Tag Archives: pattanam

Muziris : The lost city – Srinath Perur


In the first century BCE Muziris was one of India’s most important trading ports, whose exports—especially black pepper—kept even mighty Rome in debt. But have archaeologists really found the site of Muziris, and why did it disappear in 1341?


Muziris


Around 2,000 years ago, Muziris was one of India’s most important trading ports. According to the Akananuru, a collection of Tamil poetry from the period, it was “the city where the beautiful vessels, the masterpieces of the Yavanas [Westerners], stir white foam on the Periyar, river of Kerala, arriving with gold and departing with pepper.”

Another poem speaks of Muziris (also known as Muciripattanam or Muciri) as “the city where liquor abounds”, which “bestows wealth to its visitors indiscriminately” with “gold deliveries, carried by the ocean-going ships and brought to the river bank by local boats”.

The Roman author Pliny, in his Natural History, called Muziris “the first emporium of India”. The city appears prominently on the Tabula Peutingeriana, a fifth-century map of the world as seen from Rome. But from thereon, the story of this great Indian port becomes hazy. As reports of its location grow more sporadic, it literally drops off the map.

In modern-day India, Muziris was much more of a legend than a real city—until archaeological excavations in the southern state of Kerala, starting in 2004, sparked reports of a mysterious lost port. Though the archaeologists cannot be certain, they—and, with some exceptions, historians too—now believe they have located the site of Muziris.

“This was a centre of paramount importance for Roman trade,” says Federico De Romanis, associate professor of Roman history at the University of Rome Tor Vergata. “What made it absolutely unique was the considerable amounts of black pepper exported from Muziris. We are talking about thousands of tons.”

In addition to pepper, De Romanis says, exports included both local products—ivory, pearls, spices such as malabathron—and those from other parts of India, including semi-precious stones, silks and the aromatic root nard. “These attest to commercial relationships nurtured with the Gangetic valley and east Himalayan regions.”

In the other direction, ships arrived with gold, coral, fine glassware, amphorae of wine, olive oil and the fermented fish sauce called garum. But the value of this trade was lopsided: De Romanis says Pliny the Elder estimated Rome’s annual deficit caused by imbalanced trade with India at 50m sesterces (500,000 gold coins of a little less than eight grammes), with “Muziris representing the lion’s share of it”.

Maritime trade between Muziris and Rome started in the first century BCE, when it became known that sailing through the Red Sea to the horn of Africa, then due east along the 12th latitude, led to the Kerala coast. “Muziris was entirely dependent on foreign, especially Roman, demand for pepper,” De Romanis says. So when the Roman empire’s economy began to struggle in the third century AD, he believes the trade in pepper reconfigured itself, and Muziris lost its importance.


Tabula Peutingeriana


Dr. P.J. Cherian, director of the Kerala Council for Historical Research, confirms there are few references to Muziris after the fifth century AD. It had been generally assumed that Muziris referred to the port of Kodungallur, which had been put out of commission by devastating floods in 1341—but excavations there did not turn up anything older than the 13th century.

Travel 11 kilometres by road from Kodungallur, however, and you reach the village of Pattanam. For years, children there had been collecting beads that would rise to the surface during the monsoon season. After an initial dig in 2004, systematic excavations by Cherian and his colleagues began in 2007. Soon, he says, it was clear they had discovered a major archaeological site.

Over nine seasons of excavations, they have found Roman amphorae (for the first time on the Keralan coast), a wharf-like structure, a dug-out canoe that is approximately 2,000 years old—plus foundations, bricks and tiles, tools and artefacts made of iron, lead and copper, glass beads, gold ornaments and semi-precious stones clearly meant for export.

So, is Pattanam the site of fabled Muziris? There isn’t clinching evidence yet, but Cherian thinks it’s likely. He is also tired of questions about the Roman connection, asking: “When they excavate a Roman site in Europe, do they obsess similarly about whether it traded with India?” To him, an integral part of the excavation is what it reveals about the people who actually lived there.

Tathagata Neogi, of the Indian Institute of Archaeology, explains the stages of occupation in Pattanam using a large photograph of an excavated trench’s cross-section. Human habitation began there around 1000 BC, marked by characteristic Iron Age black and redware pottery, while the period between 500 and 300 BC marks a mixed phase.

“We think this is when Pattanam began making the transition from a village to a trade hub,” Neogi says. The period from 300 BC to AD 500 is densely packed with evidence for trade both within and outside India. Burnt bricks and tiles, terracotta ring wells and coins suggest a thriving settlement. Small amounts of West Asian pottery in the earlier portions of this segment provide evidence for pre-Roman maritime trade. After AD 500 the record thins out—until AD1500, when Chinese and European ceramics are found.

Is Pattanam ‘urban’?

Today, Pattanam is a village situated four kilometres from the sea. The vegetation is typical of the region: tall arcing palms, squat plantains, vines and creepers, near-fluorescent monsoon grass. There are sporadic houses, a temple, a village office and sudden channels of water.

The archaeological mound at Pattanam is around 70 hectares; atop it sits a museum displaying finds from the excavations. It is curious, Cherian notes, that a village should be named Pattanam, a word that means market-town or trading port across south India.

Some historians—such as Rajan Gurukkal, author of Rethinking Classical Indo-Roman Trade—have argued that Pattanam (which he believes is the location of Muziris) was likely nothing more elaborate than a colony of Mediterranean merchants, plus the inland traders and artisans who dealt with them. Gurukkal’s theory is based on the apparent absence of permanent structures, and the seeming disconnect of the materials and skills found at Pattanam with those of the wider region. He suggests the colony might even have been seasonal, inhabited only when ships arrived for trade.

Such a debate comes down to what is meant by a city or urban settlement. According to Cherian, “Urban is a complicated word—to me, it means ‘organised’, ‘thought out’, ‘planned’”. And he sees evidence of this in Pattanam: “It was certainly a city, but of its time.”

The excavations have revealed what appear to be toilets, drains and terracotta ring wells, and these—along with raised foundations aligned in one direction—suggest a planned settlement.

Cherian also thinks the level of technological accomplishment—the quality of mortar in a wharf structure; evidence of intricate glass and stone work—and the high density of potsherds (some 4.5 million have been recovered so far) all point to a settlement that was urban in character. The local coins suggest a monetised economy and a degree of political organisation. 

“We now recognise that ancient cities could look very different from their modern counterparts, even as they had the same functions of trade and economic integration,” says Monica Smith, professor of anthropology at UCLA, who studies newly emergent urbanism in the Indian subcontinent.

“It used to be felt, by 20th-century archaeologists such as V. Gordon Childe, that monumental architecture was required before a site could be defined as a “city”. In addition, there was often a sense that a city should have a high density of concentrated populations at their core, in which that density was focused on a particular religious or administrative purpose such as a palace or temple.”

But Smith offers an example for a more spread-out idea of a city: the large Kumbh Mela camps in India, which come up only for the duration of the congregation, are well-planned, possess infrastructure, and have an “urban atmosphere”. She adds: “We can envision that temporary or sequential occupations could have been the case in ancient cities as well.”

Smith suggests such sites can grow in extent very quickly, especially when demand for a new commodity is high (black pepper, in the case of Pattanam). “This is why research of the kind done at Pattanam is particularly important. It can help us understand the dynamic changes over time, and evaluate the extent to which investments in features such as wharves and ring wells signalled a “core” location around which surrounding suburbs grew.”

A more complete understanding of the Pattanam site—and its flavour of urbanism—will take a while yet, however. According to Cherian: “Less than one percent of the site has been excavated. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg.”

The quest for Muziris may or may not be over. But as De Romanis says: “Pattanam is the closest thing to Muziris we have got so far. Whatever it was, it should be treasured and taken care of.” – The Guardian, 10 August 2016


Map of places mentioned in the Periplus


 

Keezhadi and Pattanam: Global plot to break India – B.S. Harishankar


Eminent South Asian archaeologist Dr. Dilip Chakrabarti cautions that the Pattanam dig is supported by biblical and Jewish interest groups and urges the Indian government to take serious note of such unholy conglomerations. – Dr. B.S. Harishankar


Syrian-style gold cross imposed on map of India


Recent attempts by certain lobbies to link controversial archaeological sites of Keezhadi and Pattanam has raised questions on their agendas. Keezhadi is at Sivaganga district near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, while Pattanam is at Ernakulam in Kerala. There are neither ceramics nor other cultural remains reportedly unearthed at these sites to show the alleged links for such assumptions of homogeneity.

The Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) which excavated Pattanam is not an official government organisation but a private non-governmental body, an NGO. How did the Archaeological Survey of India grant license to an NGO to excavate a site which was also vastly funded by foreign agencies? The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) identified the unbridled foreign funds received by KCHR and cancelled its license under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 (The New Indian Express, Dec. 8, 2016).

The Pattanam excavation was hit by controversy and the ASI initiated a probe into alleged unscientific approaches adopted by the KCHR, after complaints to the Union Minister for Cultural Affairs, Mahesh Sharma, about “lapses” in the excavation, which is part of the Rs 200 crore Muziris Heritage Project. Thereafter, a meeting of the central advisory panel of the ASI asked the KCHR to temporarily stop the excavation (refer ASI probe into KCHR’s ‘Pattanam excavations’).

According to ASI joint director R.S. Fonia, “Rules demand that extension beyond five years can be given only after those carrying out the excavation submit reports. In the case of the Muziris project, the digging has been going on for over seven years now, but no report was filed and hence no fresh permission can be granted” (refer Doubting Thomases suspend Saint project).


P.J. Cherian


The latest controversy on Keezhadi and Pattanam erupted after R. Sivanantham, deputy director, Tamil Nadu Department of Archaeology, officially facilitated a lecture on Pattanam by Dr. P.J. Cherian, titled “Reimagining Muziris-Pattanam: The Ancient Port City of Tamilakam (300 BCE-500 CE)”, on Oct. 30, 2018. The programme was chaired by T. Udhayachandran, Commissioner, Department of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu.

The team of excavators at Keezhadi is currently headed by R. Sivanantham, who should have been aware that the KCHR was accused in creation of fake government documents, illegal appointments and financial irregularities worth crores. It is also alleged that the KCHR obtained the licence for the Pattanam excavation after submitting fake documents to the Archaeological Survey of India (refer Rampant irregularities detected at KCHR).

Subsequently, Pattanam excavator P.J. Cherian’s service as director of the KCHR was terminated by the Kerala state government in November 2016, overruling the then KCHR chairman’s recommendation to extend the service for another four years (refer Fate of Pattanam hangs in the balance).

Delivering his lecture at Chennai, P.J. Cherian claimed that the excavated material from Pattanam and Keezhadi are similar and hence there is a common link of brotherhood (refer Pattanam, Keezhadi excavated materials similar, says expert). However, he did not present either ceramics, metals or any other remains showing the cultural homogeneity between Pattanam and Keezhadi.

The carbon dating conducted at the two sites raises suspicion. Dating of two carbon elements from Keezhadi, weighing 25 grams each, done by Beta Analytic Inc., Florida, USA, placed them at 2,160+30 years and 2,200+30 years respectively (refer Keezhadi: hitting pay dirt and controversy).

The carbon dating at Pattanam was done earlier at the Institute of Physics, Bhubaneswar and later shifted to Georgia University, USA. Following controversies, it was again shifted to Beta Analytic Inc., Florida. This raises serious doubts about the objectives of the KCHR. When there is a premier radio carbon laboratory at National Physical Laboratory, Ahmedabad, which has developed a South Asian Centre of repute, why was the carbon dating for Pattanam and Keezhadi shifted to an institution in Florida.

Unlike Pattanam, Keezhadi was excavated by the ASI. What raises concerns is that the current excavator of Keezhadi invited the controversial Pattanam project director to deliver a lecture where he made dubious claims that there are many similarities between the two sites.

There were earlier allegations that the central government had withheld funds and blocked Keezhadi excavations because Hindutva groups were against Tamil heritage. Some radical Dravidian groups claimed that Keezhadi belonged to the pre-Sangam Period and was a river valley civilization. Tamil language minister Mafoi Pandiarajan asserted over 39 excavations have been done in Tamil Nadu and there is no substance to the claim that the Centre has withheld funds (refer Keezhadi dig delayed). Excavations have also been carried out at Varushanad (Theni) and Azhagankulam (Ramnad), Tamil Nadu.


K. Amarnath Ramakrishna


In an interview, former Keezhadi excavator K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, said there is a theory that Tamil Nadu had only “racial groups” and that urban civilisation was found only along the Indus-Gangetic valley. Keezhadi’s excavation has nullified that theory and it has to be accepted that an urban civilization was found along Vaigai river (refer Don’t We Need To Know India’s History?).

Strangely, Amarnath Ramakrishna still clings to colonial fantasies of race and racism in the study of ancient India. Colonial Europe divided humans into races and viewed Africans through this distorting prism. Many countries have removed the word “race” from national laws concerning discrimination because the phrase is considered problematic and unethical. Amarnath should understand that the paleoanthropology of South Asia has shifted from a classificatory model of race identification to an evolutionary paleo-demographic paradigm, as demonstrated by veteran physical anthropologists such as Kenneth A.R. Kennedy. He should not legitimise ideas of certain political ideologues and linguistic fringe groups with no base in archaeology and interdisciplinary social sciences.

Amarnath still adheres to propaganda by early Left historians that the introduction of iron and the beginning of agriculture in the deep south by Brahmins in 300 AD led to the rise of feudalism, a theory discredited by recent archaeological discoveries. The earliest Neolithic dates in south so far range between 2900 and 2400 BC from sites such as Utnur, Pallavoy, Kodekal, Budihal and Watgal. The Chalcolithic phase in the south goes to 2400 BC from sites such as Singanapalli and Ramapuram, and Megalithic to 1000 BC at Hallur, Komaranahalli and Mangadu. The growth of an early township at Keezhadi has to be viewed in this overall context and not as an isolated advent of an exclusive river valley civilization. After all, South India includes Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala, and not Tamil Nadu alone.

Controversies started after Amarnath Ramakrishna, in charge of Keezhadi excavations, was transferred to Guwahati circle of ASI. The tenure of a superintending archaeologist in a particular circle is only for two years, and the transfer was made as per transfer policy, on Sept. 6, 2016 (refer Transfer of Keezhadi excavation site archaeologist final, says ASI).

However, Amarnath Ramakrishna’s transfer was resented by the CPI(M). K. Balakrishnan, Tamil Nadu state secretary of the party, alleged that the Modi government was making an attempt to hide the findings from the excavations that pointed to an old civilization linked to Tamil society (refer CPI(M) flays Centre’s direction on Keezhadi excavations). The CPI(M) had officially launched the Pattanam excavations in Kerala, which were conducted by Left historians under the banner of KCHR (refer Marxists dig for Apostle Thomas).

Few understand why the CPI(M) protested against the transfer of Amarnath Ramakrishna. When the Archaeological Survey of India began a probe into alleged unscientific approaches adopted by the KCHR at Pattanam, Amarnath Ramakrishna, the then superintendent archaeologist of the ASI, Bengaluru centre, started investigations into the Pattanam excavations (ASI probe into KCHR’s ‘Pattanam excavations’, Business Standard, Jan. 5, 2016). His findings are not known, but later Amarnath Ramakrishna took up the Keezhadi excavation. Possibly, he prepared a report liked by the CPI(M) and Left historians. As Amarnath Ramakrishna examined the Pattanam excavation report and was in-charge of Keezhadi, the Left lobbies have been able to notice striking similarities in antiquarian remains from the two sites.

The Left historians have always been patrons of Dravidian racial chauvinism. Irfan Habib has propagated the Aryan suppression of Dravidians (refer The Rewriting of History). British linguists Francis Ellis and Alexander Campbell framed the theory that south Indian languages belong to a different family. Brian Houghton Hodgson promoted the term “Tamulian” as a racial construct, describing the so-called aborigines of India as primitive and uncivilized compared to the invading Aryans. Bishop Robert Caldwell launched the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu, carried forward by Bishop G.U. Pope.

In April 2018, the Federation of Tamil Sangams in North America (FeTNA) invited Amarnath Ramakrishna to deliver a lecture on the Keezhadi excavations. The ASI denied him permission to participate as guest of honor at this event, possibly because FeTNA publicly supported the cause of ethnic Sri Lankan Tamils in the Sri Lankan civil war. Time and again, the Sri Lanka Guardian has warned that the Catholic Church is heavily involved with the LTTE from the 1970s (refer Catholic Church, an ally of Tamil Tiger terrorists in Sri Lanka, Guardian, April 4, 2009). The FeTNA has been a major campaigner and fund-raiser for the Tamil Chair at the University of California, Berkeley. Prof. George L. Hart, known for his Dravidian politics, was hired for the chair. FeTNA also honoured Jagat Gasper, Catholic propagandist for Christianizing Tamil culture.


Dilip K. Chakrabarti


In December 2014, eminent South Asian archaeologist Dilip Chakrabarti delivered a lecture at Vivekananda International Foundation, New Delhi, on “Foreign Archaeological Collaborations and India’s Security Concerns”. He highlighted the dangerous attempts to relate prehistoric Indian cultures to various Indian languages, which are later given fictional linguistic affinities and open the way for regional chauvinistic premises. Highlighting the case of Pattanam, Chakrabarti said the pursuit of the past is not an innocuous academic activity and before foreign academic groups are allowed uncontrolled and unverified entry to this in India, we must be aware of the dimensions which impinge on our long-term national security. In Nation First, Chakrabarti cautions that Pattanam is supported by “Biblical and Jewish” interest groups, and urges the Indian government to take serious note of such unholy conglomerations.

The Archaeological Survey of India and Tamil Nadu government should investigate how the state Department of Archaeology officially invited the controversial Pattanam excavator, whose license was cancelled by the MHA and excavation license was repealed by central advisory panel of the ASI in 2016. The platform was used to link Keezhadi and Pattanam sites, which have strong undercurrents of secessionism. – Vijayvaani, 12 November 2018


St Thomas Cross and Sickle Emblem


See also


 

Marxists and Christians search for St. Thomas at Pattanam – Sandhya Jain


“Kerala’s attempt to create spurious evidence of the arrival of Apostle Thomas in India merits wider dissemination. It must be seen as part of a concerted attempt to entrench the Cross in India.” – Sandhya Jain


Pattanam: Constructs, Contexts and Interventions by B.S. Harishankar


Rescuing the antiquity of Indian civilisation from the biblical mythology of Max Mueller, rubbishing the well-orchestrated history-as-dogma of the Aryan invasion and proving the existence of river Saraswati, excavating and resurrecting the still unknown past, and restoring the once handsome architectural marvels that have fallen victim to time or iconoclasts, Indian archaeologists have their task cut out for them. Their work is critical in correcting the lacunas, misinterpretations and falsifications of history in various parts of the country, especially at the hands of scholars with a pronounced bias against our native traditions.

Unless repudiated, invented history enters the popular mind as “fact”. The Aryan fable still persists because Marxists have been able to prevent all historical and scientific findings, disproving the movement of people into India at the time of the alleged “invasion”, from entering school textbooks where the foundations of knowledge are laid. This is why noted archaeologist B.S. Harishankar’s debunking of the Kerala Council for Historical Research’s (KCHR) attempts to create spurious evidence of the arrival of Apostle Thomas in India, unequivocally denied by Pope Benedict XVI in September 2006, merits wider dissemination.

The excavations to identify Pattanam, in Ernakulum district, with ancient Muziris of the Cheras, began soon after the Syro-Malabar Church scrambled to rescue the legend that claimed India as the first mission of the church, long before it went to Europe. As a result, in November 2006, the Vatican Secretariat accepted the story as history, to project Christianity as an indigenous faith of great longevity. Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) embraced the project with alacrity; the brochure, Muziris Heritage Project: Pattanam Excavations 2008, lists Prof. Romila Thapar as one of the patrons.


B.S. Harishankar


In Pattanam: Constructs, Contexts and Interventions (2017), Harishankar denounces the presence of European and American scholars in the dig, while excluding the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Indian universities. Eminent historians Prof. Dilip K. Chakbrabarti and Prof. M.G.S. Narayanan, and archaeologists Prof. R. Nagaswamy, Prof. A. Sundara, and Prof. T.  Sathyamurthy, denounced the attempts to link Pattanam with Muziris, when Kodungallur where the river meets the sea, is far more logical. Neither archaeological evidences nor historical records support Apostle Thomas arrived in India; he possibly visited Fars (Persia) and the Afghanistan region.

Harishankar has referenced the Pattanam excavations with all researched and published material available. The KCHR, headed by Prof. K.N. Panikkar of JNU, is alleged to have manipulated archaeological evidence and manufactured new evidence to “prove” that Pattanam had historical ties with Jerusalem and other regions in West Asia from 1000 BC. He discusses the evidence that debunks the theory that there was ever a port city at Pattanam along the west coast, which the KCHR historians claim was an international trade route dating back to 800 BC.

Interestingly, the claim that Apostle Thomas established the first settlement at Pattanam was independently debunked by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Trombay, and the National Institute of Oceanography, Kochi. The BARC scientists, who successfully traced the course of the Saraswati through radio isotope studies, examined Kerala’s mud banks during the monsoons and concluded that marine and palaeo-hydrological studies rule out the possibilities of a port city, wharf or township at Pattanam. In fact, the area excavated by the KCHR does not qualify for excavations as the cultural stratigraphy has been badly damaged by monsoons, floods, erosion, and construction activities. Moreover, as Harishankar maintains, the ASI is the only body competent to authorise excavations.

Pattanam is not an archaeological mound, as claimed by KCHR. Western India, Harishankar argues, has several archaeological sites with ramparts or mud embankments to prevent floods. No such evidence has been found at Pattanam. On the contrary, the site at Pattanam in lower Periyar has coastal alluvium with sand and clay, and lacks laterite formation or thick soil. Hence, it was not chosen as an Iron Age settlement.

Moreover, urbanism in early historic India involves certain precursors such as immense size, internal planning, public architecture, settlement hierarchies, enclosing walls, script, craft specialisation, long-distance trade, subsistence strategies and population growth. None of these exist at Pattanam, yet KCHR’s chosen scholars claimed as an urban site and port city. When the absence of these parameters were pointed out, the KCHR historians toned down their claims and alleged that the structural remains unearthed were carried away by locals, which is simply ridiculous.

Curiously, KCHR forwarded the plant remains found at Pattanam to the Spices Board, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, though it has no competence to examine them. And despite premier institutions available in India, the carbon dating was done abroad. But what is more pertinent, KCHR’s modern historians with no experience in field archaeology should not have excavated Pattanam with foreign funds and a crew of Biblical scholars.

KCHR appointed Dr. P.J. Cherian, with no academic background in archaeology, as director of the Pattanam excavations. Cherian’s PhD dissertation is on “The Communist Movement in Travancore: From the Origins to the Uprisings in 1946” (University of Calicut, 1993). However, The University of Rome Tor Vergata granted a three-year research fellowship to P.J. Cherian, Director, KCHR, and Pattanam excavations.

To assist Cherian, some distinguished biblical historians and Latin scholars were attached to the project. They include Istvan Perczel (Hungarian scholar of Byzantine history and early Christianity); Roberta Tomber (specialist in Roman and Indian Ocean pottery); Federico de Romanis (expert on Roman and Portuguese pepper trade); and Irving R. Finkel (British philologist and Assyriologist, expert in the script, languages and cultures of the Middle East). None is equipped to handle excavations; it’s a Max Mueller style of biblical mumbo jumbo.

In an exhibition at the National Museum in 2014, KCHR claimed Pattanam is the third Indian site to unearth terra sigillata pottery after Arikamedu and Alagankulam in Tamil Nadu, though it has been found at Uraiyur, Kanchipuram, Vasavasamudram, Kodumanal, Karur and Sulur in Tamil Nadu and several sites in Gujarat and western India. It claimed that rouletted pottery from Pattanam was reported for the first time on the west coast, when it was found in 124 sites across the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.

Cherian is the executive president of the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage. His claim that his excavation unearthed evidence of a 2,000-year-old port city at a place where Saint Thomas allegedly landed rests more on faith than on history or archaeology. It must be seen as part of a concerted attempt to entrench the Cross in Asia, particularly India. – The Pioneer, 3 April 2018.

› Sandhya Jain is a political analyst and columnist with The Pioneer, New Delhi.


Dr. Nagaswamy refutes the St. Thomas myth from 11:30 mins …


 

The communal agenda of Marxist and Christian historians in India – G.P. Srinivasan


“The Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) aimed to establish under manufactured and deceptive archaeological evidence that Pattanam was ancient Muziris of the Cheras where, supposedly, Thomas the Apostle had landed.” – G.P. Srinivasan


P. J. Cherian


Historical records and archaeological evidence are conveniently denied, but strategically manipulated and suppressed by Communist historians in India. They vigorously preach Aryan invasion theory despite clinching archaeological, archaeozoological and palaeoanthropological evidence. They vehemently deny palaeohydrological and palaeoclimatic evidence on Sarasvati river. But the Left historians have always joined hands with Church lobbies in India for transforming myth into history. The recent evidence of this Communist–Church federation is at Pattanam, a site in Ernakulum district of Kerala.


Prof M. G. S. Narayanan and Dr B. S. Hari Shankar : Book release on March 17, 2017 at Kozhikkode


The book titled Pattanam: Constructs, Contexts and Interventions by Dr. B.S. Harishankar was released on March 17, 2017 at Kozhikode in Kerala by Professor M.G.S. Narayanan, former ICHR chairman. According to Professor M.G.S. Narayanan eminent historian, Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR) is a Marxist research council. Professor Narayanan made this observation when he was inaugurating the release of this book published by Bharatheeya Vichara Kendram. Dr. M.G.S. Narayanan charged that the KCHR was organised by the CPM, consisting of historians who followed the dictates and agenda of the party. They kept away the Archaeological Survey of India and Indian universities while initiating the Pattanam excavations under the Muziris Heritage Project. The KCHR aimed to establish under manufactured and deceptive archaeological evidence that Pattanam was ancient Muziris (Muchiri) of the Cheras. The project was also launched for protecting the personal gains of CPM leaders Dr.. T.M. Thomas Issac, current finance minister in CPM government in Kerala and M.A. Baby, polit bureau member.

There was no transparent archaeological research at Pattanam under KCHR. Earlier, stone beads were identified at Pattanam following heavy rains. It was widely propagated that the site was a port city and an ancient township of the Cheras before launching the excavations. When questions were raised at KCHR regarding claims of a township and port city, they took a retreat from their early contentions and made incredible statements that the structural remains unearthed were carried away by local residents.

The KCHR also provides an incredible presentation of a wharf to vindicate their claims of a port city according to M.G.S. Narayanan. Ambiguous and distorted evidence of pottery has been put forward by KCHR. Pattanam was highlighted by KCHR in its National Museum exhibition in 2014 as the third site to unearth terra sigillata pottery in India after Arikamedu and Alagankulam in Tamil Nadu. KCHR has suppressed the fact that terra sigillata has been recovered from Uraiyur, Kanchipuram, Vasavasamudram, Kodumanal, Karur and Sulur in Tamil Nadu and  numerous sites in western India, especially Gujarat. Similarly, KCHR contended that rouletted pottery from Pattanam was reported for the first time on west coast. This is another false statement. This pottery has been reported from 124 sites across Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.


Fraudulent Pattanam archaeological dig, supposed landing place of St Thomas


Professor Narayanan said that KCHR also intends to propagate that St. Thomas landed in Kerala coast in first century AD to propagate Christianity. There are no archaeological evidence or historical records to substantiate that Apostle Thomas arrived in India. There are some records to vindicate that he arrived in the Afghanistan region. The Pattanam excavations under KCHR is the biggest archaeological duplicity and treachery in the history of Indian historical research in this century. Narayanan said the current book has comprehensively documented and discussed Pattanam excavations using all researched and published material available  which the  KCHR cannot push aside or ignore.

Pattanam excavations were not an accidental episode or a project initiated in understanding the historical past of India’s west coast. Pope Benedict XVI, refused to accept St Thomas myth as history. But following pressure by Syro Malabar Church, Vatican secretariat send letter to Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil in Kerala on November 25, 2006 accepting St. Thomas myth as history and initiating activities for establishing it as truth. Pattanam excavations by KCHR comprising Left historians panel started at this time.

The Marxist historians led by Professor K.N. Panikkar from JNU who is now chairman of KCHR, manipulated archaeological evidence, manufactured new evidence and spread huge lies to establish that Pattanam had historical relations with Jerusalem, Israel and other countries in West Asia from 1000 BC. The director of Pattanam excavations is Dr. P.J. Cherian, a  Left and Church historian who did his Ph.D in 1993 from University of Calicut on the topic, The Communist Movement in Travancore: From the Origins to the Uprisings in 1946.  For Pattanam excavations, Cherian is supported by University of Rome. The University of Rome Tor Vergata has conferred a three-year research fellowship on P.J. Cherian, Director, Kerala Council for Historical Research and Pattanam excavations as reported by The Hindu on February 16, 2011. Cherian took an interest in archaeology due to directions given by United Board for Christian Higher Education in Asia (UBCHEA) with headquarters in New York as reported by Express News Service on February 17, 2011. The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East published on March 5, 2011 Cherian’s statement that recent excavations in Kerala have found evidence of a port city that existed more than 2,000 years ago at a place where Saint Thomas is believed to have landed. P.J. Cherian is executive president of the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage. Cherian has presented papers linking St. Thomas and Pattanam at the seminars organized by Liturgical Research Centre of Syro Malabar Church in November 2005 at Kochi and July 2011 at Kalyan in Mumbai. Irving R. Finkel, scholar in biblical studies, inaugurated Khor Rori KCHR Children’s Museum at Pattanam. Few people know the fact that  Khor Rori, a place said to be located in Oman said to be associated vaguely to biblical episodes.

The KCHR has huge financial and academic support of a Euro-American lobby outside India. The KCHR has kept away ASI and Indian universities from Pattanam excavations. Recently, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs has cancelled the license of over twenty NGOs in Kerala under Foreign Contribution Regulation Act 2010 with effect from November 1, 2010 which included KCHR. It is also alleged that the KCHR director Dr. P.J. Cherian was involved in creation of fake government documents, illegal appointments and financial irregularities worth crores.


ASI Ayodhya Excavation


The Left and pseudo-secular historians in India who now work hard at Pattanam for proving the archaeological evidence of Apostle Thomas have simultaneously denied the existence of a Hindu temple at Ayodhya. Veteran archaeologists such as Professor B.B. Lal, late Dr. P. Gupta, Y.D. Sharma and K.M. Srivastava presented convincing archaeological evidence of a temple beneath the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. The team found that the objects were dateable to the period ranging from the 10th through the 12th century AD. Besides Vaishnavite images and that of Shiva–Parvati, the unearthed objects at Ayodhya also included a number of amakalas, i.e., the cogged-wheel type architectural element which crown the bhumi shikharas or spires of subsidiary shrines, as well as the top of the spire or the main shikharas. There were other evidences such as cornices, pillar capitals, mouldings, door jambs with floral patterns precisely showing clinching evidence regarding the existence of a 10th-12th century AD  temple complex at the site of Ayodhya.

B.B. Lal has noted that the ruins of Ayodhya have a circuit of 4 to 5 kms and rise at places to a height of 10 metres above the ground level. He observed that the Northern Black Polished Ware  (NBPW) at the earliest level and continues with several structural phases up to the third century AD. The Left historians such as Professors R. S. Sharma, Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib, D. N. Jha and K. N. Panikkar from  Jamia Millia, Delhi, JNU and Aligarh universities denied this archaeological evidence at Ayodhya for their pseudo secular interests. Their research methodology, manufacture of archaeological evidence and communal agenda have all been exposed from Pattanam excavations.

› G.P. Srinivasan does historical research and reporting from Srirangam.


 

ASI doubting Thomases suspend dubious KCHR St. Thomas project – G. Ananthakrishnan


“What has snowballed into a controversy is the open declaration by KCHR director, P. J. Cherian in the official bulletin of the Assyrian Church of the East on March 2011, that Pattanam has been identified as ancient Muziris, where Apostle Thomas landed in India 2000 years back for propagating Christianity, which he claims has been vindicated by the excavations,” said B. S. Harishankar, a research fellow with the Delhi-based India Policy Foundation.


Doubting Thomas with his finger in Jesus's side wound.


The history battle has gone all the way back to St. Thomas, the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is believed to have brought Christianity to India and whose scepticism gifted the world the idiom “doubting Thomas”.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has decided not to extend the permission granted to an excavation project in Kerala to “reinstate the cultural and historical significance of the legendary Muziris port”.

The Muziris port was said to be where St. Thomas arrived in AD 52. But the exact location of the port, which was destroyed in a flood, is a mystery although the general consensus appears to be that it was located somewhere near Kodungalloor in Thrissur, a northern district and cultural capital of Kerala.

Many Christians believe that St. Thomas—who accepted Jesus had risen from the dead only after the lord appeared and invited the apostle to touch him—baptised several Brahmins in Kerala and set up one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.


Syrian bishop with Pope Benedict XVI


The arrival of St. Thomas is of extreme significance for Christians since Jesus had only 12 apostles and he was one of them. In 2006, the Vatican had to issue a retraction after the then Pope, Benedict XVI, seemed to suggest St. Thomas had travelled only till western India from where Christianity reached the south.

The Gospel according to John mentions that once a convinced Thomas said “My Lord, My God”, Jesus told him: “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed (are) they that have not seen, and (yet) have believed.”

It was those who insist on seeing before believing that some advocates of the project were hoping to convince by coming up with evidence that St. Thomas had indeed set foot on what is now a village called Pattanam (which means town) in Kodungalloor.

“Rules demand that extension beyond five years can be given only after those carrying out the excavation submit reports. In the case of the Muziris project, the digging has been going on for over seven years now, but no report was filed. So no fresh permission can be granted,” ASI joint director R.S. Fonia told The Telegraph over the phone from New Delhi.

Fonia, however, added that the matter could be revisited as and when the reports were filed and reviewed.

The executors of the project, the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR), could not be contacted despite repeated attempts to confirm whether they had not filed any report till now.

The denial of an extension would have been treated as a routine bureaucratic decision but for the fact that the Sangh Parivar had long been opposing the project on the ground that its intention was to “legitimise the yet unproven story” of the arrival of St. Thomas in Kodungalloor in AD 52.

That the Kerala historical council was an autonomous body floated by an erstwhile government of the CPM-led Left Front has ensured that the matter has the essential ingredients for a controversy in the highly politicised state.


K. N. Panikkar


The council is headed by historian K. N. Panikkar, a regular target of the Sangh Parivar for his Left-leaning views and vocal stand against the so-called “nationalist” history. Some members of the council are viewed by the Sangh outfits as “pro-Church”.

“What has snowballed into a controversy is the open declaration by KCHR director, P. J. Cherian in the official bulletin of the Assyrian Church of the East on March 2011, that Pattanam has been identified as ancient Muziris, where Apostle Thomas landed in India 2000 years back for propagating Christianity, which he claims has been vindicated by the excavations,” said B. S. Harishankar, a research fellow with the Delhi-based India Policy Foundation.

Cherian could not be contacted for comment.

While the Bharateeya Vichara Kendram, a Sangh affiliate, smelt in the excavation project a “conspiracy to manufacture history”, a “Marxian historian” had felt that the site was unfit for archaeological excavation because of construction and digging of wells.


M. A. Baby


But CPM politburo member M. A. Baby, who was the culture minister when the council took up the project, said: “Although there is no conclusive evidence, it is widely believed that apostle St Thomas came to Kodungalloor and through him Christianity reached Kerala even before it reached Europe.

“On the one hand, the BJP government is trying to establish fairy tales as history while on the other, it is trying to shut down genuine research in history. The agenda is very clear. Now, if the ASI says it can’t be continued, it is unscientific and against the science of history.”

That the CPM, traditionally considered an adversary of the Church, is supporting such a project speaks volumes about the politics of Kerala.

Now in the Opposition, the CPM is fearing an erosion of its Hindu support base towards the BJP, considered a rising force in a state where it has not made much headway till now. Against such a backdrop, it does not make sense for the CPM to antagonise Christians.

Such tilts and counter-tilts are common in Kerala. In 2001, the historical council that was later entrusted with the Muziris excavation was dissolved by a government headed by the Congress.

The chief minister then was A. K. Antony named after a Catholic saint, and the Congress was then supposed to have been courting Hindus. But a court reinstated the council. – The Telegraph, 1 October 2015


P. J. Cherian & Robert Eisenman


 

KCHR’s Muziris Project: Digging for the bones of St. Thomas – B.S. Harishankar

Organisations which have come out openly against the Kerala Council for Historical Research and its Muziris Project have alleged that “these same historians who had earlier rebuffed Ramayana and Sri Ram as fictitious and fabricated are now digging for the bones of Apostle Thomas.” – B.S. Harishankar

 


P. J. Cherian & Robert Eisenman


What took place in November 2011 was neither a debate nor a discord. The venue was Thiruvananthapuram, at the Joint Annual Conference of Indian Archaeological Society (ACIAS), Indian Society for Prehistoric and Quaternary Studies (ISPQS), and Indian History and Culture Society (IHCS). Strongly criticising the archaeological excavations at Pattanam site in Kerala and the rambling hotchpotch of cultural remains without periodisation especially pottery, veteran archaeologist and former director of Archaeology and Museums, Karnataka, A. Sundara’s strong criticism came after the Kerala Council for Historical Research (henceforth KCHR) director presented his paper on Pattanam excavations. Professor Sundara is one of the most reputed archaeologists in India known for his objective outlooks and unbiased conclusions for which he was honoured at the meet. Earlier, Professor Sundara was also one of the well wishers of Pattanam excavations in the Pattanam Archaeological Research (PAR) brochure published by the KCHR in March-April 2008. His censuring of Pattanam excavations although came as a surprise, was not an isolated incident. Much more censorious on Pattanam was Professor M.G.S. Narayanan, eminent historian and former director of ICHR. In an earlier seminar held at Kochi in August 2011, Dr R. Nagaswamy, former Director of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu criticised the KCHR for its biased approach and hasty conclusions to establish some hidden agenda at Pattanam. Dr. T. Satyamurthy, former Director, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was equally critical of the excavations and cautioned KCHR authorities against any hasty conclusions. Pattanam excavations form part of the Muziris Heritage Project (MHP) launched by the KCHR and headed by chairman Dr. K.N. Panikkar, former professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and director Dr. P.J. Cherian, a modern historian who heads archaeological excavations. In a write up for Malayalam journal Mathrubhumi in 2014, Professor P.M. Rajan Gurukkal, historian and one of the members of the MHP arguing for Pattanam also admitted that the site was unfit for any archaeological excavation as the soil has been virtually tampered for various construction purposes and digging of wells leaving no space for stratigraphical analysis of the cultural remains which have agglomerated. Surprisingly until now, no historian or archaeologist or any professional body such as the ASI has come forward in defence of the KCHR or Pattanam. Even Professor Romila Thapar, one of the patrons of the MHP is virtually silent.


K. N. Panikkar


The site of Pattanam is located near Parur in Ernakulam District of Kerala. It was declared by the KCHR Muziris Heritage Project (MHP) that the aim of the MHP was to excavate and discover the lost settlement of Muziris, the ancient Chera capital on the Periyar River basin and hence named MHP. The geomorphology of Kodungallur, considered ancient Muziris, was examined by geologists K.K. Nair and C.S. Subrahmanyam in 1993 in the archaeological context, which revealed that the area has been completely disturbed and the habitation material deeply buried due to tectonic changes. The Malabar Coast has both submergent and emergent characteristics. The Periyar River which drains the region has a long history of frequent floods due to heavy monsoons.

In the beginning, the excavations at Pattanam sailed smoothly. But controversies started after the excavators claimed that an ancient township at the cusp of first century BC and first century AD was unearthed at Pattanam archaeological site. Claims on the discovery of urban architectural remains at Pattanam were made by the excavator in various published papers and reports such as The Living Dead and the Lost Knowledge—2007 and 2008 published by Department of Culture, Government of Kerala, Journal of Indian Ocean Archaeology 2009-2010 and in the paper presented at ACIAS on November, 2011 at Thiruvananthapuram. It was declared by the KCHR director who is also the excavator that, Pattanam revealed interesting “early historic urban architectural features”.

The excavator claimed that the “urban, multicultural and maritime features are principal attributes” of Pattanam site. It was further asserted by the KCHR that the brick house comparable to a warehouse exposed near the wharf in trench PTO7 III included a platform (006) with postholes (67 in number) and brick walls belonging to at least three different phases. It was stated that the post holes do not show any particular pattern and were dug at various periods indicating repeated use for a long duration.

In the Journal of Indian Ocean Archaeology 2009-2010, the excavator claimed the presence of ancient civilisations at Pattanam. He also claimed Pattanam as an advanced metal working and stone cutting site with metal objects and lapidaries. Recently, the botanical remains claimed to have been unearthed from Pattanam were handed over to Spices Board in Kerala, a marketing and research institute for spices for palaeobotanical studies. Carbon 14 dating of remains from Pattanam are conducted by Georgia University. The ASI has been kept away and excavations are coordinated by foreign universities. Later, the director of KCHR Dr. P.J. Cherian admitted in The Hindu dated June 12 in 2011, Thiruvananthapuram edition that, “curiously, while large collections of artifacts were found, no remnants of major structures were discovered at the site”. In the KCHR Annual Report 2009-2010 there is neither reference to such urban architectural remains or photographs of trenches. Those who visited the site were unable to see any urban architectural remains.

In the KCHR brochure published in February 2008 on MHP and Pattanam excavations, chairman of KCHR, Professor K.N. Panikkar stated in his editorial note that archaeological and historical research are not solely meant for experts and professionals in the field. Everyone with thinking power should handle it. Later elaborating further, in an interview given to Frontline dated April 2010, Panikkar made his stand much clearer. He suggested public participation in archaeological excavations at Pattanam—which he termed “democratic archaeology”—in which the local people would be part of the excavation. In other words archaeologists and ASI need not interfere in excavations since guidelines and diggings shall be by “people’s democracy”. Keeping archaeologists at bay was a necessity for KCHR since expertise observations and remarks can lead to serious implications for Pattanam. Beyond all such serious lapses and incredible turnovers at Pattanam, what has raised eyebrows is the interference of JNU historians who were hastily propagating for Pattanam excavations to obtain it credibility in the academic world. Professor Kumkum Roy of JNU, in her Historical Dictionary of Ancient India published in 2009 has highlighted Pattanam stating that it has now been identified with ancient Muziris. Similarly Professor Ranabir Chakravarti of the JNU in his work, Exploring Early India published in 2010, brings Pattanam into focus. Roman amphorae from Pattanam are exhibited as evidence of Mediterranean trade. It is not a new discovery. There are a number of other sites in India which have provided remains of Roman amphorae. But here the intention raised suspicions due to later events.


P. J. Cherian (L)


What has now snowballed into a major controversy is the open declaration by KCHR director, Dr Cherian in the official bulletin of the Assyrian Church of the East on March 2011, that Pattanam has been identified as ancient Muziris, where Apostle Thomas landed in India 2000 years back for propagating Christianity, which he claims has been vindicated by the excavations. In 2011 July, he presented a paper on Pattanam archaeology at a seminar organised by Syro-Malabar Church in Mumbai. A major paper on St. Thomas tradition in southwest coastal region in India was presented by Dr Pius Malekkandathil, who is a reader at JNU. Earlier at Kakkanad near Kochi in 2005, Dr Pius Malekandathil presented his paper organised by the Liturgical Research Centre of the Syro-Malabar Church on the tradition of Apostle Thomas. Romila Thapar has put forward the arrival of Apostle Thomas as an outcome of Mediterranean trade links of India in her work—The Penguin History of Early India—published in 2002. In 2006, Professor Kumkum Roy was advisor to NCERT Textbook Development Committee along with chief advisor, Professor Neeladri Bhattacharya both from JNU.


Romila thapar


In the history textbook on social science for Class VI, they have included Muziris in the map of important trade routes without mentioning Pattanam and linking it with arrival of first Christian preachers in India.

Ranabir Chakravarti of JNU is one of the members of the NCERT Textbook Development Committee. Assertive claims by KCHR authorities in establishing historicity of Apostle Thomas has been supported by the stand of Utio Rai Chaudhary and Furley Richmond, academic directors of Georgia University in 2011 December. They stated that researches are being conducted by the Georgia University on links between St. Thomas tradition and Pattanam. Interestingly this university has undertaken Carbon 14 dating of the Pattanam site. Historian Istvan Perczel from Central European University, Hungary was invited in February 2008, for delivering a lecture by KCHR chairman Professor K.N. Panikkar former JNU luminary and the KCHR director on the topic—History of Kerala Christianity.

The February 2004 issue of Economic and Political Weekly has published an article on KCHR Family Archives Project by K. George Verghese. He has alleged that the KCHR Family Archives Project is virtually filled with histories of Syrian Christian families all highlighting arrival of Apostle Thomas at Muziris. The family history archives project was implemented prior to Pattanam excavations to provide a link.

With the Pattanam excavations thus taking a serious turn, Delhi based Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT) which had earlier attacked former ICHR chairman, Professor M.G.S. Narayanan in 2001 for raising serious allegations against the KCHR has virtually gone underground. Organisations which have currently come open against the KCHR and its Muziris Heritage Project have alleged that “these same historians who had earlier rebuffed Ramayana and Sri Ram as fictitious and fabricated are now digging for the bones of Apostle Thomas”.Organiser, 10 January 2015

› B.S. Harishankar is an author and senior archaeological researcher.


Ancient silk road route and water route to India from Rome


Muziris: Dr Nagaswamy nails false propaganda on St. Thomas – Media Reports


“When looking at the literature on the life of St. Thomas, it is not mentioned anywhere that he came to India. It is only a myth, which has now been connected with the excavations at Pattanam, near Kodungalloor,” – Dr. R. Nagaswamy


R. Nagaswamy


Thiruvananthapuram: The effort made by some interested quarters to link the Muziris excavations with the visit of St. Thomas Apostle has been criticised by eminent archaeologist and former director of the Tamil Nadu Archaeological Survey of India, R. Nagaswamy.

“When looking at the literature on the life of St. Thomas, it is not mentioned anywhere that he came to India. It is only a myth, which has now been connected with the excavations at Pattanam, near Kodungalloor,” the former visiting professor of Jawaharlal Nehru University told Express.

In fact, the ancient Muziris port must have been located in Kodungalloor and not in Pattanam because all major ports in ancient times were situated at river mouths. And so it is safe to assume that Muziris was at Kodungalloor, where the river joins the sea.

He felt there was a hidden agenda by certain sections to propagate the idea that Muziris was connected to Pattanam, where St. Thomas is believed to have landed, and not with Kodungalloor.

Myth cannot be called history. Connecting myth with history could only create confusion and distort history, he said. “There is no substantial evidence to say that Pattanam is connected with Muziris. How was this conclusion reached? Those who claim to have found materials to connect Pattanam with Muziris have forgotten that these materials were also found in the eastern and the western costs of the country,” said Nagaswamy. – Express BuzzIBNLive, Thiruvananthapuram, August 7, 2011


Kottakkavu St. Thomas Church


Include St. Thomas Church in Muziris heritage project says Bishop Dr. Joseph Karikkassery

Paravoor: St Thomas Church in Maliankara which was constructed as a historical monument of the visit of St Thomas Apostle, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, who landed in Maliankara in AD 52, should be included in the Muziris Heritage Project, urged Kottapuram Bishop Dr. Joseph Karikkassery.

Bishop Karikkassery visited the church in Maliankara, the monument constructed to perpetuate the visit of the apostle.

St Thomas is believed to have disembarked from a trading vessel at Kodungalloor Maliankara and baptised several people in various parts of the country. Cardinal Tisserant representing the Holy See, had installed the historical monument at St Thomas Church in Maliankara.

Bishop Karikkassery was accompanied by Diocese Chancellor Fr. Nixon Kattassery and Procurator Fr. Tegy Thanippilly. They were received by Fr. Joshy Muttickal and Fr. Shyjan Panackal at the church. – Express Buzz, Paravoor, April 21, 2011


Bishop Joseph Karikkassery