Comments on the remarks of Mr. Nariman regarding destruction of Rama Setu by Lord Rama himself
By K.Gopalakrishnan (28 July 2008)
Mr.Nariman submitted on behalf of the Govt. of India to the Supreme Court on 24th July, 2008 that “As per Kamba Ramayana, the Superman Rama himself destroyed the bridge Rama Sethu that was earlier constructed by him and anything that was broken is not a bridge, and we can not worship something that has been destroyed”.
Mr. Nariman also said”Kamba Ramayana also expressly says the bridge was destroyed by Lord Ram so that no one can cross over to Sri Lanka and ships can sail through”.
Kamba Ramayana is one of the many vernacular versions of the original Ramayana by Valmiki in sanskrit language. Kamba Ramayana itself has got many versions in its publications.
The verse in question being quoted by Mr. Narman is verse No. 171 in yudda kanda published in a version edited and published by one Sri, V.M.Gopalakrishnamachariyar.
Rama, after killing Ravana and other rakshasas in the battle and after rescuing his wife Sita, was returning from Lanka to Ayodhya by Pushpaka vimaana (an aero-plane) with Sita. It is described that from the plane, Rama was showing Sita and giving details about various places en-route. The above verse in Gopalakrishnamachariyar’s version forms one of the seven verses (166 to 172) describing the greatness and purity of Rama Sethu.
It is obvious that Rama could not have broken the bridge from the aero-plane. That means that Rama should have destroyed the bridge after winning the war and before boarding his vimaana/plane. There was no mention of such activity during this specific period anywhere in Kamba Ramayana. When Rama describes the greatness and purity of Rama Sethu in so many verses, it is not rational that he himself would have destroyed it. Besides, Goplakrishnamachariyar himself says in the explanatory notes for this verse that the break-up of this bridge was done from the western side and because of that reason, that place is known as Dhanushkodi. If that was the case, then Rama would have had to swim back to Lanka crossing the ship-sailable channel. Gopalakrishnamachariyar’s text does not talk about breakage in three places (see the annexured text); but Mr. Nariman says that as per Kamba Ramayana, the bridge was broken in three places. Then Rama would have to swim not one channel but three to get back to Sri Lanka to board the plane with Sita and all others.
Another aspect of many versions of Kamba Ramayana is that at many places, many later insertions have been made to the original text of Kamban. Even in his version of Kamba Ramayana, Gopalakrishnamachariyar himself had cited 43 such insertions between the above verses 166 and 172 (see enclosed annexures). Also, between verses 173 and 174, two more insertions are cited.
In another version of Kamba Ramayana edited by Poovannan, Srichandran and Manikkam, and published by Varthamanan publishers, there are only five verses describing the greatness and purity of Rama Sethu instead of the seven given in Gopalakrishnamachariyar’s version (see annexures). The verses 170, and 171 quoted by Mr. Nariman are not found in the latter’s version. It is therefore more likely that the verse under question regarding the destruction of Sethu by Rama himself as well as the one preceding it (no.170) in the former’s version may also be insertions.
The other contention of Mr.Nariman that we can not worship some thing that has been broken is also incorrect. This type of argument may hold good for idols, but not for kshetrams and thirthasthanams. It is to be noted that even in the quoted verse, in the later part, Rama talks about the virtue of Rama Sethu stating that one who takes bath in the Sethu thirtham will be absolved of all his sins and will live like Devas for the next 21 births. Thus, even if one accepts the above verse as original for arguments’ sake, the Sethu will still be a place of worship, contrary to the assertion of Mr. Nariman.
ANNEXURES (Tamil texts with translations into English of relevant Tamil verses/comments)
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4202841/VMG1 Annexure 1: From VMG’s version – 1
Translation of Verse 167: Rama tells Sita: Lady wearing golden bangles! To talk of the purity of the Setu is an impossibility for even Brahma, what can I say? Yet, listen to what I have to say: even those who have harmed parents, guru, and relatives will attain purity and become deva-s by the mere sight of the Setu.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4202896/VMG2 Annexure 2: From VMG’s version – 2
Translation of Verse 168: There are some who say that the purity of Setu is because of the association with Gandhamadana mountain. The legend is that when Indra broke the mountain slopes, some mountains feared Indra and hid under the ocean.
Comment of Verse 171: When Rama traveled on the Pushpaka Vimana, to move amidst wooden trawlers smoothly, it is incorrect to state that he tore the Setu. It is an incorrect translation. Here criminals who have committed panchamahapatakas (five grievous misdeeds) took a dip. Even in 21 births, they will be healthy without illnesses and will attain the appreciation of deva-s. (Thus, it is explained that the tearing of the Setu was to facilitate the samudra snaanam).
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4202953/VMG3 Annexure 3: From VMG’s version - 3
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4203003/VMG4 Annexure 4: From VMG’s version - 4
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4203153/VMG5 Annexure 5 From VMG’s version – 5
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4203689/VMG6 Annexure 6: From VMG’s version – 6
The three annexes – VMG3 to VMG6 explain Poojai padalam, that is, chapter of Setu worship. (Note: The accent on the entire chapter on the sacredness of Setu and the procedures of worship).
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4203247/Poovannan1Annexure 7: From Poovannan et al –1
Trans. Verse 4058 is titled: Showing Setu, explaining its greatness (cirappu) Translation of the verse: Rama said: ‘Lady with an exquisite countenance! After many days lapsed after I got separated from you, after I gained the friendship of Sugriva, the monarch of vaanara, after Hanuman met you in Lanka in the Ashokavana where you were held captive and relieved your anguish, after he informed us of your presence, to join battle with Ravana, to get you released from captivity, vaanarasena constructed this Setu to cross over the ocean. See this Setu.’
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4203379/Poovannan2 Annexure 8: From Poovannan et al – 2
Trans. of verse 4059 (same as verse 167 in VMG1): Rama tells Sita: Lady wearing golden bangles! To talk of the purity of the Setu is an impossibility for even Brahma, what can I say? Yet, listen to what I have to say: even those who have harmed parents, guru, and relatives will attain purity and become deva-s by the mere sight of the Setu.
Trans. of verse 4061: If one immerses in sacred snaanam in Ganga river, Yamuna river, Godavari river, Narmada river, Kaveri river, evils will not be eliminated. By merely seeing the sacred waters of the Setu which takes on the incessant waves which throw the s’ankha onto the shore, all sins will be removed.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/4203435/Poovannan3 Annexure 9: From Poovannan et al – 3
Trans of verse 4063. Rama carrying the powerful kodanda bow which vanquishes evil people explained to Sita while traveling on the Pushpaka Vimana, showed the specific spot where Varuna had s’aranaagati (adaikkalam or surrender).
NOTE: At the following blogspot post, verses from another Kamba Ramayanam edition have been analysed, again pointing out the comments made by the editors about interpolations. This edition is: Setu in Kamba Ramayana (First edition, 1976, published by Kamban Kazhagam, Chennai).
The interpolated verse for example iss 170-23.
kappai enum kanniyaiyum, kandanaar taataiyaiyum
appozhude tiruvanaikku kaavalaraay angu irutti
ceppa ariya cilaiyaale tiruvanaiyai vaay keeri
oppu ariyaal tannudane uyar cenai kkadaludane
Appointing a lady-warrior called Kappai and a warrior named Kandanaar to guard the Setu, using an arrow (cilai) marking a line (vaay keeri -- line on the end of the Setu). This verse does NOT indicate that Rama destroyed the Setu. (Note: The word keeri has many meanings. In this context of engaging guards to guard the Setu, the line is drawn only as a demarcation of their zone of responsibility).
In the original verses of Kamban, and in Valimki Ramayana, Setu's beauty is described which makes Sita devi wonderstruck. The verses also extol the fact that pilgrms who see the Setu become blessed. It is clear that even during the periods when the interpolations were made, Setu continued to be a place of pilgrimage and worship. (Sriram continues to cite verses which are interpolations pointing to the use of later-day Tamil words and poetry-styles not in tune with the original version of Kamban, citing verses from 162-6 to 162-8, 169-1 to 169-2, 170-1 to 170-12.)