Protect Ram Sethu as ‘Underwater Cultural Heritage’-President, Society for Marine Archaeology

published on March 21, 2008

sr rao.jpgS.R.Rao,
Former Scientist emeritus
President- Society for
Marine Archaeology in India


Submerged sites and towns as
well as ship-wrecks constitute a very important cultural heritage of mankind;
which the UNESCO wants the states to explore, list and protect them under a UN
convention approved by the U.N. the ICOMOS international committee on
underwater cultural heritage (ICUCH) consisting of “Underwater Cultural


The ILA’s Definition on
underwater Cultural Heritage includes all underwater traces of human existence,
which are of historical or cultural importance including sites, buildings,
shipwrecks, together with their archaeological and natural context. The Ram
Sethu comes under this category. It is refereed to in the Epic Ramayana and in
the Puranas. At the site known as Ram Sethu, the natural rock and the ‘piles of
stone’ laid on it have been submerged with the rise in sea level over 5000
years or more.


This rise of sea level was
not confined to Dvaraka of Mahabharata period in Saurashtra. The underwater
exploration by Marine Archeology centre (MAC) in NIO Goa along west coast has
revealed that the prehistoric ports of Somnath and Prabhas were also submerged
as is evident from the submerged channel waylaid for bringing ships and the
presence of anchors and mooring stones in it. In the ElephantaIsland
, the early historic brick structures of 1st century B.C to 3rd century 
A.D. have been submerged. The Buddhist period port of sopora is also
submerged.  On the east coast of India, traces of poompuhar port
town have been found in the sea as well as intertidal zone.


 The rock of Ram Sethu must have been in the
intertidal zone and stones must have been piled up to enable the army to cross
the sea easily. Over thousands of years small size stone blocks of bridges must
have been transported by waves and currents. The frequent textual references to
Ram Sethu are not to be dismissed as myths. (Mr.R.Subbarayalu has
compiled two millennium old references found in Tamil literature in a 200
page book ‘Sethu Bandhanam’). 


Even the submergence of
Dvaraka was considered a myth until the buildings were discovered.

The national institute of Oceanography
in cooperation with ASI should be asked to undertake the survey listing and
protection of important underwater sites and shipwrecks. This works must be
undertaken by the Government of India and State Governments as laid down in UN
Convention on Protection of Underwater cultural heritage.


 Ram Sethu must not be damaged but saved and
protected. The MAC had initiated certain steps for survey and listing of
underwater cultural Heritage of India and even published a tentative map
showing shipwrecks sites and submerged parts. Before further damage is done by
nature and men to this vast underwater heritage of India, immediate survey
listing of Sites with a brief note on each wreck or site should be done ,
giving highest priority to Ram Sethu.

For Under Water Images

» Findings of Dwaraka Excavatio
» Underwater Ruins of Mahabalipuram
» Poompuhar Exhibition



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