By Madhavananda Dasa
“A brahmana sees through the sastras.
A king sees through his spies.
A cow sees through its nose. (to detect eatables)
And, an ordinary man sees through his eyes.”
The above quote (also quoted at the beginning of Shyamasundar prabhu’s article) would very firmly establish that Sri Lanka IS the Lanka of Ramayana as there are innumerable shastric references to confirm this fact. I feel that the main premise for Syamasundara prabhu to not accept Sri Lanka as the Lanka of Ramayana is the DISTANCE mentioned in the Ramayana, Sundara Kanda and Yuddha kanda between Bharatavarsha to Sri Lanka to be 100 yojanas which is 800 miles or 1287 kilometers. The Rama Setu, Lord Rama’s bridge is specifically mentioned in Ramayana, Yuddha kanda, Chapter 22, text 76 to be 100 yojanas (1287 kms) long and 10 yojanas (128 kms) wide and was built in just 5 days. Presently, the Rama Setu from Dhanushkoti in India to Talai Mannar in Sri Lanka is only 48 kms long. This apparent and huge difference in the distance has led many scholars to propose that Lanka of the Ramayana may be a different place than present day Sri Lanka. Suggested alternatives put forth have been as diverse as Maldives, Bali, Java, Australia or a land mass underneath the sea. But we need to check what is the basis of these propositions? Most are based on wild speculations and distorted interpretations. And now we have Shyamasunadar prabhu proposing that Lanka of the Ramayana being a land mass underneath the sea near the equator – again based on many misinterpretations.
Actually, the difference in distance can very easily be reconciled by understanding the principle of yuga bheda and kala bheda, differences that occur in material manifestations by the influence of time and the changing millenniums. Here are a few examples : It is clearly mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam, 10.52.2 that when Muchukunda, who had been in deep slumber since the satya yuga, woke up in Dwapara yuga, he noticed that the size of all the human beings, animals, trees and plants was severely reduced (samviknya knullakan martyan pasun virud-vanaspatin). In Srimad Bhagavatam, 10.52.12, when Jarasandha was chasing Krishna and Balarama, They climbed a mountain named Pravarshana. Jarasandha set fire around the mountain and Krishna and Balarama jumped from the mountaintop from a height of Eleven yojanas!!! (88 miles or 142 kms). The Pravarshana Mountain, which probably may not be the highest mountain in dwapara yuga (as the Himalayas may have been the highest), located somewhere in North or Central India is mentioned to be 142 kms high. The tallest mountain in kali yuga according to modern scientists is Mount Everest which is only 8.848 kms, or less than 9 kms (not even 1 yojana). In Ramayana also, there is a description of a mountain 100 yojanas in height (800 miles or 1288 kms). Even if it may be argued that the mountain might be submerged in the sea, scientists say that the deepest point in the sea is the Challenger deep in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean and it is 10.994 kms deep (again less than 1 yojana). Thus in kali yuga, there is no mountain more than 1 yojana in height whereas in Treta yuga, we see mountains over 100 yojanas in height. Even at the end of Dvapara yuga and beginning of kali yuga, we see mountains 11 yojanas high. There are innumerable examples of geographical descriptions in the Vedic scriptures which are incomprehensible to the tiny brains of kali yuga. The faithless outrightly reject these descriptions and brand the scriptures to be mythology, legends or epics. Those with some faith try to adjust these with some interpretation or try to connect with some scientific explanation as if Science is of absolute credibility.
As Shyamasundar prabhu mentions,
Krsna explains in Bhagavad-gita 8.4 “Physical nature is known to be endlessly mutable.” Hence it is not unreasonable to infer that the sea level would also be subjected to periods of rising and falling throughout the history of the material creation including the time during and after the Ramayana.
By the same logic that physical nature is mutable, why can’t he accept and reconcile the difference of distance of Sri Lanka as mentioned in Ramayana and at the present?
Shyamasundar prabhu, in his article, takes a few scriptural quotes and then tries to adjust the situation mainly with outlandish and childish scientific theories like the “Ice ages and Changing Sea level” and “Volcanic activity”. I just read the Wikipedia links of the Ice ages – just pure imagination of the fertile scientists’ brains – or pure fiction. Prabhu, if you really wish to know the various ages of the world, please drop all ideas of Ice ages and refer the Srimad Bhagavatam (especially 3rd Canto) and the puranas which give exact descriptions of all ages right from the beginning of creation and even of the future ages and even of what is beyond the domain of Time, Kala. You are seeing the distance mentioned in Ramayana from the eyes of Scripture and then basing most of your arguments for locating the real Lanka on ordinary eyes (by scientific theories) with hardly any scriptural confirmation. The whole presentation and the conclusion are thus self contradictory.
If you say,
Anyone who objects must in turn be able to give a credible answer to the question of why “Sri Lanka-Ceylon” is not found where the sastras say Lanka should be? At least 100 yojanas (1287 km) away, on or near the equator, and at the meridian passing through Avanti. What I have shown closely agrees with sastra but the location of modern “Sri Lanka-Ceylon” does not.
If the same distance has remained from Treta yuga, then you should also be able to show the mountains from Ramayana which are 1287 kms high or at least 2 yojanas high.
You base your argument that Lanka is on the same meridian as Avanti with the below reference,
“Situated upon the line which passes through the haunt of the demons (rakshasa) and the mountain which is the seat of the gods, are Rohitaka and Avanti, as also the adjacent lake.” Suryasiddhanta 1.62
Dear prabhu, where is LANKA mentioned in the above reference? We can take it to be just your or Whitney’s interpretation for the haunt of the Rakshasas to be Lanka.
And, in the Siddhantas “Lanka” is taken to be the place with no longitude and latitude.
Dear prabhu, can I have the original reference to even consider addressing this point. Without direct scriptural evidence, these are just speculations.
In your conclusion, you say,
In conclusion I have thus adumbrated a basic proof of concept that modern “Sri Lanka” is not the Lanka of the Ramayana on the following basis. Ceylon was only recently named “Sri Lanka” in 1972.
There can be nothing further from the truth – Ceylon was the name given to Lanka by the British. It is not that it was named Sri Lanka only in 1972. The island is referred by the name Lanka since historical times. The history of Sri Lankan kings from 543 BC is recorded in the book, ‘Mahavamsa’ where the island is mentioned as Lanka HUNDREDS of times. Sripada Shankaracharya has also mentioned in his astadasha shakti pitha stotra, “lankaayaam Shaankari devi’ in glorification of the Shankari Devi temple in Trincomalee, East Sri Lanka. The name Lanka is also mentioned several times in the work, Lankaavatara Sutra, compiled around 443 AD. Srila Prabhupada has also mentioned in Krishna book, chapter 79, wherein he equates Ceylon with Lanka,
After visiting Rangaknetra, Lord Balarama gradually proceeded toward Madurai, commonly known as the Mathura of southern India. After visiting this place, He gradually proceeded toward Setubandha, the place where Lord Ramacandra constructed the stone bridge from India to Lanka (Ceylon). In this particularly holy place, Lord Balarama distributed ten thousand cows to the local brahmana priests.
And as we both said in the beginning, A brahmana sees through the sastras, Please find the below scriptural references to substantiate the fact that Sri Lanka is indeed the Lanka of Ramayana,
1) Rama setu is located from Dhanushkoti (Rameshwaram) to Talai Mannar in Sri Lanka.
A brief note from Wikipedia,
Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu is a chain of limestone shoals, between Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka.
The bridge is 30 miles (48 km) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (southwest) from the Palk Strait (northeast). Some of the sandbanks are dry and the sea in the area is very shallow, being only 1 to 10 metres (3 to 30 ft) deep in places, which hinders navigation. It was reportedly passable on foot up to the 15th century until storms deepened the channel: temple records seem to say that Adam’s Bridge was completely above sea level until it broke in a cyclone in 1480.
The bridge was first mentioned in the ancient Indian Sanskrit epic Ramayana of Valmiki. The name Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu (Sanskrit; setu: bridge) refers to the bridge built by the Vanara army of Rama in Hindu theology with instructions from Nala, which he used to reach Lanka and rescue his wife Sita from the Rakshasa king, Ravana. The Ramayana attributes the building of this bridge to Rama in verse 6-22-76, naming it as Setubandhanam, a name that persists until today.
The sea separating India and Sri Lanka is called Sethusamudram meaning “Sea of the Bridge”. Maps prepared by a Dutch cartographer in 1747, available at the Thanjavur Saraswathi Mahal Library show this area as Ramancoil, a colloquial form of the Tamil Raman Kovil (or Rama’s Temple). Another map of Mughal India prepared by J. Rennel in 1788 retrieved from the same library called this area as “the area of the Rama Temple”, referring to the temple dedicated to Rama at Rameswaram. Many other maps in Schwartzberg’s historical atlas and other sources such as travel texts by Marco Polo call this area by various names such as Sethubandha and Sethubandha Rameswaram.
The western world first encountered it in “historical works in the 9th century” by Ibn Khordadbeh in his Book of Roads and Kingdoms, referring to it is Set Bandhai or “Bridge of the Sea”. Later, Alberuni described it. The earliest map that calls this area by the name Adam’s bridge was prepared by a British cartographer in 1804.
2) Rameshwaram is Setu Bandha, one of the four dhamas
You say that
How can you say that “Sri Lanka” is not the Lanka of the Ramayana when there are so many temples and pilgrimage sites in “Sri Lanka” and in India near Rameshwaram where the pastimes mentioned in the Ramayana took place and that are visited by millions of pilgrims yearly. Surely they all can’t be wrong.
In reply to this I would just like to point out that Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu appeared relatively recently in 1486, 530 years ago. His birth place was on the banks of the Ganga. Within a short period of time after His departure the channel of the Ganga changed its course and His birthplace was lost and covered in water. The Ganga changed its course several times and memory of His actual birthplace was lost. But this didn’t stop people from building temples and claiming that a different city was the birth place of Lord Caitanya and millions of people believed that to be true until Bhaktivinode Thakura with great dectective work was able to find the actual site of Mahaprabhu’s appearance. So if in only a few hundred years so much confusion arose in regards to Lord Caitanya’s actual place of birth, what to speak then of what confusion can happen in the interval since the end of the last Treta Yuga more than 800,000 years ago.
I think you are basically implying that the Ramayana pilgrimage sites in South India and even Ramesvaram have all been lost in confusion. Let me help you to PLEASE REDISCOVER them with scriptural references,
Srila Prabhbupada says,
There are four dhamas, or kingdoms of God, which represent the planets of the spiritual sky, which consists of the brahmajyoti and the Vaikunthas. These are Badarikasrama, Ramesvara, Jagannatha Puri and Dvaraka. Faithful Hindus still visit all these holy places for perfection of spiritual realization, following in the footsteps of devotees like Uddhava.
Purport, SB 3.4.22
Places of pilgrimage yield a special advantage for a devotee in quickly advancing his spiritual life. Lord Krnna lives everywhere, but still it is very easy to approach Him in holy places of pilgrimage because these places are inhabited by great sages… There are many places of pilgrimage in India, and especially prominent are Badari-narayana, Dvaraka, Ramesvara and Jagannatha puri. These sacred places are called the four dhamas. Dhama refers to a place where one can immediately contact the Supreme Lord.
Purport, SB 4.8.42
3) Vibhishana is still considered to be the divine ruler of Sri Lanka and would remain the ruler of Lanka for one kalpa (a day of Brahma or 1000 maha yugas). In Srimad Bhagavatam 9.10.32, Shukadeva Gosvami narrates,
lankam ayus ca kalpantam
yayau cirna-vratah purim
After giving Vibhinana the power to rule the Raknasa population of Lanka for the duration of one kalpa, Lord Ramacandra, the Supreme Personality of Godhead [Bhagavan], placed Sitadevi on an airplane decorated with flowers and then got on the plane Himself. The period for His living in the forest having ended, the Lord returned to Ayodhya, accompanied by Hanuman, Sugriva and His brother Laknmana.
Even 5,000 years back, Shukadeva Gosvami does not mention that Lanka is lost or submerged within the sea. CAN YOU PROVIDE ANY SCRIPTURAL REFERENCE THAT LANKA IS LOST OR SUBMERGED IN THE SEA? Definitely I am not going to accept the Ice ages or bathymetrical maps or volcanic activity theories to ascertain the location of Lanka. In fact, we can clearly ascertain from the statements of Srimad Bhagavatam that Lanka exists as the kingdom of Vibhishana till the end of this kalpa.
In many stotras to Lord Ranaganatha composed by great acharyas, it is mentioned that he still comes from Lanka once in 12 years to worship Lord Ranganatha in Sri Rangam. There are many Temples dedicated to Vibhishana in Sri Lanka. The place where he was coronated as the King of Lanka is called Kelaniya and there is a beautiful stone carving of Lakshmana coronating Vibhishana who is seated with his wife Sarama. Kelaniya is 15 kms from Colombo. There is also a separate shrine for Vibhishana here.
4) Lord Balarama visited Setu Bandha as mentioned in Srimad Bhagavatam, 10.79.15
rnabhadrim hareh knetram
dakninam mathuram tatha
samudram setum agamat
From there Balarama went to Rnabha Mountain, where Lord Krnna also lives, and to the southern Mathura. Then He came to Setubandha, where the most grievous sins are destroyed.
5) Setu Bandha was visited by Lord Chaitanya and vividly described in Chaitanya Charitamrita. Lord Chaitanya took bath in the dhanus tirtha (dhanushkoti) from where Rama Setu begins to Lanka. Was Lord Chaitanya in illusion not to identify the fake bridge to Lanka?
Please refer the below section from CC,
CC Madhya, chapter 1, text 116
tabe prabhu kaila sapta-tala vimocana
setu-bandhe snana, ramesvara darasana
After that, Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu delivered the celebrated Sapta-tala trees, took His bath at Setubandha Ramesvara and visited the temple of Lord Siva known as Ramesvara.
setubandhe asi’ kaila dhanus-tirthe snana
ramesvara dekhi’ tahan karila visrama
Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then went to Setubandha [Ramesvara], where He took His bath at the place called Dhanus-tirtha. From there He visited the Ramesvara temple and then took rest.
The path from Mandapam through the ocean to the island known as Pambam consists partly of sand and partly of water. The island of Pambam is about seventeen miles long and six miles wide. On this island, four miles north of Pambam Harbor, is Setubandha, where the temple of Ramesvara is located. This is a temple of Lord Siva, and the name Ramesvara indicates that he is a great personality whose worshipable Deity is Lord Rama. Thus the Lord Siva found in the temple of Ramesvara is a great devotee of Lord Ramacandra. It is said, devi-pattanam arabhya gaccheyuh setu-bandhanam: “After visiting the temple of the goddess Durga, one should go to the temple of Ramesvara.”
In this area there are twenty-four different holy places, one of which is Dhanus-tirtha, located about twelve miles southeast of Ramesvara. It is near the last station of the South Indian Railway, a station called Ramnad. It is said that here, on the request of Ravana’s younger brother Vibhinana, Lord Ramacandra destroyed the bridge to Lanka with His bow while returning to His capital. It is also said that one who visits Dhanus-tirtha is liberated from the cycle of birth and death, and that one who bathes there gets all the fruitive results of performing the yajna known as Agnintoma.
6) Further description of Rameswaram, Setu and its partial destruction by Lord Rama from Padma Purana, Srishti Khanda, chapter 40. Text 130 – 154
Hearing this from Raghava, Vibhishana replied, ‘All that you have ordered shall be obediently executed. However, O Lord, this sacred setu of yours could be used by all the people of the world to enter into Lanka and therefore it should be obstructed. Hearing these words uttered by the best of the Rakshasa, The Scion of Raghu took in His hands the missile karmukam, and breached the setu in the middle at two places over a length of ten yojanas, therefore dividing it into three parts with a one-yojana gap on the either side. Then approaching the shore-forest, he worshipped Mahadeva, the Lord of Uma. There he established the three- eyed Mahadeva by the name of Rameshwara. Rama, the Great Prince then prohibited the Sagara, that the Southern Sea should neither thunder there, nor flow across. Issuing his prohibitions in this way, Rama then sent off sea god Sagara. Further, Lord Shiva then glorifies Lord Rama and says, O Raghunandana, any man who comes to this place, created by You and even glances at the sea, would be washed of all sinful reactions.
The sea at Rameshwaram to this day is according to the description of Padma Purana with NO waves. The Agni tirtha at the sea burns all sinful reactions by the mercy of Lord Rama. Further confirmation of this pastime is recorded at the Adi Jagannatha Temple at Darbhashayanam where the alwars say that Lord Rama obtained the divine bow from Lord Jagannatha and then partially destroyed the bridge.
6) Setu Bandha was visited by Lord Nityananda as recorded in Chaitanya Bhagavata
CB Adi-khanda 9.194
hena-mate nityananda bhrame’ prema-rase
setubandhe ailena kateka divase
After traveling in this ecstatic mood for some days, Nityananda arrived at Setubandha.
CB Adi-khanda 9.195
dhanu-tirthe snana kari’ gela ramesvara
tabe prabhu ailena vijayanagara
After taking bath at Dhanus-tirtha, He went to see Lord Ramesvara. Then the Lord went to Vijayanagara.
7) The place where Lord Rama began the construction of the setu is Tiruppulani, near Rameshwaram. It is one among the 108 Divya Deshams glorified by the Alwars, the great pure devotees of the Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya. The temple is Adi Jagannatha Temple and the spot from where the bridge was built is known as Sethu Karai. Tiruppulani is also known as Darbhashayanam, the place where Lord Rama seated Himself on darbha grass and invoked the presence of Samudra, who then obliged the Lord that the stone bridge would float on the sea. There is also a charming Deity of Darbhashayana Rama, Lord Rama lying on darbha grass in the Temple. There is a Hanuman Temple at Setu Karai, the beginning of Rama Setu. The temple is revered in 20 verses of Thirumangai Azhwar in his Periya Thirumozhi in Nalayira Divya Prabandham wherein he also glorifies this pastime.
8) Skanda Purana, Brahma Khanda has an elaborate section containing 52 chapters of Setu Mahatmya with description of the various pastime places of the Ramayana. Most of these holy places are still existing in Rameswaram and nearby areas.
The Setu pranama mantra is,
raghuvira pada nyaasa pavitri krita paamsave
dashakantha shira ccheda hetave setave namah
ketave raamachandrasya moksha maargaika hetave
sitaayaa maanasaambhoja bhaanave setava namah
I offer my respectful obeisances to Rama Setu, which is greatly sanctified due to the dust of the Lotus feet of Lord Rama. This setu is the cause of Ravana’s destruction. It is the Supreme Glory of Lord Ramachandra and the path to liberation. The setu is like the Sun that blooms the lotus mind of Sita. I offer my respectful obeisances to this setu.
Some of the important chapters concerning pilgrimage spots that still exist are
1. The glories of Setu
2. The Construction of Setu
3. Dharmatirtha Becomes Famous as Chakratirtha
10. The Sanctifying Power of Papavinasa tirtha
11. Glorification of Sita Lake:
12. Glorification of Mangala Tirtha
13. The Glory of Amrtavapi
14. Brahma’s Redemption from Siva’s Curse
15. The Glory of Hanumat kunda
16. The Glory of Agasti Tirtha
17. The Glory of Agastyakunda
18. The Glory of Ramakunda
19. The Glory of Laksmanatritha
20. The Glory of Jataritha
21. The Glory of Laksmitirtha
22. The Glory of Agnitirtha
23. The Glory of Cakratirtha
24. The Glory of Sivatirtha
25. The Glory of Sankhatirtha
26. The Greatness of Ganga, Yamuna and Gaya
27. The Glory of Kotitirtha
28. The Glory of Sadhyamrtatirtha
29. The Glory of Sarvatirtha
30. The Glory of Dhanushkoti
31. The Glory of Kotitirtha
32 to 36. The Glory of Dhanushkoti
38. The Glory of Ksirakunda
39. The Glory of Kapitirtha
40. The Glory of Gayatri and Sarasvati Tirthas
41. The Glory of Gayatri and Sarasvati Kundas
42. Rnamocana and Other Tirthas
43. The Glory of Ramanatha
44. The Installation of the Linga of Ramanatha
51. Pilgrimage to Setu
52. The Glory of Setu
Pls note just one of the thousands of the glories of setu from Skanda purana,
setu saikata madhyeyah
shete tat paamsu kunthitah
yaavantah paamsavo lagnaas
taavat aabramha hatyaanaam
naashah syaann naatra samshayah
setu madhyastha vaatena
yasyaangah sprishyate’ akhilam
If one lies down on Setu’s banks and sticks the sand on the body, the number of as many sand particles would absolve as many Brahmahatya sins. The touch of the wind on one’s body from the mid-banks of Setu would destroy the sin of ten thousand ‘Surapaanaas’ (drinking intoxicants).
9) Over 50 places have been identified in Sri Lanka with connections to the pastimes of Ramayana including Ashoka Vana, Ramboda, Sita Pokuna (Sita Tear Pond), Vibhishana’s Coronation site, Ravana’s Capital, Sita agni pariksha, Nikumbhila cave etc. There were grand Temples at most of these places since historical times. The Portuguese came to Sri Lanka in 1505 and by 1650, they had destroyed practically all the temples there. The Sita Rama Temple at Ashoka Vana, near Nuwara Eliya in Central Sri Lanka is said to have been exceedingly grand and opulent by Potuguese historians and it was completely razed. A Temple has again been rebuilt at the same site. There is also a stream where Sita would take bath and there are many Footprints of Hanuman embedded in the stone. At Divurumpola in Central Sri Lanka, is the site of Sita Agni Pariksha with a nice temple of Sita. Even today, the old temple wall stones can be seen here. At Ussangoda, is the site of Ravana’s airport which was burnt by Hanuman. The stone here is blackish and charred from within. Japanese researchers have dated these stones to be 2 million years old – which is the period of Treta yuga. I have personally visited most of the Ramayana sites in Sri Lanka and have taken many pilgrims as well.
10) Sripada Shankaracharya composed the “Ashtadasha Shakti pitha Stotra” in which the first reference is of Shankari Devi in Sri Lanka – lankaayaam shaankari devi. The temple still exists today at Trincomalee, East Sri Lanka and is one of the main pilgrimage sites in Sri Lanka. Thus, Shankaracharya, who is the incarnation of Lord Shiva has also identified Sri Lanka. There are many pastime places of Ramayana in this area as well including Ravana Vettai and Ravana Kanniya hot spring wells.
13) Another Shakti Pitha in Sri Lanka according to the Puranas is Indrakshi Devi, which is located in Nagadvipa near Jaffna. There is an elaborate glorification of this kshetra in the puranas and also Indrakshi stotra composed by Indra. This also confirms that this island is indeed Sri Lanka
14) Skanda Purana narrates the incidence of Skanda leaving Kailasa and coming to Sri Lanka, killing the demon Sura padma in Lanka and marrying Valli, the daughter of the Vedda chief Nambi and settling in Karthika grama, known today as Kataragama. The Veddas are still considered the oldest tribes of Sri Lanka. The Karthikeya Temple of Kataragama is a great place of pilgrimage in Sri Lanka and this is further confirmation of the location of Sri Lanka.
15) Sri Lanka is a holy place sanctified by the dust of the lotus feet of the Supreme Lord Rama and His eternal associates and is still ruled by the great devotee Vibhishana. Srila Prabhuapada gave a devotee the initiated spiritual name – Sri Lanka Dasa. Pls see below,
Letter to: Batu Gopala
25 July, 1975
My Dear Batu Gopala dasa,
Please accept my blessings. I am in due receipt of your letter dated July 16, 1975, and have noted the contents. Upon your recommendation, I am hereby accepting the following as my initiated disciples:
Shombe Lumkin—Sri Lanka dasa
There is overwhelming evidence from the Scriptures and the great Acharyas apart from historical, etymological and archeological sources to firmly establish that Sri Lanka IS the Lanka of Ramayana.