(Reasons To Love India)
India is a country full of surprises, both natural and man-made. While on one side there’s a wide variety of landscapes, right from the sea to the mountains. And on the other hand, there’s a plethora of languages, cultures and rich history. In my series of Reasons To Love India, my last blog was a naive effort to give the readers an insight into the great epic Mahabharata. In this blog, I have tried to unravel the secrets of The Ram Setu. The Ancient Indian Sanskrit Epic The Ramayana (7th century BCE to 3rd century CE) consists of merely 2400 slokas divided into Seven Kandas.
Written by Valmiki it narrates the glorious journey of the seventh Avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Rama in Treta Yuga. It gives details of the Rama Setu in 85 slokas in Yuddha Kanda. In Vikram Samvat 1613 (1574 CE) translated it in Awadhi and named it Ramcharitramanas. It would be the moment of pride and happiness for the Hindu Society if the Scientist brings out their research stating that the origin of the Ram Setu is as it is mentioned in the Ramayana. It has drawn global attention, consequently, a movie is being made on this topic. My write up is completely based on various news articles and government news releases. I have tried to keep my personal narrative away from this article. Ram Setu (Reasons To Love India)
Rama Setu is a bridge, a chain of limestone shoals stretched between Pamban Island and Mannar Island between India and Srilanka. It is mentioned in the Indian ancient scripture Ramayana which is said to be the structure built by Lord Rama and his vanar sena to kill the demon king Ravana. Lots of controversies are afloat for ages regarding the truth of its existence. The way Tajmahal is always portrayed as a symbol of love, RamSetu should not be demeaned as it is being done by political parties. Let’s unfold its mysterious details step by step.
Ramanathaswamy Temple:- One of the most revered temples in India, this temple is entirely devoted to Lord Shiva. According to folklore, Lord Rama came to worship Lord Shiva in this temple, hence it was named Ramanathaswamy Temple.
Dip In Agni Tirtham:- Another religious point of Rameshwaram is Agni Tirtham. No devotee leaves the place without visiting here. They make sure to take a holy dip in its waters to cleanse their sins. Ravana was a brahmin, and Lord Rama never wanted to burden himself with the sin of killing him. It has been written in Ramayana that Rama took a dip here to absolve himself from this offence.
Dhanushkodi is a place 20km away from the main town of Rameshwaram. Earlier this place used to serve as an important port for both traders and pilgrims. But in 1964 a horrendous cyclone which was the most powerful storm to ever strike India, put everything to rest. Apart from the coastal charm, Dhanushkodi is the place where you can see the place shrouded in mystery, which is Ram Setu. A particularly beautiful stretch of sandy shore you see is the place where the Ram Setu starts.
This is also believed to be the end of the bridge that Lord Rama had broken using his bow and arrow. Also known as Adam’s Bridge globally (the earliest map prepared by a British Cartographer called Ram Setu as Adam’s Bridge in 1804, in reference to an Abrahamic Myth), nobody really knows if this is Ram Setu, but Satellite pictures taken over time, and a recent image released by NASA have confirmed that the stretch of land formation visible between Dhanushkodi and Sri Lankan mainland is certainly Man-Made. Amazingly the carbon examination of the bridge and Ramayan’s time both syncs properly. Ram Setu was walkable since 1480 AD
According to Hindu mythology, the story revolves around the Virtuous and Legendary Prince Rama. He was the eldest and favourite son of Dashratha, the King of Ayodhya. Dashratha had three wives and four sons. Lord Rama’s mother was Kaushalya. His second and favourite wife Kaikeyi had one son Bharata. Lakshamana and Shatrughna were twins from his third wife Sumitra.
At a certain age king, Dashratha decided that it was time to give up the throne to his eldest son and retire to the forest. Everyone seemed pleased except Queen Kaikai since she wanted her own son Bharata to rule. Because of an oath, Dasaratha had made to her years ago, she got the King to agree to banish Rama for fourteen years and to crown Bharata, even though the king pleaded with her not to demand such a request. Rama, always obedient, was content to go into banishment in the forest. It is said that he along with his wife Mata Sita and younger brother Lakshmana went to the forest for fourteen years.
Ravana, the King of Lanka, kidnapped Sita, as revenge for his sister Saroopnakha, who tried to seduce Rama in the jungle. To teach her a lesson Lakshmana chopped her nose. Lakshamana and Rama along with the monkey army of Sugriva and Hanuman decided to rescue her. On their way to Lanka, there was the vast ocean (in Rameshwaram), Lord Rama ordered the ocean to give him away, but the ocean pleaded to him that he had the limitations and was bound to stay in his position. He suggests Rama construct a bridge across the ocean to Lanka, under the supervision of Nala the son of Vishwakarma and Neel was the son of Agnidev. It is said that they had a great knowledge of construction and were once cursed by a Sage Sutikshana on their mischievousness that whatever they would throw in the water, would float. This way the bridge was built, with RAM written on each stone, and everyone crossed it easily and reached Lanka.
The Hindus believe stones of that bridge float on the water because of the name Rama written on the rocks. However initially scientists explained that those floating stones could be the pumice stones which are made from the hardened foam of lava that comes out when there is volcanic erosion. Ram Setu is a chain of natural limestone shoals between Rameshwaram (Pamban) Island in India and Mannar Island in Srilanka. The conclusion was drawn after physically examining the floating stones was very surprising; they confirmed that it was neither coral nor a floating pumice stone. According to NASA the line of floating stones is 30 miles long and the scientist’s examination revealed that the Ram Setu Floating Stone is 7000 years old. But the rocks sitting on the top of the sand are 5000 years old.
Ram Setu came at the centre of controversy when the UPA government planned The Shipping Canal Project (SetuSamudram) under the UPA government in 2005 by creating an 89-km-long deep water channel (shipping route) in the shallow straits between India and Sri Lanka (across the Gulf Of Mannar, Palk Bay, and the Palk Strait to link the Arabian Sea with the Bay Of Bengal). The idea was to establish a reasonably navigable sea route around Indian Peninsula and ships would save 36 hours of voyage time. A harbinger of economic growth was anticipated by the government. They also stated that there was no historical and scientific evidence to establish the existence of Lord Rama or other characters of Ramayana. This proposal of a route, through the shoals of Ram Setu, faced stiff resistance by some environmentalist and Hindu groups. people got infuriated considering it as blasphemy. Interestingly, the project was originally proposed by AD Taylor, a Britisher in Indian Marine in 1860.
The project remained dormant for years due to litigation filed by BJP leader Subramaniyam Swamy stating that Ram Setu is believed to have been built by Lord Rama’s army to cross the sea and sought a National Heritage status for it. The prime reason for this unrest in India was because the project required extensive dredging and removal of limestone shoals in the sea. However, the NDA government came into power in 2014, decided that the project would be implemented by deepening the Pamban Pass which would save the Rama Setu from destruction. As of June 2021, the project remains unfinished.
CSIR-NIO will undertake a three year scientific underwater archaeological project this year. The idea is to see whether Ram Setu is a ManMade structure or not. The most important aspect of the project is to establish its age scientifically. Carbon dating techniques, which are now available in India will be primarily used to determine the age of the sediments. Once it is known, the information can be verified and correlated with its mention in the Ramayana and similar Scriptures.
Hindi version of this article