana, who benefitted from having access to Backhouse’s translation of the Chinese text.
Like the Chinese inscription, the Tamil inscription is dated in the second month of the seventh year of Yuṅlo (Yung Lo), the Chinese emperor whose reign began in 1403 A.D. The text tells us that the Chinese emperor, having heard of the fame of the god Tenavarai-nāyaṉār in Sri Lanka, sent to him, through his envoys Ciṅvo and Uviṅcuviṅ, various kinds of offerings, of which a detailed list is given. Paranavitana notes that Tenavarai is the Tamil name for Devundara (Devunuvara), a settlement near Matara on the southern coast of Sri Lanka which was the centre of a cult dedicated to a deity known as Uppalavaṇṇa. Sometimes like the Purāṇic Viṣṇy in the Hindu tradition, this god was sometimes styled in Sinhalese ‘Devundara Deviyo’, which can be rendered in Tamil as ‘Tenavarai-nāyaṉār’. The other two inscriptions on the slab feature similar (though not identical) lists of offerings but the beneficiary is different in each case, being the Buddha in the Chinese text and an Islamic shrine or saint in the Persian. It therefore appears that, when the Chinese gained political ascendancy over Sri Lanka in 1409, they made gifts of equal value to several different religious traditions of the region and recorded these gifts on the same stone.