Saturday, March 21, 2015
"பழந்தமிழரின் கடல் மேலாண்மை” ஒரு ஆராய்ச்சிக் கட்டுரை - Historical Marine Routes of Tamils
It was the beginning of a big voyage when he saw a school of turtles scrawling towards the shore for nesting in the famous Gahirmatha beach in Orissa. S Balasubramani, a marine researcher, was working on a project when he got interested in turtle nesting and Tamil migration. It is his belief that the two activities were linked in someway once upon a time.
He claims that people from the Tamil coasts used to travel to all over the world following the tracks used by the turtles even from the Stone Age. "Turtles are considered the navigator of the oceans.
They use ocean currents to cover long distances which helped Tamil sailors explore other countries," according to Balasubramani.
Since the coastal climate is ideal for nesting, turtles still travel to the coasts of Orissa and Tamil Nadu from all parts of the world. There are particular routes where sea currents occur and the turtles can sense it very well, he says.
"There are 53 turtle nesting places in Tamil Nadu which are all close to the ancient ports. So there is a strong connection between the migration of Tamils and the nesting of turtles," he concludes with his own logic.
To prove his point, Balasubramani even has a list of turtle nesting places in the world having Tamil names. "There are a number of coasts having names in Tamil. Thamila (Myanmar) and Sabha Santagan (Malaysia), Koolan, Cholawan and Ooru (Australia), Catalan (Spain) Nanmadal and Kumari (Pacific ocean) are some examples," he says.
In addition to the study of literary references and scientific oceanic studies, Balasubramani conducts experiments on the Tamil Nadu coast making use of the traditional knowledge of the fisherfolk community along with technical advances from various forums.
The study, conducted using latest technologies like satellite tracking, claims there used to be voyages following the routes of turtles from the coast of Tamil Nadu to places like US, Australia, New Zealand, China and Japan. A bell with Tamil inscriptions on it found from a Parua Maori tribal house at Wangarai, New zealand, in 1836 shows that voyages took place between the Tamil coasts and Kiwi land, it says.
Why should one follow the turtles' route? "The turtle can swim a maximum of 85km a day, but it can cover at least 250km floating on the ocean currents. Our ancestors must have used this system to cover the sea," he believes. However, more research is to be done in the field to establish the point. "There are incidents like traveling from one place to the other looking at the star. Likewise, there may be some connection between turtle nesting and Tamil migration.
If you take the way the fisherfolk treat the turtles, you will know that they respect the species. The won't kill them, but send them back to sea. In many temples in China, Philipines and Indonesia, people even adorn turtles. There must be some connection.
We need more research into the subject to prove the point," says M G Sahibhushan, a history expert. Recently, researchers tracked over 12,700 miles of turtle swimming from the Indonesian coast to the US. But did the human follows the turtle species?
A presentation will be made at the ICSA hall opposite the Egmore Museum on Wednesday.
TIMES OF INDIA - 16.11.2011