New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court the Ram Setu, which many Hindus believe was the bridge Lord Ram built to cross over to Lanka, was not an integral part of the religion.
The Centre’s affidavit also said the Setu, a 48-km long chain of limestone shoals, was destroyed by Lord Ram himself and is not a place of worship as claimed by some Hindu groups.
The groups say the Sethusamudram shipping canal project, which proposes building a shipping canal between India and Sri Lanka, would destroy the Setu.
The Government referred to Kamba Ramayana written by Tamil saint Kambar to support its claim. The affidavit is surprising, as the Government is examining an alternative alignment for the channel project upon a directive from the Supreme Court.
Janata Party president Subramaniam Swamy and several other organisations have filed pleas before the Supreme Court claiming Ram Setu is a place of worship and sacred to Hindus. The petitioners claim Lord Rama and his army built the Setu to reach Sri Lanka to rescue his wife.
The Centre has appointed a six-member committee to examine if an alternative route for the Sethusamudram project can be taken to save the Setu. The court is awaiting the report of the six-member committee.
The Sethusamudram project
The Sethusamudram shipping canal project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping canal.
The project involves dredging 82.5 million cubic metres of the Adam's Bridge or the Ram Setu. When completed, the canal will be 167 km long and its estimated cost is approximately Rs 2,427 cores.
This is the country's first effort at dredging a navigation channel that is 30-40 kilometres offshore. The project promises to save travel time and cost drastically.
As of now, ships traversing from India's east coast to the west coast have to circumnavigate Sri Lanka due to this bridge located southeast of Rameswaram.
Once the canal is ready, ships can navigate through the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Bay, and enter the Bay of Bengal directly, thereby reducing the distance for ships by 780 km and sailing time by up to 30 hours.