Last weekend, I went for a friend’s wedding at Marthandam, some 50kms away from Kanyakumari.
On the way one of my friend told me that he believed in a mythical now-submerged land of Kumari Kandam. I had heard the name before as a pseudo-theory and hadn’t given it much importance. However, I rejected his beliefs and urged him to do some fact-checking. At that time neither he was relenting and didn’t have enough material to prove it, nor did I know enough to satisfactorily disprove it at that time.
So, this is my shot at it. So those who are not interested may quit reading. Thanks for all the fish!
I am not an anthropologist, archaeologist or a geologist, but I am an Engineer with enough experience in research to check out citations, sources and evidences and apply logic and scientific reasoning to believe, reject, understand speculations surrounding a theory or hypothesis. Having said that lets look into what we have here.
The hypotheses surrounding Kumari kandam are many and none of it is detailed, scientific or proven. So let’s just debunk the main themes of the so-called theory which states that
- There is a lost continent with an ancient Tamil kingdom now submerged in Indian Ocean. The lost continent spanned from Madagascar in the West to Australia in the East. And Kanya Kumari was part of it in the North.
- The lost continent was proven by Westerners and they called it Lemuria.
- Pandyans ruled the lost continent and the two Sangam period in Tamil literature happened in this continent and it was a Utopia.
Ok, now lets debunk it one by one.
I have many friends in Tamil Nadu and I like most of them, they are nice bunch of honest, moral people. Few of them are naive that even after college-level education, they can be misled by idiots who want to attract fame by giving chauvinistic plots, igniting passions and spewing hatred for various sociopolitical reasons all beginning and ending with the idea and identity of Tamil (its language and culture). Though this is not inherent to any particular land.
Also, none of my friends have given a satisfactory answer to who are what constitute being a Tamil.
Indeed Tamil Nadu is rich in history, culture, literature and architecture since ancient times not to mention valour that there is no need to resort to legends and myths.
However, there is a competition in the so-called minds of Tamilians with some perceived threat to the most awesome super-duper ‘language’ post. That is Sanskrit, so since British-Raj era, there has been a steady anti-Brahmin, anti-Sanskrit and anti-Hindi sentiments in Tamil Nadu. Hence, the Tamilians willingly learn English but hates to learn Hindi.
From this nationalistic idea stems this theory of an alternative Atlantis in the Indian Ocean.
Geologically, there is no land submerged in Indian Ocean, you can see the Ocean floor now using Google Earth software. Indian land mass drifted from the super-continent Gondwana around 60million years ago (That was the last time we had neighbours down south, apart from Sri Lanka and few island nations.) and moved northward and hit Asian plate and created Himalayas around 35million years ago. That was 35 MILLION years ago. Earliest human ancestors migrated from Africa around 100,000 years ago towards Asia and Europe.
Now, Kumari Kandam is first mentioned in a Tamil translation of ‘Sanskrit’ work Skanda Purana. Not surprisingly, the original work has a slightly different name. So Kumari Kandam was coined in 15th century as a translation to a Sanskrit work.
Indeed there are fossil similarities between Africa, India and Australia, the concept of Lemuria was a speculative theory to explain similar species in those regions. It was first mentioned in 19th century when we didn’t know about continental-drift or plate tectonics. Continental drift was first coined in early 20th century and proofs for it were added all along the 20th century and now a developed form of it is now called plate tectonics and is full of strong evidences and even living proofs in the form of fossils, similar species, geologic and seismic activities.
May be, the Pandyans might have lost couple of towns in a possible tsunami or a tidal wave similar to the one that demolished Dhanushkodi and Tamil folklore is rich with towns and cities lost to Ocean. Evidence exists for submerged temples off the shore in Mahabalipuram, of a town called Poompuhar and few others but none of it carried the name Kumari Kandam. Also, the sea might have receded from the temporary onslaught but lives and property would have been lost and populations would have migrated to neighbouring towns, districts or kingdoms.
Since the east coast is very prone to Tsunami from the earthquakes around Indo-Australian belt. May be one kingdom lost a library which had literary works from an earlier period but that isn’t enough to prove that there was a literary work, a literary period which qualifies to be called a Sangam period.
The Tamil language is one of oldest, longest, continuous surviving languages in the world. The ancient kingdoms of Chola, Chera and Pandya are great in their own right. In terms of might of language I don’t know why it needs to compete and be compared with Sanskrit or Hindi or even Persian, Latin or Greek for some subjective ‘numero Uno’ position. Even if pride is the ultimate goal, there are enough marvels to be proud of that there is no reason to resort to myths and legends.
Also, claiming false legends as true makes us stupid in front of others and we also need to respect great cultures from other civilisations, learn from them and respect them and consider it all important for the development of human species. Whether that be Aztecs or Mayans, Greeks or Pacific islanders, Egyptians or Chinese. They all have something to teach and we all have something to learn.
“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”
And finally, there has never been a Utopia ever in Human history and possibly never will be. There may be prosperous empires, but never a Utopia.
As character of Mohanlal (Govardhan) in the Kaalapani movie said, “Now you know why we were ruled by Britishers!” relating to the naivety of Indians and being ruled by Britishers over a century.
General algorithm of how myths are spun.
Step 1: Mention a hypothesis/speculation with only logic and no reasoning or evidence.
Step 2: Mention a very known common truth.
Step 3: Attach the known common truth and speculation and mention that it is widely believed so.
Step 4: Throw in some random science terms and theories to add weight.
Step 5: Tada! You now have a beautiful cocktail of myth to fool your friends.
Question everything! Be a skeptic.
I didn’t have to do all this blogging, the Wikipedia page has already debunked it.
Suggested further reading for beginner skeptics, Skeptical Patriot by Sidin Vadukut.