Part of Collector Anu George’s efforts to rekindle interest in Ariyalur’s geological and historical significance, the showcases feature the first few exhibits of a fossil gallery being planned within the collectorate.

Two regular showcases housed within the main hallway of the Ariyalur collectorate seemed to be drawing curious glances from visitors: while some people walked past slowly, glancing through the racks, there were many others who seemed inquisitive enough to stop and read the accompanying literature.

Part of Collector Anu George’s efforts to rekindle interest in Ariyalur’s geological and historical significance, the showcases feature the first few exhibits of a fossil gallery being planned within the collectorate.

Fossilised history

“Hundred fossilised specimens retrieved from different places in the district will be on display along with their names, and background information like the species family (and sub-family, if any), age and the place retrieved from,” says S.M. Chandrasekar, Chairman, Earth Park Trust, who is setting up the exhibits. The geologist, recently named geological nodal guide for Ariyalur district, has been actively campaigning for the preservation of the district’s tryst with the sea and its marine life.

“At present, there are 42 specimens on display and the most important ones are Gryphea, Alectronia, Ostriya, Ammonite and Exogyra,” he says, adding that it would be really helpful if cement factories as well as individuals with rare specimens could hand them over to the proposed gallery.

“Ariyalur has got a tremendous history behind it and we are trying in small ways to preserve it and revive public interest,” says Ms.Anu George.

Towards this effect, the Ariyalur collectorate is in the process of revamping its official website with information and photographs about the region’s historical and geological importance.

“Some of the pictures from the gallery in our website will be displayed along with the fossils in the gallery,” she added.

Geological monument

The most striking evidence that Ariyalur was once under the sea extends between the Varanavasi and Keezhapazhur villages: the 25-acre stretch of undulating dunes was once the seabed and will soon be declared a restricted area. “We are in the process of restricting access to that stretch in order to preserve it as it is,” says the collector, who added that the area would be included within the Prohibitory Order Book at the gazette soon.

According to Chandrasekar, the stretch is a fine example of the rare bad land topography and needs to be protected from being flattened out for cotton cultivation (like in adjacent areas). Pointing out that Wales, United Kingdom was the only other place in the world where this rare geological phenomenon exists, he says, “to preserve what is left of it, the stretch needs to be declared a state and national monument.”

Spreading the word

“We have, through the collectorate, approached the Indian Railways, with a request to put up large boards that announce to passengers that they are passing through a geologically important zone,” says Chandrasekar, “and stations like Ariyalur, Virudachalam, Lalgudi, and Tiruchi have been earmarked for the purpose.”

Similar boards have been proposed at the Ariyalur and Perambalur bus stands as well. Having recently approached the information ministry and postal department at the centre, the geologist is hopeful of getting a stamp on Ariyalur’s fossils released soon.

“My long term aim is to set up a natural history museum at the bad land topography site in Keezhapazhur so that the Ariyalur’s fossils are preserved in their naturally occurring state,” he says.