On 16th December 2006, India inaugurated dredging work connected to the Sethusamudram project in the Rama Sethu (Adam's Bridge) area, near the International Maritime Boundary Line off the Rameswaram coast. Ever since then, the Rs. 60,000 million project has been mired in high controversy.
The decision has made many of the Hindus, who comprise 82 percent of the population of India very angry. They believed the project would eventually destroy the Rama Sethu, the ancient bridge between India and Sri Lanka.
What is this Rama Sethu (or Adam's Bridge)? In reality, it is a chain of limestone shoals, between the islands of Mannar, near northwestern Sri Lanka, and Rameswaram, off the southeastern coast of India. The "bridge" is 48 km long and separates the Gulf of Mannar from the Palk Strait. Some of the sandbanks are dry and the sea in the area is very shallow, being only 1 m to 10 m deep in places.
The name, Rama's Bridge or Rama Setu (Sanskrit/Tamil; setu: bridge) derives from the Sanskrit epic Ramayana, in which a bridge from Rameswaram was built by allies of Rama that he used to reach Lanka, and rescue his abducted wife Sitha from King Ravana. The sea separating India and Sri Lanka is called Sethusamudram, based on the same episode.
The sage Valmiki says in the Ramayana, "that immense causeway constructed by Nala in the bosom of the sea was built by the arms of those monkeys of formidable exploits and it extended over a hundred leagues.
Some brought trunks of trees and others set them up; it was by hundreds and thousands that those monkeys, like unto giants, made use of reeds, logs and blossoming trees to construct that bridge, rushing hither and thither with blocks of stone resembling mountains or the peaks of crags, which, flung into the sea, fell with a resounding crash.
The first day those monkeys resembling elephants, or immense energy, full of high spirits and exceedingly merry, erected fourteen leagues of masonry.
The second day, those highly active monkeys of formidable stature set up twenty leagues. Bestirring themselves, those giants threw twenty-one leagues of structure over the ocean on the third day and on the fourth, working feverishly, they built up twenty-two leagues in extent.
The fifth day, those monkeys, industrious workers, reached to twenty-three leagues distance from the further shore".
Man-made or Not
According to many renowned scientists, the bridge's unique curvature and composition by age reveals that it is man-made. The legends as well as archaeological studies reveal that the first signs of human inhabitants in Sri Lanka date back to the a primitive age, about 1,750,000 years ago and the bridge's age is also said to be almost equivalent.
This information is a crucial aspect for an insight into the legend "Ramayana", which was supposed to have taken place in Tredha Yuga (more than 1,700,000 years ago).
The ancient scriptures in Hinduism discuss about events in terms of Yugas numerically four namely Sathya (1,728,000 years), Tredha (1,296,000 years), Dwapara (8,64,000 years) and Kali (4,32,000 years).
The current phase according to the calendar is Kali, out of which 5000 years are supposed to have passed by. This means that Ramayana, to have relevance with the bridge, should have taken place between 869,000 to 2,165,000 years back (between the time period 0.869 - 2.165 million years).
Hindustan Times, too, recently claimed that NASA images serve as evidence that events narrated in the Ramayana epic actually took place. However, NASA has distanced itself from the claims related to the epic Ramayana. It said, "The images may be ours, but their interpretation is certainly not ours.
Remote sensing images or photographs from orbit cannot provide direct information about the origin or age of a chain of islands, and certainly cannot determine whether humans were involved in producing any of the patterns seen."
Various estimates were made regarding the age of the bridge and the method of formation by Hindu archeologists and geologists:
1. Rama's bridge could only be 3,500 years old according to the Centre for Remote Sensing of Bharathidasan University in Tiruchi.
2. Dr. C. Badrinarayanan, former director of Geological Survey of India and a member of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) say it was not a natural formation. "Such a natural formation is impossible. Unless somebody has transported them and dumped them there, those reefs could not have come there. Some boulders were so light that they could float on water."
He adds, "It is not a natural formation; the top portion of it appears to be a man-made structure. To understand what I am saying from the geological point of view, you have to get to know several things.
What is known as Adam's Bridge is originally a natural grade divide separating the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean to the south. So, the geological aspects are different on either.
About 18,000 years ago, we had an Ice Age when the sea level was lower by 130 metres than what it is now. Due to de-glaciation, the sea level rose. Coral reefs are formed only on hard surfaces.
But during (our) study we found that the formation at the Bridge is nothing but boulders of coral reefs. When we drilled for investigation, we found that there was loose sand two to three meters below the reefs. Hard rocks were found several meters below the sand."
3. However, The Geological Survey of India conducted a detailed survey of the area and concluded that the structure was a natural one. A premier institute had made 91 boreholes in and around the site to ascertain the truth and the soil samples kept at the Sethu Project Office could be verified.
The origin of the bridge is yet a mystery. The Archaeology Department of Sri Lanka also confirms the possible duration of the bridge's existence to be around one to two million years. However the natural or man-made status of the bridge is unknown.
Dr. S.U. Deraniyagala says that "the Himalayan foothills of the Indian sub-continent have yielded evidence for humans having lived there around two million years ago.
Although the earliest known dates for hominids in peninsular India are ca. 600,000 years before the present, it is very likely that future research will indicate an age comparable to that of the Himalayan foothills, since there do not appear to have been any physical barriers to prevent humans from being present in southern India contemporaneously with their occurrence in the northern part of the sub-continent".
"Meanwhile, it is apparent that Sri Lanka was, more often than not, linked to southern India by a land bridge during this period. It is estimated that the sea level would have dropped sufficiently for creating such a connection on at least 17 occasions within the last 700,000 years.
This phenomenon would have been caused by the rise and fall of the sea level due to cold/warm fluctuations in the global climate. It is therefore possible that humans were present in Sri Lanka from at least as early as one million years ago. "
The bridge is as holy to Hindus as the Wailing Wall is to the Jews, the Vatican to Catholics, Bodh Gaya to Buddhists and Mecca to Muslims. In Europe, epics of Homer and the Bible are not considered to be myths, but informal history.
The ruin of Troy, described by Homer, is already excavated. The Israeli Government made serious efforts to excavate every place mentioned in the Bible to find out its ancient past. In India, the Archaeological Survey of India has discovered the ruins of Dwarka submerged in water off the coast of Gujarat.
A Japanese ground Radar Company has found out ruins of huge places 30 meter under the ground of Ayhudhya. Thus, it is neither rational nor scientific to rule out Ramayana and Mahabharata as just myths, but not informal history of the ancient India.
Courtesy : Daily News, Srilanka by Lionel Wijesiri