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.
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.