08. The Lost City of the Tamils (20 mins)
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This is the story of the jewel of ancient South India: the great Tamil trading city of Puhar. Episode 8 of Echoes of India brings to life a city sung about in poetry for thousands of years, at a time when one of the most important elements of Indian history was emerging: the international merchant corporation.
As Nagarjuna and his sceptical monks were creating a ruckus in Andhra, the Tamil country was going through an equally important transition - it, too leapt from the Megalithic to Iron cultures, fuelled by coastal trade and agrarian surpluses from its fertile river plains. At the edge of the Kaveri river delta was the thriving trading city of Kaveripumpattinam, one of the great centres of the Sangam age, the first flowering of Tamil literature. This is its story.
Voice Credits & Notes Below.
Voice Credits (in order of appearance):
Opening - Hamsini Hariharan
On Merchants - Yazad Jal
On Puhar - Manasa Venkataraman
On the Tsunami - Ganesh Chakravarthi
I apologise for ruining the beauty of Tamil with my accent. I tried not to.
My primary source for this episode was Kanakalatha Mukund's fascinating book, The World of the Tamil Merchant (my review here). It is part of a series on India's economic history that is well worth a read.
Priya Ravichandran, an independent researcher based in Chennai, generously helped with selecting sources and provided useful information on Puhar.
The translation I used of the Manimekhalai was Alain Danielou's 1989 edition, which was lent to me by my friend, the bibliophile Anand Ganapathy.
Yes, I am aware that I was very sarcastic about the Silappadikaram. No, that is not because of disrespect because satire is the highest form of flattery. OK?
Image source: (Yes, I am aware it's from 9th century Java, which is why I very cleverly mentioned Java in this episode. And I can't help it if there are no open source images of ancient Indian ships!) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/30/Borobudur_ship.JPG