(ORDO NEWS) — This article attempts to definitively locate the land of Ophir – the ancient biblical “Eldorado”. It is appropriate to emphasize the fact that the exact location of Ophir was in the northwest of Sri Lanka, at a place called Mathottam.
This area disappeared from the map of the world as a result of twice flooding with sea water and now, with various cities and villages, lies under the Indian Ocean.
Travel to Ophir, a place known in biblical times as a source of a large amount of gold of the highest quality, began at the beginning of the first millennium BC.
Even today, this shiny yellowish metal, chemically known as AU, continues to retain its appeal as a unit of exchange and value. Countries in their monetary systems adopted the gold standard, defining a certain weight of gold equal to the value of their monetary units.
Previously, the ancient city of Ur (the preeminent Sumerian city in Mesopotamia) dominated the gold trade and remained an important marketing center in the region. Ur received large reserves of gold from an unknown place near South India – land considered holy land according to the beliefs of the Sumerians.
After the fall of Ur in early biblical times, Lebanon became the region’s leading gold market. Lebanon received its gold from a place known only as Ophir. Did Ur get his gold reserves from Ophir? Where is this mysterious land of Ophir?
The location of Ophir, well known for its abundance of gold in early biblical times, remains a subject of speculation and continues to attract the attention of scholars, biblical scholars, and laymen alike.
El Dorado, a fabulous South American city purportedly rich in treasures, is also of considerable interest. Unfortunately, however, Ophir remains elusive and mysterious to everyone.
According to the Bible, the ancient world made great efforts to obtain gold, especially during the reign of King Solomon and during the reign of his successors and others in the Middle East.
During the reign of Jehoshaphat, a hundred years after the death of King Solomon, frantic attempts were made to reach Ophir for gold, but these attempts were unsuccessful. Between Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah, king of Israel, numerous long negotiations took place in preparation for the trip to Ophir.
These negotiations failed and his ships were wrecked at Etzion Gebar, a seaport at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. “King Jehoshaphat built large ships to go to Ophir for gold; but they never arrived, because they were wrecked in Ezion-Gebar” (1 Sam. 22:48).
These events indicate that the area called Ophir was far from Israel, and the dangerous voyage required intense preparation. In addition, sailing required special experience, technical and professional knowledge and training in the field of navigation.
Biblical scholars and historians have attempted to pinpoint the location of this site by making bizarre guesses about its location. However, they failed to come to any conclusion as to Ophir’s exact location.
According to biblical information, Etzion Gebar, a seaport on the Red Sea, served as the departure point for ships that made constant journeys in search of Ophir and his gold. However, until now the location of Ophir eludes most historians and scholars.
We are now about to embark on a journey of discovery to finally put an end to the controversy over Ophir’s whereabouts.
Jews and Israel
For many people, the history of mankind before the advent of Christianity was primarily the history of the Jews (more correctly, the Jews). The Jews are the descendants of Abraham, who was born in Ur, one of the oldest Sumerian cities in the old kingdom of Mesopotamia.
He left Ur, went to Haran, and finally moved to Canaan, on the shores of the Dead Sea. Abraham’s descendants spoke a Semitic language called “Hebrew” and worshiped the Creator God JEHOVAH. The word “Hebrew” means “wanderers”.
The Bible focuses on the history of Abraham’s people, beginning with their sojourn in Canaan. The history of the Jews and other peoples is revealed on the pages of the Old Testament, the sacred writings of the Israelite people.
These documents contain interesting and valuable information about the gradual development of human civilization.
The Jews (or Judaists) are descended from the ancient tribe of “Judah”. The first person to use the title “Jew” was Jeremiah, the author of Kings. The Jews became a nation without a king, a city, or a temple.
The Persians invaded their borders in 587 BC, destroyed their first Temple, built by King Solomon, and Nebuchadnezzar took the Jews into captivity in Babylonia.
This is considered the beginning of the diaspora (scattering) of the Jewish people, and finally they lost everything in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed their Temple and city.
They continued to maintain their religious and ethnic identity and their exclusivity. They have managed to maintain their identity for more than 2,000 years thanks to the power of Jehovah’s Word, the Bible.
King Solomon (970 BC – 931 BC)
In the First Book of Kings, which begins with the reign of King Solomon (970 BC – 931 BC – the date must be confirmed), the mention of Ophir appears for the first time. Solomon succeeded his father David (1003 BC – 970 BC). He was outstanding, both in his merits and in his shortcomings.
Despite the meager evidence for the existence of King David, in the Bible he appears as one of the greatest figures and an exemplary king. He took under the protection of Hiram, the Phoenician king of Sidon.
This Phoenician alliance supported him and is considered an important element in the greatness of his son King Solomon.
Solomon decided to revise the religion of his people. He continued his alliance with Hiram, who used Solomon’s kingdom on the coast of the Jewish hill country as a means to reach and build sea routes across the Red Sea.
Usually the Phoenician trade routes went to the Red Sea through Egypt, but at that time this country was in a state of disorder. Therefore, Hiram developed a close relationship both with King David and, later, with his son King Solomon.
King Solomon informed Hiram that his father, King David, was unable to build a temple to Jehovah God because of his bloody past. Solomon conveyed his intention to build the Temple of YEHOVAH, as God the Creator had commanded his father, King David.
He asked Hiram to help him with this project. Solomon asked Hiram to send his men to Lebanon to prepare a cedar tree for him. Hiram agreed to supply cedar and cypress logs from the mountains of Lebanon, take them to the Mediterranean and float along the coast according to Solomon’s needs.
Solomon laid the foundation of the Temple in May 966 BC. in the fourth year of his reign, and completed construction in November 959 BC. in the eleventh year of his reign. He also built his palace, which took thirteen years to complete.
King Solomon left behind a great literary glory, in the center of which was “Wisdom”. The biblical Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, and Psalms 72 and 127 are attributed to him.
When King Solomon died, the united kingdom of Israel and Judah began to disintegrate. He was succeeded by his son Rehoboam (931 BC – 913 BC).
The Bible contains the following passages regarding Ophir, the building of the temple and the palace:
“And Hiram gave Solomon logs of cedar and cypress, according to all his desire” (1 Samuel 5:10).
“Also the ships of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought from Ophir a large amount of almog wood and precious stones” (1 Sam. 10:11).
“And the king made steps from almug wood for the house of the Lord and for the king’s house, and harps and stringed instruments for singers. Never again was there such an almug tree, and the like of it has not been seen until this day” (1 Sam. 10:12).
“King Solomon also built a fleet of ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Elath on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom” (1 Sam. 9:26).
“Then Hiram sent with a fleet of his servants, sailors who knew the sea, to work with the servants of Solomon. And they went to Ophir, and obtained from there four hundred and twenty talents of gold, and brought it to King Solomon” (1 Sam. 9:27, 28 ).
“For the king had merchant ships at sea with Hiram’s fleet. Once every three years merchant ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, monkeys and monkeys” (1 Samuel 10:22).
Gold, almog trees, precious stones, ivory, monkeys, spices, sandalwood and peacocks came to Israel from Ophir. The name of this place, written in the English translation of the Bible as Ophir, must have been the result of a translation in earlier years from Hebrew into Greek, and then into Latin and English.
This contributed greatly to the main confusion about the site’s location. The word “Ophir” comes from the Greek word “Office” meaning snake, and some believe that the Hebrew word for “serpent” is also the same.
However, in Hebrew the snake is called “Nahash” or “Saraf” (the Tamil word is Sarpam) and bears no phonetic resemblance to Ophir. It was the Jews, and not the Greeks, who called this place Ophir, and the reference to the Greek term ”
Many biblical scholars are confused about the location of Ophir, and no one has confirmed the location authoritatively. Some suggest that this place is located in southeastern Arabia or on the Ethiopian coast of the Red Sea.
According to another assumption, Ophir is located in Mashonaland, in the ruins of Zimbabwe, between the Zabezi and Limpo rivers. All these assumptions turn out to be untenable when you realize that one trip to Ophir and back took almost three years.
Therefore, Ophir must be very far away – several thousand nautical miles from the port of Etzion Gerber. Any ship departing from Etzion Gerber passes through the Arabian Sea and ends up in the Indian Ocean. Therefore, this place must be in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
It has also been suggested that Ophir was located in India, in the regions between the tributaries of the Indus River and China. In addition, some identify the old seaport of Supara or Sopara, located 40 miles north of Bombay (Mumbai), with the elusive Ophir.
The British archaeologist Ernest McKay, who first discovered the earliest civilization of India, believed that the inhabitants of the cities in the Indus Valley sailed to Sumer and other Mediterranean countries.
Thanks to archaeological discoveries, it has been established that the world’s oldest seaport, Bombay (Mumbai), located in the eastern part of Lothal, was connected by a seven-meter canal from its shipyards to the Arabian Sea.
Remarkably, Lothal, a city founded 4,000 years ago far to the south in the Indus Valley, is as old as Mohenjo-Daro.
The first excavations of the proto-Indian cities at Mohenjo-Daro found images of ships with masts, and this proves that in those early times there were large ships for long and long sea voyages in the Arabian Sea.
Although Ur seemed to be a key port of entry into Mesopotamia between 2350 and 1700 B.C. BC, archaeologists have discovered thousands of cylinder seals in Mesopotamia dating back to between 2300 and 2000 B.C. BC.
Many of these cylinder seals were inscribed in Dravidian, the earliest form of Tamil script, confirming the existence of maritime trade at Ur from the Tamil region below the Indian subcontinent.
According to reports, Ur imported various goods such as gold, silver, copper, lapis, lapis lazuli, carnelian, beads, exotic woods and inlay from the place,
Dravidian – Tamil
The identification of maritime trade routes with the West in historical times was greatly facilitated by references in the remarkable “Periplus of the Erythrean Sea” of the 1st century AD.
When studying the Periplus, one will notice that several places, cities and ports are written in the Dravidian language, known as Tamil.
“A number of South Dravidian words, almost all place names and dynastic names, appear in Greco-Roman sources such as the Periplaus maris Erythrael (circumnavigation of the Erythraean Sea) of 89 CE and in a 2nd century CE letter by Ptolemy Naukratis It is likely that the Western language is one of the most spoken in the world, and it is likely that the Western language terms for rice (compare Italian riso, Latin oryza, Greek oryza) and ginger (compare Italian zen zero, German ingwer, Greek zingiberis) are cultural borrowings.
From Old Tamil, in which they are arici and inciver, respectively.” (New Britannica, Volume 4, 15th edition, p. 699).
The early Mesopotamians used Tamil words to name places in ancient times, for example “Ur” means a settlement, city or community, and there are many words with the root “ur” such as “Uruk”, “Nimrud”, etc.
Moreover, in the Hebrew Bible (1 Samuel 10:22) ivory, monkeys, achalim, and peacocks arrived at the Israeli port. In the original Hebrew they are referred to as: Ivory – shen; monkeys – kapi; akhalim – agil, peacocks – tuki. These four words are Tamil.
In thinking about the need to adapt the Tamil words to the original Hebrew of the Bible, it is necessary to draw our attention to the word “Ophir”. The Tamil word “Ovar” means: painters, entertainers, sculptors, engineers, craftsmen and skilled workers in the construction trade.
The country of Ovar was also called “Oviyar Nadu” – the ancient land of Oviyar. Craftsmen, or skilled craftsmen, were called Ovar by foreign sailors, and it was also an adapted name for a seaport on the northwestern coast of Ilanka (Lanka).
Now it is appropriate to note that the word “Ovar” was corrupted by foreign sailors due to the inclination of their languages, and became known as Ophir – the country of the Oviyars.
This Oviyar country was mainly inhabited by the Naga tribe who lived in and around Mantai (Mathottam, the greatest empire), a port city in the northwestern part of Lanka, as seen from Chirupanarrupadai, one of the ten idylls of the old Tamil academy period (Sangam).
The Oviyars were a tribe of Nagas who inhabited the sea coast of Lanka. According to Chirupanarrupadai, the Agil (incense) and sandalwood used to wash the bodies of the girls show that this place was a port and that these objects fell from the ships (Chirupan, 11:161.221).
The Nagas were of Tibeto-Burmese origin, and by about 4000 B.C. they were driven by political unrest from Central Asia to India, across the northeastern border. The Nagas were the prominent non-Aryan race in India and their names are still preserved in various parts of India.
Ptolemy, in his “Geography”, written in the middle of the 2nd century, named Mantai Modouttu, which was the port of entry for maritime trade in the Indian Ocean. In addition, in prehistoric times it was a famous international emporium.
The phonetic similarity between Ophir and Oviyar is certainly striking, and Ophir must have been borrowed in the same way as the Hebrew words for ivory, monkeys, agila, and peacocks – ibha, kapi, ahalim, and tuqei, respectively, which are identical to them.
Tamil words – ipam, kapi, agil and tokay. Jewish navigators undoubtedly borrowed these words from the Tamil inhabitants of the waterfront.
Sri Lanka, since the prehistoric period and since the time of Iramayanam (Ramayana), has been known as “Ilanka”, which means “shining land”. But she also received several other names from different nationalities.
The Arabs called Ilanka “Serendib”, the Portuguese “Seilao”, the Sinhalese “Sinhala Dwipa”, the Tamils used the original name “Illam”, “Elam”, “Ilam” or “Ilanadu”, and the Thas added the honorific “Tewa”, naming the land “Island of Teva Lanka” (divine Ilanka), and the Greeks called it “Taprobane”.
Ptolemy believed that “Simondu” was an old name for Ilanka, but according to Periplus, Ilanka was then known as “Palaisimundon” – Palia Sila Mandalam (the old virtuous region). “Telmun” or ”
In the ancient Hindu epic “Iramayanam” Ceylon (Ilanka) is presented as a huge continent – a tradition not without scientific evidence.
The description in the Iramayanam about how Iram (Rama) crossed the peninsula and conquered Ilanka is a clear indication of the penetration of the Aryans (that is, strangers) into the southern part of the Hindustan peninsula.
According to Sri Lankan Buddhist chronologies such as Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa, Rajavaliya, etc., Ilanka was the abode of asuras – demons and yakhs (devils). Asuras in Tamil means A+Sura. Sura means those who drink alcohol in excess, and Asura means teetotalers.
In Buddhist chronicles, asuras and yakhis are called the indigenous inhabitants of the country – the descendants of devout Hindus and the descendants of Iravanan (Ravana), the Tamil king of Ilanka.
Previously, the Aryan poet Valmiki, a robber turned ascetic who wrote “Iramayanam” in Sanskrit, scornfully described the indomitable Tamil natives of Ilanki, calling them Rakshasas – monsters, demons and cannibals.
Rakshasas, according to popular Indian belief, are evil creatures, demons of various forms, terrible and cruel, who violate the sacrifices and religious rites of the Brahmins. It seems that the poet “Iramayanam”, furious in his causticity, applied the hated name of Rakshasas to a hated and hostile people.
The groups found in Dipavamsa, Mahavamsa and Rajavaliya are expressions of his hatred and horror, and not quite the historical name of a sect of people.
Pali and Sinhalese authors of ancient Buddhist chronicles used these pejorative terms when referring to the descendants of the original inhabitants of the country – the Tamils.
In former times, Aryan ascetics, not necessarily Brahmins, served as pioneers and spies against non-Aryans – the Dravidians, whose forests they occupied without permission, which became the main reason for the Aryan movement to the south.
However, it is clear that the ancient Pali, Sanskrit and Sinhala writers used swear words such as asuras, rakshasas and yakshasas.
The term yakshas means devils who can transmigrate and transform into any shape or size, and was used to refer to the Dravidians – the Tamils - who were the enemies of the Aryans, who had long resisted the advance of the pale-skinned race into the Indian subcontinent.
The Tamils were contemptuously called asuras (teetotalers), rakshasas (protectors of the Dravidian race and faith), yakhas (archers) and yakhs (devils in Sinhala) for their physical strength, courage and courage, as well as supernatural abilities attributed to them by the early Aryans.
The Dravidians established a powerful kingdom at Ilanka and asserted their dominion over the Deccan Plateau and other parts of South India.
However, according to historical evidence and judging by the southward movement of the Aryans (which is usually dated to about 1100 – 900 BC), it must be concluded that the original Iramyanam must have been composed at least fifty or a hundred years later.
Therefore, it is historically correct to assume that the war between Irama and Iravanan took place in ancient Ilanka – approximately during the period of the Aryan movement to the south.
The Iramayanam describes in detail the movement of the Aryans to the south. However, the “Iramayanam” tells the story of the abduction of Sita – the wife of Irama – by the king of southern Ilanka, Iravanan.
When Iravanan was the ruler of southern Ilanka, the Naga tribe (who were “ovars” or artisans of the highest order) ruled the northwestern part of Ilanka. The tribe of “artisans” descended from their leader Vishvakarma, the divine architect.
The five classes of artisans, namely Manu – blacksmiths, Maya – carpenters, Tuvashta Kannar – coppersmiths, Silpa Sirpi – masons, stone cutters, sculptors, architects, image makers and painters, Vishwanna – jewelers, are said to have been born from the five faces of Vishvakarma.
Although their country was known as Mathottam and their capital was called Mantai, a port city, the whole country was known as “Ovar” or “Ovyar Nadu” which means the land of the divine masters.
Ravana’s wife Mandotari was the daughter of the king of this country, Maya. Several thousand years ago, a great worshiper of Shiva built a temple for Shiva in Tiruketiswaram (Tashis) in this region. The lord of the temple was called Hovanna.
The artisans of Ovyar Nadu were also skilled at building airplanes. King Iravanan used an airship (airship) called “Puspakavimanam” to kidnap Sita, and this too was built by Ovar craftsmen.
At the entry port of Ovar, the busiest in the region, ships from various countries demanded gold, silver, copper, exotic woods, pearls, spices and other luxury items grown, produced and mined in and around Ovar.
Similarly, King Solomon’s ships called at the seaport of Obara for exotic cargo needed to build Jehovah’s temple and Solomon’s palace in Jerusalem. In our attempt to find Ophir, we need to confirm the presence of gold and silver in Ilanka.
The Phoenician history of Sanchoniaten is the earliest available record of a kingdom in the north of Ilanka. Sanchoniathon lived before the Trojan War.
According to him, “four kings ruled the island (Ilanka), all obeyed the chief sovereign, to whom they paid tribute, cassia, ivory, precious stones and pearls, for the king had gold in abundance.”
Further, Ptolemy, in his great work entitled The Geography of the World, compiled in 150 CE, writes the following in Bk. Vii, ch. IV, section 1…
“Opposite Cape Kori, in India, there is a protruding point of the island of Taprobane, which was formerly called Simundu, and now Salike. The inhabitants of the island are now called salai.
Their heads, like those of women, are surrounded by lush curls. Rice, honey, ginger are grown in the country, beryl and hyacinth, there are mines with all kinds of gold, silver and other metals. Elephants and tigers are bred in it at the same time.”
The above two descriptions should clarify the presence of gold and silver in Lanka (Ilanka) at that time. Ptolemy went even further and confirmed that gold and silver were mined in Ilanka.
Even Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, referring to Taprobane, writes:
“Megasthenes says that Taproban is divided by a river and that the natives are called aborigines (palegoni – born long ago) and mine more gold and larger pearls than the Indians.”
Megasthenes was the messenger of Seleucus Nicator, the founder of the Syrian monarchy. Megasthenes wrote his work on India (“Indica”) as a result of the experience he received when he was an ambassador to King Prasia.
Journey for gold
The available historical information indicates that only once the sailors of King Solomon and King Hiram jointly successfully sailed to Ophir. This voyage for gold must have taken place during or immediately after the life of Iravan.
According to historical information, most of Ilanka was submerged under water after the failures of Iravanan in the war with Irama. Rajawaliya describes the aftermath of the war as follows:
“Let it be known that due to his (Iravanan’s) wickedness, his fortress, 25 palaces and 400,000 streets were flooded by the sea.”
This flood occurred in the southern and northwestern part of Ilanka.
Subsequently, in the second century B.C., and again according to Rajawaliya, 100,000 port cities, 970 fishing villages, 470 pearl-divers’ villages, which together make up most of Ilanka, were flooded by the sea when Kelanitissa was king of southern Ilanka.
According to Eratosthenes, the island measured 804 miles long and 575 miles wide in the 2nd century BC. However, today Ilanka is only one twelfth less than Ilanka of ancient times – minus the gold prospecting district of Ophir. The actual size of the current island of Sri Lanka is 271 X 137 miles.
After the death of Solomon and Hiram, no other successful expedition to Ophir took place. Unfortunately, King Hiram and his own talented sailors were the only group of sailors who were able to locate Ophir in the northwest of Ilanka.
After their death, when the biblical Ophir disappeared under water, first after the Iravan rout, and then during the reign of Kelanitissa, people continued to speculate and tried to locate the land that no longer exists.
Subsequently, for several centuries before the era of Buddhism and Christianity, maritime trade along the coast of Ilanka and in the Indian Ocean remained in the hands of the Arabs, who zealously guarded their routes from the encroachments of other peoples.
They spread fairy tales and chilling stories about the dangers of navigation to scare away would-be explorers.
The monopoly of the Arabs in the Indian Ocean was destroyed in the second half of the fifteenth century AD. After Vasco da Gama discovered India in 1498, European colonialists set off to conquer the countries of Asia.
Baobab trees, which are a prominent feature of the landscape of the Gulf of Mannar and the current area of Mathottam, testify to the ancient settlements of the Arabs during those periods.
In conclusion, it is appropriate to emphasize the fact that the exact location of Ophir was in the northwest of Sri Lanka, at a place called Mathottam. This area disappeared from the map of the world as a result of twice flooding with sea water and now, with various cities and villages, lies under the Indian Ocean.
Based on the above true location of Ophir, the world should cease further search for its location, but should nevertheless consider initiating geological surveys for the presence of gold and other precious metals in the vicinity and off the coast of the northwestern region of Sri Lanka.
Ancient mystery solved?
Although many archaeologists have claimed to have found the lost mine of Ophir, there has been no conclusive evidence for this. If someone does find an ancient mine, most likely there will be no gold left.
Maybe that’s not the point. However, it can be argued that in this case, speculation and surprise are probably more intriguing than the actual find. In the meantime, we’ll keep looking…just in case.
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