all towns are one, all men our kin.
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TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM
Selected Writings - N.Nandhivarman
Historical Atlas of South India
6 December 2007
A partnership in research yields good results. At present “ The Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology of the Tamil University Thanjavur and The Laboratory of Geomatics and Applied Informatics of the French Institute Pondicherry have joined together to develop and deploy a digital Atlas of South India on the internet accessible to everyone, presenting the political, social and cultural and all inclusive history of South India through a combination of maps, illustrations, texts and geographical information” said Dr.Y.Subburayalu, Coordinator of the unique project on South India.
Tamil University Thanjavur for past decade had been collecting each and every bit of information, which forms the basic data. It joined hands with the Institut Franciase de Pondicherry under the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs for incorporating all these data into the Atlas from 2000 and in four years covered lot of ground.
In the meanwhile Mahatma Gandhi University of Kottayam, Mangalore University and Hyderabad University have joined as new partners. Because already for decades lot of basic data had been collected and readily available in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the first phase of the project covers the entire two states. But since Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka entered late into the fray they are currently working on two pilot projects only to gain momentum soon.
Using the maps by Survey of India as base maps and improving upon them with maps provided by satellite pictures the Historical Atlas of South India is being prepared. The satellite imagery will be in the background and these maps will have 30 layers of information packed to suit the needs of every scholar’s choice.
The Geomatics and Applied Informatics Laboratory of the French Institute Pondicherry that plays a pivotal role is a laboratory that specializes in the acquisition, management, modeling and analysis of spatial information on the Indian sub-continent with the aim to address scientific queries. “The contribution of the laboratory to the research projects is based on expertise in the development of Geographic Information Systems and analysis of satellite remote sensing data and favours a multi-disciplinary and integrative approach. Recently, the laboratory was responsible for launching a new area of activity pertaining to the development of web-browser based applications for the dissemination of scientific results through CD-ROMs and the web” according to informed sources.
Looking at the other side of the world we find that United Nations realized the need for a marriage of technology and history when it accepted in 1974 a new map prepared for the world by Arno Peters, a German scholar. Peter’s map shows countries in their respective sizes and is based on Peter’s decimal grid, which divided the surface of the earth into hundred longitudinal fields of equal width and hundred latitudinal fields of equal height.
Because much before this map was accepted the Atlases based on Mercator maps showed Greenland and Scandinavia to be bigger than India. Russia appeared bigger than entire continent of Africa. It seemed that Europe occupied more areas than South America. “These are not due to limitations of mathematics, but a deliberate attempt to show Colonial Europe as bigger than non-European world” opines Vishal Sharma. Hence to rectify this anomaly Peter’s projections came to be accepted by United Nations. The Historical Atlas of South India too is an attempt to update knowledge keeping room to add fresh every new information as and when found. Thus it is an attempt to keep perfection and precision.
Dating back to 5 lakh years and covering the Stone Age up to 10,000 years ago the Atlas travels down and the New Stone Age between 3000 to 4000 years ago. It covers the metal age and pre-historical period of 1600 A.D and thus Atlas provides every information in a nutshell. Tamil University Thanjavur, which studied extensively, and intensively Pudukottai area have established the contributions of Jains to the iconography of Tamils. The well built tank irrigation system of Pudukottai region with inscriptions found in the sluices of the tanks yielded lot of information on irrigation and land administration. This information is fed into the Atlas.
The Atlas is arranged in a time line of eight broad periods. It covers four major themes such as Political, Social, Economical and Cultural. Textual information is provided in link files. One can access these at http://www.ifpindia.org
Apart from the Atlas prepared by one of its divisions, The French Institute [IFP] has an extremely rare collection of photographs dating back to 1956. This assorted collection consists of about 1,23,000 black and white photographs and 5500 color films and slides focusing on South Indian religious art and iconography including temple views, stone and bronze statues, paintings, architectural motifs, pre-historic cave rock paintings, palaces, jewelry etc.
The Department of Indology at the IFP has the unique distinction of being a meeting place for the exchange of scientific thoughts and ideas between Western Indologists on the one hand and traditional Indian scholars on the other. The Department houses an impressive collection of 10000 bundles of manuscripts and photographs of manuscripts on Saivasiddhanta along with 1,30,000 photographs of temples and sculptures on religious art in South India “In its vast centralized air-conditioned library from where one can see the Bay of Bengal it is surprising that local Tamil magazines and English news papers etc are not be found” commented a social activist. Researching the past must reach the present society and today’s news is tomorrow’s history.