Well, here comes the interesting part of the story. As per "The Indian Express" the Central Government told the SC that "contents of Valmiki Ramayana, the Ramacharitamanas by Tulsidas and other mythological texts, which admittedly form an important part of ancient Indian literature...cannot be said to be historical record to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters, or the occurrence of the events, depicted therein".
ASI in their counter affidavit on behalf of the Government said further that "Adam's Bridge is merely a sand and coral formation which cannot be said to be of historical , archaeological or artistic interest of importance". Reminding the court that it had in a separate case defined archaeology as "a study of human history and prehistory through excavation of sites and analysis of physical remains", the ASI said the" Adam's Bridge site cannot, therefore, be said to be of any archaeological interest".
"Unless these ingredients are satisfied, the question of construing Adam's Bridge as an ancient monument and declaring it as a protected monument does not arise".
Understandably ASI has defined the correct position. But the question is .who is to do this job? It is the job of ASI only. If so,why it has not been done before arriving at the conclusion. For this also ASI has an answer. The ASI said that the formation known as 'Adam's Bridge' has till date not been declared as a "protected area" or a "protected monument" or as an "ancient monument". under the provisions of the Act as there has been no occasion for it to even make a primafacie determination that the said formation could be an ancient monument entitled to protection and therefore the ASI has not undertaken any study in this regard as yet. But concluded "After considering the available materiel the ASI has reasonably concluded that the formation known as Ramar sethu/Adam's Bridge is not a man made structure, but rather a natural structure made up of shoals/sand bars".
Laymen like me wonder how could a professional body like ASI could file a determined Affidavit with the highest Judicial forum like Supreme Court of India on such a sensitive issue without undertaking proper investigative study. Interestingly, foreign agencies who had done better study with satellite imagery have not come to a conclusion for certain.
Sethusamudram Project was planned since many years. Originally proposed by Com. A.D.Taylor of British Marine in 1860, it did not take off for one reason or other in spite of examination by many committees appointed by then Governments. But from the records, it seems there has been extensive sampling and research done on various levels to satisfy the economic viability of the Project. The idea is to shorten the navigable distance by 784 KMS and 30 hours of journey for ships proceeding from Eastern Ports in Bay of Bengal to ports in Arabian Sea. Also the project is expected to give a boost to the economic and industrial development of coastal Tamil Nadu. That's a good point indeed.
Ultimately after considering various reports the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project (SSCP) was finalised in 2000-01. "The SSCP envisages dredging of Two ship channels across the Palk Straits between India and Sri Lanka. One across north of Adam's bridge (Rama Sethu) chain of islets and shallows linking India with Sri Lanka South east of Pamban Island and the other through the shallows of Palk Bay by deepening the Palk Straits. The total length of these two channels would be 89 Kms".
Next let us consider what are the objections for taking up the Project. First the ecological and environment objections. The Gulf of Mannar and Palk bay covering about 10,500 Sq.Kms are biologically rich and rated among the most highly productive seas in the world. This region provides livelyhood for several lakhs of fishermen in coastal villages of Tamil Nadu from Ramanathapuram to Tutucorin Districts. The fear is that after completion of this project the noise pollution due to shipping activity would cause enormous ecological disaster and irreparable loss to the system with devastating effect on aquatic life which was built by nature over millions of years. This will affect the fishing community in a big way. The Government had considered this aspect carefully and the experts appointed by them had given detailed reports on every aspect affecting socio-economic environment profiles and ecological analysis.
Second. Religious.To start with, how many of us knew the existance of Rama-sethu formation or visited the site, before this controversy ? Very few, perhaps only the fishermen around the place and the Government officials would have known about it. But Sage Valmiki who compiled Srimad Ramayana perhaps from some where in north had described Sethu bandanam in detail, as to how it was built under the supervision of Nala, more distinguished among the monkeys and son of Viswakarma.the celestial architect(Slokas 2-22-50 and 2-22-72). According to Valmiki Ramayanam the bridge across Sethu built by Nala in five days was of Ten Yojanas width and One Hundred Yojanas in length. Srimad Ramayanam is an "Itihasa", historical account passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. We must understand that Sage Valmiki had written the epic Ramayanam from the details as available to him. But when we read the epic we will understand his knowledge of Geographical locations is astounding. He did not have the facility of modern day Atlas or Sattalite imagery. But we can see all the locations mentioned in the Epic accurately even today. Hence I have to believe that the incidents mentioned in the great epic should have happened at some time or other in our country. Being a poet, Valmiki might have taken the liberty of deviating from the main story by"exaggeration and embellishment", just like any other poet.
Faith and belief are beyond scientific scrutiny. This is very true in the matter relating to one's Religion. Most of the people who believe Ramayana and Sri Rama feel that what we see today in Rama-sethu is the remnants of the bridge built be Sri Rama and his associates, and it should not be disturbed for any reason. Some others are of the view that it is a natural formation. There are enough research material available supporting both sides of the arguement. But the fact is it is there, whether it is a man-made or natural formation.As for me it is a heritage site, and it should be protected.
If we go through the history of the Sethusamudhram Project we find Nine Committees had done detailed study and presented proposals during the Pre-Independence era between 1860 and 1922, but no progress was made obviously due to lack of finance. Again the project was taken up and five fresh proposals were made during post independence period between 1956 and 1997. Almost all the committees had suggested cutting the canal north of Rameswaram Island. Finally a Committee under the chairmanship of Mr.H.R Lakshminarayan was constituted in 1981 to proceed further. The Committee collected the opinions and representations of the leading Public, Industrialists and Government Officials of the State. All of them accepted the importance of the Project and urged the Government to execute the scheme at the earliest. But the prominent citizens of Rameswaram Island represented that the canal would serve better if located east of Rameswaram Town as far as possible, as it would otherwise affect the movement of th pilgrims of the Temple town. Accepting the same the committee proposed a new alignment across Dhanushkodi one Km. from Kothandaramaswamy Temple.
So far so good.
Till then there was no objection from any quarters on Religious reasons. But the trouble started only when the politicians jumped into the project. It went to the extent of some worthies questioning the existence of Sri Rama! And some other has asked in which engineering college Sri Rama had studied. All unwanted comments. Which only added fuel to the fire. Now the Nation is spending its time and energy on an unwanted controversy.
To avoid further division I feel it is time that the Government should take a fresh look at the entire project basing on the Report and the proposals given by the committee headed by Sir A,Ramaswamy Mudaliar in 1956, which had suggested the canal crossing the main land at Mandapam. This new alignment I hope will not disturb the Rama-sethu Heritage site.
posted on Monday, September 17, 2007 10