सर्वेश कुमार तिवारी
सेतुसमुद्रम पोतमार्ग परियोजना की विशिष्ट गणमान्य-जन समिति,
मालगै, 30/95 पी एस कुमारस्वामी राजा (ग्रीनवेज़) मार्ग
चेन्नई 600 028
विषय: परियोजना-विषयक आपत्तियाँ व सुझाव
राष्ट्रीय व स्थानीय समाचार पत्रों में विज्ञप्ति के माध्यम से आपने जनसामान्य को आमंत्रित किया था कि परियोजना के विषय मे आपत्तियाँ एवँ सुझाव आप तक पहुँचाये जा सकते हैं. विज्ञप्ति मे आपने स्पष्ट कर दिया था कि उक्त पत्राचार आपको केवल अंग्रेजी भाषा मे ही स्वीकार्य होंगे. महोदय, सर्वप्रथम आपको यह चेत हो कि भारत-जन की भाषा अंग्रेजी नहीं वरन अनेक भारतीय भाषायें हैं, और भारतीय भाषाओं के प्रति आपकी अपमान-जनक अवहेलना न केवल अव्यावहारिक है, बल्कि भर्त्सना की भी पात्र है. आपको कदाचित होने वाली असुविधा के लिये खेद के साथ, यह पत्र भारतीय राजभाषा हिन्दी मे सगर्व और सविनय आपको सम्बोधित है.
रामसेतु एक साँस्कृतिक-धार्मिक धरोहर है, इसके साथ कैसी भी छेड-छाड करने का किसी को अधिकार नहीं! ‘राम हुए थे अथवा नहीं’ – न केवल यह नितांत अनावश्यक विवाद है – बल्कि ‘सेतु का निर्माण कैसे हुआ’ – यह भी सर्वथा अप्रासंगिक और व्यर्थ का प्रलाप है. अंतरराष्ट्रीय सांस्कृतिक संस्थान (यूनेस्को) एवँ भारतीय संविधान, दोनों के दृष्टिकोण से, प्रासंगिक और वैधानिक प्रश्न केवल इतना ही है कि क्या रामसेतु एक अत्यंत दीर्घ काल से जन-मानस मे धरोहर का स्थान रखता है? इस प्रश्न के उत्तर मे बहुत कुछ प्रस्तुत किया जा सकता है, किंतु सारांश मे केवल कुछ बिन्दु इंगित करना पर्याप्त होगा.
क) हिन्दू धर्म-शास्त्रों – न केवल वाल्मीकि रामायण बल्कि विभिन्न असंख्य लोकप्रचलित रामायणों, पुराणों (विष्णु,पद्म, वायु, नारद, स्कान्द इत्यादि), एवँ महाभारत मे – रामसेतु का प्रचुर और प्रधानतापूर्वक महत्व-मण्डन मिलता है. रामसेतु की महिमा त्रेता युग के अक्षय चिन्ह और जनसामान्य के लिये अनंत तक सर्व-पाप-नाशक तीर्थ के स्वरूप मे की गई है. बौद्ध ग्रंथोँ जैसे कि लंकावतार सूत्र मे भी सेतु का वर्णन है. ये सभी ग्रंथ सहस्त्राब्दियों या कम-से-कम अनेक शताब्दियों पुराने हैं.
ख) हिन्दू परम्परा मे सेतु वह अद्वितीय तीर्थ-उपकरण माना गया है, जहाँ मनुष्य जघन्यातिजघन्य पापोँ से मुक्ति हेतु प्रायश्चित्त कर पाता है. स्कान्द महापुराण जो कि समस्त पुराणों मे सबसे दीर्घ और सुविस्तृत है, इसमे ऐसा वर्णन है कि ब्रम्ह-हत्या और गुरुतल्पगमन (गुरु-पत्नी के साथ अनैतिक आचरण) – इन पापों से मनुष्य की मुक्ति केवल रामसेतु-सेवन से हो सकती है. (परिशिष्ट 1)
ग) प्रत्येक भारतीय भाषा के साहित्यिक वांग़्मय मे भी रामसेतु कई शताब्दियों से कौतुक का विषय निरंतर बना रहा है. प्रथम शताब्दी ईसापूर्व मे कविकुलगुरु कालीदास-कृत रघुवंश से ले कर सातवीं/आठवीं सदी मे महाकवि भवभूति द्वारा रचित महावीरचरितम तक रामसेतु ने संस्कृत कवियों के साहित्य सृजन मे प्रचुर स्थान पाया. अन्य भाषाओं के कवियों जैसे कि तमिल मे महाकवि कम्बन ने बारहवीं सदी मे सेतु पर बहुत कुछ लिखा.
घ) रामसेतु के नाम से, प्राचीन ऐतिहासिक काल से ही सुदूर दक्षिण तमिलनाडु के राजाओँ को सेतुपति की उपाधि प्राप्त होती थी. जनश्रुति इन सेतुपति राजाओं को अत्यंत प्राचीन मारवा जाति के वीर बताती है, जिन्हे कि रामसेतु की सुरक्षा का दायित्व मिला था. अंकित और पुष्ट इतिहास मे भी, रामनाड के सेतुपति राजाओं का वर्णन कम-से-कम 11-वीं शताब्दी जितने पहले से आना आरम्भ हो जाता है जब कि सम्राट राजराजा चोल द्वारा उन्हे रामसेतु की रक्षा का प्रभारी नियुक्त किया जाना वर्णित है. (परिशिष्ट 2)
च) 18-वीं व 19-वीं सदी के योरोपीय इतिहासकारों और इण्डोलाजिस्ट्स ने भारतीय जन में सेतु की महत्ता के विषय मे प्रायः लिखा है. एक ऐसा ही रोचक वर्णन रायल एशियाटिक सोसाइटी के विख्यात फिलोलोजिस्ट राबर्ट कस्ट ने रामसेतु के प्रति जनता की आस्था के विषय मे किया था. उन्होने 1846 मे लिखा कि, ‘राम ने कहा था जब तक सृष्टि है तब तक रामसेतु बना रहेगा, और उनकी वाणी सच ही होती लग रही है.’ (परिशिष्ट 3)
छ) भारतीय सर्वेक्षण का प्राचीनतम एम्ब्लेम एक समय तक हुआ करता था – ‘आसेतु हिमाचलम्’ : सेतु से हिमालय तक. इस प्रकार स्वयम् ASI का एम्ब्लेम तक सेतु की महत्ता को स्वीकार करता था. (परिशिष्ट 4)
ज) 1974 मे भारत और श्रीलंका द्वारा की गई समुद्रीय परिसीमन सन्धि ने भी सेतुसमुद्रम के जल को ‘ऐतिहासिक’ घोषित किया था.
झ) भारत की सबसे पहली डब की जाने वाली फिल्म की ख्याति जिस चित्रपट को प्राप्त है, वह है – ‘सेतुबन्धन’. जनमानस मे रामसेतु के प्रति आस्था को देखते हुए, भारतीय सिनेमा के पितामह श्री दादासाहेब फाल्के ने 1923 मे इस मूक फिल्म को बनाया था और इतना ही नहीं, 1924 मे डबिंग तकनीकि के आते ही डब करवाया था. यह भी सेतुबन्धन के भारतीय संस्कृति मे अतीव महत्व का अनूठा द्योतक है. इसी प्रकार आधुनिक भारतीय चित्रकला के उन्नायक व स्वनामधन्य श्री राजा रवि वर्मा ने भी सेतु बन्धन प्रसंग मे राम की समुद्र पर विजय को अपने कन्वास पर प्रधानता से उकेरा था. यह ‘मास्टरपीस’ आज भी राजा रवि वर्मा के चित्र-संग्रहालय मे देखी जा सकती है. आधुनिक भारत के प्रथम राष्ट्रकवि श्रीमान मैथिली शरण गुप्त ने अपने महाकाव्य ‘साकेत’ मे सेतु बन्धन को प्रधान स्थान दिया. स्वामी विवेकानन्द – जिनकी शिकागो यात्रा का प्रबन्ध तत्कालीन सेतुपति राजा ने किया था – उन्होने भी अपनी सिंहवाणी मे रामसेतु के विषय मे वर्णन किया है.
त) भारत मे ही नहीं बल्कि सुदूर कम्बोडिया, थाईलैण्ड, व बाली तक के अनेकानेक प्राचीन मन्दिरो के शिखरों पर, अन्यत्र अनेक भित्तिचित्रों पर, बिहार के मधुबनी व उडीसा के पारम्परिक म्यूरलों पर, एवँ मध्यकालीन सिक्कों पर रामसेतु व सेतुबन्धन के विषयवस्तु बहुतायत मे पाए जाते है.
थ) ‘सेतुमाधव’, ‘सेतुरामन’, ‘सेतुसुन्दर’, और कितने ही ऐसे नाम भारतीय माता-पिता अपनी संतानों को देते आये हैं. रामसेतु मे जनमानस की आस्था इसी से पता चल जाती है. बल्कि यही क्यों? सेतु के सन्निकट के पूरे क्षेत्र को एक समय सेतुनाडु कहा जाता था, व सेतु के दोनो ओर के समुद्र को सेतुसमुद्रम आज भी कहते हैं. और तो और, इस पोतमार्ग परियोजना का नाम भी तो भला उसी ‘सेतु’ से आया है!
महोदय, उपरोक्त बिन्दु केवल एक संकेत मात्र है यह दर्शाने के लिये, कि रामसेतु अत्यंत प्राचीन काल से भारतीय संस्कृति का, जन-मानस का, हिन्दू आस्था का, प्रमुखतम चिन्ह रहा है. इसको नहीं नकारा जा सकता. किसी वस्तु के धरोहर कहलाने के लिये यह बिल्कुल भी आवश्यक नहीं है कि वे मानव-निर्मित ही हों. इस आशय का पोषण न केवल भारत का संविधान व अंतरराष्ट्रीय मानक करते है, बल्कि इसका समर्थन विभिन्न न्यायालयों के समय-समय पर हुए निर्णय भी करते आए हैं. पुष्कर के ब्रम्ह सरोवर को धरोहर घोषित करने सम्बन्धी उच्चतम न्यायालय का निर्णय यहाँ प्रासंगिक है. रामसेतु एक मुख्य सांस्कृतिक-धार्मिक धरोहर है, भले ही वह प्राकृतिक भूगौलिक संरचना ही क्यों न हो. भला क्या कोई नकार सकता है कि बोधगया का बोधिवृक्ष भारत की, बल्कि विश्व-मात्र की, एक प्रधान धरोहर है – भले ही वह ‘मानव-निर्मित’ न हो!
भारत का शासन धरोहरों के प्रति सदैव सचेत रहता आया है. जब भी विकास-परियोजनाएँ ऐसी धरोहरोँ पर जरा भी आंच डालती भासित होती हैं, शासन ने सदैव आस्था और धरोहरों की संरक्षा को ही चुना है. हाल ही मे, दिल्ली मे लोधीमार्ग परियोजना को इस सन्देह पर रुकवाया दिया गया है कि कहीं इससे मुगल शासक हुमायूँ के मकबरे को कोई क्षति न पहुँचे. इसी भांति देहली मेट्रोरेल परियोजना के मेहरौली-गुड्गाँव भाग की योजना मे भारी परिवर्तन किए गए थे ताकि भले ही योजना के खर्च और समय मे वृद्धि हो जाय किंतु कुतुबमीनार इत्यादि को कोई भी क्षति न होने पाये. आगरा मे ताज-कोरीडोर परियोजना को इस आधार पर तत्काल रोक दिया गया था कि इससे ताजमहल पर प्रभाव होने की आशंका जताई गई थी. ऐसे ही मुम्बई मे कुर्ला-बान्द्रा फ्लाई-ओवर परियोजना को इस सावधानी के चलते परिवर्तित किया गया कि हाजी अली की दरगाह पर कैसा भी प्रभाव न पडे.
महोदय, जिस प्रकार भारत शासन इन उपरोक्त धरोहरों के प्रति सचेत है, उसी प्रकार रामसेतु – जो कि भारत की एक अत्यंत प्राचीन धरोहर है – उसे भी संरक्षित करना सुनिश्चित करें. शासन को कतई कोई अधिकार नहीं है कि रामसेतु जैसी आस्था से जुडी धरोहर के साथ कैसी भी, किसी भी मात्रा मे, छेड्छाड की जाए. सेतुसमुद्रम परियोजना का वर्तमान मार्ग तत्काल निरस्त किया जाय. सेतुसमुद्रम परियोजना का विस्तृत पुनरावलोकन किया जाय. इस प्रक्रिया मे आर्थिक, सामरिक, भूगौलिक, नौसैनिक, ओशियनोग्राफिक, पर्यावरण और पुरातत्व विशेषज्ञों का समावेश हो.
अंत मे, स्कान्द पुराण से एक रोचक और मार्मिक उद्धरण देना चाहेंगे:
भूयो भूयो भाविनो भूमिपाला नत्वा नत्वा याचते रामचन्द्रः
सामान्योयम धर्मसेतुर्नराणाम काले काले पालनीयो भविद्धिः
(40/34 स्कान्द पुराण, ब्रम्हखण्डम्)
श्रीरामचन्द्र अत्यंत विनयपूर्वक, बारम्बार झुक झुक कर, भविष्य मे आने वाले समस्त शासकों से विनम्र याचना करते हैं, कि हे भावी राजनगण, मेरे द्वारा जनकल्याण हेतु निर्मित इस धर्मसेतु की सदैव सुरक्षा करते रहें.
महोदय, आपसे रामसेतु की सुरक्षा सुनिश्चित करने की करबद्ध याचना है.
सर्वेश कुमार तिवारी
1: स्कान्द पुराण मे रामसेतु की महत्ता
2: सेतुरक्षक सेतुपति राजा
3: Robert Needham Cust, from ‘Linguistic And Oriental Essays’
4: Aa Setu Himaachal – Survey of India’s original insignia
5: Lodhi Road Tunnel project Blackballed in name of Heritage
Significance of Rama Setu as described in Sri Skanda Purana
By Bodhinath Shandilya
Description of the significance of Rama Setu can be found in abundance throughout the literature of Dharma Shastras. In Puranas, the importance of Setu is explained in great details, especially in Skanda Purana, Vishnu Purana, Agni Purana, and Brahma Purana.
This article explores Skanda Purana, with objective of understanding the importance with which Rama Setu is held in the Hindu traditions, and how significant it really is for Hindus.
Sri Skanda Purana
The most voluminous of all the eighteen main Puranas, and the other eighteen subsidiary Upa-puranas, is Skanda Purana. Skanda Purana is dedicated to Sri Skand, also famous as Kartikeya or Kumara, the illustrious son of Siva and Parvati, and chief commander of the army of Gods. Skanda Purana consists of 88,100 verses and is divided into seven different books:
Setu Mahatmya in Skanda Purana
Skanda Purana’s third book, Brahmakhandam, opens with a section, which is famous as Setu-Mahatmya, and dedicates this section spanning over fifty-two chapters to describing in detail, the significance of Rama Setu, its various aspects and its history throughout the ages.
The main themes of these fifty-two chapters are mentioned below:
1. Description of the Merits of Visiting Setu
2. The Construction of Setu
3. Dharmatirtha Becomes Famous as Chakratirtha
4. Redemption of Durdama from a Curse
5. Redemption from Curse of Alambusa and Vidhuma
6. Battle between the Goddess and Mahisasura
7. Mahisasura Killed
8. Sudarsana Becomes a Vampire
9. Redemption of Sudarsana and Sukarna
10. The Sanctifying Power of Papavinasa
11. Glory of Sita Lake: Indra Absolved of the Sin of Brahmana-Slaughter
12. Glory of Mangala Tirtha
13. The Glory of Amrtavapi: Salvation of Agastya’s Brother
14. Brahma’s Redemption from Siva’s Curse
15. The Glory of Hanumatkunda: Dharmasakha Blessed with a Hundred Sons
16. The Glory of Agasti Tirtha: The Story of Kaksivan
17. The Glory of Agastyakunda: The Marriage of Kaksivan
18. The Glory of Ramakunda: Dharamaputra’s Atonement for False Speech
19. The Glory of Laksmanatritha: Balabhadra’s Redemption from the Sin of Brahmana-Slaughter
20. The Glory of Jataritha: Dharmaputra Obtains Unlimited Wealth
21. The Glory of Laksmitirtha: Dharmaputra Obtains Unlimited Wealth
22. The Glory of Agnitirtha: Duspanya Relieved of His Ghosthood
23. The Glory of Cakratirtha: Aditya Gets Golden Hands
24. The Glory of Sivatirtha: Bhairava Absolved of the Sin of Brahmana-Slaughter
25. The Glory of Sankhatirtha: Vatsanabha Freed from the Sin of Ingratitude
26. The Greatness of Ganga, Yamuna and Gaya: Janasruti Attains Perfect Knowledge
27. The Glory of Kotitirtha: Krsna Atones for His Sin of Killing His Uncle
28. The Glory of Sadhyamrtatirtha: Pururavas Liberated from a Curse
29. The Glory of Sarvatirtha: Sucarita Attains Sayujya
30. The Glory of Dhanushkoti
31. The Glory of Kotitirtha: Asvatthama’s Liberation from the Sin of Killing Sleeping Persons
32. The Glory of Dhanushkoti: Dharmagupta Gets Rid of His Madness
33. The Glory of Dhanushkoti: Paravasu Liberated from the Sin of Brahmana-Slaughter
34. The Glory of Dhanushkoti: Sumati’s Liberation from Great Sins
35. The Glory of Dhanushkoti: The Jackal and the Monkey Liberated
36. The Glory of Dhanushkoti: Duracara Liberated from the Sin of Associating with Sinners
38. The Glory of Ksirakunda: Kadru’s Expitation for her Deceitful Action
39. The Glory of Kapitirtha: Rambha and Ghrtaci Liberated from their Curse
40. The Glory of Gayatri and Sarasvati Tirthas
41. The Glory of Gayatri and Sarasvati Kundas: Destruction of Kasyapa’s Sin
42. Rnamocana and Other Tirthas
43. The Glory of Ramanatha
44. The Installation of the Linga of Ramanatha
45. Rama’s Discourse on Philosophy
46. The Reason for the Installation of Ramanatha
47. Rama’s Sin of Brahma-hatya
48. Cessation of Great Sins Incurred by King Sankara
49. Eulogy of Ramanatha
50. The Story of Punyanidhi
51. Pilgrimage to Setu
52. The Glory of Setu
This article would attempt to explore the first chapter – known as Setu-gamana-phaladi-varnanam (Description of the Merits of Visiting Setu), with objective of understanding the importance of Rama Setu in the Hindu traditions, and how significant it really is for Hindus.
1. Setu’s particularly unique significance mentioned in Sri Skand Purana is that it is described as a place where prayashchitta (repentance) can be performed, for the gravest of the most heinous sins such as:
a) Guru-talpa-ga: someone who has illicit relationship with the spouse of one’s own teacher. This is classified as the most heinous sin. It is important to note that Setu is mentioned as that place where someone with this sin must repent.
b) Bramha-hatya: Killing a Brahmana is considered a very grave sin in traditions. Setu is a unique teertha, in that this is designated as the only place on earth, which liberates someone of this sin. Setu-mahatmya chapter provides several details and mentions a few examples such as that of Sri Rama himself, and of a king Sankara, and a few more – where someone with that sin has performed ritual karma-s of repentance at Setu.
c) Bramha-ghata: Purana clearly defines 5 major classes of bramhaghatakas, and then a few minor. Again, this is a heinous sin, and Purana mentions Setu to be the holy place where one can perform repentance for this sin.
2. There is a very significant coverage given to Setu-Mahatmya in Skanda Purana, in terms of the number of chapters, verses and depth of details, as well as this section being the opening section of Bramhakhandam.
Format of the remainder of this article is, a strict translation from the original text, while sub-headings are added to mention the topic of discussion underneath it. The original text, directly scanned from the pages of the Purana is provided as well.
Before proceeding further, I wish to seek forgiveness for any errors: those are solely and completely mine, unintentional, and deeply regretted.
<Beginning of the Translation>
Description of The Merits of Visiting Setu
I pray to Sri Ganesh. I pray to Sri Veda Vyasa. I pray to Sri Vishnu, clad in white, the all-pervading, of the complexion as that of Moon, having four arms and a pleasant face; I pray to thee, please alleviate all the obstacles.
The Sages of Naimisharanya
(1) Shaunaka and the other Rishis were dwelling in the forests of Naimish. All of them were devotedly occupied in Eightfold-Yoga, and all of them were extremely intent upon Bramha-realization. (2) They were desirous of ultimate liberation, all of them were great souls, speakers of Bramha, and beyond attachments of the world. All were great knower of Dharma, were untouched by envy or anger, and were occupied in their mission of self-realization. (3) They had conquered their senses and anger, and were compassionate towards all beings. They were in absolute devotion to the all-pervading and eternal Vishnu.
(4) Engaged in tapasya-s, in the greatly punya Naimish forest, once those great souls were assembled for a great cause. (5) They were conversing upon extremely pious subjects, destroyer of all sins. They were discussing about the nature of worldly enjoyments and means of the liberation from the worldly-bonds, as well as mutually satisfying each other’s quests. (6) Twenty-six thousand Rishis were engaged like this, and the number of their Shishyas and further their Shishyas was beyond any count.
Discourse of Sri Suta
(7) Arrived there with shishyas, a great luminary sage, very knowledgeable, himself a shishya of Sri Vyasa. Rishi Suta, the excellent, thus arrived in naimishAraNya. (8) Seeing him arriving, sages ignited the holy fires. Shaunaka and other Rishis welcomed and prayed to him by offering ardhya etc. (9) They seated Suta on a very auspicious and comfortable seat, (and requested him to) reveal the extreme mysteries, for the desire of the welfare of the people. (10) “O Suta, Bull Amongst the Sages, welcome are you, the knower of all the essence of Dharma. You have heard all the Purana-s from none other than Sri Veda Vyasa, the son of Satyavati, himself. (11) Therefore, O Great Sage, you know all the essense of all the Purana-s.
Which regions are puNya-kshetras, and which are teerthas on earth? (12) How does a being attain liberation from the bonds of the worldly-ocean? How does one win the devotion to Siva and Vishnu? (13) Who does he achieve, which are the fruits that come from those acts? O Suta, please tell us these and all other (mysteries) too.” (14) Please tell this to us, like a Guru kindly reveals even the most hidden mysteries to his finest disciples.” thus inquired the people of Naimisharanya to Suta.
(15) First bowing to his Guru Sri Vyasa, Sri Suta spoke. “The wise men have rightly asked these questions, which are verily of welfare to the world. (16) I shall narrate that mystery, please listen respectfully. I have not discoursed upon this to anyone else before, O Chief Amongst the Sages. (17) With disciplined minds, and with devotion, please listen to this, O best of the sages.
Setu – the Foremost Amongst the Teerthas
There is a holy place called Rameshwaram Rama Setu. (18) That, the best of all the teerthas, Rama Setu, liberates one if someone merely glances towards it. (19) One who performs ritual karma-s there becomes worthy of devotion to Siva and Vishu, and increases the wealth of his Punya-s. There is no doubt, that if someone performs the tri-vidha rituals there, verily acheives siddhi. (20) That man, who in his lifetime, even looks at the Setu with devotion, I am going to tell you what are the fruits of his act, O Bulls Amongst the Sages, please listen.
Punya of Setu-Darshan
(21) His parents, along with two-crore members of his lineage, attain to liberation and enter the worlds of Siva. (22) Even the cattle on the earth and stars in the sky, might be possible to count, but the Punya born of the Setu-darshan – that indeed even Sesha himself would not be able to measure. (23) Man, who has had the darshan of the famous Setubandha which is like the appearance of all the Gods – who can count for his puNyas! (24) Why! Just by having the darshan of Setu, men achieve the fruits of performing all the Yagyas of tradition, of bathing in all the teerthas, and of practicing all the penances. (25) O Dvija-s, even a person who just says ‘Should go to Setu’, even he verily attains the same fruits, what more to say! (26) By bathing at Setu, one gets liberation and attains the worlds of Vishnu, along with seven-crore members of one’s lineage who are dead. (27) That man, who meditates upon Setu, Rameshwar, gandhamadana parvata – he verily gets liberated from all sins. (28) His mother and father, along with lakh-crore members of his lineage, get liberated there itself entering the worlds of Vishnu. They get liberated and stay at the feet of Shambhu, for three kalpa-cycles of ages.
(29) Being thrown with rodents, and in the wells of liquid-fat, and the river Vaitarani (the terrible river of naraka), dog-meat to eat, and urine to drink – someone who has performed ritual karma-s at Setu, does not suffer (those naraka-s). (30) He escapes the tortures from heated spears, heated rocks, and from being buried in excreta and thrown in bloody wells. (31) Also (from being forced to) climbing the silky-plant, eating blood and insects, eating own meat, and entering fires of dreadful sparks. (32) Stones being hailed at, and fire being pored upon, drinking heated salt potions – someone, who has had the darshan of Setu, does not suffer (such) deadly nets of naraka. (33) O Vipra-s, men who perform rites at Setu, are liberated, even if being fallen by the five great offences. (Even their) parents and a hundred crore members of the lineage (34) are liberated to be at the feet of viSNu for three kalpa-cycles of the yuga-s. Being tortured in Naraka upside-down, and fed salt potions, (35) being tortured with stone-instruments and by being thrown down from mountains, being besmeared with excreta and being amputated with the saws, (36) (being forced for) the excreta to eat and sand to drink, joints being burned, walking on a bed of burning coals, and being beaten by clubs. (37) All these Naraka-s, the performer of rituals at Setu does not endure. (Therefore,) one must perform the rites at Setu, this I say after much contemplating. (38) Even an extremely fallen sinner, if he willingly goes (to Setu, he escapes) the tortures of being stretched on various wooden-gallows, and those of being pieced by sharp weapons, (39) of being leaped up and thrown down, being tormented by clubs and staffs, being struck by elephant teeth, or being several times bitten by snakes, (40) of smoke-chocking or of being bound in shackles, of being tormented by various types of spears, or of having to drink salt-potions through the mouth and through the nose. (41) The naraka-s where one drinks salty waters, and eats sharp needles, all these and other naraka-s, the (repenting) sinner does not go to. (42) salt-water being forced through all the pores of the body, being fed the excreta, muscles being chopped off, or burned, and bones being broken, (43) drinking sticky potions, and bile, and extremely bitter drinks, very hot oil, and very salty waters (44) drinking foul-smelling water and eating sizzling-hot stones, bathing in very hot gravel or sand, and teeth being crushed, (45) hot bed to sleep on and hot waters to drink, needles being thrown into the eyes, and in mouth, (46) Heavy weights being tied to the genitals, being thrown from the trees, and being kept full of foul smell, (47) sleeping upon sharp edged swords and being fed on sand etc., all these and other extremely horrifying naraka-s, one who performs ritual karma-s at Setu, does not suffer.
The Gravest Sinners
(48) One, who prostrates in the middle of the Setu’s sandbank, his sins become dulled. And ultimately his sins are subdued, O Best of the Dvija-s. (49) So much so, that the grimmest sin that arises from slaughtering a Bramhana, no doubt, even that is destroyed by performing rites there, if every part of his (sinner’s) body touches the winds in the middle of the Setu. (50) Offenses of drinking liquors instantly disappear by shaving the hair in the middle of the Setu. (51) Even the gravest sinner, who violates the bed of his own teacher – his sins too are destroyed instantly, by sons and grandsons immersing his last remains in the middle of the Setu. Who has sinned by stealing gold, even his sins are destroyed instantly. (52) O Best of the Dvija-s, whoever performs rituals at Setu, according to the traditions, taints acquired by him in the company of an extremely fallen person, disappear.
(53) There are five (classes of) Bramha-ghata-s (Bramhan-injury): violating the established path or tradition (making it unusable for others), cooking/eating for oneself (without proper offering), defiling Bramhana-ascetics, being highly greedy, and selling out the Vedas. (54) He, who inviting other Brahmans, robs their money etc., and does not (revert and) repent, even he is also ordained as bramha-ghataka. (55) O Vipra-s, that who acts in malice towards someone he knows as Dharma-follower, that ignorant is also ordained as bramha-ghataka. (56) Cow-herds that came to a pond for drinking the water, someone who hinders them from drinking, even he is ordained as bramha-ghataka. (57) O Best Amongst the Dvija-s, from all these and other accumulations of heinous sins equivalent of killing a brahmana, only Setu liberates. (58) By visiting Setu, one is liberated from all these (papa-s), beyond doubt.
One, who rejects the sacred domestic yagya fires, consumes away the offerings that are due to devatas, (59) drinks toxins, keeps company of prostitutes, eats away the offerings that are due to the other deities, all these are fallen men. (60) These mentioned, are worthy of all banishment, even Gods have declared so. (However), performing sacred rites at Setu can even liberate these sin-fallen. (61) These, drinkers and others, are liberated by plunging into the waters at Setu, wearing yellow clothes, eating kanda-mula-s, (62) and drinking a potion of sandal wood, camphor, bettle nut, and honey. They should also donate copper, bronze and rudraksha. (63) Thieves who have on purpose stolen gold etc, even they are liberated at Setu, without doubt. (64) O sages, these and also other thieves, all are liberated from their sins, by performing ritual karma-s at Setu, where their deeds become immaterial.
(65) (With passion and sexual desire, One who goes to) Sister, Daughter-in-law, woman having menses, brother’s wife or friend’s wife, (66) drunken women or prostitutes, others’ wives or widows, or his own teacher’s wives – these are all known to be worthy of being banished from all the karmas. (67) These, and others such, are known to be equivalent of someone who violates his teacher’s nuptial bed. (However,) O Sages, even they are liberated by performing sacred rites at Setu. (68) Those and others who keep company of those, are all great sinners. (But,) with the magnanimity and significance of the Setu-snan, even they are liberated.
Desires for Heavens and Wealth
(69) O Vipra-s, those men also perform rituals at Setu, who are desirous of enjoying the Menakas etc., in heavens, whom even dazzling Sun and other devatas can not come close to, without performing proper yagya-s with sacrificial ladle. (70) And those men, who have pious desires, they should perform rituals at Setu with devotion. (71) O dvija-s, men desirous of lands, wealth, gold, grains, and heavens etc., they too should perform rites at Setu. (72) Men desirous of heavens, should perform vows of upavasa, and accomplish fine tapasyas, and conduct rituals at Setu the liberator. (73) Performing ritual karma-s at Setu gives Moksha, and cleanses one as (clean as) snow. (74) Performing rites at Setu, without any desires, causes all sins to be destroyed. Performing rituals at Setu, as specifically read in Purana-s, is – (75) O Best amongst the Dvija-s, declared to be freeing from recurring birth, and truely liberating. Men, who perform rites at Setu, with objective of attaining wealth, they do gain joy. (76) O Bulls Amongst the Dvija-s, they attain enormous wealth. And those, who perform rituals at Setu with objective of purification, they obtain purification. (77) If rituals are performed for desires of enjoying with the divine Apsara-s, if so, then rites at Setu provide that too in the heaven. And if, the rituals are performed for Moksha, then Setu the liberator provides that, and ceases the recurrence of rebirths. (79) With rituals at Setu, one attains Dharma, and with rituals at setu one attains un-decaying (heavens too. Therefore,) O Best amongst the Dvija-s, rituals at Setu are fulfillers of all desires. (80) Setu-snan is declared as more punya than all the vrata-s, higher than all yagya-s of tradition, and better than all Yoga-s and teerthas.
(81) O Best amongst the Dvija-s, those who entertain the desires of (enjoying) the regions of Indra-s etc., they should at once perform the rituals at Setu built by Rama. (82) Regions of Baikuntha, Bramhaloka, or Kailasha the abode of Siva, abide gladly with the wills of those who reverently perform karma-s at Setu. (83) He attains long life, health, wealth, intellect, beauty and other qualities, attains the wisdom of all the four Vedas and their Vedanga-s, (84) of all shastras, gains knowledge of all the Mantra-s, who performs karma-s at Setu, the giver of all the Siddhi. (85) Siddhi is verily attained, by those karmas, beyond doubt. Also from poverty and naraka-s, that person becomes separated. (86) Faithfully, all mortals should bathe at Rama Setu, which is the giver of liberation to even those without faith. (87) Setu-devotee does not suffer miseries in this world and also in the other. By performing karma-s at Setu, all accumulated sins are destroyed. (88) And, O Dvija-s, by karma-s at Setu, the treasure of Dharma multiplies, like moon grows in the bright fortnight, or like the various jewels grow in the ocean. (89) Like that O Dvija-s, grow the Punya-s by bathing at the Setu. Like Kamadhenu fulfills all the desires in this world, (90) or like Chintaamani gives wish fulfillment to men, or like the tree of Amarabela fulfills all that is desired. (91) Likewise, Setu-snan provides all fulfillments to men.
Those Unable to Visit Setu
If someone is unable to visit Setu, (92) then he should donate a little money he has saved for Setu-pilgrimage, to poor. Donor attains the similar punya-s as the one attained by the actual Setu-snan. (93) And the receiver (of this money) also attains the entire fruits of the Setu-snan. Towards the Setu pilgrimage, this money donated to a Bramhana is acceptable. (94) Kshatriyas can also accept such money, from other than Bramhanas. Vaishyas can receive the money, from other than Kshatriyas. (95, 96) Sudras should refrain from receiving such money from whichever man. To the person who is going to Setu, people should provide with money or grains or also clothes. This attains the fruits of the best yagya-s like Ashwamedha etc. (97) (By doing so,) one gains the fruits as that of studying all the four Vedas. Vaishyas gain through such donation, the foremost fruits. (98) What more to rave, all wishes are fulfilled, all sins (as grave) as killing a Brahmana etc., are washed away there beyond doubt. (99) And, one who receives such donations, he too attains the similar fruits. One attains no harm even in begging or soliciting money (from others) for the sake of pilgrimage to Setu.
(100) In greed, one who robs (such money) that someone has kept for making Setu-pilgrimage, and does not (revert and) repent, he is declared as an extreme bramha-ghataka. (101) If someone poor or even wealthy solicits help for the sake of making pilgrimage to Setu, wise men do help. (102) Those who accept money for the sake of visiting Setu, but under the influence of greed, do not (actually) visit Setu, they are (declared as) bramha-ghataka-s. (103) By something or the other, somehow, those who (successfully) accomplish the pilgrimage to Setu, they attain joy. O Best amongst the Dvija-s, those who are unable to (visit Setu), they should provide dakshina to those who are going. (104) As there is no harm in begging for the sake of performing the yagya-karma-s, likewise there is no harm in begging for the sake of performing the Setu pilgrimage. (105) By giving alms to the seeker for spending in the Setu-snan, the donor attains the same fruits as that attained by the pilgrim himself. (106) Like liberation was attained through Gyan in Satayuga, and through yagya-sacrifices in Tretayuga, excellent likewise in other yugas is donating to people who are going on Setu pilgrimage.
Thus completes the first chapter named setu-gamana-phalAdi-varNanam of Bramhakhanda, the third book of Sri Skanda Maha Purana.
<End of the Translation>
Above signifies the unique and tremendous importance placed at Setu, throughout the Pauranik traditions of Hindus.
Author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Appendix-2: Setu Rakshak Setupati Raja
In the corridor of royalty
Dhananjaya Bhat goes back into history to take a look at ‘Sethupatis’, the royal family who guarded the Rama Sethu.
Today when the description of Rama and creation of the Rama Sethu as a myth is creating a furore, it is interesting to note that for thousands of years, there was a royal family in South India with its headquarters at Ramanathapuram near Rameshwaram, known as the Sethupati Rajas or the guardians of the Sethu. Like the Maharajas of Kashi in North India, the specific task of these kings was to guard the sanctity of Rameshwaram temple and protect the Sethu – now so much under the limelight.
In fact even today, though the famous Rameshwaram temple (which technically belonged to the Sethupatis) is administered by the Government of Tamil Nadu, the head of the Sethupati dynasty, at present Rajeshwari Nachiar, is the hereditary head of the temple’s board of trustees.
Detailed information about the Sethupathis is available in the ‘Ramnad Manual’ maintained by Tamil Nadu archives. It states that, “The Sethupatis built several chattrams (dharmsalas) along the main roads of the pilgrimage to Rameshwaram. Roads were opened through the forests. Immense sums were spent on the restoration of the Rameshwaram temples, which were falling into ruins, and the splendid Chockattan Mantapam or the cloistered precincts of the temple at Rameshwaram being finally completed by the Sethupati representatives..” Although the dynasty claims that they are mentioned in the 2000-year-old sagas of Tamil literature, as the brave Marava community guarding the Sethu since the times of Rama, the first historical reference comes only in the 11th century AD, when Chola king Rajaraja made the head of Marava community as Sethupati to protect the pilgrims to Rameshwaram temple and the Rama Sethu.
The temple complex itself was built by Sethupati rulers in the 12th century, with Sethupathy Maravar beginning the construction of the grand Ramanathaswamy temple. Then again reference is made in A D1434 to the repair of the temple walls by the head of the Sethupati clan, known as Udayan Sethupati. Geologists state that till AD1480, when a tsunami damaged the present Rama Sethu, one could walk from India to Sri Lanka on the Sethu!
But only from AD 1605, we find detailed history of these chiefs, who are described as masters of Sethu and their kingdom described as Sethu Nadu (Land of Sethu). After the destruction of the Vijayanagar empire in 1565, their viceroy in South India, the the Nayak ruler of Madurai, re-appointed head of the same Marava community as the Sethupatis.
The most important of these monarchs was the Raghunatha Sethupati II alias Kilavan Sethupati (1671 AD to 1710 AD), who ensured that Sethupatis with their fiefdom over the area known as Ramnad, remained all powerful. It was during his time, that the magnificent still existing palace of Ramlingavilasam was created as the residence of the Sethupatis. No other palace in Tamil Nadu has such extensive mural paintings. As soon as you enter the Mahamandapam, you are surrounded by murals that glint like gem-encrusted jewels on the walls. Some are dull and faded, while others flash forth their brilliance, even 300 years after they were executed. In 1978, the Sethupati family, unable to maintain the palace handed it over to the Government of Tamil Nadu.
But in the18th century, the British entered the politics of South India and as a measure to reduce the importance of the Sethupatis, they were demoted as mere zamindars under the British in1803. Of all the services, this royal family has done to India, the most important was that of financing the visit of Swami Vivekananda in 1893 to Chicago, to address the World Religions Conference. Swami Vivekananda reached Ramnathapuram in 1892 and met the then scion, Bhaskara Sethupati at his palace, and stayed there as the official guest for eight days.
Initially, it was Bhaskara Setupati as the Raja of Ramnad, who had earlier decided to go to US to attend the Parliament of Religions as the representative of Hinduism. But after conversing with Swami Vivekananda, he decided that Swamiji was the right person to attend the conference.
Vivekananda decided to accept the Raja’s offer. When Vivekananda returned from USA after his grand success, as he was about to land at Rameshwaram, the overjoyed Raja was waiting with his entourage to give him a royal welcome. Because of the achievement of Swamiji and as well as the regard, the Raja had for him, he bowed his head and offered it as step for Vivekananda to get down from the boat. But, Swamiji tactfully avoided this offer, by jumping from the boat to the land. Then the Raja unyoked the bullocks from Vivekananda’s ceremonial chariot and pulled the conveyance manually with his entourage, till it reached his palace. Later he erected a victory pillar of 25 feet height with the Upanishad expression Satyameva Jayate to commemorate the success of Swami Vivekananda at Chicago.
After Indian Independence, the Sethupatis still retained their importance in the politics of Tamil Nadu. In fact Shanmuga Raja Sethupati won the elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly and held the seat thrice from 1951 to 1967, besides being a minister in the Rajagopalachari Ministry of 1952. He was well-known in horse racing circles and had a stable of over 50 horses in Calcutta and a huge garage of cars in Madras, including Rolls Royces and a Bentley. But the abolition of zamindaries by the Government of India, removed all sources of their wealth and today, the former Sethupatis are just well-known prominent magnates of Tamil Nadu.
Appendix-4: Aa-Setu-Himachalam: Survey of India’s original insignia
Rajesh Kumar in Pioneer Daily
New Delhi Trans-Yamuna residents would continue to take a circuitous route through Ashram or Pragati Maidan to access the heart of the city. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has said that the tunnel project connecting National Highway 24 to Lodhi Road bypassing Humayun’s Tomb and other monuments be shelved for now. The Congress president has advised the Delhi Government to stop thinking about the tunnel project.
The direction comes following the request by Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit to intervene in the matter and direct the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to clear the prestigious project. Gandhi has expressed serious concern over the likely adverse impact of the proposed tunnel road in a letter to Dikshit that the project is not in sync with UNESCO guidelines and the opinions of environmentalists and heritage experts and so the Government should not pursue the project any further. The PMO had also raised objections to the project after which Dikshit shot off a letter to Gandhi and the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month seeking a green signal for the project.
The letter said: ‘It is advisable not to pursue the project further due to objections raised by environmentalists and heritage experts.’
The Delhi Government had proposed a Rs 560 crore tunnel from Ring Road to Lodhi Road, to reduce travelling time by six minutes when the participants are taken from the Games Village to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies. Heritage experts and conservationists who were up in arms against the project contended that it would cause vibration in the area damaging Humayun Tomb and 13 other monuments. The tunnel road would weaken the base of the tomb and the vibrations caused during the digging of this tunnel would lead to structural damage to the Mughal edifice.