The Ram Setu bridge – also known as the Adam’s Bridge – is a 30-km stretch from Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu to Mannar Island in Sri Lanka. According to Indian mythology, it was built by an (army of apes for Hindu god Rama and his warriors to cross over to Lanka to rescue Sita.
The Ram Setu claim has been riddled with opinions and counter opinions. While there are those who believe that it was built by Vanar Sena (army of apes) and hence cannot be touched, others claim that it is a naturally formed chain of lime shoals.
The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is set to wade into the controversy surrounding the origins of Ram Sethu.
The ICHR will conduct an underwater exploration to ascertain whether the Ram Setu was built naturally or is a man-made structure. Experts from the Archaeological Survey of India, research scholars, university students, marine experts and scientists will begin the work from October and submit their report by November-end, said ICHR Chairperson Y Sudershan Rao.
While it is an independent initiative by the historical research body, Rao said they may seek help from the Centre, PTI reported. “Our purpose is to explore it only from the archaeological standpoint…We will only speak about the artifacts and not get into whether it was built by Lord Rama,” he added.
The ICHR chief said they will hold a nationwide selection process to bring 15 to 20 experts on board, reported Hindustan Times. “We are going to hold a two-week workshop on the history of oceanic archaeology in May or June. We will also identify scholars, students and trainers who could be part of this ambitious project,” he said.
The project will be headed by former Archeological Survey of India (ASI) director Alok Tripathi for underwater exploration and is being commissioned under the marine technology training programme of ICHR dealing with under-water archeology.
Controversies around Ram Setu
- The Sethusamudram project that intends to dredge up the shallow sea in Palk Straits so as to enhance a shipping route along the Indian peninsula had run into trouble with Hindutva organisations protesting. They claimed the dredging would destroy the remnants of Ram Setu.
- The Government of India, in an affidavit in 2007 in the Supreme Court of India, said that there is no historical proof of the bridge being built by Ram. But in June 2007, the Madras High Court said that the mythological Ram Sethu across Palk Bay is man-made, asked the Centre to file an affidavit explaining why it could not use an alternative route to create a canal instead.
- In 2007, a publication of the National Remote Sensing Agency said that the structure “may be man-made”. Archaeological Survey of India found no evidence for it being human-made.
- In a 2008 court case, a spokesman for the government stated “So where is the Setu? We are not destroying any bridge. There is no bridge. It was not a man-made structure. It may be a superman-made structure, but the same superman had destroyed it. That is why for centuries nobody mentioned anything about it. It has become an object of worship only recently.”
Different theories have been floating around the Ram Sethu. While a study of NASA satellite images in 2002 said it’s a human-made structure, NASA distanced itself from the claims saying that the images reveal nothing more than a 30-km-long, naturally occurring chain of sandbanks.