No Aryan - Dravidian divide - it was one Aryavartha - (14)
Sethu is a sacred place that is worshiped by all the three worlds, said Rama.
(“yEthatthu drushyathE theertham saagarasya mahaathmana:
sEthu bhanda iti khyaatam trailOkyenaabhi poojitham//” (1)
“This sacred place of pilgrimage (theertham) of the mighty ocean is seen.
Known as Sethu bhandam, this is worshipped by the three worlds.”)
By three worlds, it is meant, the beings of the three worlds.
We have seen how the Sethu is of importance to the underworlds and
also to the world we live.
Let us now see how
Sethu is of importance to the world at the third level,
that is, the world above us.
The world above us consists of two sets of people,
departed souls (pithrus) and
the Released souls (those who attained moksha).
The released souls have no compulsion to do anything with this world.
They are already Released.
But the departed souls also known as
Pithrus or departed Fathers have to come back some time in future
to reduce their karmic balance.
So the third world as mentioned by Rama
refers to this world of pithrus (pithru loka).
This pithruloaka is refered to as Moon's mansion. (2)
It is interesting to note that Valmiki describes
that the Sethu
looks like "Swathi patham" in the sky. (3)
"sa nalena kR^itaH setuH saagare makara aalaye.
shushubhe subhagaH shriimaan svaatii patha iva ambare."
"That beautiful and lovely bridge constructed by Nala
across the ocean the abode of alligators,
shone brightly like the 'Swathi patham' in the sky."
Swathi in Sanskrit means 'lunar mansion'
and patham means way or path.
Swathi patham is ‘path of the pithrus’.
Texts speaks of the two paths,
taken by two sets of people to reach their respective abodes.
The path taken by the Released souls
to reach the world of Gods ( Brahma loka )
the path taken by the departed souls
(who are to be born again) to reach pithruloka
Semantically Swathi patham stands for Pithruyaana.
This swathi is the star known as Arcturus in the constellation of Bootes.
In Jyothisha, it is in the constellation of Libra.
If we look at the night sky in summer months,
we can see a huge imaginary arc stretching from North to south,
passing through the stars Swathi and Chithra in the middle.
Starting from the North, from the 7th star of the Saptha Rishi Mandala
also known as the Big Dipper,
(when it is seen in an inverted position)
this imaginary arc passes through
chithra (spica) and
reaches Thrishanku (Alpha / Proxima centauri) in the South.
This sweeping arc is the only of its kind seen
in the entire expanse of the sky of all seasons,
that sweeps through the sky
as though it is connecting the North and the South pole!
This is the celestial Swathi patham.
The Sethu looks like this sweeping arc of Swathi patham on waters.
Swathi patham of the sky connects north and south poles.
Sethu connects also two worlds
but at three levels of
Bhoo (the world),
Bhuvah (anthariksham or atmosphere)
and swah ( heavens )
At the bhoo level,
two different landmasses are connected by Sethu.
The two landmasses connected by the Sethu
are not just Bharatha varsha and Lanka.
They are the two different hemispheres of the globe
dominated by two different beings namely,
Devas and Rakshasas.
The land masses were separate in olden times and
the Rakshasas occupied the southern territories.
In course of time the land mass of the south started moving towards North.
Lanka is part of that southern plate.
For long it was uninhabited
until Kebera, son of Vishravas came to occupy it.
Later his half brother, Ravana who was born of Rakshasa yoni got it from Kubera.
Through him other Rakshasas who were living in deep South, came to occupy Lanka.(4)
By linking this land with bharatha varsha,
the Sethu forms a connection between two sets people
who were original occupants of the two hemispheres.
At the Bhoo level,
The prithvi and jala combine here
The Prithvi-jala combination (earth and water)
always stand for ‘pindam’
This is not just told by the Northern Aryan Vedas.
Even the Tamils of the south considered it to be so.
To quote Purananooru, (5)
“neerindri amaiyaa yaakkai-ellaam,
vuNdi kodutthOr vuyir kodutthOrE.
(The body does not survive without water.
Those who give food have indeed given life.)
VuNdi mudhartrE vuNavin ‘pindam’,
VuNavu enappaduvadhu nilatthodu neerE”
(Pindam is the first form of food.
Food is a combination of water with earth.)
The pindam which is the combination of earth and water at the primary level
or the combination of Sesame seeds (symbolic of earthern nature) and water
is food for pithrus.
Usually in any place of water, only water will be available.
In Sethu, the earth (prithvi) stands in water and water holds the earth.
The mixture of land and water,
each without losing its property is the unique feature of Sethu,
which is not found anywhere else.
At Bhuvah level,
or at the level of atmosphere or anthariksham,
Vayu and agni are also combined at Sethu.
Libra which houses Swathi is a vayu-tattwa constellation
and the axis it forms directly opposite to it,
namely, Aries is agni tattwa constellation.
The waters on the banks of Sethu at Rameshwaram is known as Agni theertham.
This place contains agni,
as understood form the burning of the 60,000 sons of Sagara.
The Vayu’s connection is not just that of the air in the atmosphere.
Vaayu or air conducts the heat or takes the heat and
travels to the higher realms of atmosphere.
In Bhrigu- Bharadwaja discussion as told by Bheeshma in Shanti parva, (6)
it is said that
the earthern and jala connections of the departed soul
stay on earth itself
whereas the agni, vayu and akashas tattwas
stay in the heavens.
What the body ‘ate’ from the earth and water are lost to earth and water
after death upon cremation.
The agni makes it happen
And the vaayu connects that heat with ether.
That is how the connection with the pancha bhoothas happen.
The agni theertham and the vayu relentlessly blowing over it
signifies another level of combination done at Sethu.
This happens at the Swah level.
The natural sequence of the combinations at bhoo and bhuvah level happens at swah.
This acts as the door to the other world.
When earth and water mix together without losing their identity,
they become food.
This is carried by agni – vaayu axis to the soul fixed in akashic tattwa.
All the 5 elements co-exist at Sethu in such a way
to make it possible to offer food to departed souls
and be accepted food by departed souls.
This kind of combination does not exist even in Kashi.
The fixation of agni in the deep waters and water beds is a unique feature,
that can be established by volcanism at this place.
The earth- water combination by means of the bridge
is another unique feature.
This is just one facet of Sethu being the “swathi padam”.
There are other meanings too.
(to be continued)
(1) Vaalmiki Ramayana, Yuddha khanda, sarga 126
(2) “All who depart from here go to the moon” (Kaushitaki upanishad I -2)
(3) Yuddha khanda, 22-72 (Valmiki)
(4) Utthara khanda, sarga 11 (Valmiki)
(5) PuranaanUru verse 18 by the poet Kuda pulaviyanaar in his poem on Pandyan king Nedum chezhiyan)
(6) Shanthi parva, sarga 185 (Mahabharatha)