Tag Archives: Broken Buddha of Pattanam

Pattanam Excavations, Muziris and the Broken Buddha

Prof P J Cherian by the new trench at Pattanam archeological site on 19 Apl 2014.

Prof P J Cherian by the new trench at Pattanam archeological site on 19 Apl 2014.

Pattanam is writing new histories of its own with an intervention from the dedicated archeologists from across the world resembling the kind of global interest it enjoyed during the last three or four thousand years. Prof P J Cherian of KCHR and his team of young researchers are collaborating with Oxford University archeologists to continue their excavation of Pattanam for the 8th successive year. It is a multi disciplinary academic project involving various social sections of people including the local population in an imaginative and ethical way.

Prof (Dr) Wendy Morrison discussing the excavations with her students from Oxford University at Pattanam.

Prof (Dr) Wendy Morrison discussing the excavations with her students from Oxford University at Pattanam.

As Pattanam excavations and its material archeological treasures have revolutionized the cultural history of Kerala and revealed for the first time on a large basis the pre 8th century history of Kerala, traditionalist historians especially those who allied with the right wing forces are desperately trying to diminish and tarnish the very name Pattanam and the archeological project locating Muziris.  These Hindutva historians are projecting the “Mahodayapuram” hagiography that is a post 10th century “Hindu” hegemonic fabrication to be precise.

Prof Chris Gosden of Oxford University talking about the Global Connections of Pattanam at Kochi, early April 2014.

Prof Chris Gosden of Oxford University talking about the Global Connections of Pattanam at Kochi, early April 2014.

The global and multicultural legacies of Pattanam are enraging the totalitarian and homogenizing Hindu hegemonic ideologues of canonized His-story in an unprecedented fashion.  However it is interesting to note that the pedantic high priests and pandits who were behind the saffronization of history texts while BJP the Hindu Nationalist party was ruling Delhi last time are precisely the ones behind this malicious attack against Pattanam and Muziris.

Oxford University archeologists and Kerala researchers like Mikky (right) discussing the findings at Pattanam.

Oxford University archeologists and Kerala researchers like Mikky (centre) discussing the findings at Pattanam.

Pattanam that was part of the ancient Kerala port city called Muziris all over the world or Muchiri in ancient Tamil Sankham literature was a centre of global sea trade that connected Europe, West Asia, Africa and South East Asia. Prof Chris Gosden of Oxford has made a presentation on the global connections of Pattanam recently in Kochi.

Brick construction of 4th century AD unearthed at Pattanam showing clear evidences of civilizational material culture.

Brick construction of 4th century AD unearthed at Pattanam showing clear evidences of civilizational material culture.

Dr Wendy Morrison of the Oxford University is leading a batch of young researchers and archeologists in Pattanam in the collaborative inquiry.  Kerala researchers are also joining hands with the expert team from Britain for the first time in independent Indian history.  When I visited them this afternoon Prof Cherian and Prof Wendy showed me the new trenches and new strands of history emerging from the soil just a few metres deep.

Prof Wendy Morrison explaining the detailed plan of excavating a new archeological trench at Pattanam, 19 Apl 2014.

Prof Wendy Morrison explaining the detailed plan of excavating a new archeological trench strand by strand at Pattanam, 19 Apl 2014.

Plenty of potsherds of the Pattanam variety along with Indian Rouletted ware, Roman Amphora and Mediterranean variety are surfaced.  A lot of Chera coins from early common era have been unearthed says Prof Cherian.  Brick constructions belonging to the 4th and 5th century AD are now visible in the new trench.

Oxford archeologists and geo-archeologists in deep discussion on the new found potsherds at Pattanam that was part of Muziris the global trade city.

Oxford archeologists and geo-archeologists in deep discussion on the new found potsherds at Pattanam that was part of Muziris the global trade city.

Brick constructions, Chera coins and sophisticated pottery testify the material existence of a larger civilizational population in this ancient trade city.  The project now has an immense collection of antiques and priceless objects from various parts of the world that can narrate the polyphonic and cosmopolitan histories of Pattanam and its global legacies.

Another new trench at Pattanam from where peat residues and other biological evidences are recovered.

Another new trench at Pattanam, just west of the museum from where peat residues and other biological evidences are recovered.

The KCHR has purchased new land strips for excavation and are transforming the done area into landscaped organic garden of spices and flowers.  Pattanam is also a model for ecologically sensitive and sustainable archeology that is socially committed too.  New researchers like Ms Mikky explained to me the details of the archeological project and it is a great epistemological  and academic break through in the history of Kerala archeology and cultural history.

Prof P J Cherian on a cycle that is part of the green archeology of Pattanam project and Ms Mikky the research assistant with a Pattanam ware at Pattanam, 19 Apl 2014.

Prof P J Cherian on a cycle that is part of the green archeology of Pattanam project and Ms Mikky the research assistant with a Pattanam ware at Pattanam, 19 Apl 2014.

I want to be in Pattanam again as it was also a Buddhist and Jain cultural centre along with its Roman, Arab and Chinese legacies.  The Buddha sculptural relic in the Pattanam Nileeswaram temple is still there and is worshiped as a Naga Yakshi by the pond from which it was recovered.  Let us hope that the excavations would reveal greater truths regarding the cultural pasts of Kerala soon.

The Buddha fragment at Pattanam Nileeswara temple. Now worshiped as a Naga Yakshi that was recovered from the temple pond. Yet to be acknowledged as a Buddha idol officially.

The Buddha fragment (back view, only below the waist is all that remains) at Pattanam Nileeswara temple. Now worshiped as a Naga Yakshi that was recovered from the temple pond. Yet to be acknowledged as a Buddha idol officially.

Punnayurkulam and its Nirmatalam

The Nirmatalam (Three-leaved Caper) at Natapatt Kavu in Punnayurkulam. 29 Apl 2013.

The Nirmatalam (Three-leaved Caper) at Natapatt Kavu in Punnayurkulam. 29 Apl 2013.  It was so dear to Kamala Suraiya. It still grows and flowers in winter said a woman in the locality

The Punna or Ball Nut Tree is there in the very name of the place.  The Punna tree and Kulam or pond signify the Neytal Tina in the ancient Sangham landscapes and toponymy of ancient Tamilakam until the eighth century AD.  There is also a Kavu or sacred grove shrine called Punnur Kavu at the heart of Punnayurkulam at the north western frontier of Thrissur district very close to Malapuram district.  It is only 10km west of Changaram Kulam.

The ancient Chitrakuda Kallu and Naga yakshi idol at Nalapatt Kavu in Punnayurkulam, 29 apl 2013.

The ancient Chitrakuda Kallu and Naga yakshi idol at Nalapatt Kavu in Punnayurkulam, 29 apl 2013.

You need to cross a few Kol wetlands to reach Punnayurkulam from Changaram Kulam.  The historic Biyam Kayal and Eramangalam wetlands are lying to the north of Punnayurkulam.  Guruvayur is towards the south. Just 500m west of Altara juction in Punnayurkulam you have the ancient Nalapatt Kavu, the ancient sacred grove of the Nalappattu household that produced many stalwarts in literary culture like Narayana Menon and Balamani Amma.

The old Ilanji tree at Nalapatt Kavu in Punnayurkulam. Naga idols are beneath it.

The old Ilanji tree at Nalapatt Kavu in Punnayurkulam. Naga idols are beneath it.

The Nalapatt Kavu was taken over by the Government a couple of years ago and was supposed to be  conserved as a memorial of Madhavi Kutty or Kamala Das or Kamala Suraiya. As an eminent poet and prose writer in Malayalam and English, Kamala needs no introduction.  She has compassionately and democratically decentered and disseminated desire and the love of the human through her radically liberating writing that was uniquely creative and iconoclastic.  Through her subversive moves of religious conversion she has also demonstrated the importance of the human will and the fleeting nature of cultural identity.  She was a true liberalist and pluralist in her life and letters.

A sculpted granite plaque resembling an open book at the Nalapatt Kavu, Punnayurkulam.  It could be a pedestal or base of some other ancient idols.

A sculpted granite plaque resembling an open book at the Nalapatt Kavu, Punnayurkulam. It could be a pedestal or base of some other ancient idols.

I visited the place on the evening of 29 April 2013.  It was Dr Babu Rajan my colleague who informed me about the place. There is an ancient sacred grove and a pond now in ruins. A Chitrakuda Kallu which is an ancient relic of the Naga Buddhist tradition of ecological conservationist culture  is still there.  A few Naga deities and idols are surviving; so is the old Ilanji treee and the Nirmatalam or Three-leaved Caper. These flowering and medicinal plants were so dear to Kamala the poet and insightful artist and healer of the minds.

Nirmatalam. 2013. Mixed media on Paper by Ajay Sekher

Nirmatalam. 2013. Mixed media on Paper by Ajay Sekher after visiting Nalapatt Kavu at Punnayurkulam on 29 Apl 2013.

These sacred treasures of culture and nature must be preserved for posterity in their pristine richness and organic antiquity.  The bilingual world of letters opened up by Kamala requires such an ecological and earthy abode to take root and survive in addition to the sensitive minds of the readers.  This intangible heritage of all Keralites must be protected and conserved for posterity and to maintain  the very sense of being a civilized society.

Nirmatalam on the left and Ilanji on the right at Nalapatt Sarpa Kavu in Punnayurkulam.

Nirmatalam on the left and Ilanji on the right at Nalapatt Sarpa Kavu in Punnayurkulam.  The sacred grove needs protection and care.