Tsunami Disaster & Tamil Eelam
Catastrophes of the past in Tamil Aham:
poetic exaggeration or scientific facts?
7 January 2005, TamilNet
[see also The
Tamil Heritage - Tamils are an ancient People]
“To the ancient Tamil world natural calamities like
the tsunami that hit the east coast on 26 December 2004 is not
unknown,” says Professor A.Shanmugathas, head of the department of
Tamil, Jaffna University. The Sangam Literature, which is more than
2000 years old, makes reference to similar natural catastrophes
(perooly) that have affected the Tamil speaking world - spreading
from Cape Comarin in the South to the Vindian ranges in the North.
"The history records it that tidal destruction (Kadatkol) has
occurred from time to time and these facts are established by the
archeological excavations. They are not imaginary accounts," he
adds. This is supported by modern scientific theories.
Professor Karsten M. Storetvedt, the chair in geomagnetism at the
University of Bergen, Norway, and an author of the Global Wrench
Theory (GWT), says that the equator regions have always been most
prone to natural catastrophes like earthquakes and volcano
eruptions. A part of explanation is that planet rotation and
especially the difference in rotation speed between poles and
equator force earth mantel to strain and to break more easily where
the strain is strongest, that is at the equator regions. These
tectonic processes played important role in the disappearance of the
ancient continent known as Lemuria to western scholars. Sri Lanka
together with India, Indonesia and Malaysia were a part of this
continent. Many islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans are
remnants of this continent that in ancient time covered the whole
area of today's ocean.
Storetvedt, who seems to reject the theory of continental drift and
plate tectonics, says that descriptions of cataclysms in early
literature when land suddenly went underwater are logical. But they
should be proven to be scientific facts. This can be done with the
help of sea-floor analysis that is possible to carry out.
Modern theories find supportive evidences both in ancient literature
and language history. The continent of Lemuria is referred as
"Kumari Kandam" in ancient Tamil literature. Tamil is one of the
world's classical languages. Tamil has continuous historical records
for more than 2000 years and Tamil language was recognized as a
classical language in India (beside the other being Sanscrit). Tamil
does not belong to the Indo-European language family.
"One can imagine the strength and magnitude of the Tidal wave
required to devour a mountainous area that had existed in the
ancient coastal belt of the Tamil world," says Professor
Shanmugathas. He also refers to records in Mahavansa, the
buddhist chronicle of Sri Lanka.
Kumari Kandam drawn with the
background-knoweldge gathered from the
Courtesy: Gems from the Pre
References in Tamil records speak about
devouring of landmass by the sea (kadatkol). "The earliest
connected account about kadatkol occurs in the commentary on
Iraiyanar akapporul," says Dr. A. Velupillai, department
of religious studies, Arizona State University.
Tamil poets were lamenting about "kadatkol" (devouring of the
land by the sea) so often that scholars found it difficult to
explain these references of devouring the land mass with towns
and villages by the sea, as it appeared to have been highly
improbable within the Indian Ocean area, where no similar events
were recorded in the last few centuries.
"Even though modern scholars date this commentary to the eighth
century CE, the tale refers to three Tamil academies which
existed for almost ten thousand years," Veluppillai adds.
It is believed by some Tamil scholars that the first academy
existed at southern Maturai and was terminated by sea devouring
the city. The Pandya king established a second academy at
Kapadapuram. Again, the sea devoured the city. The Pandya king
established the third academy in present Maturai (far away from
"What is available now as Cankam literature is mentioned as
productions of the third academy," says Velupillai.
"The sea devouring entire sea coast cities in the Indian Ocean
area was something that many modern scholars dismissed as
unrealistic. It now appears very probable that this tale about
devouring of land by the sea, is not just a legend, as some
modern scholars surmised," he says.
"Tamils have by long historical tradition
associated themselves with the sea. 'Cross the seas and make the
fortunes' (Thirai Kadal Odiyum Thiraviam Thedu) is a motto of
the ancient Tamils who were driven to make wealth through sea
trade," says Professor Sittampalam, Dean of the faculty
of advanced studies, University of Jaffna.
"International trade ports are mentioned in the Sangam
Literature in Tamil, as well as in Greek and Roman literatures.
The Chola Empire had the most powerful Navy during its time.
Even as late as in the period of 10th - 15th Century Tamil
language was the language of sea trade in the Indian Ocean,"
says Professor Sittampalam. "Tamils engaged in sea trade spread
to other countries, especially in Asia and took along their
culture and language. For example, there was found a
2000-years-old pot in Egypt that has Tamil letters on it. The
14th Century inscription was found in Galle, Sri Lanka, has
inscriptions is in three languages: Tamil, Chinese and Persian".
The Cilappatikaram and the Manimekalai, the two earliest
epics/narrative poems in Tamil, both refer to a vast landmass
that was swallowed by a "cataclysmic landslip" or "on-rush of
the sea." These landslips have submerged vast territory that was
called Kumai Nadu or Kumari Kandam, known also as Lemuria to
"Even though there is some controversy on the exact date of
these works, certain inferences can be made. Large scale
destruction by kadatkol seems to have made deep impressions to
the Tamil psyche," says to Dr. Velupillai. The Manimekalai
refers in graphic terms to the sea devouring Poompukar or
Kavirippoompaddinam, the Chola capital, port and emporium of
foreign trade. The New Indian Express of December 2002 published
an article that Poompukar site could be the cradle of world
civilization, mentioning discovery of archaeological remains of
a port city under the sea and hypotheses of well-known scholars.
"Reading this with the background of the magnificent description
of the prosperity of this cosmopolitan port-city, it is possible
now to visualize that a huge tragedy of that magnitude could
have taken place," says Dr. Velupillai.
Tamil scholars note that there have been at least three major
floods according to the references they find in Tamil literature
and vast part of ancient literature was lost as a result of such
"Adiyarkkunallar, the medieval commentator to the
Cilappatikaram, gives intriguing details about lands devoured by
the sea. He mentions about Ezh Tenku nadu, Ezh Panai nadu, Ezh
Kunakarai nadu, etc., listing seven such regions. As Ezh can
mean 'seven', some later interpreters say that 49 regions (7 by
7) were devoured by the sea," says Veluppillai. Some Tamil
historians argue that the political power of the Tamils
diminished due to repeated re-locations and vast damage that was
caused to the ancient Tamil homeland by the deluges.
What we know of the antiquity of Tamil civilization seems to be
top of an iceberg. More exciting and interesting prehistory of
Tamils may emerge from the jolt applied by the tsunami.
Scientific details relating to these catastrophic events,
particularly the correlation of the available
socio-anthropological knowledge from the Tamil literature with
geological research is yet to be found or ascertained. There is
ample scope for Tamil scholars, socio-anthropologists and
geologists to do further research on these topics.