Heritage restoration: Indian researchers to revive Tamil Nadu’s submerged port city digitally

FE Online
Heritage of India, sumerged cities in India, Indian heritage cities, digital reconstruction of Indian heritage, Indian history, maritime history of India

Nearly 1,000 years ago, a port city dating back to the time of Chola Dynasty in the southern state of Tamil Nadu vanished from the maps and the history. Now, a Department of Science and Technology-led consortium will digitally reconstruct the lost city, the erstwhile Poompuhar, according to an IE report. The report quoted DST officials as saying that according to the narratives in the Tamil literature, they could figure out that the city was 30 kms away from the present-time Poompuhar, a town in southern Tamil Nadu, and it submerged due to rising levels of the sea, or what they call 'kadalkol'.

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The officials further said that despite the various studies on the literature, history, epigraphy, archaeology, geosciences and underwater exploration, not much is still known about the exact location of Poompuhar, how old it was, later shifts, etc.

The report further quoted the head of ICPS division of DST Dr KR Murali Mohan as saying that a similar project was also being undertaken for Gujarat's Dwarka city. He, however, added that while a lot of work has been done to map the city of Dwarka, the progress is not the same for Poompuhar. He further said that both the cities are diagonally opposite in direction, but geologically they might be connected. However, that is still unknown to them.

The reconstruction of the southern port city is a part of the Indian Digital Heritage mission of the DST. The first project under the mission was 'Digital Hampi' and it is currently on display at the National Museum in Delhi.

The second phase includes the cities in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu which had submerged into the water, said Dr Mohan. The team is now focusing on finding the facts around how these cities were built, if there are any pictures of the structures and the reasons behind the submergence, Mohan told IE.

To give shape to the Poompuhar project, the DST has roped in 13 research institutions and academicians to look at the ancient city's history. These institutions include Alagappa University, School of Marine Sciences, Academy of Marine Education and Training University and National Institute of Ocean Technology.

The project is being coordinated by Professor SM Ramaswamy of Alagappa University. He told IE that the before vanishing, the port city witnessed flourishing inter-continental trade. The team will first focus on finding out where and when it was established, where it had shifted to and its current location. According to initial studies by Indian Remote Sensing Satellites, the city was initially located in the Cauvery Delta-A around 15,000 years ago at a distance of around 30 kms from the current Poompuhar, researchers have said.

An official told IE that the initial studies also point out that around 11,000 years ago, the city shifted 10 kms to the west towards Delta-B and another 10 kms westward to Delta-C around 8,000 years ago. It was established at the present location at the mouth of Cauvery river around 3,000 years ago, the official added.