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Lost and Found

[india]There was a palace of gold, ivory and silver with temples in the distance and ships venturing in and out of the ports. At least that’s what was written of Atlantis, the “lost” city, intriguing people far and wide for multiple centuries. The prospective ancient civilization has been disputed by many, and theories of its existence are forever being speculated. Documented by Plato in his dialogues in 360 B.C., the island of Atlantis was engulfed by the ocean in a single day. Some say the gods were angry with the people of Atlantis, and as a result, they imposed the flood, a tsunami that sunk the fabled island beneath the sea.
The tsunami in December 2004 unexpectedly produced a story with similar characteristics. As the tide receded from the shore at Mahabalipuram, prior to the deadly wave, the remains of what appeared to be a buried city, were revealed. Mahabalipuram is an old port city on the southeast coast of India dating back to the seventh century and holding the legend of the seven pagodas. Pagodas are towers often built on temples that are thought to offer protection. It is here in Mahabalipuram that fishermen and other locals tell stories of the seven pagodas that once shone over a city whose fate swept it away into the sea. The alleged story speaks of a city that was so beautiful, an immense flood was sent there by the gods out of jealousy. Six of the seven temples were submerged in the water, but the seventh can still be seen today. It has been acknowledged as a World Heritage site.
The flood that is spoken of is referenced in other ancient myths besides those of Atlantis or Mahabalipuram. Though their accuracy may be questioned, they are both consistent with reporting the “flood.” Between various myths, different reasons are given as to why it occurred. All seem to have a reference to the gods succumbing to their anger or jealousy. This may have been a way for people to justify these disasters, since their faith in the gods was so strong. It also must be taken into account that they did not understand what was occurring geologically, concerning the shifting of the plates in the earth that cause an earthquake. The earthquake then resulted in a tsunami, which overcame their coastal cities.
Within the last three years there have been investigations, such as diving expeditions, to search for evidence of human civilization in the waters off the Indian coast. Since the tsunami, exciting items have been recovered. A large statue of a granite lion was recovered that is thought to have been buried under the ocean floor and only surfaced due to the tumultuous sands that uncovered it. Two additional structures were found, one of an elephant’s head and another of a horse in flight. Both are stone structures with intricate drawings and carvings. A bronze Buddha statue has been washed up onto the shore as well. The possibility of the stone statues being remnants of the seven pagodas is currently being considered.
Ashley Patlevic, a psychology junior, doesn’t feel that the possible discovery of Mahabalipuram would change the history of the world, but it would increase peoples’ interest in Southeast Asia. “If they were to be proven, I do not think that it would change history because it doesn’t seem that they were important enough to be remembered,” Patlevic said. Katie Wilcox, an international relations and economics junior, has faith that both Atlantis and the lost city of the seven pagodas at Mahabalipuram did exist at one time. But she is intrigued by the thought of uncovering a new civilization.
So we know that stories of wonderment such as these are fantastic for children’s fables and movies, but did these places actually exist? Are the stories we consider to be myths, in fact, reality? These questions have plagued many for such great amounts of time that it may be a surprise if the truth is ever discovered. With Atlantis, for example, there are those who believe in its existence completely and those who believe Plato may have been describing an already existing place, such as Ireland. This is comparable to the belief in the seven pagodas and the city that was washed away for its beauty. Locals of Mahabalipuram have passed on from generation to generation the story of the “lost” city.
Evidence or lack thereof can lead one to consider both standpoints and an occurrence such as the tsunami, which has brought forth new information, only reinforces their belief in the legends, while provoking others to question what they can’t prove.
Where might these tales come from if there was no truth behind them? There appears to be so much detail concerning location and culture, it seems odd that these stories would be fictitious. But without proof there lies a window of uncertainty that will most likely remain open, allowing these stories to be disputed for years to come.

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