Keezhadi excavations : A buried city reburied again

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the Keezhadi excavation sites near Madurai. Keezhadi is a small village near the viraganur dam in Madurai. I hired a Fasttrack driver and asked him to take me to Keezhadi. He said it is beyond Tiruppuvanam and Tiruppachethi and I concluded that he didnt know the place. Just when we crossed Viraganur Dam, which is a familiar territory as my Engineering college was located in a temporary campus near there, I asked him to stop the vehicle. We enquired and found out that we need to go 4 kms right of Silaiman village. The driver asked me what was there in that place and I told him that a ‘treasure of Tamil history’ was buried there.

For people who don’t have the background, Keezhadi is an important excavation site where recently the Archealogical Survey of India unearthed a lost civilization that was estimated to be between 500 BC and 500 AD (around 2500 years old). This civilization had a sophisticated city built with brick buildings with drainage facilities and while waiting for carbon dating tests to estimate the actual age, early conclusions compare it to the Indus valley civilization.

The Archealogical Survey of India banner itself was torn and as we drove into the muddy road, we saw a cluster of tent huts with a series of banners showcasing the findings. Further driving into the narrow roads led us to a coconut farm where lot of workers were digging and we had arrived.

Banners kept at the approach to the excavation site
This is a treasure cove
There were 20 such banners and it was a staggering discovery of a lost civilization

I was little bit disappointed to see such a small site (below) where the workers were excavating. There were 3 student interns who were not allowing anyone to take pictures and there were around 20 workers who were doing the digging work. We could see a dry well (urai Kinaru) which is an ancient way of getting water and some brick walls. The student interns were very helpful and were explaining everything with such enthusiasm. They also told us to visit Alagan Kulam, the final destination of Vaigai River, had many similar and bigger findings.

Present site for excavations

When I asked them about the buildings and other excavations that were photographed in the banner and that which became such a big sensation, we were told that they have been closed. Below is a picture of the site where they unearthed so many important things.

Important excavations happened here (left) and they were closed (right)

It was shocking and when I asked them why did they close it without preserving it for public viewing, they said the excavation was complete. There was another Hindi speaking supervisor who didn’t understand a word in Tamil and he also said that those sites were closed without giving any proper reasoning.

When I went to Rome last year, I could not stop myself from comparing Rome with Madurai. Every step in Rome is a treasure. It is the same in Madurai as well. When I was a small boy, a huge Nandi statue was unearthed from a dustbin and the city is one of the oldest living cities in the world. In Rome, they have a place called Roman Forum where the remains of excavations are left for public viewing.

Keezhadi’s remains is a treasure cove of rich history of a river side civilization and it was shocking to see that this treasure cove cannot be viewed by general public. I am sure they may have their own answers but I am appalled and angered by such reckless attitude towards such a rich excavation.

I strongly encourage anyone who is visiting Madurai to go and check this great place. It is a 20–30 min drive from the city and it will make you aware of a rich history.

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