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Wednesday, Apr 17, 2002

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Mahabalipuram's submerged secrets brought to light

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The Shore Temple in Mahabalipuram.

CHENNAI, April 16

A TEAM of underwater archaeologists from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, has found evidence of the presence of submerged structures at Mahabalipuram.

According to popular belief, the Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram is the last of a series of seven temples, six of which had submerged. The discovery was made during a joint underwater exploration with the Scientific Exploration Society, UK.

The team of archaeologists from the NIO carried out the underwater exploration between April 1 and 4, 2002 and recorded evidence of the presence of ruins underwater, off-Mahabalipuram, NIO officials said here.

The underwater investigation was carried out at five locations at depths of 5-8 metres — 500 to 700 metres off the Shore Temple.

Investigations at each of the locations revealed stone masonry, remains of walls, square rock cut remains, scattered square and rectangular stone blocks and a big platform with steps leading to it. All these lay amidst the locally occurring geological formations of rocks, the study says.

Further, most of the structures were badly damaged and scattered over a vast area. They were colonised by barnacles, mussels and other sedentary organisms, the archaeologists discovered.

The officials said based on what at first sight appears to be a lion figure at location four, the ruins were inferred to be part of a temple complex. The Pallava dynasty, which ruled the region during the 7th century AD, was known to have constructed many such rock-cut, structural temples in Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram.

To further clarify the reasons for the submergence of the ruins, a full-scale investigation was underway to determine the role of sea-level fluctuations, coastal erosion and neo-tectonic activity in effecting shoreline changes in the region in the recent past, the officials said.

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