Rama Setu: in Tamil texts and on epigraphs

Gazetteer preface exposes two faces of DMK chief
Kumar Uttam | New Delhi

Wrote: ‘Sri Ram constructed the causeway to reach Lanka’

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi may be spewing venom against Lord Ram, denying his existence and calling him names, but in his second stint as Chief Minister in 1972, he had himself prefaced a District Gazetteer which talked about Lord Ram constructing the Ram Setu and showing it to Sita while returning from Lanka. The Gazetteer prefaced by Karunanidhi on June 14, 1972, says, “Dhanushkodi is also called Setu. Setu means bridge or causeway. It is the place where Sri Ram constructed the causeway to reach Lanka. The story goes that Sri Ram destroyed the bridge with his bow’s end after his return from Lanka”.  Releasing an abridged version of the Gazetteer along with Karunanidhi’s foreward in New Delhi on Wednesday, senior VHP leader Pravin Togadia and Ashok Singhal said “this exposes the two faces of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister.” In his message in the foreward, Karunanidhi wrote “a Gazetteer throws light on our traditions. It reflects our civilisation and is a mirror of society. Its study helps to illuminate our thoughts of past with pride and to be hopeful about our future with confidence. Gazetteers are the most dependable source of information for administration, scholars and public on social, political, economic and cultural life of the people.” Paragraph 6, page 874 of the Gazetteer states, “The island of Rameshwaram is in the shape of a bow and is called Ram’s Bow. Each end is called kodi – tip of the bow. The name Dhanushkodi is derived from the Sanskrit (word) Dhanus, which means bow and Kodi in Tamil means tip, that is tip of the bow”. The Government document admitted that a bath at Dhanushkodi is considered sacred because of Sagar Sangam — where the two seas Mahodadhi (Bay of Bengal) and the Ratnakara (Indian Ocean) meet and said Valmiki in his great epic, the Ramayan says that Ram while returning from Lanka showed the place to Sita from his Pushpak (aerial car). It further adds, Lord Ram told Sita, “Here is seen the holy place in the great ocean, which is well know as the Setu Bandh and worshiped by three worlds. This is extremely holy and destroys great sins. Here formerly Lord Mahadev (Shiv) was pleased to show favour to me.” The greatness of this theertham is mentioned in many Sanskrit and Tamil works. Ram is supposed to have marked the spot with an arrow from his wonderful bow.  The VHP has also revealed its intention to take its ongoing agitation on Ram Setu on the lines of the Ramjanmabhoomi Andolan.  VHP general secretary Praveen Togadia told The Pioneer, “It was going to be an agitation no less than the Ramjanmabhoomi Andolan. Our protest, which started with a countrywide chakkajam, is about to enter the second phase. It will go on till the Government decides to shelve its plan of destroying the Setu. We will bring the Government to its knees.” Togadia revealed more than 800 yatras — covering over 20 crore persons — would be taken out between September 27 and October 10 across the country. Each group would carry along with it a Ramayan, photograph of the Ram Setu and Rameswaram Shiv Jyotirlingam.http://tinyurl.com/mx4pq  Kalaignar has lost the plot
Balbir K Punj

While the Archaeological Survey of India has withdrawn the blasphemous affidavit on Ram Setu from the Supreme Court, subsequent events have once again underlined the duplicity of the ‘secularists’. Union Minister TR Baalu has been continuously repeating the contents of the offensive affidavit. His mentor M Karunanidhi has been adding insult to injury by his vitriolic remarks against Lord Ram. These statements are more dangerous than the disowned affidavit. Ironically, neither the Prime Minister nor other ‘secularists’ have protested his remarks.
  The DMK’s rant against Lord Ram is inspired by commerce, its ideology of atheism and political expediency. The Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project involves huge investment of Rs 2,427 crore. This is enough money to be shared between the dredging company and those pushing the project. Right from the days of EV Ramaswami Naicker, the DMK cadre have been fed on an anti-Hindu diet. So the DMK leaders are abusing ‘Ram’ to pander to their traditional constituency in order to boost their sagging electoral fortunes in the State. During the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the BJP was accused of communalism because the movement was about Lord Ram. The ‘secularists’ charged the party for mixing religion with politics and using Lord Ram’s name to garner votes. That artificial label, ‘communal’, is conveniently used by the ‘secularists’ to forge and break political alliances and is also the UPA’s raison d’être. For ‘secularists’, mentioning Lord Ram’s name is ‘communal’ but abusing him for political ends is not. A movement for the reconstruction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya is considered a threat to the ‘secular’ fabric of the country. But they happily extend their covert and overt support to a state-funded project to demolish Ram Setu. The ‘secularists’ selectively apply a perverse logic of ‘rationality’. The mere theft of an Islamic relic from the Hazratbal shrine in the 1960s had led to countrywide riots till the relic was restored. Lal Bahadur Shastri was sent in haste to Srinagar to pacify the community. Nobody at that point in time spoke about rationality. When someone approached the Calcutta High Court against the contents of the Quran, a law officer was rushed to that city to tell the court – and rightly so – that it is none of the court’s business to sit in judgement on religious texts. The pseudo-secularists believe that Hindus can be easily pacified no matter how much they are offended. The same thinking enables the Government to ignore the protests against a famous painter portraying Hindu goddesses naked, while it hastens to ban books, portrayals and representations of what Muslims consider blasphemy. What prompted the Government to ignore the sentiments of Hindus altogether in sanctioning a project that destroys Ram Setu? If rationality and scientific thinking were reasons to go ahead with the project, it could be understood. But the fact is that the same Government does not think rationally when it sanctions a hefty sum as subsidy to help some other religion’s followers to go for what they believe is a mandatory pilgrimage one must undergo at least once in his/ her lifetime. The secular mascot of southern India, Mr Karunanidhi, spearheading the Ram Setu demolition squad, has forgotten one important thing. Carnatic music is dominated by saint composer Thyagaraja. Almost all his thousands of kritis (compositions) of devotional songs are sung in honour of his beloved deity, Thyagaraja or Lord Ram. The Lord is named as the king of sacrifices because he readily agreed to give up his claims to the throne as the eldest son to honour a promise that his father had made to one of his three queens. Saint Thyagaraja is at the heart of Tamil culture that Mr Karunanidhi praises so much. So by opposing Lord Ram, Mr Karunandhi has contradicted himself. An important comparison: Soon after the Prophet’s death, a war of succession broke out among his followers. The Mughal period saw the princes fighting among themselves for the throne, soon after the emperor’s death. In the fratricidal war, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb emerged victorious after murdering his brothers and imprisoning his father. Apparently, Mr Karunanidhi has no quarrel with this culture. Conferred with the title ‘Kalaignar‘ – man of (Tamil) culture – he also conveniently overlooks Kamban, the great ancient Tamil poet who wrote his own version of Ramayan. This version is popular in the State even today and is hailed as a literary masterpiece. So much for the Kalaignar’s love for Tamil culture! Mr Karunanidhi and several other dyed-in-the-wool secularists of his ilk frequently ask for evidence supporting Hindu beliefs and the events mentioned in Mahabharat and Ramayan. How will the evidence surface? Over 1,000 years of Muslim rule witnessed massive destruction of countless symbols of Hindu culture and traditions. The British did some archaeological studies but they were usually subordinated to their imperial interests. The establishment of independent India, moulded in the mindset of the British, has shown little interest in finding evidence to substantiate Indian traditions. Compare this to the interest Western archaeologists showed in finding out whether the Biblical reference to a flood and Noah building an arc in anticipation of it and stocking it with birds and beasts, one pair of each species as directed by god, was true or not. Lots of money was spent and ultimately some evidence was dug out that showed that there indeed was a flood and that a huge boat was really built whose remnants were found. The Western scholars did not dismiss the Noah story as mere ‘faith’ because they were completely absorbed in the Biblical tradition. They respected their tradition and sought to enrich it. Our ‘secularists’ are adept at denouncing their own culture: Forget Kalidas and Kautilya and study Marx and Gorky or Shakespeare and Burke. The blatant disrespect shown to Lord Ram has stirred the conscience of some Congressmen as well. Coming close on the heels of the indefensible civil nuclear deal with the US, many leading Congressmen – who have remained tight-lipped for long – are waiting for the opportune moment to blow the whistle. The UPA Government has crossed all limits of hypocrisy. Its boat is about to sink. It is hoped it will find a respectful place in the waters of the Gulf of Mannar.http://tinyurl.com/j8dfdmuka1.jpgmuka2.jpgmuka3.jpg

http://www.dinakaran.com/slideshow/default.asp (Dinakaran, Tamil daily, 19 Sept. 2007)


In this interview, Mu Karunanidhi denies both Valmiki and Rama. It may perhaps be relevant to refer Tamil texts for Mu Ka’s consideration, apart from some epigraphs and a remarkable perspective provided a famous French historian of the 19th century, Jules Michelet.

Notes follow on:

1. Jules Michelet, 19th century French historian’s view on Ramayana

2. Setubandham in Tamil literature (TV Rengarajan, Somayajulu, Ananthakrishnan)

3.Setubandha according to Al-Beruni

4. Setubandha on epigraphs

Jules Michelet (1798-1874), French historian writes about the Ramayana (Note: Thanks to Michel Danino for providing me this exquisite reference):

The year 1863 will remain cherished and blessed. It was the first time I could read India’s great sacred poem, the divine Ramayana…. This great stream of poetry carries away the bitter leaven left behind by time and purifies us. Whoever has his heart dried up, let him drench it in the Ramayana. Whoever has lost and wept, let him find in it a soothing softness and Nature’s compassion. Whoever has done too much, willed too much, let him drink a long draught of life and youth from this deep chalice…. Everything is narrow in the Occident. Greece is small — I stifle. Judea is dry — I pant. Let me look a little towards lofty Asia, towards the deep Orient. There I find my immense poem, vast as India’s seas, blessed and made golden by the sun, a book of divine harmony in which nothing jars. There reigns a lovable peace, and even in the midst of battle, an infinite softness, an unbounded fraternity extending to all that lives, a bottomless and shoreless ocean of love, piety, clemency. I have found what I was looking for : the bible of kindness. Great poem, receive me !… Let me plunge into it ! It is the sea of milk.[i]

[i] Michelet, La Bible de l’humanité, volume 5 of Œuvres (Paris : Bibliothèque Larousse, 1930), p. 109-110.See: article by Shri TV Rengarajan, “Ilakkiyangalil Sri Ramasetu” (2007) in: S. Kalyanaraman, ed., 2007, Rama Setu, pp.140-146. ebook at http://www.slideshare.net/kalyan97/ramasetu-53582/

Tiruvalangadu plates of Rajaraja Cola I (985 to 1014 CE) describe the king as surpassing Rama in military prowess and crossing the ocean with his powerful armyi and subduing the king of Lanka (David T. Sanford, Ramayana Portraits, Vidya Dehejia ed., The Legend of Rama, Marg Publications, 1994: 54).

Deopara inscription (ca 1100 CE) records that Samantasena, the head-garland of the Brahma-kshatriya proceeded towards Rames’wara Setubandha and subdued the wicked despoilers of the Lakshmi (wealth) of Karnataka (Metcalfe in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Vol. XXXIV, part 1, and afterwards critically edited by Prof. Kielhorn in Epigraphic Indica, Vol. 1.307-11). 

See: Setubandhanam, a book in Tamil, on Tamil literary references to Rama Setu by Somayajulu (Thanjavur, 2007)Two quotes from Akanaanooru and Manimekalai:

Adjacent to victorious Pandyas’ ancient Kodikarai (Point ) Thiruvanai, (Ramasethu) the roaring waves that hit on the foreshores , when Raman who had the capacity to be Victorious did the planning of the invasion , all the birds stopped chirping, that make home on the ancient Banyan Trees like that this busy city (Rameswaram) also became quiet. (Akanaanooru Song 70: Verse 13-17)

When Thirumal (Vishnu) took upon himself the Curse and came on this earth incarnated as Raman, when he wanted to go to Lanka and reached the seashore like the rocks went into the Stomach of the ocean… (Manimekalai ( 9-12)

Karunanidhi wrong, Ram an ancient Tamil icon

P Ananthakrishnan delves into scholarly and popular Tamil literature that celebrates Ram and Ramayan

One of the most celebrated quotations of Marx is the one about history repeating itself first as tragedy and then as farce. Had he been watching the television debates on the controversy regarding Ram Setu, he would have concluded that the real tragedy is that history has finally attained the steady-state of farce. The nonsense that is bandied in these discussions is staggering even when one takes into account the fact that so-called specialists are barely allowed to speak and, when they are, they are commanded to give their answers in binary, yes/no terms.

A case in point is the discussion on Ram in Tamil tradition. One historian said Ram had never been a popular god in Tamil Nadu and he was more a literary figure than a religious one. He went on to add that iconographic evidence of Ram in Tamil country was scarce and people even feared that if they worshipped Ram, tragedy would strike them. Another worthy stated that Ram was worshipped by a small group of Vaishnavites. Inevitably, the Aryan-Dravidian divide came up. The Great Political Thespian of India, M Karunanidhi, had the last word. He asked, rhetorically, “Who is this Ram? From which engineering college did he graduate?”

I am not sure, but certainly not from one of the “self-financing” colleges of Tamil Nadu. If he had, he would not have been able to make a plank to cross a brook, leave alone build a bridge to span a gulf.

Is it really that Ram was scarcely known in Tamil country?

Before answering this question, let me make my position very clear on this issue. I am not exactly a believer. And I am of the view that the Sethusamudram project must go ahead, if it has no serious ecological, geological, technological and, what is more, bribe-related implications.

The Ramayan finds a mention in at least two places in the Sangam corpus, which is traditionally dated between 200 BC and 200 AD. In one reference, Ram orders chirping birds to silence. In another, the monkeys wear, in a monkey-like manner, the jewels discarded by Sita while she was being abducted by Ravan. It is worthwhile to note here that both these incidents find no mention in the Valmiki Ramayan. The ease with which these incidents have been woven into the poems indicates that the Ramayan story was well known in the Tamil country during the Sangam period.

The next reference to Ram occurs in the epic Silappadikaram – “The Tale of an Anklet”. It was written in the Second Century AD by Ilango Adigal, a prince who became a Jain monk. It is an unforgettable literary masterpiece that was made into an eminently forgettable Tamil film by Karunanidhi himself. In this epic, shepherdesses sing ballads in praise of both Ram and Krishna, clearly identifying them as avatar s of Vishnu.

The works of the Vaishnava saints the Alwars, collectively known as “The Sacred Four Thousand,” have innumerable allusions to Ram and the Ramayan. The Alwars prospered between the Sixth and the Tenth Centuries AD. As Vasudha Narayanan points out in her excellent essay on the Ramayan (available at www.ramanuja.org), in the work of one Alwar alone there are 106 allusions to Ram and the Ramayan and there are six “sets” of poems (about 63 verses) where the words are spoken by the Alwar in the guise of a character form the Ramayan. This Alwar, it must be noted, is not a Brahmin.

The Saiva saints, the Nayanmars, most of whom are contemporaries of the Alwars, also stud their verses with episodes from the Ramayan. Then we have the greatest Tamil poet of them all, Kamban.

His Ramayan is correctly considered the acme of Tamil literary achievement. In about 10,000 verses Kamban, who, again, is not a Brahmin and is a grand scholar of Sanskrit and an unabashed admirer of Valmiki, establishes that, for his bhakta s, Rama is the One who is the origin of all. This, it must be remembered, is a sure departure from Valmiki, for whom Rama was only a Maryada Purushottam.

Thus, it is clear that the Tamil country has an uninterrupted tradition of worshipping Ram at least right from the Second Century AD.

The iconographic evidence of Ram in Tamil Nadu is too numerous to narrate here. There are temples to Ram that date back at least to the Ninth Century AD. Some of the greatest Chola bronzes are of Ram – a few of them are on display at the National Museum in Delhi. Some of the masterpieces are worshipped to this day, without interruption, from the day they were consecrated. Today, there is hardly any major city in Tamil Nadu that doesn’t have a Ram shrine. Hanuman, of course, pervades everywhere. One of the biggest statues of Hanuman is enshrined in a Chennai suburb, where festival days result in horrendous traffic snarls.

Curiously, this hoary tradition of Ram worship in the Tamil country has led to historian Suvira Jaiswal claiming in March 2007 that (in the words of The Hindu) the Ram cult took birth and evolved in the South, the “Dravida” country, and later got assimilated into the religious psyche of the North! This has evoked a testy response from, of all people, a Tamil, Dr Nagaswamy, a respected art historian and archaeologist, who says that the Ram cult must have originated in the North, perhaps as early as the Second Century BC.

There is nothing more ridiculous than calling Ravan a Dravidian hero. Ravan is in fact a top-of-the drawer Brahmin. He is the great grandson of Brahma himself, the grandson of Pulastya Maharishi and the son of Visravas, another rishi. There is another point to be made here. The beautiful temple at Rameswaram is dedicated to Shiva. According to the Sthalapurana the Shivalinga in the temple is supposed to have been installed by Ram himself for worship. Why did he want to worship Shiva? It was to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya (killing a Brahmin).

There is indeed another great, real divide. This is between the Tamils and the Tam Brahms of Delhi, who are generally seen in these infernal TV discussions. The Tam Brahms of Delhi has lost their Tamil roots long ago. I doubt many of them will be able to read Tamil with some degree of comfort. They have absolutely no clue about the Tamil traditions, culture or literature. So long as they dominate the TV scene, there will only be sound and fury – sound from the Tam Brahms and fury from the Defenders of Dravidian Faith – signifying nothing.

The writer , a retired civil servant is an author and novelist


Excerpts from: Alberuni’s India, tr. Edward C. Sachau, Rupa, 2002 (Note: Sarandib is Lanka)


“The next place on the coast is Ūmmalnāra, then Rāmsher (Rāmeshar?) opposite Sarandib; the distance of the sea between them is 12 farsakh. The distance from Panjayāvar to Rāmsher is 40 farsakh, that between Rāmsher and Setubandha 2 farsakh. Setubandha means bridge of the ocean. It is the dike of Rāma, the son of Dasaratha, which he built from the continent to the castle Lanka. At present it consists of isolated mountains between which the ocean flows. Sixteen farsakh from Setubandha towards the east is Kihkind, the mountains of the monkeys.” ……..


“Rāma attacked Rāvana after having crossed the ocean on a dyke of the length of 100 yojan, which he had constructed from a mouintain in a place called Setubandha, i.e. bridge of the ocean, east of Ceylon. He fought with him and killed him, and Rāma’s brother killed the brother of Rāvana, as is descrived in the story of Rāma and Rāmāyana. Thereupon he broke the dyke in ten different places by arrow-shots.” ……..

(Note: reference to isolated mountains shows that the sealevel was lower in Al-Beruni’s time and that the geological feature constituting Rama Setu is a rocky formation — not mere sand-shoals).

One Response to Rama Setu: in Tamil texts and on epigraphs

  1. T.C.Govindan says:

    Such information/materials should be emailed to all sceptics and Media houses, since scoundrels like K are deliberately trying to divide the people by distorting facts, for their own selfish ends.

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