The Srijan Foundation organized a talk by Sanjeev Sanyal at the Jawahar Lal Nehru University. The topic of his talk was ‘The forgotten history of India’s Maritime Past’.

In this short snippet from his talk, the amazing Sanjeev discusses changing tectonics, climate, changing landscapes in South Asia and the Flood Myths.

Sanjeev Sanyal:

Now the landscape of the Indian Ocean that we are going to deal with, one thing to remember about is that it is a living landscape it is not a dead landscape. The coastlines are continuously changing due to tectonic and as well as rising and shifting coastlines. It is a very important thing to remember as we go through much of what I will speak about.

Now if you came to the Indian Ocean rim. During the last ice, age which is more than eight, nine thousand years ago, that is when it ended but really at its peak around 14 thousand years ago, the coastline that you see today, would have been very very different. Much of the water was stuffed in these massive ice sheets that were covering much of the northern hemisphere and a large part of the southern hemisphere. The water level was 100-150 meters below where it is now.

So as a result, for example, all of the Persian Gulf was actually a flat plain. What you see now as Gujarat was well inside. It was inland and the coastline was kind of straight line that went south. Sri Lanka was part of the Indian mainland. And all of these islands of the South East Asia were part of a large landmass which we now call the Sundaland. In fact, the ancestors of the Australians, the Aborigines of Australia walked across the South-East Asia and took a hop to Australia.

So that was the landscape!

Now starting around, twelve thousand years ago, these melting glaciers and ice sheet, began to fill out these coastlines. And, from around 12,000 years ago, you have the Persian Gulf getting flooded, the Indian coastline getting flooded ….ultimately Sri Lanka getting separated from India and so on. And it is possible that the memory of these events because it’s a catastrophic event, is remembered in flood myths. Of course, there is this story of Noah but also there is this Sumerian story of Gilgamesh.

Australian aborigines have a flood myth. The Laotians in South East Asia too have a flood myth. And of course, we too have a story of flood myth, the Manu and Matsyaavaatar, the first avatar of Vishnu.

So there are all these flood myths and it is very difficult to tell exact history from it. But it is tempting at least to believe that it may be a memory of these times.

But certainly by, about five thousand B.C. and thereabout, the coastline began to sort of resemble with the coastline we would be familiar with but it would still be somewhat different from that we now know.

//The entire talk can be checked here: //