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  Rama Sethu: Historic facts vs political fiction - II  

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Rama Sethu, Ram Setu, Ramar Bridge, History, Facts: Part II

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By: V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.
May 23, 2007
iews expressed here are author?s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


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It has been rightly said that the two eyes of history are geography and chronology. Both geography and chronology get vitally linked through cartography. WE HAVE IRREFUTABLE CARTOGRAPHICAL EVIDENCE ABOUT THE FACT OF RAMA SETHU BRIDGE AS IT WAS KNOWN FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS OR ADAM?S BRIDGE AS IT CAME TO BE CALLED DURING THE COLONIAL BRITISH PERIOD.

   This map above was prepared in The Netherlands in 1747. In this map we can see the description of 'Raman Coil' shown near Dhanushkodi Island

Mapping the world is one of humanity's most enduring passions, something we"ve done with varying degrees of success for over a thousand years. Cartography has been described as the meeting place of Science and Art. On the other hand, one of the cartographer?s chief concerns is to avoid producing an ugly map. The primary purpose of a map is to convey information or to ?get across? a geographical concept or relationship. The cartographic process rests on the premise that the world is measurable and that we can make reliable representations or models of that reality. Mapmaking involves advanced skills and attitudes, particularly the use of symbols to represent certain geographic phenomena, as well as the ability to visualize the world in an abstract and scaled-down form. Maps have traditionally been made for centuries using pen and paper, but the advent and spread of computers after the II World War has revolutionized cartography. Most commercial-quality maps are now made with map-making software that falls into one of three main types; CAD, GIS, and specialized map illustration software.

 We can see above the map of Hindustan dated 1st January 1988 Prepared by J Rennel, a pioneer in map-making. In this map, 'Rama Temple' and 'Ramar Bridge' were shown. This map. THis map is available in Saraswathi Mahal library

In the 18th and 19th centuries in Western Europe and also British India, cartography was based on three pillars: 1.There were official surveys with the aim of topographical map series in large and medium scales and with problems in the geodetic field and in relief representation. 2. Atlas cartography, especially hand atlases and family atlases, with problems in getting and mastering the widespread source material and the appropriate design of small scale maps. 3. Education cartography, particularly school atlases and wall maps, with problems in didactically based map design and the representation of relief and altitude.

In so far as British India is concerned, innumerable maps coming under all the three categories above are available to prove the existence of Rama Sethu Bridge or Adam?s Bridge in all the main libraries of the world.

Starting from 1747, some historic and rare maps are available for public scrutiny and judicial scrutiny to prove the reference to the existence of Ramar Coil/Rama Sethu Bridge. I am presenting below a map which was prepared in Netherlands in Europe in 1747. In this map we can see the inscription of the words ?RamarCoil? near Dhanushkodi. This map is available for public viewing in the Saraswati Mahal Library in Thanjavur.

In a 1788 map, ?Rama temple? and ?Ramar Bridge? were shown. Here I am referring to "A map of India entitled as a map of Hindoostan or the Moghul Empire from the latest authorities inscribed to Sir. Joseph Banks Bart President of Royal Society? which was produced by Mr. J. Rennel, a pioneer in map making on 1st January 1788. The original print of the map (112c.m x 106c.m) is available in the Saraswati Mahal Library."

Next I am presenting below another map from a book titled CEYLON-AN ACCOUNT OF THE ISLAND by Sir. James Emmerson Tennent published in 1810.


In the book referred to above, Sir James Tennent has referred to the Adam?s bridge as follows  ?On the north-west side of the Island, where the currents are checked by the obstruction of Adam?s Bridge and still water prevails in the Gulf of Manaar, these deposits have been profusely heaped, and the low sandy pains have been proportionally extended; whilst on the south and east, where the current sweeps unimpeded along the coast , the line of the shore is bold and occasionally rocky. The explanation of the accretion and rising of the land is somewhat opposed to the popular belief that Ceylon was torn from the main land of India by a convulsion, during which the Gulf of Manaar and the narrow channel at Paumbam were formed by the submission of the adjacent land.The two theories might be reconciled by supposing the sinking to have occurred at an early period, and to have been followed by the uprising still in progress. http://www.lankaweb.com

In 1804, a map was produced by Major James Rennel (1742-1830) who was the first Surveyor General of India in which he took particular care as a colonel administrator to change the name of Ramar Bridge into Adam?s Bridge. I am presenting below this map by James Rennel prepared in 1804.


James Rennel?s map of 1804?Note that ?Ramar Bridge? has been changed to ?Adam?s Bridge? in the above map.

Major James Rennel was a remarkable geographer, historian and a pioneer of oceanography. Born in 1742 in Devon in England, he entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1756, and was present at the attack on Cherbourg (1758), and the disastrous action of St Cast in the Seven Years" War (1756-1763). After the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, James Rennel entered the service of the East India Company, and was appointed Surveyor General of Bengal and India (1764), with the rank of Captain in the Bengal Engineers. He worked as Surveyor General of India for the next 13 years and retired in 1777.The remaining fifty-three years of his life were spent in London, and were devoted to geographical research chiefly among the materials in the East India House. His most valuable works include the Bengal Atlas (1779), the first approximately correct map of India (1783), the Geographical System of Herodotus (1800), the Comparative Geography of Western Asia (1831), and important studies on the geography of northern Africa - in introductions to the Travels of Mungo Park and Hornemann.

Beside his geographical and historical works James Rennell is known today for his hydrographical works about the currents in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. During his last years he wrote his final and most important work "Currents of the Atlantic Ocean", published posthumously by his daughter Jane in 1832, which held its scientific authority until 1936. His opening statement in this great book that "the winds are to be regarded as the prime movers of the currents of the ocean" remains unchallenged to this day. When James Rennel died in 1830, he was buried in Westminster Abbey Clements Markham, President of the Royal Geographical Society, in his biography of James Rennell published in 1895 paid this tribute to him: "James Rennel was the founder of oceanography: that branch of geographical science which deals with the ocean, its winds and currents".
In these columns yesterday I had referred to the seminal cartographical work of Joseph E Schwartzberg titled A HISTORICAL ATLAS OF SOUTH ASIA, published by the University of Chicago in 1978. In this book, there are detailed, interesting and graphic maps which enable us to see and understand how the environs of Rameshwaram and ?Rama Sethu Bridge? changed or altered from pre historic India till the attainment of our independence in 1947. I am presenting below a map from Joseph E Schwartzberg?s Atlas relating to the Religious and cultural sites of the post-Mauryan period, c. 200 B.C.-A.D


Religious and cultural sites of the post-Mauryan period, c. 200 B.C.-A.D. 300 (http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/schwartzberg/pager.html- Joseph E Schwartzberg?s Atlas page 22.)


In the above map, Dhanushkoti has been referred to as Koti (which only means Dhanushkoti) We can also see from Joseph E Schwartzberg?s Atlas that in PURANIC INDIA Ramar Bridge was referred to as SETUKA. I am presenting below the concerned map relating to Puranic India from this Atlas (page 27 of the Atlas)

An interesting map below relates to the age of the Ghaznavids, Cahmanas, Later Calukyas, and Colas, c. 975-1200 AD (http://dsal.uchicago.edu/reference/schwartzberg/pager.html?object=069 Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. 32.)


In the above map Ramar Bridge has been referred to as SETU BANDHA

Next we have a map relating to the time of the Khaljis and Tughluqs 1290- 1390 AD (Schwartzberg Atlas, v. , p. 38.)


In the above map relating to the period of the Khaljis and Tughluqs 1290- 1390 AD, we can see that the Ramar Setu Bridge has been referred to as SETUBANDHA RAMESVARAM.

The cartographic facts I have presented above can be presented in any court of law to prove that Rama Setu or Ramar Bridge has existed and has been noted by rulers, geographers, explorers, scientists and cartographers for centuries. To conclude in the timeless words of Justice Grier (1794-1870): ?A number of concurrent facts, like rays of light, all converging to the same centre, may throw not only a clear light but a burning conviction; a conviction of truth more infallible than the testimony even of two witnesses directly to a fact.?

(To be continued)

V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.

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Rama Sethu, Ram Setu, Ramar Bridge, History, Facts Article Series

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