-By T.S. Venkatesan
According to a recent study Ancient submerged Poompuhar city near Mayiladuthurai district is 15,000 years old and not 2,500 yeas old as it is widely believed.
It was once a flourishing ancient port city known as Cauveri Poompattinam. For a while, it served as the capital of the Early Chola kings in Tamizhagam. Puhar is located near the mouth of the River Cauvery, on the sea coast. The Poompuhar port city, established by the Chola dynasty around 3000 years ago, suddenly vanished from the maritime history of the world around 1000 years ago. The ICPS division of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has being undertaking a project to digitally reconstructing the underwater heritage site which is now a submerged port located 30 km away from the present Poompuhar town. It finds mention in Tamil epic “Manimegalai”. Its sudden disappearance is still a mystery. It was a flourishing trade centre of pearls and other gems and had maritime trade links with South East Asia and Egypt and other countries.
Trichy based Bharathidasan University’s Remote Sensing ,the lead agency for the above digital study said, it has found traces of an ancient port city buried under sea at a depth of 50-100 metres about 30-40 km off the coast of the Poompuhar city of today’s.
According to a report from it, the city is spread over250 square kilo metres, complete with a huge harbour, a lighthouse, ship, dockyards and settlements. It said the study covered the coastal area and about 1,000 sq.kms of the offshore area in the Bay of Bengal. It claimed the findings were based on satellite, general Bathymetry Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) and multi-beam eco sounder (MEBS) data. The MBES data were collected by the Chennai based National Institute of Ocean Technology. A dozen of institutions are part of the inter-disciplinary and inter-institutional research project and supported by National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT).
Project Poompuhar national coordinator and Prof. of eminence, SM Ramaswamy told media persons recently “A major finding, based on a study of the past sea levels, is that the Poompuhar is not only 2,500 years old, as it is widely believed, and might be more than 15,000 years ol. It might be one of the oldest port cities in the world. We set out to digitally reconstruct the history of Poompuhar with the support of the Dept. of Science and Technology with an initial funding of about 8.90 crore in 2019”.
According to the study by GEBCO, ” a series of three deltas of the Cauvery river which run to 40Km in the sea. The MBES, data helped the discovery of a major coastal land system with sand banks, backwaters, beach ridges, rivers, estuaries and ancient shorelines. We also inferred a scientifically designed harbour about 11 km long and 2.5km wide running from North to South, with canals meant for the movement of big vessels and turning them. In between, there are broad plateaux which could have been used for loading, unloading and storing goods”.
The study reveals “ to the east of the harbour, there were 70-80 docks in the North-South direction to a distance of 30 km for berthing ships. To the north, there were settlements with a cluster of houses covering an area of about four square kilo metes. Further upto the north was a row of settlements with compound walls. About 10 km away from the harbour on the North was a lighthouse, with a spiral staircase (having a design like the Cleopatra lighthouse of Egypt), as evident from the pillar relics. The region, the study says, prone to floods, tsunamis and accelerated impact of sea level rise and cyclone inducted surges. The port city had probably been relocated and rebuilt repeatedly, owing to such natural occurrences. The seventh redevelopment was done probably about 2,500 years ago and it might have submerged due to a rise in sea level about 1,020 years ago .
“ if scientific dating confirms the estimate, Poompuhar could be the oldest known ‘town’ in India and, arguably, across the world. Similar under sea explorations in the Gulf of Cambay off the Gujarat Coast in the early 2000s had discovered a lost city believed to be the ancient Dwaraka, then dated to 7,500 BC (which predates Mohenjodaro by 4,500 years)
Prof. Ramaswamy said further studies , including underwater photography, are under way to corroborate the findings and the project is expected to conclude in about a year and the findings will encourage a similar study to explore Kumari Kandam, a mythical lost continent in the Indian Ocean. NIOT will deploy a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to capture images. A trail runs with an ROV which was attached with a camera and a sonar. We plan to collect some coring samples”.