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Fact Check: These are not 5,000-year-old Hindu idols found in the sea off Indonesia

India Today logo India Today 21-07-2021 Chayan Kundu

A collage of several images of underwater sculptures has gone viral on social media with the claim that these are 5,000-year-old Hindu idols found in the sea off Indonesia's Bali.

Multiple Twitter and Facebook users have posted the collage with the caption, "5000yr old Shri Vishnuji found in Bali sea, Indonesia. Now Mahabratha as per @NileshOak ji is 5500BC approx. So which Rajya of Bharat was Indonesia & did it participate in Mahabharata ? Sanatan was always present in South Asia till Akhand Bharat boundaries @SatyaSanatanInd".

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India Today Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) has found that these stone idols are part of an underwater garden created artificially at Pemuteran in northern Bali. The sculptures were created by some scuba divers in 2005 as part of a coral reef conservation project.

The archived versions of the viral posts are saved here, here and here.

AFWA investigation

With the help of keyword search, we found that these images have been circulating on the Internet since 2010. Among other similar photos and videos, we found a YouTube video posted by one Paul Turley in 2012 with the title "UnderWater Temple Garden Pemuteran Bali". Similar underwater structures can be seen in this YouTube video.

As per the video description, Turley had shot the video at the "underwater 'Temple Garden' just off 'Temple Wall' divesite in Pemuteran". This is "part of the 'Reef Gardeners' a social/environmental project created in 2005".

Replay Video

Turley is the owner of "Sea Rovers Dive Center", a tourism agency in Bali. As per a blog written by him, people used his images and put them out on social media with imaginary stories about an underwater Hindu temple.

"Apparently someone took my photo, posted it on twitter and claimed an archeological discovery off the coast of Bali. This went global, thanks to the internet and thus a urban legend was born," Turley wrote in his blog.

International news websites such as "BBC News" and "The Telegraph" had published articles on Turley and the underwater sculptures in Bali.

But Turley claims the original concept of creating this underwater garden was of Chris Brown, an Australian and the founder of Reef Seen Divers' Resort in Bali.

As per the resort's website, the underwater temple garden was created in 2005 for conservation of coral reef in the sea. "An engineering feat, with over ten large stone statues resting on stone plinths and, a 4 metre high Balinese candi bentar gateway. It is found at a depth of 28 meters and incorporates a cleaning station with schooling baitfish," the website describes the project.

There is another video of the underwater temple garden that can be found on Turley's YouTube channel.

Hence, it can be concluded that the viral images of underwater sculptures are not 5,000 years old.

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