Saturday, June 7, 2008

Rama Setu could have been declared national monument in 1914

British Governor wanted Ram Setu declared national monument in 1914


Rana Ajit | New Delhi (Pioneer, June 6, 2008)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Adam's bridge could have been national monument in 1914

New Delhi: A senior British official had sought national monument
status for the Ram Sethu or Adam's Bridge off the Tamil Nadu coast
almost a century ago, something that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
and some Hindu groups are pressing for now.

Lord Pentland, who was the governor of the Madras presidency between
1912 and 1919, had written to the then Indian Viceroy Lord Hardinge in
December 1914 to have an archaeological study conducted on the Ram
Sethu - between Rameshwaram, in India, and Sri Lanka - to ascertain if
it could be declared a national monument.

"I would earnestly request you to direct the Archaeological Survey of
India to undertake an extensive and intensive survey of Rameshwaram
and its beautiful environs, particularly with reference to historic
and primordial Adam's Bridge, for declaring it as a national
monument," Lord Pentland wrote to Lord Hardinge after touring
Rameshwaram in 1914.

The letter, retrieved by former union minister Subramaniam Swamy from
the archives of the Chennai mayor's office, has now been sent to the
central government to buttress his claim that the Ram Sethu needs to
be declared a national monument after an archaeological study.

On a bunch of lawsuits, filed by Swamy and others, the apex court on
May 8 had advised the government to explore the possibility of sparing
the Ram Sethu and adopting an "alternative alignment" to build a
shorter navigational route around the Indian peninsula.

The court had also sought the government's stand for an archaeological
study to ascertain if the Ram Sethu could be declared a national

Lord Pentland, after touring Rameshwaram and other places in his
presidency, wrote: "Along the Bay of Bengal, the Madras presidency
runs with the well-governed city of Madras at its centre and the
sublime and glorious temple of Tanjore (Thanjavur), Trichinopoly
(Tiruchirapalli), Madurai and Rameshwaram adorning the southern

"And, then the Adam's Bridge, a reef of sunken island beckons us
across the Palk Strait to Ceylon, where civilization flourished more
than 2,000 years ago," wrote Lord Pentland.

"Linga sculptures may be seen at many places along the highways in my
presidency. The Hindus break upon them the coconuts, which they offer
in sacrifice. Usually the ritual is simple and becoming," he added.

Under the spell of India's "simple and becoming" lifestyle in
Rameshwaram, Lord Pentland found his own English lifestyle a
"bottled-up" one and went on to write: "For me, Rameshwaram, very much
like India as a whole, is the real world. We Englishmen live in a mad
house of abstractions."

"Vital life in Rameshwaram has not yet withdrawn in the capsule of the
head. It's the whole body, which lives here. No wonder, the Englishmen
feel dreamlike; the complete life of Rameshwaram is something, which
they merely dream... while living in England in a sort of bottle,
filled with English air."

Describing special features of the Rameshwaram temple and other places
of the Madras Presidency, Pentland wrote, "All these are a little part
of my beloved Presidency - indeed my favourite India."

"Right from the dawn of history, India is extraordinarily
discontinuous. From early times in India, it is ethnology, philology
and archaeology that give and will give us some notions of the truth.
From archaeology, much can be expected," he wrote while pleading to
Lord Hardinge for an archaeological study of the Ram Sethu.

The BJP and other Hindu groups are against the Rs.24 billion
Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project (SSCP), which aims to provide a
shorter navigational sea route around India's southern peninsula by
dredging the peak of what is believed to be the Ram Sethu. The Supreme
Court is hearing the plea against the damage to the Adam's Bridge,
which many Hindus believe to be the mythological bridge built during
the Ramayana.

Source: Indo-Asian News Service

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