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Ram Sethu (Setu) Issue – To build a shipping canal the existence of Ram is denied

September 14, 2007

When I first heard about the Supreme Court affidavit filed by our government which claimed that Lord Ram did not exist, I was stunned….and hurt. And I am not even a religious person! I can’t imagine what deeply religious people must have felt…outraged and betrayed!!

This controversy has made me start to question the very basis of our so-called ‘secular’ nation. Usually I hesitate calling our country pseudo secular, because I try hard to see the other point of view…but for the first time yesterday I wondered if those who think that our country is pseudo secular aren’t too far wrong. And our media? Well, there are suspicions that they are anti-Hindu, and want to be politically correct all the time. I thought I understood why. Because India has a large Muslim population and there is always the fear of communal tension. The worst thing to happen ever are riots, and we know how quickly people get into a lather here. But I have started to question the media’s objectivity…

However where the media is concerned, it’s always a question of damned if you do and damned if you don’t…

About that stupid affidavit, I wanted to write about it yesterday itself…but I had a strong feeling that the matter hadn’t ended. With the raging protests all over the country, it was clear that the government would realise that it had done great damage to itself (why are riots necessary for the government to realise that people don’t like their faith to be questioned??) and I was sure they would try to undo it. They did and fast…Union Law Minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj said yesterday that a fresh affidavit will be filed and the offending paragraph which questions the very existence of characters from the Ramayana will be removed.

Whoddunit?
At first I thought it was likely that this ‘affidavit’ was the work of some moron, but when I saw a CPI leader vociferously defending the government’s actions on live TV, I realised that perhaps this affidavit was not the work of a retard. Political parties were behind it…the government was behind it…

Now they are saying that Sonia Gandhi stepped in and decided to take back the affidavit…but I don’t think many people are believing this. I don’t. The government saw the brewing anger and quickly acted. They feel the image of Sonia Gandhi (she is of Italian origin) has been tarnished and are trying hard to repair the damage. If the riots had not taken place and the other political parties had not protested, would she have stepped in to stop it? Ofcourse not…neither she nor the Congress care that the affidavit was/is blasphemy where Hindus are concerned.

But why insult Hindus?
So far I have not even mentioned Ram Sethu or what the British called Adam’s Bridge. Well, this is a bridge that the government wants to destroy to create a shipping channel and as it is a holy site (mentioned in the Ramayana), the affidavit was designed to blunder its way through the opposition. But to claim that Ram does not exist was overstepping the line.

Sure, this new channel called the Sethsamudran project (between the southern tip of India and the northern tip of Sri Lanka) to create a shipping passage to link the east and west coasts of India will save India (and Tamil Nadu) a lot of money. But if the price is destruction of faith, it is not acceptable.

This is the bridge.

Which brings us to another issue. Should this bridge be destroyed? Hindus believe that the bridge is made by God Hanuman and this is what makes the bridge a holy site.

And I can’t help repeating this: If I, a non-religious, liberal thinking person with a capitalist idealogy and an intense desire to see India developed, feels indignant that the government is destroying this bridge because it pooh poohs the faith of millions of Hindus, how will those with a deep religious faith feel?

There are environmental issues as well, but I don’t even want to talk about them, even though I am a great believer in saving the natural environment. There are many arguments put forward (to preserve the bridge) for environmental reasons…and I believe they are valid. Protection against Tsunamis is one, and preserving the coast another. There are also experts who believe that the new channel will not be able to take heavy ships…

I believe that people’s faith is very important too, as important (if not more) than these other issues, and faith is something that no believer ever measures scientifically. If this is being questioned, then it is highly objectionable. No government has a right to question people’s religious faith…why the next thing we will hear is that the government wants to convert people!

Why harp on environmental issues or developmental issues, when the majority of people are thinking of faith and heritage?? And can one look at a country’s development only through the economic and developmental standpoint? What about culture and heritage?

The government will never get through to people if they only talk of money! Perhaps there was a chance earlier, if they had gone about this quietly and sensibly and not made idiotic statements like Ram does not exist…yes if they had done that the project might well have gone through without too much publicity. Before this moronic affidavit, it was mainly the Hindu elite, Hindu religious organizations and environmentalists who were opposing this bridge…but now I believe that this issue has been taken to the people and explained in a language they can understand. I personally had heard only vaguely of the save Ram Sethu campaign…and did not feel strongly about it either way. But now I do. Now I am now seeing the issue through the prism of the government’s lack of respect for Hindus.

If alternative routes are available, and it is believed that they are, then they should be implemented. That is what I feel.

Added Later: Just thought I would add the exact words of the affidavit, after one of the comments which doubted whether the government actually doubted the existence of Ram. On Mahendra’s blog I found this link, and it quotes the affidavit as stating:

…that the mythological texts of Ramayana formed an important part of ancient Indian literature, “but which cannot be said to be historical record to incontrovertibly prove the existence of the characters, or the occurrence of the events, depicted therein.”

Update: 2nd May 2008. There is a very interesting article in The Hindu about this issue which is worth a read. It says that

there was historical evidence to show that this bridge was used by the people of India and Sri Lanka as a link between the two nations. Any structure that was more than 100 years old, natural or man made, could be declared a national monument by the Archaeological Survey of India…800 million people in India believe that Ramar Sethu was a bridge built by Lord Ram. Can the court go into the issue whether Lord Ram existed or whether the bridge was constructed by the God?… People [particularly Christians] believe that Jesus Christ was crucified at a particular place. Can this be probed or gone into by the court? These are all related to people’s faith which cannot be probed by the court or the government.

Related Reading: Why people are religious
Hinduism does not encourage conversions
True faith in God can be confused with rituals
Book countering the Hinduphobia of the west
What role do “Gurus” play in our life?


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118 Comments leave one →
  1. Sundar permalink
    September 22, 2007 5:58 pm

    Actually we are fooling ourselves into believing that human race is just one species . People are different genetically . Why man who has successfully categorized animals into different species failed to do the same with himself. For example we have different species of snakes. They may minor variations but still they are put into different species. A Bengal tiger may resemble a Sumatran tiger but they are different species of tigers. A saw scaled viper and a Russel’s viper may appear to be the same to an untrained eye but nevertheless they are two different species. So how long are we going to fool around with the idea that people in the Indian subcontinent belong to the same category. The difference is for everyone to see . The tamils are generally dark and the punjabis are essentially fair. It is so plain. My argument is not totally out of context. It lends weight to my argument that Ram-Ravan fight was merely a fight betwen two different tribes.

  2. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 22, 2007 8:11 pm

    Sundar,

    While I do not agree with you on some basic points (e.g. that Rama was fair-skinned — there is enough literary evidence to assert that, like Krishna, he was dark-skinned), I am very grateful to you for bringing back Iravatham Mahadevan within the range of my radar, after a gap of nearly 15 years. He is, as far as I am aware, the only Indian scholar of Harappan civilisation who has done meaningful work on the approaches (and their limitations) to deciphering the Indus script, eschewing all hype and nonsense.

    It is good to know he is still actively focusing on the subject. In his own quiet way, without casting any stones, he underscores the futility of the claims of most other scholars (right from the early 20th c.) who claim to have “solved” the enigma of the script.

  3. September 26, 2007 6:53 am

    we really need to stand strong together on this one and not let this slide as well

    I do wonder how can people dare to make statements like these and get away? Is it because Hindus do not try to convert unsuspecting poor souls into changing their religion? Or is it because we never killed and killed in the name of God (the so called holy crusades) or is it because we have become to casual towards this faith which doesn’t make you a sinner if you do not make a weekly visit?

    jagobharat.com

    Vishal, yes I think in a way it is the greatness of Hinduism that we allow such strong statements against the religion! However I agree with you that it isn’t right for anyone to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments – Nita.

  4. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 26, 2007 8:43 am

    Agarwal,

    // … we never killed and killed in the name of God … //

    Really? So who were the murderers at Ayodhya and in the fallout of Godhra. Unless you are saying that they were NOT doing it in the name of God … in which case, of course, I entirely agree with you.

  5. Sundar permalink
    September 26, 2007 11:40 pm

    There is lot of information available on the net . But most of them fail to approach the issue with a rational mind. Here are few links which I feel every opposer to the Ram Sethu channel should have a look at
    suvratk.blogspot.com
    The writer is a geologist and he bullshits many fictitious theories that are floating around

    One more article by the same author
    suvratk.blogspot.com.adams bridge

    And here is another person who has dealt with it in depth > actually he has written series of articles related to it

    sujaiblog/sethusamudran project

  6. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    September 27, 2007 8:11 am

    Sundar,

    Possibly I am soft-headed, but I don’t quite get your point when you say, of Suvrat K:

    //The writer is a geologist and he bullshits many fictitious theories that are floating around//.

    I In terms of substance I do not find much difference between Suvrat and Sujai. It’s only their style that is different. I find both of them far more acceptable than the likes of Murali Manohar Joshi (allegedly a physicist) and B B Lal.

  7. rob permalink
    September 28, 2007 8:03 am

    This is no different than the earliest Christians who believed
    that earth was flat and it was also the center of the universe.

    How do you define a bridge? What objective evidence have
    you gathered to justify that it was indeed a bridge created
    during Rama’s time. Any carbon dating proof etc ?

    What is the proven timeline of the story of Ramayan. I
    believe it has been re-written a few times – By Balmiki, By Goswami Tulsidas, revised and re-written at the request of
    some prominent Hindu King Vikrmaditya.

    Times have changed – the old stories do not always please
    the present day individuals.

    If its strictly a matter of faith then do not worry about any scientific evidence and believe in whatever you wish to
    believe in – Like God & soul.

  8. Aravindan permalink
    September 28, 2007 6:06 pm

    Surely Ram Sethu bridge is for political reasons only. If the Govt is keen in India’s development, it may taken a decision to develop a big harbour in Trivandrum. Infact Trivandrum by itself is a natural port. It needs not much of dredging. It can be done with a minimal cost as compared to Tuticorin.

    Only in this, a large amount is involved. This scheme may be a jackpot for much of the ruling politicians. In my view, this is the only reason why do ruling politicians have a great interest in this. But surely, this is not for nation development.

  9. September 28, 2007 7:39 pm

    Aravindan,

    WOW!! Good point.. why to go beyond Trivandrum!!! If govt. really wanna save money why they are spending so much simply (min. 25 years for breakeven) and scrapping faith of so many!!!

    Bharath

  10. September 29, 2007 6:27 pm

    Vivek Khadpekar,

    I also appeal to the Ram Bhaktas, that while you have every right to state your beliefs, please do not bring in untenable arguments such as the age of the Ramayana — and, by extension, the Hanuman Setu — being 17 lakh (or is it 19 lakh) years. It flies in the face of all logic dictated by sciece, whether in terms of evolution or of geology. Even among the members of the Hindutva brigade, the more moderate voices have either not commented at all on this argument or have conceded that it is far-fetched.

    When you make this comment, you make a pre-assumption that the Judeo-Christian time model as scientific vs. the Hindu time model as ascientific. The Hindu time model is more accurate in scientific terms (provided there is evidences), versus the Judeo-Christian model that is used by the scientific community today. There is nothing scientific in the linier time model that is adapted by science today.

    There are a lot of works and researches done for more then a century on the evolution theory by the scientists, but yet till today, they had not found any scientific evidence to prove the THEORY! This model is used to “rationalize” many physical phenomenons, but it is all based on many contradicting theories which scientists do debate all the while. What we see today are the blind followers of scientific theories who assume everything as fact. They hijack science to fulfill their personal interest and enforce their beliefs on others.

    Then why question the Hindus about our time model, which spans in yugas, by calling it a myth while endorsing the scientific myth? Do you know that, this linier model still poses many limitations and irrational in many ways? If you want to really talk about rational perceptive, then I assure you that the Hindu time model is more scientific and answers more questions in logical way. Thus it prompted 2 scientists in NASA in year 2002 to suggest a cyclical time model as an alternative to the Judeo-Christian linier time model. However it will take a great upheaval to change the current scientific paradigm as it was when Newton theory was challenged.

    Therefore, don’t look at this issue from the perspective of science vs. faith (religion) perspective. There is nothing scientific here. Also we must understand that the archeological means used by the current scientific community is limited in many ways. They can hardly say for sure of anything beyond 5000 years. Thus they came up with many theories to support their research and at the same time, there are many theories build on top of other theories. One of the great blunders created by such theory is the Aryan Invasion theory (created by foreigners to discredit Indian origin) which also make payment to a pseudo-identity called “Dravidian”. It has no scientific proof yet due to this ignorant theory and blind faith by many ideological groups, it has given way to many intolerant dogmas from Nazism to Dravidian racist supposition.

    True scientists will not base their arguments standing on theories and the worst part is when these theories are hijacked by ideological fanatics to impose and further their own agenda.

  11. Sumit permalink
    October 2, 2007 1:14 am

    Ram Sethu is a matter of debate for all of us, becoz it involves a major factor of Secularism. Let me remind you all the matter of Ayodhya Issue .
    India country of different cultures have a different religions, the sentiments of the people are a sensitive count,and must taken care of.
    Development of Indian economy is a great deal ,of course the shipping business will be enhanced but there will be a great threat to Indian secularism,and should be taken care of by the efficient political and judicial work.

  12. vivek kumar permalink
    October 2, 2007 2:23 am

    Ram sethu show the win of righteousness over the evils.
    should not be destroyed just for the shake of development of trade between India and Srilanka.
    In a country like India where i believe people are not totally secular ones,here we will have to consider the sentiment of the people and their religion .
    I feel this issue which been raised is totally a political issue and have no relevance of it to the growth this only will lead to increase the communal tention between the Hindu &Muslims.
    Can we think of the development of india if development is to be held hostage to mythology?No certainly not we can’t think of it so why to make this Ram sethu an issue . If the govt. is realy interested then they should search for the other available alternative they should not intensly hurt the sentiments of Hindus on this particular issue .

  13. Sanu permalink
    October 2, 2007 1:45 pm

    Sumit,

    You have not understood what secularism means. India only needs dharma which has a more profound view of society and not secularism. Secularism excludes faiths and favors non-believers, thus it is not universal. Dharma on the other hand excludes none. It embraces in the co-existence of all in a non-violent way.

    America for instance which proclaims itself to be a secular country, proudly declares its nationhood as a Judeo-Christian tradition. This is upholded by the law of this nation. It is neither following a Hindu tradition or a Muslim tradition! Remember historically America is not a Judeo-Christian country, but was the land belong to the native Americans.

    What about India? What is the nationhood of India? It can’t be any other then Hindu tradition. If you remove Hindu tradition from India, it will become another copycat of Judeo-Christion or Islamic tradition. There can’t be a vacuum.

  14. December 13, 2007 12:22 am

    I don’t believe these non-science stories like monkeys constructed bridge etc. Sethu Samudram project improves traffic to Chennai, Cuddalore and Tuticorin harbors and generates surplus revenue to harbors and railways. So, I support that project. Infrastructural upgradation is more important than giving priority to those non-science beliefs. People who believe these beliefs can be let to believe them but stopping important infrastructural projects in the name of beliefs is not good.

  15. January 14, 2008 6:08 pm

    Hi Nita,

    Sorry I didn’t follow the thread after posting. Usually threads like this turn into a nightmare to read. But then, I guess that’s essence of blogging.

    Btw, very good work here. Keep it up.

    thanks! – Nita.
    :)

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