Thursday, 2 June 2016

Lost heritage of ancient harbor Muziris, Kerala

Muziris, Kerala mrunal.org  www.pickpackgo.in
Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012.
www.e-flux.com

Dating back to almost 1st century BC,  Muziris was one of the oldest harbors and an urban center in  the Indian subcontinent on the Malabar coast of Tamilagam, and the places around it were steeped in rich history. It is mentioned in age old Tamil Sangam       literature (Akkananuru and Purananuru),  Muracippattanam in the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, and as Muyirikkottu in a copper plate of an 11th-century Chera ruler. Early descriptions are also found in some European classical works. It was once the site of  the first Jewish, Christian and Islamic settlements in India  during 961 BC, 52 AD, and 629 AD respectively, living harmoniously side by side under the patronage of the local Hindu rulers.
Muziris.Kerala. www.pickpackgo.in 
Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012
Present Kodungallur
(30 KM north of Cochin), was referred to Muziris by the Greek and  Romans and Shingly  by the Jews and  Cranganore  by the Portuguese. Earlier it was known as   Mahodayapuram or  Muyirikkodu and Muziris. "Muziris" is said to be from the native Tamil name for the port, "muciri".  Records show that Muziris is believed to have been first occupied around 1,000 BC and continued to be  a hub of trade activities, etc till the 13th century AD.

Literally one may call  Kodungallur  the cradle of several religions and was also called  Jerusalem of the East. It was here the great Apostle St. Thomas landed, bringing Christianity for the first time to India and established the famous seven and half churches across this region. He also converted some of the Jewish merchants living there to Christianity and later began the conversion of the natives. Yet another surprising fact is it was the  site of Cheraman Mosque, the first one  in India  built on orders from a Hindu ruler who adopted Islam in Arabia. This place is well known for a Hindu temple dedicated to goddess Bhagavathy.

In 1341, the ancient harbor site at the mouth of the Pariyar river, overlooking the Arabian sea  in the Periyar River Basin,  faced deluge due to major  flooding caused by the Periyar river  and consequently it led  to total obliteration of the region. The rich harbor of Muziris became submerged and was overlain by the sediments. In 2007 and 2008, the excavations by the Kerala Council for Historical Research (KCHR)  brought to light the existence of valid  archaeological and historical evidences, confirming the glory and legacy of this once famous harbor. It was unusually heavy rain in Pattannam that exposed the vestiges of this legendary port, the heart and soul of the Historic Spice Route. The rain was a boon to the Historians and Archeologists who had been, for some time, hunting for the evidences on the lost port.  It was once the busiest and greatest spice trade centers and people of many nations used to throng this place not only to buy spices, but also to trade in precious stones  pearls, diamonds, sapphires,
corals, ivory, Chinese silk, Gangetic spikenard and tortoise shells. The Romans paid money in gold coins. Others trading items  included  multicolored textiles, ores - sulfide of antimony, copper, tin, lead etc., Possible trade link with the Cauvery delta region and east coast of India via the Palghat Gap is suggested by the coins discovered in this area.  Though the Roman trade declined from  the 5th century AD, however, the Persians, the Chinese and the Arabs had been main mercantile traders till the destruction of Muziris due a cataclysmic event - devastating floods of Periyar in the 14th century. Literally the  area was off the map and the Geomorphology of this region had changed in the aftermath.

The Kerala Government has done a wonderful job as part of "The Muziris Heritage Project"  to bring back alive the lost glory and legacy that nurtured different cultures 3000 years ago, a whooping time in world history.  The project encompass a big area, covering  Kodungallor taluk (Thrissur Dist.) and places like Paravur taluk, Chendamangalam, Chittattukara, Vadakekkara, Pallipuram (Ernakulam Dist.), etc.,  that have ancient monuments. The conservation was done with a view to preserving this rare site for our posterity and to showcase the affluence  and ethos of ancient India with particular reference to Malabar region.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muziris