*NEWS*TSUNAMI GIVES BACK TO INDIAN TOWN
*NEWS*TSUNAMI GIVES BACK TO INDIAN TOWN
2005-03-21 at 9:49:00 am #10960
Tsunami gives a little back to one Indian town
Newly revealed ancient ruins draw in tourists — and
cash March 2005
India – For a few minutes, after the water had receded far from the shore and
before it came raging back as a tsunami, the fishermen stood along the beach and
stared at the reality of generations of legends.
Or so they say.
Spread across nearly a mile, the site was encrusted with barnacles and covered
in mud. But the fishermen insist they saw the remains of ancient temples and
hundreds of refrigerator-sized blocks, all briefly exposed before the sea
swallowed them up again.
“You could see the
destroyed walls covered in coral, and the broken-down temple in the middle,”
said Durai, a sinewy fisherman who, like many south Indians, uses only one name.
“My grandfathers said there was a port here once and a temple, but suddenly we
could see it was real, we could see that something was out there.”
Whatever they saw
is back under water and out of sight. But a few hundred yards away, something
else came to the surface. The tsunami scrubbed away six feet of sand from a
section of beach, uncovering a small cluster of long-buried boulders carved with
animals, gods and servant girls.
The Dec. 26 tsunami
savaged hundreds of miles of shoreline across Asia. It killed at least 126,000
people in Indonesia and at least 31,000 in Sri Lanka. In India, 10,700 people
are confirmed dead, with more than 5,600 missing.
capital of an ancient kingdom and famous for its elaborate Hindu temples,
escaped mostly unscathed, with only three dead and limited damage.
something else the tsunami gave back — tourists, drawn by heated headlines in
the Indian media about a rediscovered Atlantis.
“People are coming
to see what the tsunami dug up,” said Timothy, who sells sea shells and plastic
palm trees at a beachside souvenir stand. “Only because of these new things are
Tourism is a major
employer here, a reflection of a spreading Indian middle class, and the coast
road is lined with mom-and-pop resorts and cheap restaurants. If the tsunami
scared most tourists away, in Mahabalipuram it also brought some
On sunny weekend
days hundreds of people now come to take a look at the carvings and splash their
feet in the ocean.
“Business is good
these days,” Timothy said, smiling.
But what did those
fisherman see? Archaeologists laugh at the tales of Atlantis and say it may take
years of undersea exploration to uncover the truth.
But nearly everyone
around here knows the stories — cocktails of history and mythology that tell of
the great port city that traded with China and Southeast Asia some 1,300 years
This is a town made
for legend. It is home to dozens of Hindu temples, baroque stone structures
often covered with carvings. But legend speaks of its most famous temples: the
Seven Pagodas, named for the vaguely pagoda-like style of Hindu temples in this
part of India.
which according to myth are said to have once lined the shore, were so beautiful
that the gods destroyed all but one — the so-called Shore Temple, a
magnificently carved complex that is now considered a national
insist they saw more than the six vanished temples when the waters fell back.
“There must have been at least 20,” said Sunderasan, a young man, gesturing
toward the sea. “We had no idea there were so many out there.”
excavations on shore and at sea were already under way before the tsunami
struck, and that divers made promising finds of barnacle-encrusted blocks that
researchers express little surprise at what was exposed.
“The tsunami didn’t
do very much at all,” said Alok Tripathi, who runs the excavations for the
Archaeological Survey of India. He dismisses the talk of 20 temples offshore,
saying the fisherman believe “every stone is a temple.”
fearing they’d be seen as callous, some researchers quietly acknowledge the
tsunami revealed more than expected.
archaeological perspective, maybe the tsunami was good. We found some new
things,” said one, pointing to the exposed boulders.
“But from a human
perspective …” he said, his words drifting into silence. Finally he added:
“There was a lot of deaths, a lot of damage, a lot of