The Lost Continent of Kumari Kandam (Lemuria)

Written By: Kayalvizhi

Kuamri2“When the southern ocean boiled over and seized the land, fine men, graceful women, and beautiful people, shapely colorful birds, animals and other living beings all suffered and perished. Temples, mansions and palaces, renowned Tamil libraries and the rare arts, colleges and schools, assemblies and meeting houses, market places and port facilities, homes, gardens and playing fields, all disappeared into the ocean.” Mutthuvirasami Naidu eloquently describes the destruction of Lemuria by ocean waves.

Lemuria, also known as Kumarikandam remains a point of fascination and enhancement of Tamils everywhere. From the Silapathikaram, a Sangam literature, to modern writings, references have been made to Kumari Kandam and cruel sea that destroyed it. Kumari Kandam was a continent which extended east to Australia and in the West to Madagascar. Its inhabitants were the Tamils before it was consumed by ravaging waves. The volcanic eruptions paired with violent raging waves resulted in submerging Kumari Kandam. Kumari Kandam was Tamil land. It was the birthplace of our ancestors.Today, Tamil scholars who try to piece together the puzzle of the missing continent ask the question, what did we lose through Lemuria?

The name itself, Kumari Kandam, meaning virgin continent/land was originally referred to locally as Kumari Nadu. Later, it became Kumari Kandam to Tamils. Its English reference, Lemuria, has a much more colonialist naming. Lemuria, was named by English zoologist Philip Sclater in 1864 after the monkey-like lemurs which he felt inhabited the land. He referred to Tamils who inhabited the land as beastly and lemur looking, and thus the name Lemuria was born. Tamils, not accepting Lemuria as a respectful name, continue to refer to this lost continent as Kumari Kandam. The name itself suggests that Kumari Kandam was a virginal, untouched, unviolated land – once which gave birth to the ancient Tamil civilization.

The loss of our land and culture through Kumari Kandam has affected our influence and survival. Scholar A. M. Paramasivanandam once said, “If today our ancient Tamil land and ancient Tamil learning had survived, we would have ruled the world from Kumari to the Himalayas!” Our ancestors once rules the vast continent of Kumari Kandam, but today, we have been confined into relatively small space – that too which is being appropriated away from us. The interest of Lemuria was sparked in the 1890s, when Tamil intellectuals first started to piece together European geographies with Tamil history, language and literature. It was during this period that Tamil intellectuals began to recognize Kumari Kandam as the birthplace of Tamil language, literature and culture. Kumari Kandam was a continent we Tamils ruled, our literature, culture and language thrived in our own land.

The imagination and fascination of Kumari Kandam will continue. However, we need to be the ones to undercover our history. With a renewed interest by Tamils into roots and history, maybe we may learn more of our history. Our history, much of it burned in the Jaffna Library, other scribes are locked up in libraries and scribes un-deciphered – at the Roja Muttiah Library now owned by American Universities and other undetected books. Maybe these artifacts can tell the tale of Kumari Kandam and more about our Tamil history. What happened to the history of Kumari Kandam?? Will we find out?


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