The Indian Council of Historical Research will conduct an underwater exploration to ascertain whether the Ram Setu – the chain of limestone shoals connecting Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka – 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 on Friday.

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 research institution functions under the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Former ASI Director Alok Tripathi will head the pilot project.

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 Ram Setu bridge – also known as the Adam’s Bridge – is a 50-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 monkeys for Hindu god Ram and his warriors to cross over to Lanka to rescue Sita.

The bridge got embroiled in controversy after the government’s Sethusamudram shipping canal project was planned. It required dredging in the region. Some groups had protested, claiming that no one should touch the bridge keeping in mind its mythological significance. They later filed a petition in the Supreme Court.