Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rama Sethu : Sacred geography and sacrilegious central govt.

“No evidence to prove existence of Ram, Centre to SC”, today’s newspaper headlines blared.

In the midst of the ongoing agitations calling for preservation for Ram Sethu and the central and TN state governments bent upon going ahead with dredging in the Ram Sethu as part of Sethu Samudram Canal Project, Archeological Survey of India (ASI) has come out with such a pearl of wisdom. It has also asserted that Ram sethu is not man made and can not be considered a national monument.

The multi-crore rupee Sethusamudram project that proposes to provide a shorter sea route from Rameshwaram to Sri Lanka has been in controversy for quite some time. There were deep concerns regarding livelihood of a large number of fishermen communities, damage to marine ecology and aquatic life and also strategic interests as the sands of the coast are rich in Thorium deposits. Canada based Tsunami expert Tad S Murthy had also elaborated the possibility of presence of Ram Sethu having saved much of the Indian east and west coast from large scale ravage by Tsunami. Plus, there is opposition on the count of Ram Sethu being one of the most sacred pilgrimage spots and object of devotion to Hindus. As of now, all the other groups have almost become silent thanks to the powerful lobby of shipping companies and the influential project contractors with strong political connections who want to dub anyone opposing this project on any count as retrograde and anti-progressive! It is to be borne in mind that the Hindu groups are not against the project per se, but are only asking for considering alternate routes without damaging the sacred Sethu, at an incremental cost overhead.

At this juncture, such statements from the ASI and the central government have been made in ignorance and bad taste and above all, are unnecessary in the context of ongoing issue.

It is not of any significance to go into the question of whether Rama Sethu is man made, monkey made or nature made. Because Rama sethu is a part of “sacred geography” that defines most of the Hindu holy places and is an inseparable part of Indian culture. The very word “Tirtha” that denotes Hindu holy sites means water streams and rivers. All the Hindu holy places are invariably in riverbanks, mountains, seashores, forests and even in caves, like the famous Ma Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu. These places became Tirtha’s because of their holy association with the nature and were also made sacred by the footsteps of countless Rishis, Yogis and sages thru ages. The pilgrimages of Arjuna and Balarama narrated elaborately in the Mahabharata, do not mention temples, but only Tirthas. Magnificent temples were built later in these Tirtha’s to further add a touch of divinity to them. The sacred seven hills of Thirupathi, the confluence of three rivers in Prayag and three oceans at Kanyakumari are all inherently holy and not because of any “man made” structures. The natural flames that come out of earth at Jwalamukhi in Himachal Pradesh themselves are worshipped as the manifestation of Jwala Ma. What “man made” structure exists in the holiest mount Kailas, the abode of Shiva other than the cosmic glory of nature in all its grandeur?

Ram Sethu is also such a holy spot. The unbroken chain of beautiful formations is clearly visible in satellite photographs. Let them be anything - underwater coral reef or the deposits of sand and rocks that have accumulated there over long time, they are all part of this sacred geography. Many travelers have reported seeing the remnants of the rocks believed to be have been used in the construction of the Sethu still lying around on the shores Rameswaram, which really float on water, when thrown into the sea!

Go to any district of any states of India, you always find so many places that will have a holy association with Rama and Sita or say, Bhima, Arjuna or Draupadi. The big banyan tree (Akshaya Vata) at Gaya is supposed to have been a witness to Sita’s words. So is the polished stone at Panchvati, (Nasik) where Sita used to make turmeric paste. Hampi in Karnataka boasts of a cave where Rama and Lakshmana stayed at the outskirts of Kishkindha. All along the eastern coast of Tamilnadu, starting from Karaikal near Pondicherry and all the way up to Rameshwaram, you will find numerous big and small temples that adore the footsteps of Rama (“Ramar paada kovil”) who walked on the sands of this coast!

What does this tell us? The epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata have permeated so inseparably into the language, customs, arts, sculpture and the very soil of Bharat and the very cultural consciousness that unites India. Isn’t the natural rainbow called “Ram Dhanush” (Rama’s bow) in Bengali and “Indra Dhanush” (Indra’s bow) in a host of Indian languages? The legend and heritage of Rama Sethu built by the Vanara Sena of Shri Ram is of such nature. From an Indian cultural viewpoint, it is sheer ignorance, nay even sacrilegious to think of Sethu as a mere material or physical structure and to go looking for its historical roots.

The references to Sethu are found in the Valmiki Ramayana, Mahabharata and many other Puranas which revere it as a sacred spot. The Classical Sangam literature of Tamil (1st century CE) adores the Sethu and so do much of the later literary works. These firmly establish the fact that the “Sethu” is a sacred national monument. In fact, ASI’s close cousin, Survey of India has the words “aasetu himaachalam” (From Sethu to Himachal) in its official logo and seal!

Doesn’t this make a strong case to call for its protection and preservation? Sure it does. The questions about “man made” and “archeological” are not just unnecessary but may set a dangerous precedent for vested interests to exploit and destroy Hindu holy places.

Let us hypothetically assume that some commercial interests want to exploit the seven hills of Thirupathi (say, quarrying, destroying its forest habitat or do anything they like on the hills). Since this act does not touch the “man made” ancient monument of Sri Venkateswara temple, should this be allowed? If this comes up in court, will we have another similar performance from ASI, saying “No evidence for the presence of Balaji and Padmavathi on these hills, so it can be allowed”? Will the same logic be applied for Shabarimala, the abode of Lord Ayyappa or Vindhyachal in MP, the seat of Devi Vindhyavasini?

I think that Rama sethu issue should be looked from this viewpoint. Some Hindu activists starting their propaganda with historical evidences and NASA photographs is partly due to their own shallow understanding of these concepts and partly due to the inferiority complex that looks for western approvals of their own beliefs and traditions. Their overzealous attempts to only harp on “man made bridge” argument is proving to be not only counterproductive but also sets dubious and self-failing criteria for understanding and interpreting the extremely profound ideas of Hindu heritage and holy places. Their goal and mission is undoubtedly noble, but it needs a course correction to put the issue in the right perspective to counter the tirades of anti-Hindu secular media.

In essence, every Hindu should oppose the dredging of the Rama Sethu, because it is destroying a very important portion of our sacred geography itself, to which we have deep spiritual and emotional attachment. Besides, who knows what secrets these formations may reveal in future, to oceanographers, geologists, anthropologists and other researches? Should we simply destroy some object of reverence of centuries, out of short term commercial interests, because we don’t understand about it fully? Then we are denying the opportunity even to the future generations to explore it. Isn’t this destroying the future, akin to Taliban destroying the past by bulldozing the Bamiyan Buddha statues, because their hate-filled pea-brains could not comprehend them?

Aside, a comment about ASI and central govt misleading the nation about our epics.

The kingdoms, the heroes, the tribes and clans, wars, weapons, way of life, code of ethics – such mind boggling treasure of information about ancient India are present in the epics, which themselves have evolved over time, as living texts. The epics have much of human events and situations intermingled with supernatural elements. How can such a vast body of literature be totally based on imagination (like a mammoth science fiction written by an alien creature ?), without any influences from the society in which the authors were living – that is a common sense question, baffling the minds of researchers as well as commoners.

The truth is that eminent historians, academics and indologists who researched on the subject of historical connections of the epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata do NOT have any conclusive stand on the subject. There are way too many jigsaw puzzles to explore and solve. New discoveries facilitated by advanced technology and scientific knowledge, like the tracing of mythical river Sarsvati and the submerged city of Dwaraka only make this endeavor more interesting and exciting.

How arrogant are ASI and the central govt to brush aside all these realities and make such sweeping declarations regarding Ramayana, our national heritage! The affidavit filed by ASI speculates that the ram sethu was not built by any men or even monkeys as some artifacts like bones should have been found at the sethu if it is manmade. Are they serious? Have they gone utterly insane?

Or are they dancing to the tune of Italian-born Madame Maino who does not have any respect for the culture and traditions of this land? How dare is the central govt. to heap ridicule on Shri Rama and the Sethu like this? Does the congress party and its chamchas think Hindu traditions are laughing stock for them? Hindus, it is time we show them the door.


ஜயராமன் said...

Jataayu sir,

I thank you for your excellent article which balances between the faith and the fact.

You have mentioned that (a) This argument of preserving Sethu is not zero sum game as the Sethu and this project can co-exist and (b) the question can't be decided by this stupid ASI.

Actually, I differ with the logic of ASI here. These idiots believe that even pre-historic issues can solely be judged based on the archelogical evidences.

In fact, archelogy is only one of the innumerable scientific evidences available. The multitute of linguistic evidences, the geographical and topographical supportings, the planetary position descriptions and the corroborative supportings teamed from disconnected but same period cultural civilizational patterns across the globe. all these are evidences.

There are also innumerable astronomical evidences provided in these same literatures. We need a honest and open mind to grasp this.

It is foolish to believe that just b because something is said to be old, we can't say this is not scientific. This is insult to our ancestors.

Srikanth said...

>> Hindus, it is time we show them the door.

Can we, really?

Expatguru said...

This government has to go - lock, stock and barrel!

Anonymous said...

Can ASI List out the necessary evidences they need to prove? Can they answer for all the available evidences throughout Hindustan?
When Hindus sleeping, They can talk, do anything. Do they find any evidence on "Babar Masjid"?

Anonymous said...

We Hindus are fools, we don�t raise our voice against any body who dares to insult us, it is in our blood. the same group opposed the Da Vinci Code, because it is related to Christianity and when the cartoon row of the nabi came, but they won't do it for Rama as the fools will vote even if they are insulted to the core, whereas the minority will vote against if their sentiments are touched.

It is high time that every true Indian (Hindus) should realize and unite to get rid of the culprits.

Anonymous said...

We Hindus are fools, we don’t raise our voice against any body who dares to insult us it is in our blood, the same group opposed the Da Vinci Code, because it is related to Christianity and when the cartoon row of the nabi came, but they won't do it for Rama as the fools will vote even if they are insulted to the core, whereas the minority will vote against if their sentiments are touched.

It is high time that every true Indian (Hindus) should realize and unite to get rid of the culprits.

Anonymous said...

delete the ego and live life. live without any identity like a satwic.

ஜடாயு said...

// Anonymous said...
delete the ego and live life. live without any identity like a satwic. //

Dear anony,

It is a complete dissolution of identity that is the mark of a true Satwic.. NOT its denial and negation - that would be cowardice which the Gita dispices.

I draw your attention to this article by a great spiritual master in an older blog post by me -

"We are in denial"
Negating identity causes inaction, sloth and lethargy