Keezhadi, situated in the district of Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu, is one among the potential archaeological sites. Initially, it was just one among 200 sites along the Vaigai river. Later 5,000+ artefacts have been unearthed from the place. As of now, including pot sherds, stone celts (axe-like stone tools), beads and jewellery, iron implements, coins of the Pandya and Chola kingdoms, and lots more.
The dig also revealed a vast, planned layout of acity, aligned to the cardinal directions, with stone structures, brick walls, platforms, and the like which point to a masterplan, and the presence of an unknown master planner. Professor Arasu, a Sangam Scholar, claims that the central government has delayed the excavation works at the site because the process doesn’t fit under their politics.
However, according to mentors in archaeology – absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Yes, so far Keezhadi points to a secular site, but it’s still early days for Keezhadi. We’ve been assured that digging will resume, with a different team – led by the TN State Department of Archaeology. If the new team digs deeper, digs wider, digs more, they may find cult objects, remnants of rituals: after all, valiant kings, martyrs were deified.
Apotheosis of fallen protectors happened even in Sangam times. A song by Auvvayyar points to a clear ritual – the planting of a hero stone, the washing of it with bark wine, the offering of food and drink to the deified hero, and the invocation of the spirit.
But that does not mean Keezhadi will not be politically important.
There are many things to focus on. Secularism is important, but that alone isn’t the story. And if that is proved to be false, that too isn’t the story. The story is the archaeology.
Many of the objects have inscriptions on them in the Tamil Brahmi script – with names, signatures, personal stories, the stories of an era. These are invaluable to us. We need to learn these, find out more about Thisan, Aadhan, Udhiran, and their sisters, wives, mothers, brothers, fathers, friends.
For every object of Thisan we find, we must wonder why the women did not get to put their names on record. For every celt of Aadhan we find, we must ask who made it, when it was made, what was the need for it, and how it was used. We must ask if Aadhan lost it in his lifetime, or was it buried along with him.
We must ask other questions too, of the objects found. Who were these artisans making carnelian beads? What was their place in society? Where did they produce the stunning jewels, and how did it reach Keezhadi?
Answers to these inquiries would reveal to us who and what was esteemed in Keezhadi. What’s more, how that esteem was praised and loved. Not everything ceremonial should be religion. Be that as it may, asking the correct inquiry as archeologists and students of history will direct us toward where religion originates from for each of us, and to our precursors, and that is profitable data.