Submerged temple ruins uncovered off Mahabalipuram
From Devika Sequeira
DH News Service
PANAJI, April 25
Legend has it that the shore temple of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, is the last of a series of seven temples, six of which were submerged over time.
Marine archaeologists of the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) here and the British Scientific Exploration Society say they now have evidence to substantiate that belief.
Their joint underwater exploration in waters off Mahabalipuram earlier this month has uncovered submerged temple ruins they assess date back to 1500 to 1200 BC.
Extremely excited by the find, Dr K H Vohara who heads the NIO's marine archaeology section said the evidence was significant, for it lent credence to the belief that the ruins were part of a temple complex typical of the Pallava dynasty which ruled the area in that period.
The Pallavas had constructed many such rock-cut and structural temples in Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram, said archaeologists.
"So far we only had the legend to go by. After the discovery we were able to touch, feel and measure the ruins," Dr Vohara told this newspaper today. He said the site offered the potential for future explorations of the structure’s total layout plan, and the causes of submergence.
The exploration, jointly financed by the Indian and British teams was carried out some 500 metres off the Mahabalipuram shore. Divers discovered stone masonry, remains of walls, square and rectangular blocks scattered around, and a big platform with steps leading to it. They also found a lion figure typical of temple complexes of that area.
Most of the structures are badly damaged and scattered over a vast area, say archaeologists, who will now get down to analysing the data uncovered, including material on shoreline erosion and seabed changes.
The NIO which has been engaged in the Beth Dwarka explorations off Gujarat, said it plans to expand its research here to the Saurashtra region to try and uncover more details of Indo-British trade of that period.
As of now, the marine archaeology section plans to concentrate on locating shipwrecks off Goa, says Dr Vohara. Goa, once an important colony and port for Portugal's trade with the east, has spawned many a colourful legend of sunken ships and vast treasures. The NIO, which has sought information from the public, hopes to uncover some evidence to pin a historical and scientific perspective on such legends.