Poompuhar: Scientists to digitally recreate Tamil Nadu port city swallowed by sea 1,000 years ago

Sowmiya Ashok
Poompuhar: Scientists to digitally recreate Tamil Nadu port city swallowed by sea 1,000 years ago

Researchers say that initial studies carried out by the Indian Remote Sensing Satellites show that the city was established initially in the Cauvery Delta-A about 30km away from the present Poompuhar town around 15,000 years ago. (File)

The Chola Dynasty port city in Tamil Nadu that vanished from maritime history around 1,000 years ago will be digitally reconstructed by a consortium led by the Department of Science and Technology, officials told The Indian Express.

DST officials said there are exhaustive narrations in works of Sangam Tamil literature to infer that the city, located 30 km from the existing Poompuhar town in southern TN, was submerged due to “kadalkol” or rising sea levels.

“However, despite several studies on Tamil literature, archaeology, history, epigraphy, underwater exploration and geosciences, the mystery of the exact location of initial establishment of Poompuhar, its age, later shifts, along with periods, time-series spatial evolution in the present location at the mouth of river Cauvery, and the reasons and periods of its extinction, remain unresolved,” a DST official said.

Poompuhar: Scientists to digitally recreate Tamil Nadu port city swallowed by sea 1,000 years ago

“The study involves underwater surveys and photography by remotely operated vehicles and sea bed drilling, remote sensing-based geodynamic studies to bring out comprehensive information on the time series evolution and extinction. It also involves the visualisation of geodynamic processes of the last 20,000 years like land subsidence, sea-level rise, Cauvery’s migration, floods, tsunami, cyclones and erosion. The information extracted from the studies will help digitally reconstruct the life history of Poompuhar,” the official said.

Dr K R Murali Mohan, head of the ICPS division at DST, said a similar project is being rolled out at the Dwarka city in Gujarat, too. “A lot of good work has already been done to map Dwarka but not much in Poompuhar. If we look at both these sites, they are diagonally opposite in direction. What are the geo-dynamics that happen in the Bay of Bengal? Did similar things happen on the other side also, geologically these two sites might be connected, we don’t know,” he said.

The reconstruction of Poompuhar is part of DST’s Indian Digital Heritage project — an exhibition of its first project ‘Digital Hampi’ is currently on display at the National Museum here.

“DST looked into heritage documentation and works with technologies that can be applied to digitally convert our monuments into virtual spaces,” Mohan said.

Tamil Nadu, Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu port city digital recreating, Poompuhar Tamil Nadu port, Tamil Nadu port city Chola dynasty, Indian Express news

For the Poompuhar project, the DST has set up a network of 13 academicians and research institutions to trace the history of the ancient city.

The Hampi project brings to life tangible and intangible heritage in the area offering visitors a peak into how marketplaces looked and the musical pillars were constructed.

“In our second phase, we are looking at heritage that is currently underwater in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. The focus is now to find evidence on how these were built, whether photographs of the structures are available and the reasons that contributed to the submergence of the city,” Mohan said.

For the Poompuhar project, the DST has set up a network of 13 academicians and research institutions to trace the history of the ancient city. Some of these include the School of Marine Sciences, Alagappa University, Academy of Marine Education and Training University in Chennai, National Institute of Ocean Technology and others.

Professor S M Ramasamy from Alagappa University, who is the national coordinator ‘Project Digital Poompuhar’, said the port city flourished in inter-continental trade but vanished. “Our first step is to study when and where it was established, where it shifted to and its present location. What were the phases and periods through which it shifted,” he said.

Researchers say that initial studies carried out by the Indian Remote Sensing Satellites show that the city was established initially in the Cauvery Delta-A about 30km away from the present town around 15,000 years ago.

Tamil Nadu, Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu port city digital recreating, Poompuhar Tamil Nadu port, Tamil Nadu port city Chola dynasty, Indian Express news

The reconstruction of Poompuhar is part of DST’s Indian Digital Heritage project — an exhibition of its first project ‘Digital Hampi’ is currently on display at the National Museum here.

“It shifted further 10 km to the west to Delta-B around 11,000 years ago and again further 10 km west to Delta-C around 8000 years ago. Finally, it was re-established at the present location at the mouth of the river Cauvery around 3,000 years ago. The shifts took place due to the continuous rise of sea levels and the submergence of the deltas,” said an official.

Further studies discovered a harbour-like structure as well as sea walls and probably a bridge. “These have given new insights about the life history of Poompuhar and the social, cultural, and technological evolution of this part of the country as well as the age of Poompuhar from 3000 years to 15,000 to 20,000 years. The study is also expected to provide packages of scientific information not only on the life history of Poompuhar and the socio-cultural evolution but also the science and technological evolution and the disaster history of this region,” the official said.

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