The archaeological excavations, conducted at Keeladi village of Sivaganga district, at a driving distance of 13 kms from Madurai Tamil Nadu have revealed that a well civilized and sophisticated habitat oriented in cardinal directions, which suggest the prevalence of systematic urban planning dating back to 3rd Century BCE. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) did commence its first phase of work, from February to September 2015, in 43 quadrants wherein brick structures available in the construction of house buildings, Rouletted and Arretine pot shreds were excavated. The finds suggest trade links with other parts of the country and abroad. The Roman artefacts found at the site add to the evidence of ancient Indo-Roman trade relations.
The second phase of excavations in 2016 have confirmed with the total exhibits of antiquity, exceeding 5300, of varied types like glass beads, semi-precious gemstones, pearl beads, iron implements, shell bangles, ivory dice etc. Pot shreds with Tamil Brahmi inscriptions point to the presence of a highly literary society. Graffiti of Sun and Moon demonstrate that they had ‘astronomical sense’ too. The excavated exhibits reveal the functioning of industrial units with technological equipment for purification of water, conveyed through open as well as concealed earth pipes. With all these, it has been established that Sangam period (3rd Century BCE to 4th Century CE) of Tamils was oriented on urban civilization. The archaeological experts who had been associated with the excavations of Indus Valley Civilization site in Gujarat were involved in the Keeladi archaeological excavation assignments. The details of the excavations have revealed that the nature of civilization that prevailed in Keeladi is on par with Indus Valley Civilization of Mohenjo daro and Harappa which are now in Pakistan territory.
Further proceeding in the excavation work by ASI will definitely bring out more evidences for arriving at the well civilized living led by the people of the territory, related to the pre historical period of 2500 years ago.
So far, the excavations were carried out only in 50 cents of land on the basis of agreement for specific period. There is scope to continue the archaeological work in an extent of 110 acres of privately owned land holdings. It is said that the expenditures of Rs 25 lakhs in 2015 and Rs 30 lakhs in 2016 was incurred for the establishment of archaeological team and carrying out excavations which are very meagre compared to the trove of treasure of historical significance, probable to be acquired.
The third phase of excavations has to be commenced for which formal proposal has been sent to the Government of India. Further work must be assigned with larger team of archaeological experts to facilitate the excavations in much wider area.
The exhibits of archaeological excavations of the first phase had already been sent to Regional Museum of Natural History, Mysuru of Karnataka. Due to the voluminous materials excavated so far, it is very pertinent and of practical convenience to establish one onsite museum at Keeladi itself.
The dimension of archaeological significance of Keeladi is wide with pre historical facts, compared to the earlier archaeological excavations, conducted at Adichanallur (1904), Arikamedu (1947) and Cauvery Poompattinam (1965). Those excavations were stopped abruptly. Such a discontinuance of archaeological survey should not happen at Keeladi.
Both the Archaeological Survey of India and the Department of Archaeology, State Government of Tamil Nadu must continue with their special efforts through allocation of adequate financial resources including due compensation to the owners of the land holdings where excavations were carried out during the past and probable holdings in future besides allotting site for the construction of onsite museum.
We appeal earnestly to the Governments both at the Centre and the State to act swiftly to bring out the cultural heritage of the people of the land for the proof of which a lot of archaeological evidences are required. The evidences, excavated so far and likely to be excavated in future at Keeladi will definitely add strength to such archaeological mission!