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  Rama Sethu: Historic facts vs political fiction - IV  

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

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By: V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.
May 25, 2007
iews expressed here are author?s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.


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"The Rules of Evidence are founded in the charities of religion-in the philosophy of nature-in the truths of history, and in the experience of common life" - Lord Chancellor of England, Honorable Justice Thomas Erskine (1794).

 Coins constitute a major source of information for the history of Rama Setu or Ramar Bridge or Setu Bandhana or Adam's Bridge. The discipline or science relating to the study of coins is known as Numismatics. Coin collecting has existed since ancient times. It is a well known fact that Roman Emperors were among some of the earliest coin collectors. Coin collecting has been called the "Hobby of Kings". Numismatics reached its apex due to the great demand for ancient coins during the late middle Ages and the early Renaissance.

 Coming to our own country, we have remarkable epigraphically and numismatic evidence, starting from 10th century AD, authenticating the tradition of referring to Rameswaram as Setu Bandha Rameswaram, that is, as the place from where the Rama Setu Bridge was built to link Bharatam and Sri Lanka in the days of Sri Rama.

 We have many early coins in South India bearing the inscription of "Setu" in Tamil. We also have copper plates of Pallava Aparajitavarman (900 AD) which indicate that Aparajitavarman went to SETUTIRTHA (Rameshwaram and Dhanushkoti). Likewise Udayendiram copper plates of Chola King Parantaka I (AD 907-955) refer to his adoption of the title Samgramaraghava like RAMA. The details relating to these copper plates have been given in the monograph titled Thiruttani and Velanjeri Copper Plates written by Dr. R.Nagaswamy (Director of Archaeology) and published by the State Department of Archaeology Government of Tamilnadu in 1979.

I am presenting below these two copper plates of Pallava King Aparajitavarman (900 AD) and Chola King Parantaka I (AD 907-955) for visual scrutiny and understanding.

Codrington in his book ""Ceylon Coins and Currency"" published in 1924 and Mitchiner in his book ""Oriental Coins"" published in 1978 have clearly pointed out that the traditional design of Sri Lanka standing King Type Copper Massa (coins) of the Jaffna Arya Chkravartis from 1284 AD to 1410 AD always bore the Tamil legend SETU. Setu coins were previously attributed to the Setupati Princes of Ramnad. Codrington and Mitchner attribute them strongly to the Jaffna Arya Chkravartis. I am presenting below the obverse and reverse side of one of the coins issued by Jaffna Arya Chkravartis from 1284 to 1410 AD. In the book, "Yaalpana Iraachchiyam" (1992), Prof. S. Pathamanathan in his article on "Coins" notes:


Early kings of Jaffna, sometimes referred to as Ariyacakravarti, used names such as Segarajasekaran and Pararajasekaran, and used the epithets Singaiyariyan (Lord of Singaingar, the earlier capital of the Kingdom of Jaffna), SETUKAVALAN (Guardian of Setu or Rameshwaram) and Gangainadan (belonging to the country of the Ganga). Their emblems were a recumbent bull -nanthi-, a Saiva symbol, and the expression SETU, indicating the place of their origin, Rameshwaram. The term Setu was also used as an expression of benediction.


Several types of coins categorized as SETU BULL coins are found in large quantities in the northern part of Sri Lanka. I am illustrating one of the types of these Setu Bull Coins below. The obverse of this coin has a human figure flanked by lamps and the reverse has the Nandi (bull) symbol with the legend Sethu in Tamil with a crescent moon above.

P Pushparatnam in his brilliant paper ""Murukan Worship Sri Lanka: New Archeological Evidence"" has observed:"" The Europeans first employed the utilization of numismatics as a source for historical research in the 18th century AD. The European officers who were in charge of the Archaeological Survey of India and the Civil Service and other officers employed in India in the 19th century took interest in the collection and study of coins. In Sri Lanka, numismatics received wider attention in the 20th century. As important as epigraphically data is, numismatics is restricted in its content as few names or words and certain symbols in figurative form or forms appear in them. They are very valuable to reconstruct the history of a particular dynasty and its chronology. Evidence of the coins issued by the Sri Lankan Tamils is now available. This period ranges from the 3rd century BC to the 17th century AD. These throw a flood of light on various aspects such as the ancient language, script, genesis of Kingdoms, settlements of people, commerce, foreign relations and so on""
P Pushparatnam has analysed the following two coins issued by the Tamil rulers of Nallur in Jaffna who ruled during 13th - 17th century AD. We can see the inscription of the word SETU in Tamil, apart from the figures of Nandi and Peacock.


Leonard Wolf, husband of the great English novelist Virginia Wolf (1882-1941) worked as a British Civil Servant in Ceylon in the first decade of the 20th century. In one of his early News Paper articles, he has referred to the widespread use of old Setu Coins (with letters in Tamil) in circulation in Jaffna.

India is rich in ancient inscriptions. They form a priceless resource base for the study of India's cultural, religious, social and linguistic heritage. Through the centuries, in all parts of the country, inscriptions were etched, engraved, pecked, or even sometimes carved in bas-relief on stones or on the rock-faces of cliffs and hills. They were also inscribed on temple walls. Epigraphy is the study of such texts, the science of deciphering and interpreting them.

Rashtrakuta literature is the body of work created in Sanskrit and Kannada languages during the rule of the Rastrakutas of Manyakheta, a dynasty that ruled the southern and central parts of the Deccan, India between the 8th and 10th centuries. The period of their rule was an important time in the history of South Indian literature. During that period famous scholars wrote on secular subjects such as mathematics, history, political science etc.

We find the most common reference to RAMA in early Rashtrakuta inscriptions in a verse that began appearing commonly at the end of the citation on land-grants from the early 9th century onwards in the Rashtrakuta regions.

Apart from Rashtrakuta Inscriptions, I am citing below a few other examples:
1.""Common to all kings is the SETHU OF DHARMA: you should abide by it moment by moment. Again and again Ramabhadra implores all future kings to do the same"" (Epigraphica Indica 23.212 - a record of AD 807)...
2.Tiruvalangadu plates of RAJARAJA COLA I (CE 985-1014) describe the king as surpassing RAMA in military prowess and crossing the ocean with his powerful army and subduing the king of Lanka...
3. In the temples of Orissa dated from 7th to 10th centuries, RAMA is represented and described both as an avatara of Vishnu as also the hero of the Ramayana narrative which includes a pointed reference to the construction of Rama Setu Bridge with graphic details.
4.Hampi inscription of Krishnadevaraya Saka 1430 (1508 AD) in Epigraphica Indica refers to the glory of RAMA SETHU.
5.In a Copper Plate of the 11th century, issued by the CHALUKYA dynasty of Kalyana, we find the expression "from the Himalaya to the Setu Bridge" (Ind. Antiq. i. 81), i.e. the Bridge of Rama, or "Adam's Bridge," as our maps have it today.

T Satyamurthy, formerly Director of Archaeology, Government of Kerala, in a seminal essay titled ""Palk Strait to Gulf of Mannar-an Archaeological Exploration"" has observed ""Separating the Gulf of Mannar on the South from the Palk Strait on the North is a chain of islands, reefs, shoals and shallows, consisting of island of Mannar, Ramar Bridge also known as Adam's Bridge, the island of Pamban. Significantly the Strait is flanked by two ancient temples Ramanatha Temple and Tiruketesvara Temple on Indian and Sri Lanka Sides respectively. In Indian Side, it attains importance because of its association with Ramayana Epic and equally on the other Side also the MANTAI is significant as the place is associated with Mandothari, the daughter of Mayon and wife of Ravana.... Thus it is clear that both the ends at Palk Straits in India and the Gulf of Mannar were culturally united for centuries...Had they used the Ramar Palam known as Adam's Bridge or Naval Boat to reach the other end? Was it possible to navigate safely in between these ends? These are some of the problems that require further proof....there can be no doubt that the Romans during their long period of friendly trade with Ceylon from the 1st century to 3rd centuries made regular use of Mannar Passage on both outward and return voyages. Evidences of using the Palk Strait for navigation in the ancient period could not be established. It is now obligatory to marine Archaeological Investigators to thoroughly scan the area to find out the nature of path way between the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar"".

Dangerous enemies of Hinduism and Eternal India today like Mrs Ambika Soni, T R Balu and Karunanidhi, are using the shifty language of dirty party politics to deny the existence of Rama Setu Bridge. Their strange language is full of Maya and falsities of self-illusion and deliberate delusion of others, which almost immediately turns all true and vivid phrases into a "Pseudo-Secular Jargon", so that the masses of people whom they mislead may fight in a cloud of words without any clear sense of the thing they are battling for.

(To be contd...)

V Sundaram, IAS, Retd.

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

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