Monday, February 21, 2005


Search begins for 'submerged temples'


By P C Vinoj Kumar
February 20, 2005

M. Lakshman, Associated Press
Indian naval divers walk from the sea near the Shore
Temple at Mahabalipuram after exploring what is
believed to be a newly discovered ancient city.

Chennai: A team of officials from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), aided by Navy divers, have begun a joint off shore exploration at the historic town of Mahabalipuram, near Chennai, to look for ‘submerged temples’ following the surfacing of some rock cut reliefs near the Shore Temple in the aftermath of the tsunami.

Experts, including underwater photographers, headed by marine archaeologist Alok Tripathi, have arrived from Delhi and are camping in Mahabalipuram. The exploration would go on till March end, Tripathi said.

Mahabalipuram, also known as Mamallapuram, located about 60 km from Chennai, was once a flourishing seaport during the time of the Pallava kings.

The tsunami washed away the topsoil on the beach and exposed some sculptures carved on boulders. These were located on the southern side of the Shore Temple, a World Heritage Monument, which is located very close to the sea.

Besides, the ASI staff had spotted rocks, which they suspect could have been submerged sculptures, or parts of any other structure, as the sea receded from the coastline after the tsunami. The spotting of rocks and the surfacing of buried sculptures has fuelled speculations whether there had been totally seven temples in Mahabalipuram, including the Shore Temple.

People over the centuries have believed that the other six temples had been submerged in the sea. Alok Tripathi said this belief had prevailed over the centuries, but as an archaeologist, he was not willing to believe it, unless he found evidence.

Tripathi said his team had been conducting explorations in the area for the last two years.“This time we have narrowed down the area of our operation. Besides, we would be conducting excavations along with exploration in both land and sea,” Tripathi said. An area of 500 square metres has been earmarked in land and sea for the operation.

The archaeologist said that the ASI had involved the navy in the exploration last year also. Since the commencement of the post tsunami operation two days ago, navy divers have been exploring the sea from 8 am to 3 pm daily.


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