Setu; a booklet by CM Kalaijnar (A book review)

Nov. 23, 2007

Setu – a booklet by CM Kalaijnar (A book review)

Said to contain letters written by CM Kalaijnar to his brothers and sisters and published in Murasoli with evidences, DMK Party has published this booklet on 22 Nov. 2007. One lakh copies of the booklet are said to have been printed and is priced at Rs. 5 (See the Hindu Report of 22 Nov. 2007).

There has been a blurring of roles. The book’s author is cited as Chief Minister (mudalvar in Tamil). The book also contains letters allegedly written in his capacity as CM. How come DMK party can get hold of these letters? How come MuKa releases such letters in violation of the Official Secrets Act?

The interesting facets of the book are not in what it reveals but in what it does not. There is no response to the serious objections raised related to national security, coastline security, tsunami protection measures, thorium accumulations, creation of international waters boundary, nautical issues related to virtually no savings in navigation time and navigational hazards.

The title is called, ‘setu’. The learned author does not explain its meaning. Maybe, he knows that according to a Tamil encyclopaedia, Abhidana Kos’am, the word ‘setu’ means: ceyar karai (that is, man-made bund). The English word, ‘bund’ comes from the word, ‘bandhanam’ in all bharatiya languages including Tamil. Rames’waram in tamil tradition and in many cartographs is called Setubandha Rames’waram. It is also surprising that he does not refer to the copper plate (Velanjeri) of Parantaka Chola of 10th century referring to Setutirtham. He does not even refer to Cilappadikaram which contains references to Kannagi, the embodiment of Tamil culture. The same text of a Jaina Muni, Ilango Adigal contains reference to Rama and Kannagi’s prayer to Korkai (Durga). Maybe, the learned CM was constrained for space in Murasoli in bringing out these evidences. Suggestio falsi, suppression veri is an usual technique of many poiticians. It is unfortunate CM also falls a prey to this practice and gives a false view of the economics of the project, without even referring to the advice of the learned A Ramaswamy Mudaliar who gave the first report in 1961 in independent India recommending that cutting a channel passage through Rama Setu (Adam’s bridge) should be abandoned. Selective amnesia is the hallmark of many politicians; afterall, MuKa (called Mudalvar Kalaijnar as the author of the booklet) is no exception to this affliction called amnesia. Maybe, he is cautious in view of the many court cases he is facing on the issue of his statements about his intimate knowledge of Valmiki’s, Tulasidas’s works. He cites Rajaji and he fails to cite from the Tamil sangam works including Akananooru which refer to Rama Setu. Kalaijnar wears many robes and the blurring of his position as CM and as party chief of DMK is the most serious manifestation.

CM the author does not even refer to his own government’s posters issued through Tamilnadu Tourism Corporation inviting tourists to visit Rama Setu built with floating stones and the seas touched by Sri Rama’s feet, making it a divyakshetram.

Maybe, CM is thinking of issuing an ordinance declaring Rames’waram as divyakshetram and announcing the abandonment of the setu project which is a project disaster. It is statesmanship to recognize blunders and back down. Will MuKa back down and work out alternatives for developing the coastal regions of Bharatam along the 7,500 km. coastline from Vis’akhapatnam to Okhla? And make Bharatam the vallaras’u in an Indian Ocean Community (Hindumahasagar Parivaar)?

It is a dream which will have a good chance of getting fulfilled. If, alternatives such as pipelines for oil products from west coast to eastcoast and railwayline between Thuthukudi and Villupuram are evaluated together with improving the Pamban gap channel and container facilities of both Thuthukudi and Colombo as a measure of cooperation between neighbouring countries who share the HISTORIC waters (see Indira_sirimavo declaration of June 1974).



Tamilnadu Government website says the following about Rama Setu and Rameshwaram as divyakshetram (like Tirumala) with reference to floating stones used to build the bridge (Setu).

Quote: The stone said to have used to construct the floating bridge Sethu Bandanam could be seen here…

Tourist Office,
14, East Car Street,
Ph: 221371


The Holy abode of the Hindu God, Shri Ram (addressed so with all respect & humility) is a virtual paradise for the devout.  No Hindu’s journey is complete without a pilgrimage to both Varanasi and Rameswaram for the culmination of his quest for salvation and is hallowed by the epic ‘Ramayana’. Folklore mentions about God Ram’s presence in this land, after his 14-year exile. 

Local legend has it that Shri Ram was helped back into Rameswaram and into   India   by his brother  Lakshman and Hanuman along with his band of thousands of monkeys, after finally emerging victorious against the demon – Ravana. They helped build a bridge with rocks from the sea and shores to cross the ‘Sethu canal’ and reach   India.   Lord Rama is also believed to have sanctified this place by worshipping and glorifying Lord Shiva and hence marks the confluence of Shaivism and Vaishnavism and is thus revered by both Shaivites and Vaishnavites alike and thus there is a strong belief that bathing in the 22 ‘Theerthams’ or natural springs is a step forward in enlightenment. Therefore, Rameswaram has rightly been declared as one of the National Pilgrim Centres in the count.

The Ramanathaswamy temple by itself is a delight for every tourist. With its magnificent, imposing structure, long corridors, aesthetically carved pillars, the temple is adorned with a towering 38-metre ‘Gopuram’. The temple itself was built by rulers since the 12th century with Sethupathy Maravar beginning the construction of the grand Ramanathaswamy temple that boasts of the ‘Third Corridor’, completed by his successor, Maravar – the longest one in Asia with a 197-metre span from East to West and a 133-metre span from South to North, the third largest in the world! It is said that Swamy Vivekananda offered prayers at this temple in 1897. Another important fact is that two important Hindu schools of thought – the Kanchi of Kamakodi Peetam and Bannari Amman owe allegiance to the deity at the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram. This has a tremendous impact on the religious sentiments of both the local people as well as devotees throughout the state of Tamil Nadu. 

clip_image012clip_image013Further down, the geographical terrain and landscape naturally tapers slowly but sharply toward the end, converging and gently sinking into the sea at Dhanushkodi – the country’s tip in this part of the peninsular. This natural phenomenon has a lot of significance and most people revere the thought and hope to attain salvation as a culmination of their prayer, sacrifice and penance in this holy place. With this backdrop, it is proposed to construct a Yoga-cum-Meditation Centre at Rameswaram which any tourist can use to attain solace and discover oneself through the Vedic science of Yoga and meditation. This could also pave the way for the establishment of a   Vedic College   where all students could be imparted with knowledge and inputs on Hindu religion and mythology, the Vedas, Upanishads and the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Taking cues from the renowned “Thirupathi Devasthalam”, efforts may be initiated to project this temple with its strong and rich legacy and roots of Hinduism, being a National Pilgrim Centre. For instance, tourists may make advanced booking for Offerings at temples, on-line pooja, thereby reaching temples in the designated time (each temple has specific timings for ‘dharshan’ and special pujas)…  

clip_image015Ramanathaswamy Temple: The legend says that Hunuman was sent by Lord Rama to bring a Lingam to worship at an appointed auspicious hour. As Human’s arrival was delayed, Sita moulded a lingam for Rama’s timely worship. It is the main deity being worshiped as Ramanathaswamy. Disappointed Hunuman was later consoled by Rama by installing the Lingam which was brought by him a little north of Ramanatha, and decreed that the Hunuman’s lingam should have precedence over the Ramanatha in all honours. 

clip_image017clip_image018Agnitheertham: The calm shallow water-spread of the sea, present hardly 100 meters in front of the   temple gopuram  is considered as sacred. A dip in the Agnitheertham is considered to remove the sins of the pilgrims. The other theerthams (holy water tanks) in and around the temple are also important for Pilgrims… 

clip_image020Gandhamathana Parvatham: A hillock situated 3 KMs to the north of the temple is the highest point in the island. There is a two storeyed Mandapam, where Rama’s feet (Padam) is found as an imprint on a chakra. Pilgrims throng in thousands to worship Gandhamathana Parvatham.   Sukreevar Temple  and Theertham are situated on the way to Gandhamadana Parvatham. 

clip_image022Dhanushkodi: The southernmost tip of the island is called Dhanushkodi. It was completely washed away by a cyclone in 1964. But the   Kothandaramasamy Temple  here remains intact. It is 18 KMs way from Rameswaram can be reached by road. A popular belief is that, it is where Vibishana a brother of Ravana surrendered before Rama. Dhanushkodi has a fine beach, where Sea surfing is possible.

Kurusadai Island : This Island lies to the west of the   Pamban Bridge  between the mainland and the island. It is a Marine Biosphere, a paradise for the Marine Biologists and nature lovers. Marine wealth are abound here which attract many a scholars and researchers to this Island . It is about 4 KMs from Mandapam. One should approach fisheries department for permission to visit this island. Off   Kurusadai Island   one could see plenty of coral-reef, fish. Dolphins and sea-cows (Dugong) are also often witnessed…  

Ramanathapuram: An ancient town, and now the head quarters of the district. It was from here the Sethupathis (Chieftains) ruled this territory. Ramalingavilasam Palace with good painting and Tomb of Thayumana swamigal, are the places worth visiting. A Museum is functioning here.

DEVI PATINAM: A coastal village is also known as Navashabashanam.It is believed that Lord Rama worshipped Navagraha here. The temple near by here, is dedicated to Devi, who is said to have killed the demon Mahishasura at this spot. Hindus perform religious rites for their forefathers here…


SATCHI HANUMAN TEMPLE: This is where Hanuman said to have delivered the good news of sita’s well being to Rama with an evidance choodamanai(Jewel) of Sita. 

FIVE FACED HANUMAN TEMPLE: Hanuman is adorned with senthooram here. The stone said to have used to construct the floating bridge Sethu Bandanam could be seen here…


A place of Puranic importance, Sethu karai (meaning the   Sethu Coast   ) is an important pilgrim centre having religious significance owing to the belief that Lord Ram is said to have constructed a bridge from here over the sea waters to reach   Sri Lanka  . It is a hallowed place for Hindus as they conduct their religious rites in this place and is situated around 68 kilometers from Rameswaram and is near Erwadi Dharga…


Just opposite the Rameswaram Bus Stand, one can catch a quick glimpse of an assortment of underwater creatures in their near natural habitat in the ‘Sea World Aquarium’ – the only one of its kind in the state, and probably in the country too, filled with such varied marine life forms including exotic species such as Octopus, Snake fish, Parrot fish, Sea lizard, Sea squid, Cow fish, Lion fish, Rabbit fish, Fire fish, Butter fish, Clown fish, Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns, Sea Lotus, Beach Tamet, Star Fishes, Sea Horses and Sharks. This is quite an eye-opener for young tourists & kids and lovers of marine life.

clip_image024MANDAPAM & PAMBAN

Lying on the Ramanathapuram –   Rameswaram National Highway  and just 19 kms before Rameswaram lies this sleepy coastal   village of Mandapam   . Prior to the 1914 train service linking the mainland with Rameswaram, boats were the only mode of transport to ship the pilgrims on their journey to Rameswaram. It is possible to take a boat for a cruise through the mangrove marshes to   Kurusadai Island   .

There is a possibility to convert this opportunity into a tourist attraction by providing small mechanized boats from Mandapam for both cruises as well as discovery of the coral reefs in neighbouring islands subject to non-pollution and destabilization of the fragile and precious marine ecosystem of this region.


Rameshwaram – the corridor of faith


Rameswaram (Chennai to Rameswaram 572 km) is a small island in the Gulf of Mannar, is a major pilgrim centre. It is connected to the mainland by road and railway bridges. Rameswaram is a holy place because Sri Rama, on his return from Sri Lanka, offered his thanks to Lord Shiva and performed pooja to wash away his sin in killing the Demon King, Ravana. 

Rameswaram is known for its 22 theerthas or wells in and around the main temple. This place is equally sacred to both Vaishnavites and Shaivites. According to Hindu Mythology, if one visits Rameswaram and prays to Lord Shiva one will be relieved of one’s sins. It is 197 metres long.

The Ramanathaswamy temple is renowned for its magnificent corridors and massive sculptured pillars. The third corridor of Ramanathaswamy temple is the longest one in the world.

Besides pilgrimage, Rameswaram Island has several places, which are ideal picnic spots. There are beautiful beaches at Olaikuda, Dhanushkodi and Pamban. The Olaikuda beach is 1 km from the main temple and s engulfed by coral reefs, which makes bathing in the sea safe and enjoyable. With diving glasses and respiration tubes, scuba diving is safe and possible. Flamingos, sea gulls and a variety of birds migrate to the Rameswaram Island during winter. 

Rameswaram is a main fishing centre of Tamil Nadu. Variety of fishes including export quality fish like prawns, sea cucumber, and lobster are available here. Rameswaram is also famous for its dry fish…

10.Kothandaramaswamy Temple  This temple is located 12 kms away from Rameswaram. A popular belief is that Vibishana, brother of Ravana, surrendered before Rama here.


Rama Setu: political exchanges, peoples’ movement

Sethu: BJP quotes 1956 report

(Deccan Chronicle, 22 Nov. 2007)

Chennai, Nov. 21: Sir A.R. Mudaliar in his report in 1956 had suggested that Sethusamudram shipping project should not be executed with the present alignment, as it would lead to navigational hazards, BJP state president L. Ganesan said.

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Ganesan said that Sir Mudaliar had reported that shifting sandbanks in the Ramar Sethu area presented a far more formidable problem — both at the stage of construction and during maintenance than the sand dunes on the Danushkodi island site. “Approaches to a channel would be far too open with no possibility of construction of protective works. A channel at this site—even if it can be made (which is unlikely) would entail definite navigational hazard,” Sir Mudaliar had said in his report. Mr Ganesan said that in these circumstances the idea of cutting a passage in the sea through Ramar Sethu should be abandoned.

“Mr Karunanidhi and Mr Baalu should not hurt the sentiments of millions of Hindus, who believe that Lord Rama had built the bridge across the ocean to Lanka. Instead they can operate numerous ships to the Ramar Sethu for pilgrims to worship Lord Rama and for tourists to visit the site,” he said, adding that during 1974 he had visited the site in a catamaran for a rupee.

Refuting the charges made by the Congress and DMK that BJP did not take any steps to announce it as a national monument, Mr Ganesan said that there was no danger to Ramar Sethu during our regime, so there was no reason for us to declare it as a national monument but now the Congress and DMK pose a grave danger to the bridge so it is time for us to raise the alarm. : BJP quotes 1956 report

Karunanidhi’s thoughts on Sethu project

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Chief Minister M.Karunanidhi’s thoughts on Sethusamudram have been compiled as a book. The 60-page booklet, ‘Sethu,’ is priced at Rs.5 and published by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

In it, Mr. Karunanidhi elucidates in simple language the need for the project and makes a compelling argument on why it should be completed at an early date.

“We have printed one lakh copies. It is available at Anna Arivalayam,” Mr. Karunanidhi said when asked about the book. He has been giving copies to many who met him at his residence.

Earlier, Mr.Karunanidhi had written a series of articles in the party organ ‘Murasoli’ on the various aspects of the canal project in October this year.

In a letter in 2002, Mr. Karunanidhi pointed out that the DMK had been raising the issue for the past 50 years.

“I have written personal letters and spoken to most of the Prime Ministers about it,” he said.

Contending that the project was as important as the Suez canal and the Panama Canal, Mr. Karunanidhi said its implementation would help many ports in the region — Colachel, Muttam, Tuticorin, Rameswaram, Nagapattinam, Karaikkal, Cuddalore, Puducherry, Chennai and Visakhapatnam.

It would boost economic development of backward areas such as Tirunelveli, Tuticorin, Virudhunagar, Karaikudi, Tirupattur, Madurai and Nagercoil.

Ram Setu: Religious leaders challenge Karunanidhi to debate

17 Nov 2007, 1932 hrs IST , PTI

CHENNAI: Criticising Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi for his remarks on Lord Ram, Hindu religious leaders on Saturday challenged him to a public debate on the Ram Sethu issue.

“We respect Karunanidhi as an elder statesman of the country. But his insulting remarks on Lord Ram have hurt the sentiments of saints, heads of ‘Mutts’ and millions of Hindus. We are unhappy with him for the remarks. I dare him to have a debate with me on the issue,” said Visvesh Theertha Swami of Udipi Pejawar Mutt.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the “Southern Bharat Conference of Matathipathis, Dharmacharyas and religious scholars” in Chennai to discuss ways to protect Ram Sethu, he said Karunanidhi had not yet responded to his earlier invitation for a debate.

Prasanna Sura Madhava Theertha of Madhava Theertha Mutt said that as Chief Minister, Karunanidhi had taken the oath under the Constitution and should not “insult” any religion. “Such actions can not be tolerated. They are representatives of the public and should not vitiate the atmosphere by making such remarks,” he added.

“Those who enjoy power in the name of Mahatma Gandhi have forgotten that Gandhi himself was a Ram devotee. Now they are questioning the existence of Ram. This is not proper,” he said.

While Karunanidhi has maintained that Ram and Ram Sethu are figments of imagination, the tourism department beckoned tourists to Rameswaram with an advertisement that “the footprints of Ram and the floating stone ‘Sethu Bandanam’ used to build the Sethu are worth seeing,” the religious figures said. This showed the duplicity of the Tamil Nadu Government, they alleged.


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