When it comes to Hindu/Muslim antagonism, nothing stokes the fires quite like the topic of Rama, the second most popular Avatar of Vishnu (statistically speaking, first-place goes to Krishna, but given they are manifestations of the same deity, it’s akin to arguing over whom your favorite Doctor Who is; they’re all the Doctor, even the cringey ones).
One of the most contentious issues has to do with Ayodhya, the purported birthplace of Rama, a location where the early 16th century Mogul Emperor Babur decided to erect a Mosque, an act which has had violent ramifications up through the 21st century.
This isn’t that story.
No, this is about a different contentious site, one that has been submerged for centuries.
This is the story of Rama Sethu, also known as Adam’s Bridge.
You are the rightful heir to the throne, but one of your step-mothers has called in a very old favor (Blood oaths cut deeper than the original wounds), which has resulted in your banishment to the forest.
On either side are your half brother, Lakshmana, and your wife, Sita.
Through a very unfortunate encounter with a female Titan (an Asura, to be precise), your presence has come to the attention of her brother, the very fierce, very religious, ten-headed Asura King, Ravana.
To add to the problem, your blushing bride, Sita, has also come to his attention, so much so that he abducts her to his mythical island Kingdom, Lanka.
Is this the same as the Island Nation of Sri Lanka, off the Southern coast of India, formerly known Ceylon?
Textually, from the oldest versions of the Ramayana [there are quite literally hundreds of different versions, not counting English translations], this can be questioned. However, from a story telling standpoint, most of those who share this tale assume the two are the same.
So let’s run with them…
And that means running across Rama’s Bridge.
Which means you have to build said bridge; this is where your new best friend, the Monkey Lord Hanuman comes into the picture, because he has the ability to rouse up his monkey friends, and soon you have an army of bridge builders.
Soon, you have a bridge.
30 miles long, this ‘natural’ land bridge is tall enough that as long as you’re over 3 feet tall, you can still walk over it. In fact, there are records of this being a commercial walkway as recently as the 15th century C.E. (that’s recent, in terms of archeology).
So where does the Biblical Adam come into this?
Abu Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni (973 – after 1050), known as al-Biruni, was an Iranian scholar and polymath during the Islamic Golden Age.
Well, he’s been called the “founder of Indology”, the “Father of Comparative Religion”, the “Father of modern geodesy [Earth Sceinces]”, and the first anthropologist.
Damn, I don’t feel so smart anymore.
Homeboy wrote at least 146 books; 95 are devoted to astronomy, mathematics, and related subjects like mathematical geography.
In his Tārīkh al-Hind (c. 1030), Al-Bruni uses the name Adam’s Bridge, referring to Islamic folklore regarding the Biblical Adam:
It goes as follows…
Eden was in Heaven, not on Earth. Therefor when Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, he fell, just like the Angels who had previously revolted against God had fallen.
Only, Adam’s descent ended in Sri Lanka, of all places.
Specifically, at a mountain known as Adam’s Peak (worthy of its own post, as it is sacred to Shaivites and Buddhists as well).
From here, he headed towards India…
Using Adam’s Bridge.
And the take-away?
Are people drawn to the same places, to claim them, because they feel a genuine pull, a liminal attraction?
Or is this just an example of showboating, a hollow victory lap meant to punch down on the losers?
Or is the answer somewhere in between?
I like to think that Rama and Adam are having this discussion over a cup of fresh Soma/Amrita,in whatever celestial bar the Immortals gather at.
Either way, here’s to hoping that commercial sea faring interests don’t destroy the Bridge.
I, for one, wouldn’t want to piss off either Rama or Adam.