Noted epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan died at his home in Chennai early on Monday after a brief illness, The Hindu reported. He was 88.

Mahadevan was considered one of the world’s leading scholars on the Tamil Brahmi and the Indus Valley scripts. He was a former IAS officer and had been the editor of Tamil newspaper Dinamani.

The Indus Script: Texts, Concordance and Tables, compiled by Mahadevan and published in 1977, is the only openly available text on the Indus script and is considered a definitive resource for scholars. Similarly, his Early Tamil Epigraphy, published in 2003 and revised in 2014, is regarded as an authoritative work on early South Indian epigraphy.

Mahadevan joined the civil services in 1954 and opted for voluntary retirement in 1980. During this time, he had worked as assistant financial adviser in India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, deputy secretary in Tamil Nadu’s Industries Department and director of the state’s Handlooms and Textiles Department.

The Indian government conferred the Padma Shri on him in 2009, and the Tolkappiyar award for lifetime achievement in classical Tamil for 2009-’10.

Soon after his death, tributes poured in for the epigraphist, with some saying Mahadevan was instrumental in reviving interest in Sangam literature.