Rama Setu: stop channel project

Stop Sethu Samundar Project
Why we should stop it

Map of Adam's Bridge and environs
Map of Adam’s Bridge and environs
alt=”Landsat 5 image of Adam’s Bridge” class=thumbimage v:shapes=”_x0000_i1026″>
Landsat 5 image of Adam’s Bridge

Adam’s Bridge also known as Ram Setu (from Sanskrit:राम सेतु rāma setu, ் [1] meaning “Rama‘s Bridge”, is a chain of limestone shoals, between the islands of Mannar, near northwestern Sri Lanka, and Rameswaram, off the southeastern coast of India. Geological evidence indicates that this bridge acted as former land connection between India and Srilanka.[2]

The bridge is 30 miles (48 km) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (southwest) from the Palk Strait (northeast). Some of the sandbanks are dry and the sea in the area is very shallow, being only 3 ft to 30 ft (1 m to 10 m) deep in places, which hinders navigation.[2]

In 2001, the Government of India approved a multi-million dollar Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project that aims to create a ship channel across the Palk Strait by dredging through portion of this causeway. Some organizations oppose this project using current alignment based on religious, economic and environmental grounds and suggest implementation through alternative alignments.


Marco Polo travel map shows that he has travelled around Adam's bridge area. His travel book calls this area as SETABUND-RAMESWARA.[[5]]

Marco Polo travel map shows that he has travelled around Adam’s bridge area. His travel book calls this area as SETABUND-RAMESWARA.[[5]]

The name Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu (Sanskrit; setu: bridge) for the shoal of islands derives from the Sanskrit epic Ramayana (dated from 500 BCE to 100 BCE), in which a bridge from Rameswaram was built by allies of Rama that he used to reach Lanka and rescue his abducted wife Sita from the asura king, Ravana.[3] The sea separating India and Sri Lanka is called Sethusamudram “Sea of the Bridge”. Maps prepared by Netherland cartographer during 1747 which is available in Tanjore Saraswathi mahal library shows this area as RAMANCOIL(can be translated as Ramar Temple). Another map of Mogul India prepared by J.Rennel in 1788 retrieved from same library gives indications that this area would have been called as Rama Temple or Ramar Bridge. Many other maps which is available in University of Chicago websites [6][7] and other sources call this area with various names like Koti, Sethubandha, Sethubandha Rameswaram etc. . Earliest map which calls this area as Adam’s bridge is prepared by British cartographer in 1804.[4]. Valmiki Ramayan calls mythological built by Lord Rama as setu bandhanam in verse 2-22-76[5]

Various travel guides,books, dictionary prepared during 18th and 19th century including travel guide written by Marco Polo calls this area as Setabund Rameswara or Ramar Bridge.[[8]]

The name Adam’s Bridge is due to an Islamic legend, according to which Adam used the bridge to reach Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka, where he stood repentant on one foot for 1,000 years, leaving a large hollow mark resembling a foot print. Both the peak and the bridge are named after this legend. [2][3] The name first appears in the 11th century, mentioned by Alberuni; Ibn Khordadbeh in his Book of Roads and Kingdoms (ca. 850 AD) calls it Set Bandhai or “Bridge of the Sea”.[6]

Geology and ecology

Adam’s Bridge consists of a series of parallel ledges of sandstone and conglomeration, that is hard at the surface and grows coarse and soft as it descends to sandy banks. In the 19th century, there were two prevalent theories explaining the structure. One considered it to be formed by a process of accretion and rising of the land, while the other surmised that it was formed by the breaking away of Sri Lanka from the Indian subcontinent.[7] The friable calcerous ridges are broken into large rectangular blocks, which perhaps gave rise to the belief that the causeway is an artificial construction.[8]

During periods of lowered sea level over the last 100,000 years, Adam’s bridge has provided an intermittent land connection between India and Sri Lanka, which according to famous ornithologists Sidney Dillon Ripley and Bruce Beehler supports the vicariance model for speciation in some birds of the Indian sub-continent.[9]

Early surveys and dredging efforts

Adam's Bridge seen from above the Mannar island, Sri Lanka.

Adam’s Bridge seen from above the Mannar island, Sri Lanka.

Due to shallow waters, Adam’s Bridge presents a formidable hindrance to navigation through the Palk strait. Though trade across the India-Sri Lanka divide has been active since at least the first millennium BCE, it has been limited to small boats and dinghies. Larger ocean going vessels from the West have had to navigate around Sri Lanka to reach India’ eastern coast.[10] Eminent British geographer Major James Rennell, who surveyed the region as a young officer in the late eighteenth century, suggested that a “navigable passage could be maintained by dredging the strait of Ramisseram [sic]”. However little notice was given to his proposal, perhaps because it came from “so young and unknown an officer”, and the idea was only revived 60 years later.[11]

In 1822, Sir Arthur Cotton (then an Ensign), was entrusted the responsibility to survey the Pamban channel, which separates the Indian mainland from the island of Rameswaram and forms the first link of Adam’s Bridge. Geological evidence indicates that this was at one point bridged by a land connection, and some temple records suggest that the connection was broken by violent storms in 1480. Cotton suggested that the channel be dredged to enable passage of ships, but nothing was done till 1828, when some rocks were blasted and removed under the direction of Major Sim.[12][13]

A more detailed marine survey of Adam’s Bridge was undertaken in 1837 by Lieutenants F. T. Powell, Ethersey, Grieve and Christopher along with draughtsman Felix Jones, and operations to dredge the channel were recommenced the next year.[12][14] However these, and subsequent efforts in the 19th century, did not succeed in keeping the passage navigable for any vessels except those with a light draft.[2]

Sethusamudram shipping canal project

Main article: Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project

Adam's Bridge as seen from the air

Adam’s Bridge as seen from the air

In 2001, the Government of India approved a multi-million dollar Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project that aims to create a ship channel across the Palk Strait by dredging the shallow ocean floor near Dhanushkodi. The channel is expected to cut over 400 km (nearly 30 hours of shipping time) off the voyage around the island of Sri Lanka.

Political parties including the BJP, AIADMK, RJD, JD(S) and some Hindu organizations oppose dredging through the shoal on religious grounds — Rama’s Bridge is popularly identified as a causeway described in the Ramayana — and suggest using an alternate alignment for the channel that avoids damage to Adam’s Bridge.[15][16] The state and central government have opposed such changes, with Union Shipping Minister T R Baalu saying the current proposal was well scrutinised for economic viability and environmental sustainability and that there were no other environmentally feasible alternatives.[17][18][19]

Opposition to the project also stems from concerns over its impact on the area’s ecology and marine wealth, potential loss of thorium deposits in the area, and increased risk of damage due to tsunamis.[20] Calls for a different alignment of the channel, avoiding “Rama’s Bridge”, conflict with the concern for minimal environmental impact, since such a re-alignment would endanger the coral reefs and marine life in the Gulf of Mannar, and consequently also the livelihood of local fishermen.[21]

Dating controversies

NASA satellite photo of Adam's Bridge—oblique, Sri Lanka to the left

NASA satellite photo of Adam’s Bridge—oblique, Sri Lanka to the left

It has been suggested that this section be split into a new article entitled Sethusamudram_Shipping_Canal_Project#Religious. (Discuss)

Vaishnava News Network and some other U.S.-based news services suggested that it had discovered the remains of the bridge built by Rama and his Vanara army, that is referred to in the Ramayana, and that it was not a natural formation, basing their claim on 2002 NASA satellite footage.[22] Some archaeologists and geologists have presented differing estimates. Thus, a team from Centre for Remote Sensing (CRS) of Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi led by Professor S.M. Ramasamy in 2003 claimed that the, “Rama’s bridge could only be 3,500 years old” and, “as the carbon dating of the beaches roughly matches the dates of Ramayana, its link to the epic needs to be explored”.[23]

Such claims were rejected as untenable by experts. NASA distanced itself from the claims saying that what had been captured was nothing more than a 30 km long, naturally-occurring chain of sandbanks called Adam’s bridge[24]. It also clarified that, “The images reproduced on the websites may well 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”[25] Prof. N. Ramanujam, Head, Post Graduate Department of Geology and Research Centre, V.O. Chidambaram College, astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar and a group of professors of Madurai Kamaraj University stated that Adam’s bridge is a natural geographical feature which formed some 17 million years ago.[22][26]

The survey conducted by Geological Survey of India likewise concluded the structure was a natural one[citation needed], Geological survey of India’s former director, S. Badrinarayanan claims that such a natural formation would be impossible, He justifies the same by the presence of loose sands layer under corals for entire stretch. Corals normally form above rocks..”[27] [28]. He feels that thorough analysis was not conducted by Geological survey of India before undertaking SSCP project.


  1. ^ also transcribed as Ram Sethu, Rama Setu, Ramasethu and variants.
  2. ^ a b c d Adam’s bridge. Encyclopædia Britannica (2007). Retrieved on 200709-14.
  3. ^ a b Room, Adrian (2006). Placenames of the World. McFarland & Company, p. 19. ISBN 0786422483.
  4. ^ [1] Various maps of ancient period indicates this area as Ramancoil, Ramar Temple, Sethubandha Rameswaram and Koti
  5. ^ Valmiki Ramayan calls mythological bridge built by Lord Rama as Setubandhanam
  6. ^ Horatio John Suckling, Ceylon: A General Description of the Island, Historical, Physical, Statistical, London (1876), p. 76.
  7. ^ Tennent, James Emerson (1859). Ceylon: An Account of the Island Physical, Historical and Topographical. Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, p.13.
  8. ^ Suess, Eduard; Hertha B. C. Sollas (translator) (1906). The Face of the Earth (Vol. II). Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 512-513.
  9. ^ Ripley, S. Dillon; Beehler, Bruce M. (Nov. 1990). “Patterns of Speciation in Indian Birds“. Journal of Biogeography 17 (6): pp. 639-648.
  10. ^ Francis, Jr., Peter (2002). Asia‘s Maritime Bead Trade: 300 B.C. to the Present. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 082482332X.
  11. ^ Rodd, Rennell (April 1930). “Major James Rennell. Born 3 December 1742. Died 20 March 1830“. The Geographical Journal 75 (4): pp. 289-299.
  12. ^ a b Hunter, Sir William Wilson (1886). The Imperial Gazetteer of India. Trübner & co., pp. 21-23.
  13. ^ Digby, William (1900). General Sir Arthur Cotton, R. E., K. C. S. I.: His Life and Work. Hodder & Stoughton, pp. 15-16.
  14. ^ Dawson, Llewellyn Styles (1885). Memoirs of hydrography. Keay, pp. 52.
  15. ^ Ram Setu a matter of faith, needs to be protected: Lalu. NewKerela.com (September 21, 2007). Retrieved on 200709-24.
  16. ^ Rama is ‘divine personality’ says Gowda. MangaoreNews.com (September 22, 2007). Retrieved on 200709-24.
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ [4]
  20. ^ Thorium reserves to be disturbed if Ramar Sethu is destroyed. The Hindu (August 5, 2007). Retrieved on 200709-24.
  21. ^ “Adam’s Bridge, nothing but a geological formation” The Hindu, 21 March 2007
  22. ^ a bHanuman bridge is myth: Experts“, Times of India, October 19, 2002. Retrieved on 200709-18.
  23. ^Rama’s bridge is only 3,500 years old: CRS“, Indian Express, February 2, 2003. Retrieved on 200709-18.
  24. ^ Kumar, Arun. “Space photos no proof of Ram Setu: NASA“, Hindustan Times, September 14, 2007. Retrieved on 200709-18. “”The mysterious bridge was nothing more than a 30 km long, naturally-occurring chain of sandbanks called Adam’s bridge,” [NASA official Mark] Hess had added. “NASA had been taking pictures of these shoals for years. Its images had never resulted in any scientific discovery in the area.”
  25. ^ Kumar, Arun. “Space photos no proof of Ram Setu: NASA“, Hindustan Times, September 14, 2007. Retrieved on 200709-18.
  26. ^ Kumar, R.Vimal. ““It’s not a man-made structure”“, The Hindu, March 17, 2007. Retrieved on 200709-18. “” “Adam’s Bridge, nothing but a geological formation””“, The Hindu, March 21, 2007. Retrieved on 200709-18.
  27. ^Debate shifted over Ram from Ram Sethu“, indianewstrack.com, September 15, 2007. Retrieved on 200709-18.
  28. ^ Ram sethu should be a natural formation says former Geological survey of India director


One Response to Rama Setu: stop channel project

  1. Phalini says:

    Thanks for your good research and excellent study done on Rama-setu. I am interested especially in knowing what physical features have been discovered regarding Rama-setu. Has anyone ever discovered Sanskrit etchings or ancient footprints on the rocks? What’s the latest research that has been conducted to prove the facts revealed in Valmiki’s Ramayana? Thanks again for your work in reporting on this most important subject. –Phalini

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