Lemurian Legends

Sumathi Ramaswamy. The Lost Land of Lemuria: Fabulous Geographies, Catastrophic Histories. University of California Press, 2005.

First envisaged by 19th naturalists and geologists to explain the distribution of lemurs and other fauna in the days before continental drift was the accepted explanation, Lemuria was soon taken on board by western occultists such as H. P. Blavatsky and W Scott-Elliot. They constructed around this fabulous lost continent to construct of mythology of loss. While many Magonia readers will familiar with this use of Lemuria, I doubt few if any will be aware of the use of the lost continent by Tamil intellectuals in India.

In some respects Tamil nationalism as explored here has resemblance to Celtic nationalism in Ireland and Wales, in that it appeals to a people who feel that their homeland has been taken away by invaders, and feel themselves now on the margins. Tamil nationalism constructs the image of a fabulous lost Tamil land, taken like Atlantis or Lyonesse by the cruel sea. From the end of the 19th century, this lost land became identified with the European constructed Lemuria, and the ‘facts’ of this lost continent speculation were adduced to back up Tamil visions of lost greatness.

These visions are presented as facts by propaganda produced by the state government of Tamil Nadu (formerly Madras), and in locally produced textbooks, though this largely limited to primers in Tamil language and literature which has low status in the area, compared with career enhancing science based subjects. In some respects these fantasies of the remote past act as sort of safety valve because they rarely involve modern day irredentist claims, and the author notes that for example Tamil nationalists in Sri Lanka have not used this mythology as a basis for their actions

The author feels that perhaps rather than giving too much reign to the imagination, the constructers of this mythology of loss have not used this mythical land to erect utopian visions of a free and just society.

Magonia readers should find ploughing through the sometimes dense social studies jargon worth while to explore a fascinating new topic.  |PR|

No comments: