Lost continents

Kumari Kandam [1] (Tamil:குமரிக்கண்டம், Kumarikkaṇṭam; 30,000 BC – 16,000 BC) is the name of a supposed sunken landmass referred to in the ancient Tamil and Sanskrit Matsya Purana. It is said to have been located in the Indian Ocean, south of present-day Kanyakumari district at the southern tip of India.

According to the Matsya Purana, Manu was the king of Dravidadesa land in Kumari Kandam. There are scattered references in Sangam literature, such as Kalittokai 104, to how the sea took the land of the Pandiyan kings, after which they conquered new lands to replace those they had lost.[2] There are also references to the rivers Pahruli and Kumari, that are said to have flowed in a now-submerged land.[3] The Silappadhikaram, one of the Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature written in first few centuries CE, states that the “cruel sea” took the Pandiyan land that lay between the rivers Pahruli and the mountainous banks of the Kumari, to replace which the Pandiyan king conquered lands belonging to the Chola and Chera kings (Maturaikkandam, verses 17-22). Adiyarkkunallar, a 12th-century commentator on the epic, explains this reference by saying that there was once a land to the south of the present-day Kanyakumari, which stretched for 700 kavatam from the Pahruli river in the north to the Kumari river in the south. As the modern equivalent of a kavatam is unknown, estimates of the size of the lost land vary from 1,400 miles (2,300 km) to 7,000 miles (11,000 km) in length, to others suggesting a total area of 6-7,000 square miles, or smaller still an area of just a few villages.[4]

This land was divided into 49 nadu, or territories, which he names as seven coconut territories (elutenga natu), seven Madurai territories (elumaturai natu), seven old sandy territories (elumunpalai natu), seven new sandy territories (elupinpalai natu), seven mountain territories (elukunra natu), seven eastern coastal territories (elukunakarai natu) and seven dwarf-palm territories (elukurumpanai natu). All these lands, he says, together with the many-mountained land that began with KumariKollam, with forests and habitations, were submerged by the sea.[3] Two of these Nadus or territories were supposedly parts of present-day Kollam and Kanyakumari districts.

None of these texts name the land “Kumari Kandam” or “Kumarinadu”, as is common today. The only similar pre-modern reference is to a “Kumari Kandam” (written குமரிகண்டம், rather than குமரிக்கண்டம் as the land is called in modern Tamil), which is named in the medieval Tamil text Kantapuranam either as being one of the nine continents,[5] or one of the nine divisions of India and the only region not to be inhabited by barbarians.[6] 19th and 20th century Tamil revivalist movements, however, came to apply the name to the territories described in Adiyarkkunallar’s commentary to the Silappadhikaram.[7] They also associated this territory with the references in the Tamil Sangams, and said that the fabled cities of southern Madurai (Ten Madurai) and Kapatapuram where the first two Sangams were said to be held were located on Kumari Kandam.[8] These sangams may have overlapped in parallel to the third historic sangam; the second century BCE Tissamaharama Tamil Brahmi inscription detailing the thiraLi muRi (written agreement of the assembly) was excavated a few miles from the coast of the historic Tenavaram temple, Matara, Sri Lanka.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Tamil nationalists came to identify Kumari Kandam with Lemuria, a “lost continent” posited in the 19th century to account for discontinuities in biogeography. In these accounts, Kumari Kandam became the “cradle of civilization“, the origin of human languages in general and the Tamil language in particular.[9] These ideas gained notability in Tamil academic literature over the first decades of the 20th century, and were popularized by the Tanittamil Iyakkam, notably by self-taught Dravidologist Devaneya Pavanar, who held that all languages on earth were merely corrupted Tamil dialects.

R. Mathivanan, then Chief Editor of the Tamil Etymological Dictionary Project of the Government of Tamil Nadu, in 1991 claimed to have deciphered the still undeciphered Indus script as Tamil, following the methodology recommended by his teacher Devaneya Pavanar, presenting the following timeline (cited after Mahadevan 2002):

ca. 200,000 to 50,000 BC: evolution of “the Tamilian or Homo Dravida“,
ca. 200,000 to 100,000 BC: beginnings of the Tamil language
50,000 BC: Kumari Kandam civilisation
20,000 BC: A lost Tamil culture of the Easter Island which had an advanced civilisation
16,000 BC: Lemuria submerged
6087 BC: Second Tamil Sangam established by a Pandya king
3031 BC: A Chera prince in his wanderings in the Solomon Islands saw wild sugarcane and started cultivation in Present Tamil nadu.
1780 BC: The Third Tamil Sangam established by a Pandya king
7th century BC: Tolkappiyam (the earliest known extant Tamil grammar)

Lemuria /lɨˈmjʊəriə/[1] is the name of a hypothetical “lost land” variously located in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The concept’s 19th century origins lie in attempts to account for discontinuities in biogeography; however, the concept of Lemuria has been rendered obsolete by modern theories of plate tectonics. Although sunken continents do exist – like Zealandia in the Pacific as well as Mauritia [2] and the Kerguelen Plateau in the Indian Ocean – there is no known geological formation under the Indian or Pacific Oceans that corresponds to the hypothetical Lemuria.[3]

Though Lemuria is no longer considered a valid scientific hypothesis, it has been adopted by writers involved in the occult, as well as some Tamil writers of India. Accounts of Lemuria differ, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean as a result of a geological, often cataclysmic, change, such as pole shift.

In 1864 the zoologist and biogeographer Philip Sclater wrote an article on “The Mammals of Madagascar” in The Quarterly Journal of Science. Using a classification he referred to as lemurs but which included related primate groups,[4] and puzzled by the presence of their fossils in both Madagascar and India but not in Africa or the Middle East, Sclater proposed that Madagascar and India had once been part of a larger continent. He wrote:

The anomalies of the Mammal fauna of Madagascar can best be explained by supposing that … a large continent occupied parts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans … that this continent was broken up into islands, of which some have become amalgamated with … Africa, some … with what is now Asia; and that in Madagascar and the Mascarene Islands we have existing relics of this great continent, for which … I should propose the name Lemuria![4]

Sclater’s theory was hardly unusual for his time: “land bridges“, real and imagined, fascinated several of Sclater’s contemporaries. Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, also looking at the relationship between animals in India and Madagascar, had suggested a southern continent about two decades before Sclater, but did not give it a name.[5] The acceptance of Darwinism led scientists to seek to trace the diffusion of species from their points of evolutionary origin. Prior to the acceptance of continental drift, biologists frequently postulated submerged land masses in order to account for populations of land-based species now separated by barriers of water. Similarly, geologists tried to account for striking resemblances of rock formations on different continents. The first systematic attempt was made by Melchior Neumayr in his book Erdgeschichte in 1887. Many hypothetical submerged land bridges and continents were proposed during the 19th century, in order to account for the present distribution of species.

After gaining some acceptance within the scientific community, the concept of Lemuria began to appear in the works of other scholars. Ernst Haeckel, a German Darwinian taxonomist, proposed Lemuria as an explanation for the absence of “missing link” fossil records. According to another source, Haeckel put forward this thesis prior to Sclater (but without using the name “Lemuria”).[6] Locating the origins of the human species on this lost continent, he claimed the fossil record could not be found because it sunk beneath the sea.

Other scientists hypothesized that Lemuria had extended across parts of the Pacific oceans, seeking to explain the distribution of various species across Asia and the Americas.

J. H Moore writing in his book Savage Survivals (1933) wrote:

It is believed that man evolved somewhere in southern Asia, or possibly, still further south than the present boundary of Asia, in lands now drowned by the Indian Ocean. This supposed land is called Lemuria.[7]

The Lemuria theory disappeared completely from conventional scientific consideration after the theories of plate tectonics and continental drift were accepted by the larger scientific community. According to the theory of plate tectonics (the current accepted paradigm in geology), Madagascar and India were indeed once part of the same landmass (thus accounting for geological resemblances), but plate movement caused India to break away millions of years ago, and move to its present location. The original landmass broke apart – it did not sink beneath sea level.[citation needed]

In 1999, drilling by the JOIDES Resolution research vessel in the Indian Ocean discovered evidence[8] that a large island, the Kerguelen Plateau, was submerged about 20 million years ago by rising sea levels. Samples showed pollen and fragments of wood in a 90-million-year-old sediment. Although this discovery might encourage scholars to expect similarities in dinosaur fossil evidence, and may contribute to understanding the breakup of the Indian and Australian land masses, it does not support the concept of Lemuria as a land bridge for mammals.

In 2013, the study of grains of sand from the beaches of Mauritius lead to the conclusion that a similar landmass would have existed between 2,000 and 85 million years ago.[2]

Lemuria entered the lexicon of the Occult through the works of Helena Blavatsky, who claimed to have been shown an ancient, pre-Atlantean Book of Dzyan by the Mahatmas. Lemuria is mentioned in an 1882 Mahatma letter to A.P. Sinnett.[9] According to L. Sprague de Camp, Blavatsky’s concept of Lemuria was influenced by other contemporaneous writers on the theme of Lost Continents, notably Ignatius L. Donnelly, American cult leader Thomas Lake Harris and the French writer Louis Jacolliot.[10]

Within Blavatsky’s complex cosmology, which includes seven “Root Races“, Lemuria was occupied by the “Third Root Race”, described as being about 7 feet (2.1 m) tall, sexually hermaphroditic, egg-laying, mentally undeveloped and spiritually more pure than the following “Root Races”. Before the coming of the Lemurians, the second “Root Race” is said to have dwelled in Hyperborea. After the subsequent creation of mammals, Mme Blavatsky revealed to her readers, some Lemurians turned to bestiality. The gods, aghast at the behavior of these “mindless” men, sank Lemuria into the ocean and created a “Fourth Root Race” – endowed with intellect – on Atlantis.[citation needed]

One of the most elaborate accounts of lost continents was given by the later theosophical author William Scott-Elliot. The English theosophist received his knowledge from Charles Webster Leadbeater, who communicated with the Theosophical Masters by “astral clairvoyance”. In 1896 he published The Story of Atlantis, followed in 1904 by The Lost Lemuria, in which he included a map of the continent of Lemuria as stretching from the east coast of Africa across the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.[11]

James Bramwell described Lemuria in his book, Lost Atlantis, as “a continent that occupied a large part of what is now the South Pacific Ocean.”[12] Bramwell described the people of Lemuria in detail and attributed them with being one of the “root-races of humanity.” According to Bramwell, Lemurians are the ancestors of the Atlanteans, who survived the period “of the general racial decadence which affected the Lemurians in the last stages of their evolution.” From “a select division of” the Atlanteans – after their promotion to decadence – Bramwell claims the Aryan race arose. “Lemurians, Atlanteans, and Aryans are root-races of humanity”, according to Bramwell.[13]