New study connects Tamil Nadu with Indus Valley civilisation
Throwing new light on Tamil Nadu’s possible connection and continuity with the Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC), archaeological excavations at Keezhadi, on the periphery of Madurai, have yielded artefacts dating back to 580 BCE, some with graffiti marks similar to those that are believed to have evolved from the Indus script.
The findings of the fourth phase of excavations at Keezhadi, a sleepy village close to the Vaigai riverbed, released in a report on Thursday has the potential to alter the history of South India.
It also gives substance to a theory voiced by scholars and politicians in the state that Tamils may have descended from the Indus Valley civilisation, as it declined and its people moved South.
The findings are also significant in that they provide material evidence to the Sangam period of Tamil literature, considered the golden era of Tamils. It further pushes the age of the Sangam period back to around 600 BCE, while it was previously considered to be between 200 BCE and 400 BCE. Further, of the more than 15,000 artefacts found on the site to date, none is of a religious nature, indicating that the civilisation at Keezhadi had no interaction with Vedic culture.
These could therefore contradict claims of some historians who have maintained that ancient Tamil culture and civilisation was organically linked to the Vedic culture and civilization.
“It is ‘Vaigai Civilisation’, an indigenous, well developed self-sustaining urban culture with an industry and script, indicating that the people of that era were highly literate. So far we have not come across a religious symbol or deity or anything to indicate to that effect,” said T Udayachandran, Secretary, State Archaelogical Department. Vaigai is the river that flows by Madurai.
Carbon dating of the samples of the artefacts was done at BETA Analytic Testing Laboratory, Florida, US, while other experiments and analysis were carried out at the Geo Sciences Department of University of Pisa, Italy and PG Research Institute, Deccan College, Pune.
Significant among the findings are pots and shards of pottery with Tamil Brahmi script, skeletal remains of animals, including that of a bull with a hump, gold ornaments, iron nails and spindles for weaving and a comb made of ivory besides sharp weapons made of bones. Further, the use of bricks and mortar as well as roof tiles in the construction of houses accompanied by proper drainage facilities and wells with terracotta rings, indicate a sophisticated lifestyle, the report says.
For the politicians of the Dravidian movement and some academicians, this new discovery is of great significance. Both the former, who have claimed that IVC was Dravidian and the later, who subscribed to it, had to restrict themselves to theories in the absence of clinching archaeological evidence. One among them is professor Asko Parpola, leading Finnish Indologist for whom the Indus script is Dravidian. Now, Keezhadi , which has offered more a thousand pieces of graffiti and letters, with some of them closely resembling the Indus script, may have provided just that sort of evidence.
More than anything else, the Keezhadi excavations sheds new light in our understanding of the history and evolution of ancient Tamil society, says Sahitya Akademi awardee Su Venkatesan, who is the CPI(M) parliamentarian from Madurai.
“What (the) Keezhadi (excavations) show is that it (the civilisation there) was a highly advanced urban society. To reach that level, it would have crossed more than 1000 years. Hence, the age of Sangam period would be pushed back. Further, it throws fresh light to carry researches on the connection with IVC, which is Dravidian. That major religious worship is absent at Keezhadi proves that it is non-Vedic,” he added.