17 March 2019

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Keezhadi excavations HC orders BJP Govt to transfer ASI officer Amarnath Ramakrishna back to TN

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Keezhadi excavations Madras High Court orders BJP Government to transfer ASI officer Amarnath Ramakrishna back to TN

In 2017, some Tamil academics, including V Arasu (the former head of department of Tamil Literature at the University of Madras), alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central government made deliberate attempts to stall the excavations at Keezhadi. Arasu claimed that the BJP government had a Hindutva agenda, and wanted to stop the Keezhadi project because the excavations at the site provided an "undeniable evidence of a culture in South India

The Madras High Court has directed the BJP Government to transfer Amarnath Ramakrishna, the Archaeological Survey of India officer who led the Keezhadi excavations, back to Tamil Nadu.

The BJP Government has been granted 15 days to bring the officer's transfer into effect. The officer was shunted out to Assam in 2017.

The order came on a petition filed against the officer’s transfer.

A bench consisting of Justices R Mahadevan and PD Audikesavalu emphasized that the central government should show more interest in proceeding with the excavations carried out on the Vaigai river bed. These excavations have given evidence of an ancient civilization that had thrived on the banks of river Vaigai, the court said.

"When the excavations get completed, the pride of Tamil people would get recognized worldwide but we wonder why the Central government is so adamant on this issue,” the court said.

The transfer of Amarnath Ramakrishna in 2017 invited sharp criticism and protests across the state since it was he who began excavations at Keezhadi, in Sivagangai district in south Tamil Nadu, which provided substantial evidence of an ancient civilization dating back to 200 BC on the banks of river Vaigai. More than 8,000 artifacts, including gold coins, Tamil Brahmi inscriptions, iron tools and jewellery indicated the presence of urban civilization in the region during the Sangam era, which is considered the golden period for Tamil language and literature.

The project has been mired in controversy since 2016 when the BJP government reportedly delayed fund allocation for the continuation of the excavation.

In March 2017, the archaeologist who was leading the excavations, Amarnath Ramakrishna, was transferred to Assam.
In 2018 June, Amarnath Ramakrishna was denied permission to deliver a lecture series in the United States of America on the Keezhadi findings.
In October 2018, he was not allowed to file a final report on the Keezhadi findings.
The project has completed four phases resulting in the unearthing of around 15,000 artifacts.

In 2013-14, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) carried out explorations in 293 sites along the Vaigai river valley in Theni, Dindigul, Madurai, Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram districts. Keezhadi in Sivaganga district was chosen for excavation and artifacts unearthed by the ASI in the second phase of the excavation at Pallichanthai Thidal of Keezhadi pointed to an ancient civilization that thrived on the banks of the Vaigai.

Carbon dating of charcoal found at the Keezhadi site in February 2017 established that the settlement there belonged to 200 BC. The excavations thus proved that urban civilization had existed in Tamil Nadu since the Sangam age.

carbon dating has confirmed that two samples sent from the site are indeed nearly 2,200 years old.

“Radio Carbon dating suggests that the samples go back to 2,160+30 years and 2,200+30 years,”

The Keezhadi dig that started in 2013 provides archaeological evidence of ancient Tamil life that has so far been known largely from texts like Sangam literature.

A beautifully crafted earthen pot with leaf decoration was unearthed at Archaeological Survey of India’s excavation site at Keezhadi near here on Thursday, adding to a repository of evidence pointing to the existence of an urban habitation closer to the erstwhile capital of Pandya kingdom.

The exquisitely crafted pot, measuring 72 cm in width and 42 cm in height, was found by an ASI team led by K. Amarnath Ramakrishna, Superintending Archaeologist.

“This is for the first time such a decorative pot has been found in a habitation site in Tamil Nadu during excavation,” says Mr. Amarnath. The storage pot contains pure river sand but its actual use could not be fixed immediately.
Keezhadi Excavation water storage

Two similar pots of different shapes have started to emerge in two other pits of the excavation site. The huge red pot, which is among a variety of earthenware discovered in the area, was found embedded alongside a water storage facility.

Noted epigraphist V. Vedachalam says that the kind of antiquities found at the site, ‘Pallichandai Thidal,’ reaffirm the belief that nestled among three ancient places — Konthagai, Keezhadi and Manalur — was an urban settlement that had trade links with North India and the western world during the Sangam Age. References to Manalur are found in Tiruvilayadalpuranam. During a later period, Konthagai and Keezhadi were merged as Kuntidevi Chaturvedimangalam and gifted to Brahmins.

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