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Last Updated: Friday, 11 February, 2005, 13:31 GMT
Tsunami throws up India relics
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News, Delhi

The tsunami has uncovered relics in Mahabalipuram
The relics have been buried under the sand for centuries
The deadly tsunami could have uncovered the remains of an ancient port city off the coast in southern India.

Archaeologists say they have discovered some stone remains from the coast close to India's famous beachfront Mahabalipuram temple in Tamil Nadu state following the 26 December tsunami.

They believe that the "structures" could be the remains of an ancient and once-flourishing port city in the area housing the famous 1200-year-old rock-hewn temple.

Three pieces of remains, which include a granite lion, were found buried in the sand after the coastline receded in the area after the tsunami struck.

Undersea remains

"They could be part of the small seaport city which existed here before water engulfed them. They could be part of a temple or a building. We are investigating," says T Sathiamoorthy of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Archaeologists say that the stone remains date back to 7th Century AD and are nearly 6ft tall.

They have elaborate engravings of the kind that are found in the Mahabalipuram temple.

The temple, which is a World Heritage site, represents some of the earliest-known examples of Dravidian architecture dating back to 7th Century AD.

The monument also has gigantic open air reliefs hewn out from granite.

Buddha sculpture found in Mahabalipuram
The bronze Buddha which floated up the coast at Kalapakkam

The tsunami waves have also helped the archaeologists in desilting one such relief which had been covered with sand for ages.

A half-completed rock relief of an elephant got "naturally desilted" by the ferocious waves and is now drawing large crowds at this popular tourist destination.

For the past three years, archaeologists working with divers from India and England have found the remnants of the ancient port.

Archaeologists say they had done underwater surveys 1 km into the sea from the temple and found some undersea remains.


The myths of Mahabalipuram were first set down in writing by British traveller J Goldingham, who visited the South Indian coastal town in 1798, at which time it was known to sailors as the Seven Pagodas.

The myths speak of six temples submerged beneath the waves with the seventh temple still standing on the seashore.

Mahabalipuram was once a flourishing port city

The myths also state that a large city which once stood on the site was so beautiful the gods became jealous and sent a flood that swallowed it up entirely in a single day.

The tsunami has also washed up a 9 inch-tall bronze Buddha on the coast off Kalapakkam in the state.

"It was lying with some other objects. It must have been carried out to the sea from Burma or Thailand," says T Sathiamoorthy.

The Buddha has been handed over to the local authorities, and may soon find a place in an Indian museum.

"We will protect it if nobody claims it," says Mr Sathiamoorthy.

See some of the ancient objects discovered by divers

Lost city found off Indian coast
11 Apr 02 |  South Asia
Lost city 'could rewrite history'
19 Jan 02 |  South Asia
Indian seabed hides ancient remains
22 May 01 |  South Asia

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