2000 Year Old Labyrinth Uncovered in India Shows Same Pattern as a Greek Maze from 1200 BC
Archaeologists have uncovered a labyrinth in India that dates back 2,000 years and has a pattern similar to those found on clay tablets found at Pylos, Greece, from 1200 BC.
The square Indian labyrinth, which measures 56 feet (17 meters) by 56 feet (17 meters), is in Gedimedu near Pollachi and is being excavated by researchers from the Verarajendran Archaeological and Historical Research Centre, of Tirupur, says the Times of India. The site is on an ancient trade route on the east coast that went from Palakkad Gap to Alagankulam. Locals have built a temple over the labyrinth, but archaeologists intend to ask them to remove it to allow further excavation and study.
“The labyrinth has one pathway which leads inexorably to the goal from the point of entry. One has to walk through the right path to reach the goal. It is believed that the person who walks through the seven routes correctly will fulfill his wishes,” S. Ravikumar, chief of the research team, told the Times of India. Other researchers are K. Ponnusamy, S. Velusamy and S. Sathasivam.
The symbolism and meaning of labyrinths in the ancient world are complex and multifarious. In some Asian cultures, the labyrinth was related to “the escape from samsara and the laws of karma,” says An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols by J.C. Cooper.
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Labyrinths also share symbolism with the enchanted forest, the course of the sun, paradise regained, attaining realization after an ordeal or trial, a rite of passage from the profane to the sacred and “the journey of life through the difficulties and illusions of the world to the center as enlightenment or heaven,” Cooper writes. “Going into a labyrinth symbolized death, coming out is rebirth.”
The Times of India says labyrinths are a fertility symbol and “represent a unique pattern of consciousness and have been used as a meditation tool and a wish-fulfilling symbol since the Neolithic period.”
“The inner walking space of this labyrinth varies from 2.6 feet (79 cm) to 3.6 feet (1.09 m). The entrance is towards the east. Its old name is Seven Round Fort. The pattern is the same that we see on the clay tablet from Pylos in Greece, one of the oldest labyrinths in clay," Ravikumar said.
An extremely complex labyrinth (blirk.net)
The labyrinth in Gedimedu is the second-largest ancient one found in India. Just a year ago, in 2014, an archaeologist found the largest known ancient Indian labyrinth in Tamil Nadu state. Also, a circular labyrinth was found in a cave in Andhra Pradesh in the 6th century AD.
“Labyrinths were seen in the Hoysala period (1,006 to 1,346 AD) and this can be understood from the Abimanyu's Chakravyuha sculpture in the Halabedu Hoysaleswara temple. The popularity of the labyrinth lies in the traditional 'kolams' drawn in front of our houses," said K Ponnusamy.
According to An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols, labyrinth designs on homes were meant to do magic to confuse and prevent entry of evil spirits or other hostile powers.
The labyrinth at Gedimedu has been partly built over.
“As the locals worship deities after constructing a temple on top of the labyrinth, only 60 percent of the labyrinth is visible now. We have asked them to remove it and clean the surroundings,” Ravikumar said. “This place lies on an ancient trade route. Terracotta lamps and semi-precious stones were found from the nearby places. Megalithic period structures like cist burials, cairn circles and hero stones were also found here. The Roman coins obtained from this region belong to the 1st century AD. We are now looking at the possibility of a detailed study of the labyrinth,” he said.
Near the labyrinth in Gedimedu archaeologists have found hero stones like these from from Tirla, Dhar in Madhya Pradesh. (Photo by Shirazibustan/Wikimedia Commons)
Featured image: Reverse of a clay tablet from Pylos with a labyrinth motif. The tablet shows the earliest datable representation of the seven-course classical labyrinth. It and other tablets with written inscriptions were preserved from 1200 BC by a fire that destroyed the Mycenaean palace of Pylos. This tablet's labyrinth is similar to a maze found in India recently. (Photo by Marsyas/Wikimedia Commons)
By Mark Miller