Tamil Bell in New Zealand

Tamil Bell in New Zealand

Tamils have long been seafarers and traders. It is believed that they reached northern Australia by the 14th century, and there is a suggestion that they may have got as far as New Zealand. In 1836 the missionary explorer William Colenso found this bell, which had been used by Maori as a cooking vessel for generations. Inscribed on it in Tamil are the words ‘Mohoyideen Buk’s ship’s bell’. The bell is now held at the national museum, Te Papa. Theories abound, but the precise origins of the bell and how it got to New Zealand remain a mystery.

This is the photo I took from the museum.

Tamil bell


The history

The history form the records of the New Zealand museum is as below.

Colenso was told that the bell had been found after a heavy gale had blown down a large tree; it was uncovered from the tree roots. Its owners believed that the bell had been in the possession of the iwi (tribe) for several generations.Colenso swapped an iron pot for the bell. After his death he bequeathed the bell to the Colonial Museum, forbear to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. The bell produced a lot of interest when it was exhibited, and discussions and theories abounded about its origins.

The inscription on the bell has been translated as meaning ‘the bell of the ship of Mohaideen Bakhsh’. Alternative spellings have been suggested, including Mohideen Baksh, Mohideen Bux and Muhaidin Baksh. For his 1975 article ‘The Story of the Tamil Bell,’ Brett Hilder consulted experts on Tamil script who suggested that the bell could be about 500 years old, and Hilder placed the date of casting at c.1450. A more recent palaeographic reading by scholars in Tamil Nadu dated the inscription to the 17th or 18th century.

Picture of the bell and the tamil letters inscribed

Tamil bell










tamil bell
The line of script that, some 150 years later, a visiting scholar used to solve part of the artifact’s mystery. HATHITRUST/PUBLIC DOMAIN


Looking at Another Angle

One more article I came across has some more details of the tamil letter transcription in another way which says “Sikkaiya Tanaiva udaya kappal udaya mani”. “Sikkaiya Tanaiva ‘s ship’s bell. This makes me to see / read the inscription in another way. I have asked the blog owner to provide more details. Also reached out to a few people to find more.


It is getting interesting now.

The Te Papa museum  NZ  link to the tamil bell

Still I am waiting for some more information from the museum. Once I have will publish to this page.

If you have any information and details about this, please comment which will be of great help. Thanks

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