Frontline, “India’s National Magazine,” for April 9-22, 2011, carries an article on “The Lemuria Myth” by S. Christopher Jayakaran. “There is an old, persistent Tamil tradition about a land that existed south of India called Kumari kandam (continent), a belief that is linked to the myth of the lost land of Lemuria, a figment of Western imagination. Accounts of the lost continent vary, but the common theme is that a large area went under the ocean as a result of geological cataclysms, a theory that geologists of today do not subscribe to,” he writes.
In 1888, Helena Blavatsky, a founder of the Theosophical Society, incorporated the concept of the lost continents of Lemuria and Atlantis in her controversial book The Secret Doctrine. Her information, it was claimed, was based on esoteric ancient books from the east and messages received through mystical transference and clairvoyant trances.
The article examines how the story entered into Tamil literature to the point where it is even taught in school textbooks. In trying to find a logical explanation for these ideas the writer believes that global warming between 12,000 and 10,000 years ago was the source for this story: “As the sea levels rose, resulting in periodic flooding and deluges, prehistoric settlements that were located in the low-lying coastal lands and the exposed continental shelf were inundated. The people who lived in the coastal area of the Indian peninsula and Sri Lanka and who escaped the deluges perpetuated the oral tradition of a lost land. It is my considered opinion that it is this development that gave rise to the legend of Kumari kandam.”
The idea of a submerged landmass south of India with its narrative of a lost homeland now plays a part in Tamil identity, for it increases the antiquity of Tamil culture. This is nothing new. Sumathi Ramaswamy, Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, has written about it in The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories, which was published by the University of California Press in 2004. The article in Frontline, which covers the main points of the book, can be read here.