Union Minister for Human Resource Development Ramesh Pokhriyal on Tuesday claimed that the Ram Setu was an ancient Indian engineering feat that astonishes the world till date, and asked engineers to conduct fresh research on the subject, The Telegraph reported.

He made the comments while addressing students at the 65th convocation of Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.

The Ram Setu bridge – also known as Adam’s bridge – is a 50-km stretch from Rameswaram Island in Tamil Nadu to Mannar Island in Sri Lanka. According to Hindu mythology, it was built by an army of monkeys for deity Ram and his warriors to cross over to Lanka to rescue Sita. Encyclopaedia Britannica states the Ram Setu is a chain of limestone shoals connecting Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka.

“This is an engineering institute and will anybody be in two minds here about the proficiency of our engineers in the ancient times, who built the Ram Setu?” Pokhriyal asked the students. “Was it built by engineers from US, Britain, and Germany? Ram Setu was built by our engineers and it astonishes the world even today.”

Pokhriyal’s address to the students reportedly did not receive applause and was instead met with silence. The minister repeatedly asked the students to respond. “Is it right? Is it right? Please tell me, why are you silent?” he asked.

He said that the engineers must conduct studies on how the bridge was built, according to The Indian Express. “Our upcoming engineers must delve into its study. They must conduct fresh researches to find out the hidden truth about it.” The HRD minister also questioned the Archaeological Survey of India’s view that there was no historical or scientific evidence to prove that Rama Setu was a man-made bridge.

“There should be research by new engineers to study and find out about different heritage marvels like Rama Setu to make the world aware about what we had built ages back,” Pokhriyal was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

The bridge has been embroiled in controversy since 2005 after the then Congress-led government proposed the Sethusamudram shipping canal project, and in 2007 filed an affidavit in Supreme Court saying the structure was not man-made but “comprised 103 small patch reefs lying in a linear pattern with reef crest, sand cays and intermittent deep channels”.

Pokhriyal also claimed that Sanskrit was the first language of the world. “Till date, no one could prove the existence of any other language before it,” he said. “People make fun of us for saying this, so I urge the outgoing students to conduct fresh research and prove it.”

Earlier this month, at the convocation ceremony of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Pokhriyal had made similar comments. He had claimed that Sanskrit, being a “scientific language”, will be the only basis of a “talking computer” if there ever is one, and said ancient Indian medical practitioner Charaka was the first person to study and discover atoms and molecules. On August 18, he had said that Indian scriptures mentioned the concept of gravity long before physicist Isaac Newton did. However, during this time he changed his comments and claimed that “Rishi Pranav” was the first to discover atoms and molecules.

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