new myths

Recreation of Ram Sethu on a map fuels a never-ending controversy

Everyone seems to have a theory, but no one knows for sure how the bridge came to be – and when.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court turned down a request by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy seeking an urgent hearing to verify if a Cabinet decision had been taken to “not touch” the ancient Ram Sethu or the Adam’s Bridge in the implementation of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project.

While the Supreme Court assured Swamy that the government "won't touch" the bridge for the Sethusamudram canal project and that he could approach the court in the event it does, the controversy around the 48-km stretch of limestone shoals between the two countries is seemingly never ending.

Folklore has it that this is the very bridge that finds mention in Valmiki's Ramayana, which attributes the building of this bridge to Rama in verse 2-22-76. It is this which accounts for its popular name, Rama Sethu (Sanskrit for bridge) refers to the bridge built by the Vanara (monkey) army of Rama, led by Hanuman, which he used to cross over to Lanka and rescue his wife Sita from Ravana.

But others dismiss this as mythology and say the "bridge" is a natural result of a process of accretion and the rising of the land in the ocean space between India and Sri Lanka. Another theory posits that it was formed by the breaking away of Sri Lanka from the Indian mainland

Some accounts suggest that the bridge has stretches where the sea isn't too deep and that was even completely passable on foot before 1480 when it was broken by a cyclone.

A user on Reddit, DrudenSoap, has now attempted to recreate the bridge on a map, depicting how it may have looked like before the 15th century cyclone.

The map generated a great deal of controversy in the Reddit community, even as people argued about the authenticity of the bridge and the mythological stories surrounding it. The Redditor chose to stay away from the controversial debate about the origins of the bridge and posted the map without offering any insight into his own thoughts on the matter.

In 2008, the Congress-led Indian government argued in the court that Ram Sethu was not a man-made bridge and if it was, then it was destroyed by Lord Rama.

"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 (Ram Sethu) has become an object of worship only recently," the government had told the court.

As arguments over the bridge continue, another Redditor posted this seemingly recent satellite picture of the bridge depicting its current form.

NASA's Landset 7 satellite, too, has photographed the bridge and it looks something like this:

Even today, ships travelling between the two countries have to take a detour to reach their destinations. Projects to create canals between the shallow straits have met with opposition and criticism on various grounds – including the perceived loss in the heritage value of Adam's Bridge.

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