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Archaeologists unearth remains of ‘Sangam Age’ in a city near Madurai, Tamil Nadu

An eye-opening discovery by Archaeologists of a habitat, equal in size and importance to Mohenjo-daro.

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Excavation site. Image Source: www.frontline.in
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  • A team of 10 archaeologists has been working in Keeladi since 2013 to unravel the remains of a habitation site
  • Keeladi,a small village with a population of around 5,000 people lies in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu
  • Archaeologists have tentatively estimated that it dates back to 200 BCE, and believe it might be even older

“I could not believe my eyes when I saw all that came out of the ground. It has made Keeladi famous” exclaims Theiyvamma, a local women from Tamil Nadu. Archaeologists and researchers have unearthed the crumbling remains of a civilization, a civilization that stands parallel to Mohenjo-daro in size and importance.

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Keeladi,a small village with a population of around 5,000 people lies in the Sivaganga district of Tamil Nadu, 12 km from the city of Madurai. With the excavation of the site, which will eventually be referred to as the Vaigai River Valley Civilisation in the future, for the first time there are findings that will provide evidence that South India is a promising land for discovering ancient roots.

“It’s an eye-opening discovery, there’s no doubt that this was once a prosperous trade centre where elite people lived and worked,” said V Vedachalam, retired senior epigraphist of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Department to Hindustan Times. Carbon dating is yet to be carried out in Keeladi but based on the script found in the areas, archaeologists have tentatively estimated that it dates back to 200 BCE, and believe it might be even older.

Madurai; Tamil Nadu; 16/06/2015. A well found at the ASI's excavation site at Keezhadi near Madurai on Tuesday. Photo; G. Moorthy
A well found at the ASI’s excavation site at Keezhadi near Madurai, Tamil Nadu on June 28. Image source: G. Moorthy

A team of 10 archaeologists has been working in Keeladi since 2013 to unravel the remains of a habitation site that provides evidence for the way of life described in ancient Sangam literature. There were a long list of challenges that the archaeologists had to face to reach the apex they stand at today such as securing permission to excavate parts of the zeroed in 8-10 potential sites for their excavation, lacking the resources to excavate indiscriminately and ameliorating the doubts of the landowners about property damage. By overcoming these and various other difficulties, the explored area today presents a rather startling sight to the first time visitor with 96 precisely cut square pits called quadrants, each 4 metres deep.

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Amongst the artifacts unearthed there are quaint chess pieces, a portion of an oven or a furnace, an enclosure which may have been used as a water tank, stone dice, quaint chess pieces, jagged chunks of semi-precious gems and some grooves in stone that appear to be an ancient drainage system. “One of the most remarkable discoveries that we’ve made are the remains of brick homes,” says Rajesh. “Being prohibitively expensive, bricks were not normally employed in civic structures in early history. They’re usually restricted to public spaces or houses of worship. This is a rare finding, especially significant when you consider how most other excavations in these parts have revealed only gravestones and cemeteries.”

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There have been many potshards that have been found on the site. Their inscription has been giving an insight to age-old history, there is one with an image of a fish inscribed, many of them have a design with ringed borders and then there are some with names. The fish has been predicted to depict the badge of a Pandya ruler whereas one of the names has been linked to trades with Sri Lanka. Similarly, the shards with ringed borders point towards trade with foreigners.

Discoveries of excavation. Image source: http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/beneath-the-city-archaeologists-discover-remains-of-sangam-age/story-20zsnWS1YR7KAdzewdgYRO.html
Discoveries of excavation. Image source: hindustantimes.com

Currently, such significant discoveries have been kept on display in a tent just by the corner of the site hence ASI has now applied for permission to establish a site museum. Two phases of excavation are almost completed with the 2nd phase ending in September. Looking at all the progress that unlocked century old history, the project might extend into a third phase. With astonishing new finds that deepens the understanding of our history, the Heritage and history of Keeladi, a tiny village is now under the spotlight.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This is so rare! Plus the fact that it might be as huge as Mohenjo-daro makes it more special

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70 years after Independence power reaches Elephanta Isle near Mumbai

An unseasonal 'Diwali' has suddenly been ushered on the island, which used to be plunged into darkness after dusk in the absence of electricity at the three villages

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The power connection is also expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km long ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with Elephanta Island running above the Arabian Sea
The power connection is also expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km long ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with Elephanta Island running above the Arabian Sea. Wikimedia Commons
* Elephanta Caves is a UNESCO World Heritage site
* An unseasonal ‘Diwali’ has suddenly been ushered on the island
* The official is hopeful that now, the Islanders can get better educational institutions, boost tourism
Seventy years after Independence, a 7.5-km long undersea cable has finally brought electricity to the world-famous Gharapuri Isle, which houses the UNESCO World Heritage site Elephanta Caves, about 10-km from Mumbai, a top official said here on Thursday.
The project to electrify the island, thronged daily by thousands of Indian and foreign tourists, has cost a total of Rs 25 crore and was completed in 15 months, said Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co. Ltd. Regional Director Satish Karape.
“This is India’s longest undersea power cable which took around three months to lay. Plus, we have installed a transformer in each of the three villages, six streetlight towers each 13-metre tall with six powerful LED bulbs and provided individual power meter connections to 200 domestic and a few commercial consumers. Intensive testing over past three days has been successful,” Karape told IANS.
A function will be held at the island later in the day when renowned social reformer Appasaheb Dharmadhikari will formally ‘switch on’ the power supply in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, his ministers Chandrashekhar Bawankule, Jaykumar Raval, Ravindra, and other dignitaries.
Inhabited since the 2nd Century BC, the island has seven big and small rock-cut caves temples carved between 5th-6th Centuries AD.
Inhabited since the 2nd Century BC, the island has seven big and small rock-cut caves temples carved between 5th-6th Centuries AD. Wikimedia Commons
Karape said that of the total project cost, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority gave Rs 18.50 crore while the rest had been borne from the MSEDCL’s own resources.
The 22-KV cable has four lines, including one exclusive standby line, to ensure 24×7 high-quality power to the Islanders with sufficient excess capacity to take care of future requirements for more than 30 years, he explained.
An unseasonal ‘Diwali’ has suddenly been ushered on the island, which used to be plunged into darkness after dusk in the absence of electricity at the three villages — Raj Bander, Mora Bander and Shet Bander — housing around 1,200 people, mostly engaged in fishing, farming, boat-repairs and tourism-related activities.
Since the past few years, however, the villagers managed with just three hours electricity courtesy power generators provided by the state government, but these were expensive and unreliable.
The previous Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime had initiated the proposal, but it fell through as the tender attracted a single bid, and later the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena government revived the proposal almost two years ago.
The 22-KV cable has been connected directly with the MSEDCL’s Olwa sub-station, Panvel Division in Raigad on the mainland, Karape said.
Since a small dam exists on this 16-sq km island, a water filtration plant can be set up to provide safe and clean drinking water to the locals and tourists, who now rely on bottled mineral water.
Since a small dam exists on this 16-sq km island, a water filtration plant can be set up to provide safe and clean drinking water to the locals and tourists, who now rely on bottled mineral water. Wikimedia Commons
The official is hopeful that now, the Islanders can get better educational institutions, boost tourism — probably with the overnight stay, subject to other governmental clearances — install a lighthouse on the isle’s hilltop, and even power the Elephanta Caves if the Archaeological Survey of India permits.
Since a small dam exists on this 16-sq km island, a water filtration plant can be set up to provide safe and clean drinking water to the locals and tourists, who now rely on bottled mineral water.
The power connection is also expected to speed up work on the proposed 8-km long ropeway connecting Mumbai directly with Elephanta Island running above the Arabian Sea, planned by the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT), and billed as a boon to nearly two million tourists who visit it annually.
Inhabited since the 2nd Century BC, the island has seven big and small rock-cut caves temples carved between 5th-6th Centuries AD. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
The island also has two large British-era canons atop the hill.
Presently, the thickly-forested island abounds in monkeys and other creatures, is accessible only by an hour-long voyage by motorboats and launches from Gateway of India or Raigad, with the compulsory return in the evening.