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The Mythical Lost Continent of Kumari Kandam

Ravi loves writing within the realm of relationships, history, and the bizarre—where boundaries are blurred and possibilities are immense.

Did the sunken continent of Kumari Kandam really exist south of the Indian subcontinent or is it just another myth?

Did the sunken continent of Kumari Kandam really exist south of the Indian subcontinent or is it just another myth?

The Atlantis of India

I suppose most of us have likely heard about the mysterious island of Atlantis, which was described by the Greek philosopher, Plato, as the home of an advanced civilization. As the story goes, one day the island sank beneath the sea without a trace. Though not as well known as the story of Atlantis, there is a similar tale on the subcontinent of India. The vast landmass extending from the south of today’s Indian peninsula to as far west as Madagascar and east to Australia was called Kumari Kandam. It is also known as the Lemuria continent, which was swallowed by the seas and eventually lost forever.

Interestingly, the term Kumari Kandam has been mentioned in several ancient Tamil literary works starting from the 1st Century BCE. According to the stories, the Pandiyan kings of Kumari Kandam were the rulers of the whole Indian continent, and the Tamil language they spoke is the oldest surviving language in the world.

The stories say that once Kumari Kandam was submerged into the sea, the people who survived migrated to other parts of the world and founded other civilizations. Thus, the lost continent of Kumari Kandam is claimed to be the cradle of human civilization.

Philip Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India were once part of a larger continent, and named this missing landmass ‘Lemuria’. His theory was accepted because we find lemurs on both continents.

Philip Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India were once part of a larger continent, and named this missing landmass ‘Lemuria’. His theory was accepted because we find lemurs on both continents.

The Continent of Lemuria

The story of Kumari Kandam starts with the continent of Lemuria, which was proposed by the English geologist, Philip Sclater, in 1864.

In his 1864 article entitled ‘The Mammals of Madagascar’, Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India were once part of a larger continent. He named this missing landmass ‘Lemuria’. His theory was accepted because we find lemurs on both continents, which suggests lemurs could have migrated from Madagascar to India or vice versa in ancient times.

Later in the 1890s, Tamil scholars studying ancient Tamil and Sanskrit literature began to detect similarities between Sclater’s Lemuria and the legend of Kumari Kandam. The idea caught hold and soon ‘Lemuria’ became the golden kingdom of Kumari Kandam.

It was the colonial era in India and nationalistic sentiments against the British were on the high and the idea of a lost ‘glorious’ Indian kingdom became the perfect launch pad to whip the patriotic sentiments into a fervor of pride and nationalism.

The Legend of Kumari Kandam

The earliest mention of this golden continent appeared in the works of the Tamil poet Nakkeerar from the 1st Century BC. He describes a vast, bountiful land ruled by Pandiyan kings—an early Tamil dynasty. He talks about a fertile land, overflowing with milk, honey, and riches. There were big mountain ranges with forty-eight high peaks and nine rivers flowing through them.

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One of the rivers, named the Pahruli River, was dammed to irrigate the mountain valley by the Pandyan King, Nediyon. Ruby was mined from one mountain, Mani Malai, and gold from another one, Meru Malai. Laborers were engaged by the kings from as far as Africa and China to mine gold and construct various architectural wonders.

Another work literary work titled 'Silapathikaram' by Ilangovadigal gives further details about the land. Ilangovadigal talks about seven kings and 49 vassal kings who ruled this continent. He also describes two vast rivers south of present day Kanyakumari—namely Pahruli in the North and Kumari in the South—that provided the sweet waters to irrigate and feed the entire continent.

Apart from the above works, other Tamil literary works like Purananuru, Tolkappiyam, and Kalithokkai mention the submerged landmass at various ages and under various kings.

Surprisingly, none of the literary works mention the exact date or cause of the submersion of Kumari Kandam. All of them just talk about kadalkol, a Tamil word for a giant tsunami that broke Kumari Kandam into two parts and submerged it into the sea forever. The survivors who escaped swam to other continents and established new civilizations, thus making this legendary continent the cradle of humankind.

Statue of legendary Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar on an island next to Vivekananda Memorial, at India's southernmost tip.

Statue of legendary Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar on an island next to Vivekananda Memorial, at India's southernmost tip.

Is It Yet Another Myth?

Well, scientifically speaking, continents can be submerged into the sea. According to researchers at India’s National Institute of Oceanography, the sea level was lower by 100 m about 14,500 years ago and by 60 m about 10,000 years ago.

Therefore, there may have been land connections connecting the island of Sri Lanka to mainland India and even Africa. And as the rate of global warming increased between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago, the rising sea levels might have resulted in periodic flooding as well as a catastrophic tsunami that might have submerged Kumari Kandam.

As Conall Mac Niocaill, a geologist at the University of Oxford tells us:

“A lot of microcontinents could be lurking beneath the Indian Ocean. We know more about the topography of Mars than we do about the [topography] of the world's ocean floor, so there may well be other dismembered continents out there waiting to be discovered.”

In a nutshell, the existence of Kumari Kandam is one that is full of controversy and raises a lot of interesting questions. It is entirely up to you to believe it or not, but personally speaking, the idea of a long-lost prosperous continent is quite fascinating to think about.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Ravi Rajan

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