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Korkai, Srivaikundam, Thoothukudi

Korkai is a small village in the Srivaikundam taluk of Thoothukudi district in Tamilnadu, India. It was called Pandya – Kavada in the Kapatapuram in Kalithogai. It is situated about 3 km north of the Thamirabarani River and about 6 km from the shore of Bay of Bengal. Korkai was the capital, principal center of trade and important port of the Early Pandyan Kingdom. At that time, it was located on the banks of the Thamiraparani and at the sea coast, forming a natural harbour. Due to excessive sedimentation, the sea has receded about 6 km in the past 2000 years, leaving Korkai well inland today. The famous urn burial site, Adichanallur, is located about 15 km. from Korkai.
In ancient times, Korkai was a well-known center of pearl fishery; it is mentioned often in the Sangam literature and in classical western literature. Ptolemy, refers to the place as Kolkhai and says that it was an emporium. The Periplus says that the Pandyan kingdom extended from Kumari towards the north, including Korkai, where the pearl fisheries were. Correct identification of Korkai by archaeological excavations came in 1838. The finding of megalithic burial urns at Korkai indicates that it was fairly well populated during megalithic times.

In the excavation a structure with nine courses of bricks in six rows was unearthed at the depth of 75 cm from surface level. Below the structure three large sized rings placed one over the other (probably soakage jars) were found. Inscribed potsherds bearing Tamil Brahmi letters assignable, to 300 BCE to 200 CE were also found. Charcoal samples were collected which were assigned to 785 BCE, by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

Carbon dating of the artifacts in the area indicates an age of 785 BC. The finds of black and red pottery ware with old Tamil Brahmi scripts (two to four letters in a line or two), apart from drawn graffiti of the sun, fish, bow and arrow have been dated to a period between 3rd century BC and 2nd century AD. The occurrence of Roman ware and rouletted ware indicates external links. Archeologists have found ruins of Chanku cutting factories, centres for split opening of pearl oysters at the site.

Palaeo-channels traced from the satellite imagery scenes all around Korkai indicate that the Thamiraparani River has shifted its course progressively east and south and earlier it had mixed with sea near Thoothukudi. Interpretation of satellite imagery indicates that in the 1st and 2nd century CE, the Thamiraparani River might have flowed towards northeast from Eral, parallel to the coast and joined the sea south of Thoothukudi. Korampallam tank, Peykulam, and Arumugamangalam tank might be the relicts of palaeo channel of the Thamiraparani River.

Within a short span of nearly 2000 years, now Korkai is nearly 6 Kilometers away from Bay of Bengal and 3 Kilometers north of Tamirabarani, which was once a port and in the banks of the Tamirabarani and Thoothukudi has no river.

Korkai ancient port city of Pandian dynasty in the Sangam period is located on the main road from Thiruchendur to Thoothukudi. It is 29km from Thiruchendur. The Tank of Korkai is said to be Korkai kulam with an extent 250 acres. An ancient Vettrivelamman Temple is also situated here. Many numbers of tourists visit this temple.


Vanni tree in Korkai is believed to be 2,000 years old that lies twisted on the ground. Around it are several idols, including one of the Buddha, believed to have been installed by the Pandya kings, who are said to have offered prayers here and meditated under the tree.

The other is an excavated site, the ruins of Korkai, which is under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India. The ASI unearthed pottery dating back to the Harappa civilization. Also found were large bowls and urns in black and red, now housed in the Government Museum, Chennai.

Work is still on to find the exact location of the port. Folk beliefs, geology and geomorphology are being applied to learn more about life in the port city where the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas are believed to have lived together. This is evident from the numerous temples scattered around which reflect the architecture of each era.

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