Today, EtP has announced the next phase of Project 365, creating and preserving visuals of the ancient tri-sangam ports Tindis, Muziris and Korkai. PP Sha Nawas, Author and Independent writer had been interviewing Abul Kalam Azad, Director, Project 365 the past week and has written the following article on EtP’s move to map archaeological ancient port sites of South India.
Tamilagam in Sangam times included present day Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Karnataka, Kerala and parts of Andhra Pradesh. The commercial and cultural link of this area with South Arabia, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Rome since Iron age is evident from both textual and archaeological sources.
Mortimer wheeler, the British archaeologist, who did excavations in Arikkamedu in 1946, had provided evidence for this history from an archaeological perspective. Later, many other local archaeological attempts have been conducted in the region which has reinforced and rectified Wheeler’s discoveries. Many ancient natural ports along the coastal region of early Tamilakam, provided the abode to commercial activity. The Egyptian port Bernika was the linking port of this ocean trade activities between India, Sri Lanka, South Arabia, Mesopotamia and Rome. During the reign of Augustis, Rome dominated the commercial activities in this area.
The Roman amphora sherds found abundantly in these ancient port regions give rich evidence to the golden era of South India’s commerce with the Rome via Indian ocean. Sangam literature has many mentions about the Indian ports like Muzris and Tindis from where the pepper and other spices as well as wood and other precious materials were exported to the Roman empire. Actually South Arabia was the pioneer in this commercial activity. The recent excavations by Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), at Pattanam near Kodungallur, has established the evidence for these facts that have been earlier mentioned in textual and other historical soucres. The Arabian, Mesopotamian, Bhuddhist and Jain connections as part of the trade and commerce in the areas have been established by these excavations ventures. However, often the golden era of Rome is highlighted, may be because of some Orientalist interest in the matter.
EtP’s project of making photographic images from these ancient shores of commerce and culture is a notable expedition which may turn into a phenomenal event helping both archaeology and history of South India. Abul Kalam Azad, Tulasi Swarna Lakshmi and Manini Rahman Pattanam had visited the excavation sites of Pattanam during its seventh season. I was working in the project as a volunteer where the research of locating the ancient port of Muzris was going on. Some of the images Abul captured from the site has been already published in EtP”s postings. Selecting Tindiz and Korkai in the present project by EtP, apart from Muzris, is a welcome step since it will be a harbinger to the coming essential archaeological excavation to be held at Tindis and Korkai. Through this photographic mapping, the team may be identifying our past traditions of Buddhism, Jainism, Arabian, Mesopotamian cultures as well as European link of South India from the time of antiquity.
The archival images of our ancient culture, since 1000 BCA, may be an eye opener to the nationalist projects of India and elsewhere. How different regions of the same nationality contributed to, rather than mere highlighting a particular aspect of national culture and geography. Thus, in Deccan plateau where distinct Iron culture was flourishing even before the integrating project of Arianization. The Mangad excavation in Kerala has already established that the Iron age culture of South India was older than the banks of Ganges culture… To the Ganges, the Iron tools were brought in by the Arian settlers, while in south India, since it has strong ocean trade connectivity, the Iron technology came in an early phase, which reiterates the antiquity of Tamilakam region with regard to its culture and commerce. The EtP 365 project may also be gathering images of our history of the birth and development of Imperial powers since the time of Roman empire. This photographic mapping may lead us back up to the era of David and Solomon. During their time, around 1000 BC (according to historians), the technique of making steel from Iron was discovered. Scriptures say the technique of softening iron is revealed to David, and the knowledge on Mansoon was known to Solomon. (Refer. Holy Quran)
I am very proud to co-operate with Abul Kalam Azad and his team for this project since its inception. Such a photographic mapping done with the awareness of our history and culture, would be valuable in many ways including its political and cultural aspects of our contemporaneity. The concept of EtP, ancient India in contemporary times, is counter posing our past and present in a new perspective. The blend of history and and art is not vogue in our ego driven market world of art and culture. That way also the project marks its significance in the photographic history of South Asia.
PP SHANAVAS, KANNUR, KERALA.