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Rameshwaram to Sri Lanka: A Bridge Built by Gods and Monkeys?

by Uma Shankari on 14/05/11 at 3:19 pm

There is a controversy whether the mythical Ram Setu bridge in the shallow waters of Palk Straits between Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi linking India to Sri Lanka is man-made or natural.

Earlier, I have written about Kurukshetra in Voice From Kurukshetra: The Land of Dharma. Just as Kurukshetra in North India brings alive various scenes from the Mahabharata, Rameshwaram in South India brings alive scenes from another epic, the Ramayana.

Rameshwaram is located on Pamban Island, which is separated from the mainland at Mandapam town by the Pamban bridge (also called Indira Gandhi Bridge), and is about 50 kilometres from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka.

Pamban bridge was completed in the year 1988, and this was considered as an engineering marvel at the time. It is a bascule bridge section that can be raised to let ships pass under the bridge.

Image: Rameshwaram Express Train over Pamban Bridge

Danushkodi  is a fishing town at the southern tip of the Rameswaram and is 18 miles (29 km) West of Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. Dhanush means ‘bow’ – here, Rama’s bow with which he marked the spot for the construction of Setu or bridge.


Dhanushkodi is situated in the Gulf of Mannar at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. The town had a railway station, a school, houses and port offices, but the entire town was marooned in the 1964 cyclone. It is a ghost town now, with just a few fishermen’s huts, and the entire area is covered by sand dunes. One has to reach Dhanushkodi in jeeps and tempos.

According to legend, Dhanushkodi is the place from where Lord Rama built a bridge across the sea to Lanka called Ram Setu (aka Adam’s Bridge) with the help of a monkey army to rescue his wife Sita from Ravana, the demon king who abducted her.

Ram Setu built by monkeys and bears

Aerial view of the bridge; Source

Landsat 5 image of Adam’s Bridge; Source

The coast of India does not have a continuous navigation channel connecting the east and west coasts. Currently the ships coming from the west coast of India and other western countries and going towards East have to navigate around Srilankan coast.  The Adam’s bridge or Ram Setu appearing in the satellite pictures is a shallow body of water that does not facilitate the movement of ships.


So the government proposed to dredge up the shallow ocean floor to create a 83-km deep-water channel linking the shallow water of the Palk Strait (ocean floor near Dhanushkodi) with the Gulf of Mannar – a proposal that goes by the name of Sethusamudram project.

Many Hindu religious leaders and a few political parties opposed the move on several grounds, citing this would destroy the sanctity of the bridge. They suggest that the site should be protected and promoted as national heritage, and the revenue generated by the tourism could offset any loss incurred by the circuitous route. Environmentalists have voiced their own concerns and say it could be a economical as well as an ecological disaster.

Scientists and archaeologists say the Ram Setu or Adam’s Bridge is a natural formation of sand and stones. But the stones are not ordinary; they can float over water. The legend says the monkey wrote the name of ‘ram’ on the stones and put it on water and they floated. Please watch the following video to listen to Dr.Kalyanaraman, an eminent researcher, who says the bridge of stones cannot be natural, but were brought by men (and monkeys?).

The government has project stalled the project for the time being.

In the next part of the series, we will visit the beautiful temple at Rameshwaram.

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Liked it

Jimmy Shilaho

May 14th, 2011

Breathtaking, I think only monkeys could have attained such a feat.

mona rastogi

May 14th, 2011

good share

Nandini Deshmukh

May 14th, 2011

nice piece of work!!!!


May 14th, 2011

A wonderful story about a historical monument. I visited the cyclone-hit Dhanushkodi long time back. Thank you for a nice historical story.


May 14th, 2011

Great work

nobert soloria bermosa

May 14th, 2011

truly awesome..what a wonderful place

mahesh golani

May 14th, 2011

You write bloody well! Your story has moved me in all directions- Truly!

Anuradha Ramkumar

May 14th, 2011

Thnx for revisiting history, Uma.


May 15th, 2011

A nice blend of mythology and facts
A well written part 1

Girija Shekar

May 15th, 2011

Excellent work, good collection of facts!


May 15th, 2011

Wow,marvelous bridge! Fascinated by the floating stones,my first time to hear about this,amazing! :)


May 15th, 2011

well written..thanks

Baijayanti Pradhan

May 15th, 2011



May 15th, 2011

excellent article. Floating stones is new to me. Video proves the concept.


May 15th, 2011

very interesting ….sort of like the same thing about the some sunken city of the coast of Gujarat ….i find the monkey idea intriguing ….all the way in Indonesia we have a hominid called Homo florensis ….and as for a land link bet India and Sri Lanka , there could have been more land between the two countries thousands of years ago , when sea levels were much more lower.

Uma Shankari

May 15th, 2011

Thank you for the comments. The sunken city off the Gujarat coast is Dwaraka and I have written about it here:



May 15th, 2011

Nice to see this bridge again. Once I have also written on “Pamban Bridge”.

The Silver Phoenix

May 15th, 2011

a visual feast documentry-article. very professional and intellectual. i enjoyed it. thanks for posting in.


May 16th, 2011

sounds very cool.


May 16th, 2011

You do write exceptionally well researched articles.


May 16th, 2011

Really amazing. Congrats! Thanks for sharing.

R K Vajpeyi

May 18th, 2011

Amazing! Though I have visited Rameshwaram yet I never knew that much about it.

Pooja Says

May 18th, 2011

Great photos. I plan on visiting the place next winter. And other holy places in the vicinity, most of them based on legends from the Ramayana.


May 18th, 2011

what a fantastic article…have always been wondering about this bridge and the legend..and now you show me this article..excellent and terrific photos! well don! brilliant! really super doops!!! thanks


May 18th, 2011

The bridge was built some 3500 years ago, according to the epic poem, Ramayana. In the absence of any scientific evidence scientists and archaeologists have ruled out that it\’s merely a formation of sand and stones. But they are floating! That\’s a wonder. An extremely well-written piece with stunning images.

T. Srinivas

May 19th, 2011

Glad to read.


May 19th, 2011


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May 20th, 2011

Now anyone can understand the facts.


May 20th, 2011

excellent write up. I am reminded of my journey to Rameshwaram via the Pamban Bridge.


May 22nd, 2011

You write about so many fascinating places and really make them come alive.


May 22nd, 2011

This is a wonderful write up mixed with Hindu history.I am first to admit that I am currently ignorant about.Your culture and history is rich. I hope, people would not destroy that for monetary reasons.

Raj the Tora

May 22nd, 2011

excellent post. You made me remember my trip to this great place!

Lakshmi Ramanathan

May 22nd, 2011

Good article Uma. I wonder what that floating stone is. Like pumic stone? I am sure Geologists will have something to say about this.

Mythili Kannan

May 22nd, 2011

Thanks for the great information. The photos and videos are amazing.

PR Mace

May 22nd, 2011

Truly an amazing story.

Dalu V

May 22nd, 2011

Enjoyed reading this!


May 27th, 2011

I have visited this place already but i could make out how beautiful and imp places to be seen here only after going through your article. very beautiful information


May 28th, 2011

Loved this article. The maps were helpful too in understanding the problem that the proposed bridge intends to solve. As you have rightly pointed out, the interest shown by the government is mostly political, and there is no need to sacrifice ecological as well as cultural interests for this.

Anusha Jain

May 28th, 2011

Good presentation. Videos and Pictures combined with information makes an article really interesting.

Anusha, UV Associates


May 30th, 2011

very good article


Jul 5th, 2011

god is great


Jan 28th, 2013

it is great


Feb 18th, 2013

Mashallahgod is great

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