TIRUNELVELI:A sleepy village now, Ukkirankottai in the district was a bustling centre of trade and commerce till the reign of the Pandiyas. The ongoing excavations here has thrown new light on human settlement and trade during the period.
Remnants of ancient temples besides tiles, terracotta figurines, decorated pot shards, Chinese pots, beads and bangles have been found so far at the place located between Azhagiya Pandiyapuram and Alankulam.
Briefing the media about the excavation, going on for more than 10 days, S Vasanthi, Deputy Superintendent of Archeology said, “The site was selected on the basis of available historical records such as stone and copper inscriptions which establish the early and later Pandiya connections to Ukkirankottai. Besides, there were also remains of a Pandiya fort and temples. Hence, our present excavation focuses on the human settlement, trade and cultural materials of the Pandiya rule.”
The excavations are being carried out at five places in the farmlands. “The team has identified the remains of a temple of early Pandiyas. We are not able to identify the deity. Based on the architectural design of the basement and other remains such as tower, we assume that it belongs to early Pandiya rule, but renovated later,” she said. Elaborating on other materials unearthed from the trenches, J Ranjith, Excavation director, said “We have so far unearthed ammikal (grinding stone), pot shards, bangles, beads, tiles, roofs, iron logs and terracotta sculptures belonging to early Pandiyas. At the same time, we have also identified Chinese pots belonging to later Pandiya rule - 13th to 16th century. This reveals the trade links of Ukkirankottai.”
“While the wheel made pots are fine products, hand made pots are decorated with either coir or nail impressions,” he added.
Stressing the historical and political importance of this place during the Pandiya rule, former senior Epigraphist V Vedhachalam told Express that Ukkirankottai was an important military base for the early Pandiya kings (from 600 AD to 1000 AD). Ukkirankottai was earlier called as Karagiri or Karakondapuram. During 9th century, a military leader named Ukkiran resisted Pandiya supremacy following which Paranthaka Veeranarayanan invaded Karakondapuram and defeated Ukkiran, he pointed out.