Thursday, February 17, 2005


Post tsunami, ASI begins offshore search for relics


Kerala Next
February 17, 2005

[India News]: Chennai, When the tsunami receded from Tamil Nadu, it left behind death and destruction - but also a seventh century pagoda believed to be one of seven.

And now, archaeologists have begun a search for the other underwater relics. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began its search for the Pallava era treasures, off the coast of Mahabalipuram, 60 km from here, on Wednesday. The Indian Navy is helping the ASI in its task.

Work will continue till March 12. While the navy has provided scanning equipment, boats, technical support and divers, the ASI has deployed an eight-member team of experts led by marine archaeologist Alok Tripathy. The central government has pitched in with Rs.1.2 million for the first phase of the search.

The first results of the search are expected next week. Archaeologist in charge K.T. Narasimhan said: "It must have been a small temple that the tsunami revealed. Seafarers must have prayed here before taking to the seas."

It is believed that the findings belong to the ancient port of Mahabalipuram that existed here from the first century BC. The exposed pagoda is carved out of single rock and has engravings depicting an elephant, chariot and horse rider. A lion and characters from the scriptures are also seen.

According to legend, there were originally seven temples at the site, of which only one is visible now. The rest are said to have been submerged around 6th century AD. ASI official T. Sathyamurthy said the Dec 26 tsunami "washed away the topsoil uncovering the buried sculptures".

"When the water was receding, it took away some of the monuments and de-silted the entire area. As a result we have found three more bas-reliefs belonging to the Pallava period, dated about 700 AD," he said.

The exposed stonework belongs to the Narasimha Pallava II era, experts said. Mahabalipuram is famous for its shore temple, a UN World Heritage site.

Indo-Asian News Service


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