Posted on June 2nd, 2019

The Indian Law courts are careful where the Ramayana gods are concerned. Indian Supreme Court summons the two Hindu gods, Ram and Hanuman to appear in court in order to settle a land dispute in eastern state of Jharkhand. The temple priest said the land belonged to him, given to his ancestors by the king, the locals said it belonged to the two deities.  Dispute had been going on for 20 years.  It was settled in favor of the locals but the priest is contesting this.

The emotional strength of the Ramayana   became known, once again, when the Indian government decided to cut through the Adams Bridge which exists between Tamilnadu and Sri Lanka to create an 83-km-long deepwater channel that will link Mannar with Palk Strait.

This Sethusamundran  project” called for extensive dredging and removal of the limestone shoals that constitute the Ram Sethu. Ram Sethu, also known as Adam’s Bridge, is a continuous stretch of limestone shoals that runs from Pamban Island near Rameshwaram in South India to Mannar Island off the northern coast of Sri Lanka.  Geological evidence suggests that in the Ice Age, the stretch used to be a land connection between India and Sri Lanka.

The idea was  soundly opposed by environmental groups  and religious groups. In 2007  The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) filed a petition in court. The petition said Hindus objected to the Sethusamudran  project on the grounds that it will damage the Ram Sethu Bridge which is mentioned in the Ramayana. This bridge is sacred and should not be destroyed. It was built by Rama and his army of monkeys.

The media announced, The Sethusamudran canal has brought the Ramayana to the attention of the Supreme Court of India.”Court took note of the objection and called for a response from the Government. The Government of India stated that there is no scientific evidence to indicate that the events described in the Ramayana ever took place or that its characters were real.

 The Archaeological Survey of India had stated that there is to date no evidence to conclusively prove that Rama actually existed. Further, the Setu was not mentioned in some versions of the Ramayana. If at all,  the  Ram Setu of the Ramayana was more likely located in a small stretch of water in Central India and not in the Palk Strait.

Government of India also  stated that the bridge was not a man made one. .NASA satellite pictures  indicated that the bridge was formed through the sedimentation of clay and lime stone.  NASA said the bridge was about 1.75 million  years old. The Space Applications Centre, Ahamedabad, looked through satellite and said that the ‘bridge’ is not manmade. They thought the formation was associated with a previous shore line. There are similar reefs in other parts of India, such as Lakshadweep.

Geological Survey of India did a three year study of the area between Rameshwaram in India and Mannar in Sri Lanka. The Survey said that the bridge was not a man made (or monkey made) construction. The sequence of clay, limestone and sandstone which emerged could not have been manmade. Geologists suggest that the formation was due to circular wind driven ocean currents. Sediment may have converged in the sea to create this formation. This line of islets may also be due to tidal movements which pushed the sand into place and retreated.  This sand over time formed sandstones.

The Survey also pointed out that studies of sea level showed that the area between Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka was exposed, not submerged under the sea, in the period between 18,000 years and 7000 years ago. About 6000 years ago, the sea level was a mere 17 meters below its present level and the sea bed was partially exposed. There was also the technical issue of building a bridge across a wide stretch of water, in  ancient times.

Adams Bridge is also rejected on literary grounds . Rama built a bridge which was 100 yojanas  long and ran due north and south ending in a hill. According to Iyer’s calculations, 100 yojanas would either mean eleven and a half miles or 450 miles. The existing bridge is neither. The Adam’s Bridge or Rama Setu is over 30 miles long and runs west-north-west to east-south-east. There is no hill in Mannar Island and none in the northern half of Sri Lanka.

The Hindus declared, ‘The controversy whether the formation is nature-made or man-made is not relevant. The important thing is that millions of Hindus believe that it is the bridge built by Rama.’

In the face of strong BJP opposition, the government backed off. In 2008, Instead of providing ‘yet another affidavit’ against Valmiki’s Ramayana,  the Indian Government  withdrew the affidavit, and stated that they would try to find an alternative route. They also suspended two Archaeological Survey of India   officials, holding them responsible for the fiasco.  Some years later, Janata Party chief Subramaniam Swamy filed a petition in Supreme Court  in 2012 asking  Court to order the government to declare Ram Sethu a national monument, as a matter of faith.

  In 2017 USA’sDiscovery Communications-owned ‘Science Channel’ aired a  video providing scientific evidence that Ram Setu was a man-made bridge, using satellite imagery from NASA and other evidence. The rocks connecting India and Sri Lanka are sitting on a sandbar, also known as a shoal and the investigators believe that the sandbar is natural, but the stones sitting on top of that sandbar, are not. Stones that have been brought from afar and set on top of sand bar island chain” said a geologist. (Continued)

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