Saturday, November 22, 2008

In defence of the Rama Setu: Dr. Swamy


By Subramanian Swamy (November 2008)

{The writer is a former Union Commerce Minister}


The Rama Setu is a causeway connecting Dhanushkodi from the Rameshwaram island’s eastern tip all the way across the straits to Sri Lanka, and separates the turbulent Psalk Straits in the Bay of Bengal in the north, from the calm and tranquil waters of Gulf of Mannar in the south of the Setu. The 1.5 to 2.5 m thick zone of corals and rock, which is presently partially seen at points in the sea, is a construction atop, as the crustal portion of, the undersea ridge.
US’ NASA and NRSA of the Ministry of Space, Government of India satellite photo images clearly establish such a causeway-like formation between Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar island (Srilanka).
Rama Setu is without doubt an ancient causeway as vividly described in Valmiki’s Ramayana. The architect Nala assigned the task by Sri Rama had had taken advantage of the crustal portion of the ridge to minimize thereby the dumping of rocks and boulders, and also utilized the less dense but compact corals and boulders, so that these could be carried easily to greater distances and at the same time strong enough to withstand pressure from above, both by human as well as sea forces.
According to S. Badrinarayanan, former Director, Geological Survey of India, his investigations while as Consultant to NIOT, GOI, reveal that the Rama Setu is not a natural formation but a constructed causeway of at least 9000 years old. Hence it automatically qualifies to be an ancient monument to be protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites & Remains Act, 1958.
The Government had suppressed from public view his Report based on a 2002 investigation under the sea, near and at the Setu, which concluded that Rama Setu had been constructed (at least 9000 years ago). However, without consulting the GSI or the NIOT, the Ministry of Culture representing the Archaeological Survey of India {ASI} hastily filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court to aver that “there is no information or studies in the knowledge of the Government that Rama Setu is man made”. Former ASI DG, Dr. S.R. Rao went on record to ridicule this stand of the government. Following public criticism, the Union Government flip flopped in its stand in the Supreme Court (see Annexure).
The choppy tide and the associated sediments caused by severe cyclones that occur every year in the Bsay of Bengal are moderated in the intensity by the ridge of the Rama Setu and thereby it protects the delicate tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mannar. So too the researches of scientists now conclude that even Tsunami was moderated by the existence of the Rama Setu. Otherwise, there would have been a funneling effect of the Tsunami wages causing enormous damage several times over than what was experienced.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi and his lieutenant, the Union Shipping Minister Mr. T.R. Baalu have nevertheless been telling the public the Rama Setu is fictitious, that the existing causeway is a natural formation of sand, and that given the economic and environmental viability of the Sethusamudram Shipping Channel Project (SSCP), it should not be blocked because of an imaginary grievance based on such tales.
On environmental issues, it will suffice here to state that the Ministry of Environment & Forests in fact in a letter dated April 8, 1999 to the Ministry of Surface Transport had conveyed it’s opinion that the SSCP should be scrapped altogether as the project would be an environmental disaster. This opinion was based on an analysis of the NEERI Report of 1998. Yet in 2004 the Ministry reversed it’s opinion without any fresh data. There is no explanation given so far for this somersault.
The Government’s decision to implement the SSCP is thus vitiated by arbitrariness, unreasonableness, and obvious anti-Hindu bias of the decision-makers such as Mr. Karunanidhi. Hence it could not stand in court when I challenged it. In truth, the SSCP besides, an environmental disaster, is also economically unviable and a national security risk (because it will help LTTE to move it’s terrorist and narcotic base to Kerala Coast by a more secure and shorter route that is presently unavailable because the Rama Setu stands as a barrier). Details of arguments in all these dimensions are set out in Rama Setu: A Symbol of National Unity {Haranand, 2008}.


The Rama Setu sometimes called Sethubandha, is a symbol of the nation because Sri Rama on whose direction it was built, was the first national king of India who lived in North, West, East and South of India during his life time. The Rama Setu which paved the way for Rama’s army is thus not only sacred but it is regarded by the people as a heritage, a tirthasthana, and a divyakshetra. Rama’s art of governance is known as Ram Rajya, a term used by Mahatma Gandhi to mobilize the masses during the Freedom Struggle.
Rama chose to raise an army in Kishkinda, Karnataka to defeat Ravana, disregarding Lakshmana’s advise to send for the already trained army from Ayodhya, because Rama believed in devolution and in the local concerns of his people. His devotion to motherland was total and unconditional as revealed when he said to Lakshmana, according to Valmiki Ramayana, while in Lanka that: Jananee janmabhoomishcha svargaadapi gariyasi which as translated by Maharishi Aurobindo means: “Mother and motherland is greater by far than even heaven”. Lakshmana had queries why they should not settle down in Lanka, when that country now conquered was more beautiful and prosperous than Ayodhya, and Sita was already there. These immoral patriotic words attributed to Sri Rama will remain in the nation’s memory as long as Hindustan lives as a continuing civilization. Ramayana thus is a narration of Rama’s deeds, and thereby lays down principles of governance, which properly and faithfully re-interpreted is valid even today.
It is this deep background of the spiritual ambience in and of India that made Supreme Court Justice K.T. Thomas say at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, on April 5, 2007: “Rama Sethu should not be broken”. After receiving the Padma Bhushan from the President of India at an investiture ceremony, he told the media in answer to a question.
“In projects like this (Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project), decisions are to be based not only on a study of geological implications; the religious sentiments of the people are also to be taken into account. The religious sentiments of the people of Bharat have to be honoured by every government of India. There is a tradition in this land, of honouring religious sentiments. So, it is my definite opinion that Ram Sethu must not be broken”.

For the sheer faith of the masses of India in Lord Rama, Rama Setu must be declared an ‘Ancient Monument’ within the meaning of the law and protected and nurtured as a revered national heritage. Since now Ganga has been declared as a national heritage, there is no reason now to block a similar status for Rama Setu.
In any case, the Rama Setu cannot be damaged or broken because it would then be a criminal offence. The Supreme Court had observed in its judgement in the S.Veerbhadran Chettiar v. E.V.Ramaswami Naicker case (AIR 1958 Supreme Court 1032 page 1035) as follows:
“…….. Any object however trivial or destitute of real value in itself if regarded as sacred by any class of persons would come within the meaning of the penal section (295 of the Indian Penal Code). Nor is it absolutely necessary that the object, in order to be held sacred, should have been actually worshipped. An object may be held sacred by a class of persons without being worshipped by them. It is clear, therefore, that the courts below were rather cynical in so lightly brushing aside the religious susceptibilities of that class of persons to which the complainant claims to belong. The section has been intended to respect the religious susceptibilities of persons of different religious persuasions or creeds. Courts have got to be very circumspect in such matters, and to pay due regard to the feelings and religious emotions of different classes of persons with different beliefs, irrespective of the consideration whether or not they share those beliefs, or whether they are rational or otherwise, in the opinion of the court.”

There is no room left after this judgment not to regard the Rama Setu as an inalienable heritage to be protected. To damage or break the Setu is a criminal cognizable offence under Section 295 of the IPC. To dismiss such sacredness as “imaginary” as the Government had done in court is dangerous. Even if there was no specific proof today of the claim that Rama Setu was built by Sri Rama more than 9000 years ago, later developments in science can establish the reality of the Rama Setu. For example, earlier, Sarasvati river and Dwarka city were considered as imaginary by secular historians. Now modern science based archaeology has established their existence. Even so, what if it is said the claim that the hair in Hazaratbal Mosque as belonging to Prophet Mohammed is imaginary since there is no DNA proof that it belonged to him? Or Jesus birth is to be dismissed as imaginary because immaculate conception is a scientific impossibility? Do they cease to be sacred to the people.
The Ramayana is in fact regarded as Itihasa (history) by the Hindus. Facts in Ramayana are testable. Dr. Ram Avatar spent 25 years in researching if the locations along Rama’s travel to Sri Lanka described in the Ramayana, can be located in modern India He was able to locate and photograph all the spots where Sri Rama had stayed as he went from Ayodhya to Sri Lanka, which Dr. Avatar has documented with photographs in his monograph Jahan Jahan Ram Charan Chali Jayi (wherever Rama went) published 2007.
Why is Rama such an attraction for the Hindu masses, irrespective of claste? After all, being a Kshatriya he had killed a Brahmin scholar that Ravana was. The question may puzzle some people who do not know India, because Sri Rama neither performed any miracle on his own, nor did he ever even allude to be avatara of Lord Maha Vishnu. Nevertheless, the myriad charm of Ramayana is something which is so evergreen and standing the test of times that Rama Lila is celebrated with gusto every year in every part of the nation. Rama and his associates immortalized in Ramayana have endeared themselves to millions of people all over the world, transcending even religious barriers.
Mahatma Gandhi, no communalist by any Anglized liberal standards had declared that to make Ramayana as the goal of state governance was the aim of the Freedom Struggle.
The greatness of Rama is not limited to humans on earth alone. In a dialogue between Lord Shiva and his spouse Parvati in the concluding part of Vishnu Sahasranamam in the epic, Mahabharata (Vishnu Sahasranama which is a recital of one thousand names of Lord Mahavishnu). Goddess Parvathi towards the very end is said to enquire of Lord Shiva, in the following sloka,
Kenopayena Laguna Vishnor Nama Sahasraham
Patyathe Pandithair Nithyam Srothumichamyaham Prabhoh:
{“Does there exist any abridged version of this garland of one thousand nmes, which will have the same efficacy as reciting all the thousand names”}.

Lord Shiva replied to Parvathi as follows;
Rama Rama Ramethi, Rame Rame Mano Rame
Sahasra Nama Thattulyum Rama Nama Varanane:
{recital of just the one word ‘Rama’ could produce an effect equival4nt to reciting all the thousand names of Maha Vishnu:}
Therefore, according to revered scriptures, even gods and goddesses themselves felt the power, the boundless charm of Rama, hence where is the surprise if ordinary mortals worship this Lord as if nothing else mattered?
Valmiki, the author of the original Ramayana text was a contemporary of Sri Rama. This has been explicitly stated in the text itself. This story was not penned a few hundred years after the life of Rama. In fact, Valmiki was the guardian to the wife and sons of Rama.
Ramayana being a popular story of India, many authors down the time line have written their own regional language versions of Ramayana. Kalidasa, the great Sanskrit poet of the 5th century CE wrote his Raghuvamsa, his poetry on Rama. The Tamil poet Kamban wrote his version of Kamba Ramayana over 1000 years back. Goswami Tulsidas wrote Ram Charita Manas in the 17th century.
These three and such other eminent authors across India have penned the story eulogizing the Indian hero and divinity of Rama and there is no inconsistency or contradiction in these texts to throw doubt about the existence of Rama.
The Puranas also mention the details on the story of Rama. The stories mentioned in the Puranic texts which texts all secular historians rely on and the original Ramayana of Valmiki cross-vandate each other in many a place. This adds further credibility to the Valmiki Ramayana text being rightly termed as Itihaasa i.e., it thus happened as a historical text.
Many Indian researchers have made use of computer software to arrive at historic dates for various events described in the literature based on planetary positions.
According to Pushkar Bhatnagar, in Historicity of Rama, based on astronomical data on planetary positions given in the Puranas and the Ramayana, the dates of the events in Rama’s lifetime are as in the Table below:

Events of Sri Rama Data

Sri Ram Navami – Birthday January 10, 5114 BCE (i.e. 7122 years ago
Birth of Bharatha January 11, 5114 BCE
Pre-coronation eve January 4, 5089 BCE
Khar, Dushan episode October 7, 5077 BCE
Vali Vadham April 3, 5076 BCE
Hanuman’s Visit to Lanka September 12, 5076 BCE
Hanuman’s Return from Lanka September 14, 5076 BCE
Army march to Lanka September 20, 5076 BCE

The sheer divine beauty of Rama’s personality inspired even the poet, Iqbal, to declare him the ‘Imam-E-Hind’ in his poem paid him this glowing tribute:
Hari Ram key wujood pey Hindostan ko naaz
Ahl-e-nazar samajhte hain usko Imam-e-Hind
Ejaazous chiraagh-e-hidaayet kaa hai yahee
Raushantar azsaher haizamane mai sham-e-Hind.

In short, Ram is the spiritual head of India, even according to Iqbal, who was otherwise a hardline Muslim.
Abroad too, interestingly, Sun Yuxi, the Chinese Ambassador to India, told me that there has been an ongoing scholarly debate in China, about the origins of the Monkey-hero Sun Wukong in the Chinese epic novel Xiyouji viz., does his origin stem from Hanuman, or is Sun Wukong a product of indigenous folklore?
The theory of a possible connection between Sun Wukong and Hanuman was first proposed by Hu Shih, the well known poet and President of the famous Beijing University. In his famous speech in 1936 at the Harvard University Tercentennial Celebrations, titled “Indianisation of China”, Dr. Hu spoke disapprovingly of the Chinese people swallowing and digesting Hinduism in the garb of Mahayana Buddhism, and accepting idol worship.
Ironically while Mr. Karunanidhi in his speeches has debunked the Setu and Rama, the DMK State and the UPA Union Governments have been advertising and affirming the exact opposite: existence of the Setu and the historicity of Rama! For example, the Tourist Department of the TN Government has been advertising in Railway trains, urging the people to visit Rameshwaram and see where Rama set his “lotus feet”, to build a bridge (setu) to Sri Lanka with the help of the Vanar Sena (see enclosed photo), to rescue his wife Sita.
The National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA), of the Union Ministry of Space has published a book of satellite photographs {ISBN: 8177525 6524} claiming that “archaeological studies show “that the Setu may be ‘man made’” This book has been distributed to all MPs free by the Ministry of Space. Yet Ms. Ambika Soni as Minister of Culture to a question in Rajya Sabha (August 14, 2007) falsely stated that “no archaeological studies has been made in respect of the Rama Setu”. This is a breach of privilege of the House, for which she should be punished.
Thus Rama Setu exists and is sacred. No one can be permitted to damage or break it. Lord Rama is the inspiration of every India, especially the Hindus who constitute 83% of the population of India. Anything he has touched is sacred.


Dr.BVSConsultants said...

I would like to point a typo' in the text.One must read 'immortal' instead of 'immoral' in "These immoral patriotic words attributed to Sri Rama will remain..."

Jnan R. Saha said...

There are many misconceptions about Ram Setu between India and Sri Lanka. Yes there was a Setu but it was not built by using Trees and Stones. It was written in Ramayana that Neel and Nala Brothers were gifted by God that anything they touched floated on water. It was not the case.
Nala and Neel Brothers were great Engineers and built Pontoon Bridge across. The reason they were able to build was that there were Coral Reefs in the Sea between India and Sri Lanka. At that time Sea Level was very low and the Reefs were exposed. It was easy for those ancient Engineers to build Pontoon Bridges for a vast army to march to Lanka.

There were other misconceptions. The inhabitants of Kiskindha were not Monkeys but Humans. They subsisted mostly on Fruits, Milk and Honey. They had great strengths. Hanuman could not jump to Lanka but there must have been some kind of Aerial transport system that time. Hanuman also used that system to go to Himalayas and come back.