Tsunami is a term that entered the Indian vocabulary with a big bang after a tsunami struck the south coast of India and South East Asia, on 26th December 2004, leaving behind a wide scale of destruction. Until then, in recent memory, tidal floods of a massive scale were not associated with coastal India.
Tsunami is a Japanese word for these giant tidal waves emanating from the ocean after a massive earthquake.
In ancient India, there are references and descriptions in our scriptures, of a Tsunami like event, which left behind massive destructions.
The classic case is that of Dwaraka, the city built by Lord Krishna.
The destruction of Dwaraka is ascribed to a major ecological upheaval that occurred after the departure of Krishna. After the departure of Krishna and the Yadava civil war, the city of Dwaraka was swallowed by the sea. This is mentioned in the Mahabharata.
The Bhagavata Purana says that Krishna in His wisdom had recognized the signs of an impending geological upheaval and had warned His people of this foreboding calamity. He calls his people and advises them to move to other lands, saying Dwaraka was in danger. He Himself then moved down south to Prabhas Patan, near present day Somnath, where He shed His mortal coils.
There were however some people in His kingdom, who were complacent and did not pay heed to Krishna’s warning.
An internecine war for broke out amongst them.
Arjuna heard about the departure of Krishna from this world and the ensuing war, and rushed to Dwaraka. He was pained to see the loss of lives and destruction to property all over Dwaraka, due to the war. He rescued the wives and other women of Dwaraka and headed back towards Hastinapura. As soon as he left the city of Dwaraka, he saw the coastal city of Dwaraka being engulfed by a major tidal wave, like a tsunami, in which the whole city of Dwaraka was washed away.
Arjuna gives an eye witness report in the Mausala Parva of what he saw from a distance.
Arjuna viewing the Tsunami from a tree top
– a Southeast Asian representation
This poetic but precise, heart-rending, eyewitness account of Arjuna can be easily understood by us now as that of a Tsunami, as we have come to read of many similar tragic, eyewitness accounts by the survivors of the Tsunami of 26th December, 2004.
Evidence from Marine Archaeology
Archaeological evidences that corroborate this Tsunami has been identified by Dr. S. R Rao, the father of Marine Archaeology in India. He discovered the sunken city of Dwaraka, which is a veritable under water museum, off the coast.
Dwaraka underwater excavation photos
The general layout of this sunken city tallies well with the graphical description of the city as given in the Mahabharata text. The findings of these expeditions suggest that the city had submerged about 5000 years ago.
Dwaraka City Model
Not a local event
While the record in Mahabharata talks of a local event, there are many pointers all over the world, which when strung together, show that this sea rise which swallowed Dwaraka, a Tsunami of those times of 3000 BCE, was not limited to Dwaraka alone.
We all know how the tidal wave which started in Indonesia in December 2004 after a massive earthquake, travelled all the way upto the coasts of India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and east coast of Africa etc. and caused major destruction to life and property in all these places.
Spread of the 2004 Tsunami
This Tsunami from ancient times that struck Dwaraka, had a major ecological impact on the whole geographical arc from Southern India all the way through Persia, Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Babylonia and to the West Asian regions.
Historical sites affected by the Epic floods around 3000 BCE, in a geographical arc
It is interesting that, if we look at the arc of the coastline from Arabia to India, we find different descriptions of floods having occurred in these areas. All the local legends of the floods, in these different parts of civilization, seem to converge around the period 3000 BCE.
The Epic of Atrahasis describes a great flood that submerged the Sumerian civilization around 3000 BCE.
Epic of Atrahasis flood
The Biblical flood in which Noah’s ark rescued various species for the continuity of life is said to have occurred around 3000 BCE.
Mesopotamia had the famous legend called the epic of Gilgamesh. Most of the epic of Gilgamesh is lost to mankind due to widespread destruction which happened to their civilization because of a massive tidal wave.
Many scholars independently have arrived at a date of around 2800 BCE for when this civilization was washed out by a massive tidal wave. Some stone inscriptions have also been deciphered which speak of an extensive flooding which annihilated civilizations. They have been dated to 3123 BCE.
Gilgamesh and stone inscription
In South India, in the Sangam literature, we have mention of a Kadalkol, a sea rising, swallowing the land of Kumari Kandam.
Kumari Kandam is the lost submerged land, south of the southern coast of India. Description of the sea engulfing the land of Kumari Kandam is described in detail, in the ancient Tamil texts.
Tamil texts such as Silappadigaram, Manimeghalai, PuraNanooru, Aga Nanooru, Ain Thinai and Ettu Thogai, describe the submergence of Kumari Kandam as having occurred many thousand years ago.
Poompuhar was a prosperous port which also finds mention in early Sangam Tamil literature. Today Poompuhar is a small coastal town in Tamil Nadu.
Marine archaeologists, Dr.S.Badrinarayan, former Director General of the Geological Survey of India and Graham Hancock, author of the book, “Underworld”, have photographed the old Poompuhar submerged in the sea, a few miles off the coast of the present day Poompuhar. They estimate this submergence to have taken place about 5000 years ago i.e. around 3000 BCE.
The same Tsunami?
The massive tidal wave at Dwaraka and the other similar tidal waves in the Gilgamesh epic, the Bibilical flood, the tidal wave in Sumeria and Mesopotamia as well as Kumari Kandam and Poompuhar, all occurred around the 3000 BCE period. The same Tsunami had perhaps struck other civilizations too in this geographical arc.
More on this in our book “Historical Krishna” and “Triple Eclipse”.