This planet we call home has been around for about 4.53 billion years. Over this stupendous span of time, our earth has undergone countless changes we are only now beginning to understand. Millions of years ago, tectonic plate movements, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis had pushed land masses together, broken them apart, even drowned them in the oceans. Such is the might of nature that entire continents are known to have disappeared, without a trace, into the depths of the sea.
Geologists and explorers have always been fascinated with the idea of discovering the remnants of lost civilisations underwater. And in the recent years, a few excavations to find land masses under the oceans have been successful too. According to experts from the University of Liverpool, there may be five or six submerged islands in the Indian Ocean alone, maybe more under other oceans. In this article, Soulveda explores underwater worlds–both real and hypothetical–that have captured the interest of experts and the common man alike.
The city of Dwaraka, located in north-western India on the coast of Gulf of Cambay, is a popular pilgrimage site. Legend has it that it was once the kingdom of Lord Krishna. He is believed to have been born here at the end of the Dwapara Yuga (third of the four epochs mentioned in Hindu scriptures). This is when the legendary Mahabharata war is believed to have been fought.
Stories of Krishna’s role in the Mahabharata are well-known–while some accounts maintain he favoured the Pandavas and brought about their victory, others say he was the reason the war broke out in the first place. According to legend, when the entire line of Kauravas died on the battle field, a distraught Gandhari, their mother, accused Krishna of foul play and cursed him to suffer a similar fate. And thus, in the years that followed the great war, Krishna’s kingdom gradually descended into chaos. It is believed that in the end, the sea rose and engulfed the whole kingdom, destroying everything in its wake.
What was left of the region forms the Dwaraka of today, it is said. Interestingly, archaeological surveys held in the past couple of decades have unearthed the remains of a mysterious civilisation in the depths of the Gulf of Cambay. Findings have so far been inconclusive, but believers are overjoyed with the discovery of what could finally serve as proof that the kingdom of Lord Krishna was indeed real.
Rock samples collected from the submerged island of Mauritia, scientists have found, are much older than the Indian Ocean itself.
In the 19th century, scientists hypothesised that there may have once existed a giant continent that formed a ‘land bridge’ between the modern-day India and Madagascar. Fossils of primates called lemurs have reportedly been found in South India and Madagascar, but not in the intermediate countries of Africa or the Middle East. This led explorers to conclude that the two regions may have once been connected by land that eventually submerged under the ocean due to geological changes. This hypothetical continent was named Lemuria after the lemurs.
Mentions of such a land and its people have been found in ancient Tamil and Sanskrit texts. Many Tamil scholars believe that a vibrant Tamil civilisation thrived on this land called Kumari Kandam. Some suggest that the continent was ruled by women and hence the name (Kumari in Tamil refers to a young woman), while others say it is because of its proximity to the city of Kanyakumari.
It is not surprising that scientists started contemplating the existence of such a continent. However, the theory of continental drift and plate tectonics has made the idea obsolete. According to the theory, India and Madagascar were indeed part of the same landmass– Pangea–once. They did break apart millions of years ago, but no Lemuria fell into the ocean, geologists maintain.
The theory of Lemuria may have been discredited by geologists, but there was indeed a chunk of land that fell to the sea when India and Madagascar broke away. The microcontinent of Mauritia was that island, and it sank to the depths of the Indian Ocean close to 60 million years ago. Nearly 1,500 km long, the island stretches between Seychelles and the Mauritius islands. Rock samples collected from this submerged island, scientists have found, are much older than the Indian Ocean itself.
In 2017, Zealandia–which is approximately the same size as India–was declared the eighth continent of the world.
Around 85 million years ago, the continent of Zealandia broke off from Australia and was nearly completely submerged in the Pacific Ocean. Only about seven per cent of it remained above the sea, and this became the New Zealand we know today. It wasn’t until 1995 that scientists discovered the gigantic mass of land under the sea and gave it a name. In 2017, Zealandia–which is approximately the same size as India–was declared the eighth continent of the world. The findings about the island are recent and many studies are currently underway. So, experts are only just beginning to understand this mysterious underwater land.
Atlantis or the Island of Atlas is a fictional land from Greek Philosopher Plato’s works Timaeus and Critias. The kingdom–which was ruled by Poseidon, the god of the seas, storms and earthquakes–attacks Ancient Athens and against all odds, gets defeated. According to the works, Atlantis eventually invites the wrath of the gods and gets submerged in the Atlantic Ocean. Drawing from Plato’s imagination, a lot of modern writers have adopted the concept of Atlantis in their works–Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis and Thomas More’s Utopia, for instance.
There is much speculation among scholars about the possibility of Atlantis having been a real island that disappeared under the sea. Plato may have been talking about something that existed back then, thousands of years ago, they argue. Furthermore, it is said that there are records of Plato’s students exploring hieroglyphics in Egypt and finding evidence of the existence of Atlantis. While most of it is pseudo-scientific and fantastical, one can’t help but be fascinated by the remote possibility that Atlantis could have been real.