Every year, millions of people flock to the warm, tropical seas and gorgeous beaches of Southeast Asia. But very few holiday-makers are aware that the clear waters they are swimming in are likely covering the evidence of a former civilisation – one which, until relatively recently, was standing on dry land.
Known also as the Sunda Shelf, Sundaland is the geographical term for the sections of South-East Asia that were above water before the end of the last Ice Age. 15,000 to 12,000 years ago, as the ice melted, the area flooded and formed the coastlines we know today.
The following map reveals how much more connected everything used to be.
We can see here how there is a clear definition between the edge of the Sunda Shelf and Sahul, the shelf encompassing Australia and Papua. The barrier between the two shelves lies between Bali and Lombok in the Lombok Strait, in a very deep stretch of water that would have been around well before the ending of the last Ice Age. Today we call this barrier the Wallace Line, after the British naturalist Alfred Russell Wallace.
Because the water in the Lombok Strait is so deep, Bali and Lombok have been separated even during times when sea levels were very low. This means that most animals and even birds could not cross the Wallace Line. Hence, animals west of the line have evolved distinctly differently to animals east of it, and there is a clear biological separation between the two regions.
In comparison to the Lombok Strait, the bodies of water surrounding the current coastlines of Southeast Asia are relatively shallow. For example, the Gulf of Thailand is on average 58 metres deep, and the Java Sea is on average 46 metres. As these seas cover land that was exposed 15,000 years ago, it is feasible that there would have been communities living on those plains before ocean levels rose.
There are clues to these lost cultures in some of the traditions of modern Southeast Asia. A wonderful example is the Thai festival of Loy Krathong. On the full moon of the twelfth month of the Thai calendar, people gather by the sea and along waterways to release krathong, small banana-leaf boats that bear incense, flowers and candles. In the north of the country the festival is called Yi Peng, and is celebrated with the release of countless lanterns into the night sky.
There are numerous tales accounting for the origin of this festival. Many say it is of Hindu origin and was originally dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma but was changed to a Buddhist festival 150 years ago. Others say it originated in Sukothai and started as a leisurely celebration, then later became a religious ceremony. In modern times, many Thais float krathongs as a way of letting go of any bad luck or misfortune that may have plagued them over the preceding year. The krathongs are also viewed as an offering to the water goddess, to give thanks for the gift of water and to make amends for polluting it.
The name of the Thai water goddess is Phra Mae Kong Ka, which is said by some to be the Thai name for the Hindu goddess Ganga, after whom the river Ganges is named.
However, in Frank Joseph’s “The Lost Civilization Of Lemuria”, an altogether different theory is put forward.
Joseph mentions that colloquial evidence suggests that the small banana-leaf boats are released in homage to a sunken Motherland, and to the spirits of the ancestors who perished when it was flooded. Joseph says that the Motherland is said to have been sunken by Suvanamacha, the Queen of the Sea. Some of you may recognise the name Suvanamacha, or Sovann Macha, from the Indian epic, the Ramayana.
It may be a little surprising to hear Suvanamacha attributed as the goddess responsible for the flooding of an ancient Motherland. In the Ramayana, Suvanamacha is the beautiful mermaid who falls in love with the monkey-god Hanuman, and their tale is celebrated throughout Southeast Asia. Suvanamacha and her mermaid form are particularly revered in certain locations such as Thailand and Cambodia. However, while Suvanamacha certainly has an important role in the Ramayana, I have not been able to find any indication that she was ever responsible for a flood or submersion.
This video shows the Cambodian Royal Classical Ballet performing the Reamker (Cambodian Ramayana). The French subtitles detail how Hanuman’s monkey army build a causeway to Lanka using rocks, but the mermaids thwart their plan by taking the rocks away. When Hanuman meets Suvanamacha, the mermaid queen, they fall in love.
Despite the lack of explanation as to how Suvanamacha came to be held responsible for the sinking of the Motherland, the rest of the story is not difficult to entertain.
At the end of the last Ice Age, the low plains of the Sunda Shelf would easily have been home to many villages and tribes whose lives were changed by the gradual loss of land as sea levels rose. It’s also very probable that communities on outlying islands were forced to sail across the recently-formed seas to the new shores as their ever-shrinking homes became unable to sustain them.
Joseph highlights the intriguing archaeological discovery at Ban Chiang, not far from the Thai-Laotian border, as evidence of the arrival of a highly-progressive people from elsewhere. The finds have been controversial, in that the supposed age of the site ranges from anywhere between 1500 BC to 4400 BC. Although the later dates are more commonly accepted, some claim the earlier dates are correct. Furthermore, the people living at this site had access to pottery, bronze working, cloth manufacture and agriculture, among other things; this means that if the earlier dates are accurate, the Ban Chiang community was even more advanced than the people of Mesopotamia, the so-called cradle of civilisation.
Joseph also puts forward that there is no evidence of early forms of these crafts at the site, indicating the people at Ban Chiang already possessed these technologies when they settled there. In the absence of evidence of their presence in the surrounding area, Joseph surmises that they must have arrived as mariners, with the evidence of their original home likely now submerged.
If this theory is correct, it could also answer the question of why a community supposedly from submerged areas of Sundaland may have chosen to settle in an area that is slightly inland, rather than on the new coast. Ban Chiang is close to rich sources of copper and tin – settling there would be a smart move for a culture that supposedly was already familiar with bronze working and metallurgy.
The idea of technological advancement in association with Sundaland also fits in with the theory many hold about the Sunda Shelf being the site of another famed lost land. Quite a few people have pegged the area as being the home of Atlantis.
As science and technology were definitely the hallmarks of the Atlanteans I can see how some would hold fast to this connection. Several people have even named Angkor Wat as the former site of Atlantis, stating the structure is far older than archaeologists believe it to be. With its moat and outer walls it is easy to see the similarities between Angkor Wat and the supposed design of the Atlantean capital, Poseidonis. However in my own journeying, both physical and spiritual, I have received a different impression.
My feeling is that Sundaland had far more in common with Lemuria than Atlantis, and pure geography would support this. However, the land was submerged approximately 15,000 years ago, well behind the loss of most other Lemurian islands and even potentially behind the loss of Atlantis. But according to many psychics, there was a lot of interaction between the two civilisations. In my own visions I have seen latter-day Lemurians living with technology and culture that I knew was Atlantean; simple things that made life different to the early days of Lemuria, such as a style of dress or jewellery, or the use of polished crystal instead of raw.
Is it possible, then, that the neo-Lemurians who lived on the plains of the Sunda Shelf possessed technologies given to them by Atlantis? Did Atlantean culture blend into Lemurian life, even despite the Lemurians’ love of spirit over intellect? If there was communication between the two, then a form of cultural imperialism was likely – we need only look at today’s world to see how this can happen. It is, therefore, very feasible that if the Lemurians possessed Atlantean technologies, their descendants would have subsequently brought them to their new home.
As for Angkor Wat, the idea that the building is older than archaeologists believe does not resonate with me either. The Khmer Empire was more than capable of building this impressive city-temple and we need not look for any explanation other than the brilliance of King Suryavarman’s engineers and craftsmen. Furthermore, there is concrete evidence of Angkor Wat’s construction in the 1100s.
That said, there is also evidence of earlier structures at the site and throughout the surrounding area, with NASA radar recently detecting prehistoric mounds nearby. I believe this is what psychics are picking up on; I myself have stood on the grounds of many Angkorean temples and felt that I was observing merely the most recent in a long line of civilisations.
Across the surface of the planet there are many ley lines and where these converge we have what some call “power spots”. These spots, also known as the chakras of the Earth, are sites of great power and importance. They become places where humans gather to honour the divine and pursue spirituality; some fantastic examples are Uluru in Australia and Glastonbury in the United Kingdom.
These sites will always remain powerful regardless of the culture or religion that dwells near them; Glastonbury Tor, for example, was once sacred to the local pagan community, but when Christianity spread throughout the British Isles it became an important Christian site also. The potential for power didn’t change; only the human ideology did.
Likewise, Angkor Wat is located along one of the planet’s ley lines and is a great source of power. When those who are sensitive visit a site such as this, they can pick up on the layered energy of the numerous groups who have been in residence over the millennia. A little like the clear films of an overhead projector, each new group and theology lays down more history, complicating the picture while each layer remains visible. Hence, when visiting a power spot a sensitive person will naturally receive a great deal of information – and not all of it from the most recent inhabitants!
During my time at the Angkorean temples, I was constantly receiving the message that the stones of the buildings had stories to tell – but the ground they stood on had more.
Admittedly, the above theories draw a long bow with regard to explaining the Ban Chiang site, the origins of Loy Krathong, the mounds near Angkor Wat and other anomalies in the region. However, many people feel they cannot discount these theories entirely. The Loy Krathong story of a sunken Motherland may be referring to just one small community that had to escape rising waters; but similar stories abound. It is possible that these legends are all the result of many people groups gradually migrating away from flooded regions, all generating stories of their own about the Motherland they left behind.
The First Nations people living around Crater Lake in Oregon, USA give us a beautiful example of how a natural event can survive in folklore for hundreds of generations. Crater Lake was formed in the caldera of a volcano, Mount Mazama, which erupted almost 8000 years ago. The Klamath Indians of the area lived near the mountain at the time, as proven by archaeological evidence buried underneath the ash layer. The people have passed down the story of the volcano eruption and the lake formation, generation after generation. So if they were able to keep their story well alive for 8000 years, is it not possible for others to do the same thing across a slightly longer period?
Perhaps the shallow waters of the Sunda Shelf contain the secrets of these lost civilisations. Or perhaps the waters have reclaimed all and Sundaland now lives on only in the archaeological anomalies and myths of her descendants. I hope that by preserving the folklore of the region we can provide clues to future generations, who may unearth more evidence about life in Southeast Asia 15,000 years ago.
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