Rama Setu: Sunrise at Dhanushkodi

Sunrise at DhanushkodiSunrise at Dhanushkodi

Sacred pilgrimages, teertham, in and around Rameswaram

View album (298 images)

http://thangachimadam.blogspot.com/2006/08/thangachimadam-thangachimadam-alias.html Thangachimadam, a village near Pamban, Rameswaram Some exquisite images including sunrise at Dhanushkodi.


Sunday Pioneer / Agenda cover story / May 27, 2007 

Setu Sutra By Kanchan Gupta  

The battle to save Ram Setu draws on both tradition and the world’s leading tsunami expert. Kanchan Gupta explains why an unthinking destruction of the underwater rock formation could be both heritage holocaust and ecological disaster  Far from the sweltering heat and politics, intrigue and chicanery of Lutyens’ Delhi, a lonely battle is being waged by a handful of retired scientists, scholars and Hindu activists (who are not necessarily members of the RSS/BJP/VHP) to save what is possibly the world’s oldest man-made structure — the Ram Setu.  Legend has it, as any Indian child not born of deracinated parents would tell you, that the bridge was built by Hanuman’s vanar sena to enable Ram and his army to cross the Palk Strait, march into Lanka, slay Ravan and rescue Sita.   For those who believe that the Ramayan is not about Hindu myth-making but an elaborate rendition by Valmiki of what was till then oral history, the building of the bridge was an awesome feat. Images of the vanar sena carrying huge chunks of rock and paving a path across the sea, carved in stone, printed on yellowing oleographs or in Amar Chitra Katha comic strips, inspire both reverence and pride in a past that we tend to belittle. We are, after all, a nation that has no sense of history.  Dredgers equipped with cutters are now badgering that past, literally and metaphorically, to create a channel for ships. Unwilling to yield without a fight, as if summoning the Herculean strength of Hanuman, the remains of Ram Setu are putting up a stiff resistance and proving to be difficult to be removed. Two state-of-the-art dredgers have had to retire injured from the scene of battle.  The assault on Ram Setu is part of the ambitious, Rs 2,427-crore Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project to create a channel for large ships between the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay. The channel, if it is ever created, will reduce sailing time for ships moving from India’s western seacoast to the east. They have to now circumnavigate around Sri Lanka, which means waste of time and resources.  The project has been talked about since the 19th century, but it invariably foundered on the issue of the channel’s alignment so as not to get stuck on the hard rock of Ram Setu, or, if you prefer, what British cartographers named Adam’s Bridge. It was during the BJP-led NDA regime that the project took form and shape. But before a final view could be taken, the Government fell in the summer of 2004.  The UPA Government’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs cleared the project on May 19, 2005. As for the alignment of the channel, the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute’s (NEERI’s) proposal was accepted. Ironically, NEERI was assigned the task by the NDA Government and it appears the alignment was decided while the BJP, which is now keen to identify itself with the “Save Ram Setu Movement”, was in power.  It is no less ironical that a certain individual who was closely identified with the Ram Mandir agitation was the moving force behind pushing for the project. The “lobbying power” of the shipping industry is believed to have proved much stronger than the “divine power” of Ram.  After rejecting alignments proposed by several experts since the 19th century on “technical grounds”, NEERI has selected an alignment that runs through Ram Setu, which divides Dhanushkodi/Rameswaram island, travels through Palk Bay, and cuts through Palk Strait, linking the Gulf of Mannar to Bay of Bengal with a deep channel. The alignment runs close to India’s maritime boundary with Sri Lanka. The dredged material will be dumped in Indian territorial waters.  Those opposed to the alignment and demanding that Ram Setu be saved from destruction have marshalled ecological arguments, apart from historical facts. For instance, they quote from the Sir AR Mudaliar Committee Report of 1956. The report said a channel aligned in a manner to cut through the Adam’s Bridge site is unsuitable for the following reasons:   l Shifting sandbanks in this area present a far more formidable problem — both at the stage of construction and during maintenance — than the sand dunes on the island site. l Approaches to a channel would be far too open with no possibility of construction of protective works. A channel at this site — even if it can be made and maintained (which is unlikely) — would entail definite navigational hazard. l The channel would be bordering on the Sethusamudram Medial Line.“In these circumstances, we have no doubt whatever that the junction between the two seas should be effected by a Canal; and the idea of cutting a passage in the sea through Adam’s Bridge should be abandoned,” the report concluded.   Retired marine scientists and experts claim that if the Government persists with the project in its present form,
India could be inviting an ecological disaster. They cite the 2004 experience of the coastline protected by Ram Setu escaping the fury of the Boxing Day tsunami.
 Destroying the setu, they point out, citing tsunami expert Tad S Murthy, “Opens up serious potential damage to the entire Kerala and Tamil Nadu coast when the next tsunami occurs.” The project does not factor in measures to protect the coastline from tsunamis after the existing barrier is destroyed. Experts have pointed out that as a consequence of dredging and opening of Ram Setu, fragile coral islands will be “destroyed by sediments and turbulent tides of Bay of Bengal entering the tranquil Gulf of Mannar.” They have suggested that the channel should be realigned towards Pamban and, like the Panama Canal, locks could be provided at the Palk Bay end and the Gulf of Mannar end to prevent disasters like tsunamis.  Murthy has written to the Prime Minister, suggesting that the alignment be changed northwest-ward to avoid the destruction of Kerala if a tsunami were to hit the southern coastline. “The Sethu Samudram canal has many characteristics similar to the Alberni canal, and this is the reason I am concerned. In the March 28, 1964, Alaska earthquake tsunami, outside of Alaska the largest tsunami amplitude was at the head of the Alberni canal well inland and not at the open coast as everyone expected. Later, I explained this was due to [a phenomenon known as] quarter wave resonance amplification,” Murthy explained in his letter.  
Experts also aver that thorium deposits in Kerala (Aluva, Chavara) and Tamil Nadu (Manavalakurichi), which have been critical in supporting India’s indigenous nuclear programme, “will be desiccated”. This could cripple the fast-breeder programme, already threatened by the India-US civil nuclear deal.   But what has led to an emotional upsurge among those who believe that what is under threat is Ram Setu is the manner in which the Government has ignored textual and scientific evidence about the structure’s historical value. “Damage to Ram Setu is a violation of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958 since this is a monument which has remained in existence for over 100 years,” one anguished critic points out.   On its part, the UPA Government, eager to flaunt its “secular” (read callous towards Hindu sentiments) credentials insists there are no archaeological studies that reveal the existence of Ram Setu between India and Sri Lanka.  Not to be silenced so easily, scholars have dug out a NASA satellite picture that shows the existence of a stretch of rocks in the Palk Strait between the countries. This is claimed as evidence of a bridge having been built once upon a time.  The relevant information, taken from NASA’s website, reads: “Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) of NASA aboard space shuttle Endeavour launched in February 2000. Sri Lanka is shaped like a giant teardrop falling from the southern tip of the vast Indian sub-continent. It is separated from India by the 50 km wide Palk Strait, although there is a series of stepping-stone coral islets known as Adam’s Bridge that almost form a land bridge between the two countries.”   Another NASA website entry reads: “Adam’s Bridge between India and Ceylon, at the right, is clearly visible. A cloudless region surrounds the entire sub-continent. Differences in colour, green near the west coast, and brown inland, delineate regions of heavy vegetation and semiarid areas.” The entries have satellite images attached to them.  As for textual references, there are plenty of them to bolster the case for protecting Ram Setu. Valmiki has described the construction of the setu in vivid terms: Vaanar having huge bodies, with mighty strength uprooted elephant-sized rocks and mountains and transported them. Ved Vyas refers to Nal Setu or Nal’s bridge, “mountain-like, sustained out of respect for Ram’s command”.  Kalidas has written about how Ram, while returning from Sri Lanka, told Sita, “Behold, Sita, my setu of mountains dividing this frothy ocean is like the milky way dividing the sky into two parts.” The Skanda Purana describes the installation of three Shivlings at the end, middle and beginning of the Ram Setu.   It’s a heady mix, if you care to listen to those protesting against the project, of faith, science and history.
This is not about politics or development, but ancient wisdom being sacrificed at the altar of commercial advantage. Even if you choose to disregard faith based on ancient texts, then look at it this way: Nature’s protective cover is being destroyed because the project is a gravy train on which politicians, bureaucrats and contractors want a ride.   Should we allow that to happen? 


14 Responses to Rama Setu: Sunrise at Dhanushkodi

  1. Venkat says:

    Good article.

  2. Dr.Vijayalakshmi says:

    It is preposterous that despite the odds being against the project, the atheist Govt of TN is bent on riding rough-shod over Hindu sentiments and destroying the most ancient marvellous bridge,the Rama Setu,which deserves to be preserved as a World Heritage Site.This is what happens when adharmic forces are entrusted with the serious job of governing a sacred nation-it is like handing over a flower-garland to a monkey (not the super-human monkeys who helped build the wonderful Rama Setu!).The vile self-seeking politicians who have taken control of the Govt are negative forces working against the spiritual and cultural ethos of our great motherland Bharat,that is India.Let each one of us consider it our sacred duty to spread the awareness to others and motivate them to defend our rich and valuable heritage for posterity.

  3. yuthika says:

    its a pity that we as Indians will let this happen while the west still boast a lost king harrod or what judas was? the media in India will give more importance to the latter the former of course is a myth?

  4. […] Presentation about the Sethu project in its current […]

  5. J. Barua says:

    The bottom line is that a way MUST be found to allow Indian Navy and cargo ships to navigate between west and east coast in a rapid manner without having to go all the way around Sri Lanka. This is an urgent need for a growing India and let us focus on that, not on useless hot air and sentimentalism. Enemies of India would not wish for that to happen, specially the PRC, Myanmar, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh, as that would give India far more control over the entry and exit to the Bay of Bengal. We need to wake up and not be blinded by mischief planted by our enemies, including politicians who pay lip service to Shri Ram’s ideals but are greedy rakshasas in their actual deeds.

  6. sunil Birade says:

    Ram setu is real fact & it should not be disturbed

  7. yamunaharsha says:

    Barua and others taking your view:

    There could be a lot of things done to ‘speed up’ our economy: Destroy forests to build roads as short-cuts like the canal, use more and more cheap and convenient plastics, clothe all our poor using cheap snthetic fiber, use ample amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, kill all our animals and sell their parts in china and their fur in Europe, grow more cows and supply beef to all…what not…

    Why isn’t one thinking that when we talk of environment, we are talking of our own wretched lives? Why isn’t one thinking that when we talk of faith we are talking of our own wretched lives? WHy doesn’t one understand that “to save the earth” is NOT what one is talking about as she would remain anyways, but it is about “saving our own wretched selves”?

    What is development when our wretched children are left with lesser environment and faith?

  8. murlidhar pahoja says:

    I am at a loss to understand how we are to gain from a shorter sea route when land routs i.e. road and raolway are available for fast and reliable transport. Is there data available on how much sea trade traffic exists now which needs to go round the Sri Lankan island and what is the need to go by sea when efficient land route is available. It appears to me that there is more to this sethusamudram project than mere shortening the sea rout for cargo. What are the international implications? Are we inviting the western naval forces to freely sail around our coasts? Is it the western cargo ships that will benefit because they do not have access to the land routs. In any project of this nature, big money is involved. Who are the beneficiaries? One can guess from recent events that the DMK is one prominent benificiary. There may be others. This is a fit project for thorough enquiry before executing.

  9. ravikanth says:

    excellent article

  10. banuvimal says:

    this article is very enlightening.Its high time people became aware of the amount of destruction we do to our mother earth.Money minded politics has become the trend today .They are so conceited that they fail to see beyond their own well being.Being a hindu myself I was sad at a people’s representative’s comment on Lord Rama .But more than historical&religious implications,it is the ecological implication that we should consider .The future of the fragile ecology of the gulf of mannar is at stake& the livelihood of fishermen who are already poor,will be affected.Is striving to make poor ,poorer&the rich ,richer ,development?Is there no place for humanity in the race for money?

  11. K L BHASKARAN says:

    Ram Sethu in its present form is an act by Karunanidhi to humiliate the Hindus and also to make money. It is time all educated and decent Indians opposed this project and taught a lesson to this trecherous DMK.
    Far too long, we have been taken for a ride by uneducated and selfish polticians.
    And Congress is busy licking the feet of Karunanidhi.

  12. Nitin.T says:

    Nice information, Disturbing mother nature is a wrong thing,and could have wrong implcations. Total Marine ecology will get disturbed. If our ships circumnavigate SL to go to Colombo is no problem. Any how our Government wastes so much money on silly things wasting fuel here is not going to give any problem to us or to Mr. Karunanidhi. I would not like the ecology in this area to be disturbed.

  13. Nurse Scrubs says:

    Informative and entertaining. I’ve added your blog to my “reading material.” Keep me updated!

  14. rohit kumar says:

    thanks for giving much information about our hinduism religion of rama’s katha
    which is as true as we are alive

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