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Ram Setu

A simple fact yet so much controversy

Google earth image

Ram Setu otherwise known as Adams Bridge is today a shallow ridge connecting the south of India with the north of Sri Lanka and clearly visible on the earth. Legend tells us and many believe that this is a man-made causeway built by King Rama some 5000 years ago. So what is the truth that the story and how did the causeway come to be constructed?

The causeway today is 50 km long and the area is very shallow, between  1 and 10 metres deep. It was reportedly passable on foot up to the 15th century until storms deepened the channel and temple records also indicate that Ram Setu was completely above sea level until it broke in a cyclone in 1480

The History

If we step back to 10,000 BC and you look at the map image to your right, you will see the light blue colour extending beyond the southern tip of India and continuing up between India and Sri Lanka. This is today's continental shelf but if we go back to 10,000 BC, this was a mix of forests and grasslands because the ocean did not cover this area.

During this 10,000 BC period, the present round of global warming began. Ice sheets across northern Europe and the northern Americas melted and the sea levels rose hundreds of metres. This same sea level rise also drowned the large (well documented) ancient city in the Gulf of Cambay which may well have been part of the Harrapan civilisation.

So before the time of King Rama, what is today called the Ram Setu was non-existent and people could travel freely across this rather vast area that is now under water. India at the time was well populated and there would have been many important travel routes across this area but as the sea began rising, the people began to create a causeway across the shallowest and narrowest portion of what is now the continental shelf.

Over time it is probable that the people on either side adapted to their inability to travel as easily and invest a little less time and effort in maintaining the causeway because it would be often damaged by high tides and storms. Now I have no doubt as to the existence of King Rama and here we must further speculate and base this on the history of his journey south to recover his wife.

In my opinion when he arrived to the causeway it may have been inadequate, damaged or simply fallen into disrepair therefore he organised the restoration of the causeway. The idea that he built the causeway from scratch does not stand up to reason or any common sense. The people of the region had a historic memory of being able to wander across this region and indeed there were probably many communities and it is said that there is another undersea city on the continental shelf south of Trivandrum.

We celebrate Lord Rama for his suffering, his attention to duty and his love for his wife. But the story of Ram Setu must be seen in context of the bigger picture and anyone who is interested in history must look further than this. If you look at the image on the page directly below Ram Setu and the title Palak Strait, the colour darkens and there is a raggedy line curving down to the right, toward the southern end of Sri Lanka. This is an ancient river valley and there was a time when all this land area was above the sea.

Anyone interested in knowing the truth of history must take into context the tectonic plate movements, the ice ages and sea level rise to come to a more balanced opinion.

Why was it called Adam's Bridge? There is no definitive answer, buy perhaps some cartographer simply named it after himself..? Ravi says, "The earliest map that calls this area by the name Adam's bridge was prepared by a British cartographer in 1804. Some early Islamic sources refer to a mountain in Sri Lanka as Adam's Peak, where Adam supposedly fell to earth and describes Adam as crossing from Sri Lanka to India on what became known as Adam's Bridge..."

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