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RAMESWARAM, (also spelt as RAMESVARAM, RAMESHWARAM) is a town and a second grade municipality in the Ramanathapuram district
Ramanathapuram district
in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
. It is located on Pamban Island separated from mainland India
India
by the Pamban channel and is about 40 kilometres from Mannar Island
Mannar Island
, Sri Lanka. It is situated in the Gulf of Mannar , at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram
Rameswaram
Island, is connected to mainland India
India
by the Pamban Bridge . Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is the terminus of the railway line from Chennai
Chennai
and Madurai
Madurai
. Together with Varanasi
Varanasi
, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in India
India
to Hindus
Hindus
, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimage.

It is said that this is the place from where the Hindu
Hindu
god Rama
Rama
built a bridge across the sea to Lanka
Lanka
to rescue his wife Sita
Sita
from her abductor Ravana
Ravana
. The Ramanathaswamy Temple
Ramanathaswamy Temple
, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva
Shiva
, is located at the centre of the town and is closely associated with Rama. The temple, along with the town, is considered a holy pilgrimage site for both Shaivas and Vaishnavas .

Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is the closest point from which to reach Sri Lanka
Lanka
from India, and geological evidence suggests that the Rama
Rama
Sethu was a former land connection between India
India
and Sri Lanka. The town has been in the news over the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project , Kachchatheevu
Kachchatheevu
, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and capturing local fishermen for alleged cross-border activities by Sri Lankan Forces. Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is administered by a municipality established in 1994. The town covers an area of 53 km2 (20 sq mi) and had a population of 44,856 as of 2011. Tourism and fishery employ the majority of workforce in Rameswaram.

CONTENTS

* 1 Legend * 2 History * 3 Geography * 4 Demographics * 5 Municipal Administration and politics * 6 Economy * 7 Transport and Communication * 8 Education and utility services

* 9 Religion

* 9.1 Ramanathaswamy Temple
Ramanathaswamy Temple
* 9.2 Temple Tanks * 9.3 Gandhamathana Parvatham * 9.4 Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi
* 9.5 Hindu
Hindu
Pilgrimage

* 10 Interaction with Sri Lanka
Lanka

* 10.1 Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees * 10.2 Rameswaram
Rameswaram
Fishery * 10.3 Kachchatheevu
Kachchatheevu
* 10.4 Sethusamudram
Sethusamudram
Canal Project

* 11 Footnotes * 12 References * 13 External links

LEGEND

Map of Ramsetu's Bridge (a chain of limestone shoals) and environs, prior to the cyclone of 1964.

Rameswara means "Lord of Rama" in Sanskrit
Sanskrit
, an epithet of Shiva
Shiva
, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. According to Hindu epic Ramayana
Ramayana
, Rama
Rama
, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu
Vishnu
, prayed to Shiva
Shiva
here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana
Ravana
in Sri Lanka. According to the Puranas
Puranas
( Hindu
Hindu
scriptures), upon the advice of sages , Rama
Rama
along with his wife Sita
Sita
and his brother Lakshmana
Lakshmana
, installed and worshipped the lingam (an iconic symbol of Shiva) here to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya incurred while killing of the Brahmin
Brahmin
Ravana. To worship Shiva, Rama
Rama
wanted to have a lingam and directed his monkey lieutenant Hanuman
Hanuman
to bring it from Himalayas
Himalayas
. Since it took longer to bring the lingam, Sita
Sita
built a lingam, made of just Sands of the shores, which is also believed to be the one in the sanctum of the temple. This account is not supported by the original Ramayana
Ramayana
authored by Valmiki
Valmiki
, nor in the Tamil version of the Ramayana
Ramayana
authored by Tamil poet, Kambar (1180–1250 CE). Support for this account is found in some of the later versions of the Ramayana, such as the one penned by Tulasidas
Tulasidas
(15th century). Sethu Karai is a place 22 km before the island of Rameswaram
Rameswaram
from where Rama
Rama
is believed to have built a floating stone bridge, the Ramsetu bridge, that further continued to Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi
in Rameswaram
Rameswaram
till Talaimannar
Talaimannar
in Sri Lanka. According to another version, as quoted in Adhyatma Ramayana
Ramayana
, Rama
Rama
installed the lingam before the construction of the bridge to Lanka.

HISTORY

The history of Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is centred around the island being a transit point to reach Sri Lanka
Lanka
( Ceylon
Ceylon
historically) and the presence of Ramanathaswamy Temple. Tevaram , the 7th–8th century Tamil compositions on Shiva
Shiva
by the three prominent Nayanars
Nayanars
(Saivites ) namely Appar
Appar
, Sundarar
Sundarar
and Thirugnanasambandar . The Chola king Rajendra Chola I
Rajendra Chola I
(1012 – 1040 CE) had a control of the town for a short period. The Jaffna kingdom
Jaffna kingdom
(1215–1624 CE) had close connections with the island and claimed the title Setukavalan meaning custodians of the Rameswaram. Hinduism
Hinduism
was their state religion and they made generous contribution to the temple. Setu was used in their coins as well as in inscriptions as marker of the dynasty.

According to Firishta, Malik Kafur
Malik Kafur
, the head general of Alauddin Khalji , the ruler of Delhi Sultanate
Delhi Sultanate
, reached Rameswaram
Rameswaram
during his political campaign in spite of stiff resistance from the Pandyan princes in the early 14th century. He erected a mosque by name Alia al-Din Khaldji in honour of victory of Islam
Islam
. During the early 15th century, the present day Ramanathapuram, Kamuthi and Rameswaram
Rameswaram
were included in the Pandya dynasty. In 1520 CE, the town came under the rule of Vijayanagara Empire
Vijayanagara Empire
. The Sethupathis, the breakaway from Madurai
Madurai
Nayaks , ruled Ramanathapuram
Ramanathapuram
and contributed to the Ramanathaswamy temple. The most notable of them are the contributions of Muthu Kumara Ragunatha and Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathi, who transformed the temple to an architectural ensemble. The region was repeatedly captured several times by Chanda Sahib
Chanda Sahib
(1740 – 1754 CE), Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764 CE) in the middle of 18th century. In 1795 CE, Rameswaram
Rameswaram
came under the direct control of the British East India
India
Company and was annexed to the Madras Presidency
Madras Presidency
. After 1947, the town became a part of Independent India.

GEOGRAPHY

An aerial view of Dhanushkodi, at the tip of Rameswaram
Rameswaram

Rameswaram
Rameswaram
has an average elevation of 10 m (33 ft). The island is spread across an area of 61.8 km2 (23.9 sq mi) and is in the shape of a conch. 74% of the area has sandy soil due to the presence of sea and it has many islands surrounding it, the Palk Strait
Palk Strait
in the north west and Gulf of Mannar in the south East. The Ramanathaswamy Temple occupies major area of Rameswaram. The beach of Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is featured with no waves at all – the sea waves rise to a maximum height of 3 cm (0.10 ft) and the view looks like a very big river. Rameswaram
Rameswaram
has dry tropical climate with low humidity, with average monthly rainfall of 75.73 mm (2.981 in), mostly from North-East monsoon from October to January. The highest ever temperature recorded at Pamban station was 37 °C and the lowest was 17 °C.

Ramsetu Bridge is a chain of limestone shoals , between Rameswaram and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between India
India
and Sri Lanka. The bridge is 29 km (18 mi) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (North-East) from the Palk Strait
Palk Strait
(South-West). It was reportedly passable on foot up to the 15th century until storms deepened the channel. The temple records record that Rama’s Bridge was completely above sea level until it broke in a cyclone in 1480 CE. The bridge was first mentioned in the ancient Indian Sanskrit
Sanskrit
epic Ramayana
Ramayana
of Valmiki. The name Rama's Bridge or Rama
Rama
Setu (Sanskrit; setu: bridge) refers to the bridge built by the Vanara
Vanara
(ape men) army of Rama
Rama
in Hindu
Hindu
mythology, which he used to reach Lanka
Lanka
and rescue his wife Sita
Sita
from the demon king Ravana. The Ramayana
Ramayana
attributes the building of this bridge to Rama
Rama
in verse 2-22-76, naming it as Setubandhanam. The sea separating India
India
and Sri Lanka
Lanka
is called Sethusamudram
Sethusamudram
meaning "Sea of the Bridge". Maps prepared by a Dutch cartographer in 1747 CE, available at the Tanjore
Tanjore
Saraswathi Mahal Library show this area as Ramancoil, a colloquial form of the Tamil Raman Kovil (or Rama's Temple). 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 Adam\'s Bridge , Sethubandha and Sethubandha Rameswaram.

DEMOGRAPHICS

RELIGIOUS CENSUS

Religion

Percent(%)

Hindu
Hindu
  87.4%

Muslim   4.36%

Christian   8.13%

Sikh   0.03%

Buddhist   0.01%

Other   0.07%

HISTORICAL POPULATION

YEAR POP. ±%

1971 16,755 —

1981 27,928 +66.7%

1991 32,721 +17.2%

2001 37,968 +16.0%

2011 44,856 +18.1%

Sources:

* 1971–2001: * 2011:

According to 2011 census , Rameswaram
Rameswaram
had a population of 44,856 with a sex-ratio of 969 females for every 1,000 males, much above the national average of 929. A total of 5,022 were under the age of six, constituting 2,544 males and 2,478 females. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes accounted for 6.8% and .03% of the population respectively. The average literacy of the town was 73.36%, compared to the national average of 72.99%. The town had a total of 10579 households. There were a total of 16,645 workers, comprising 69 cultivators, 20 main agricultural labourers, 148 in house hold industries, 15,130 other workers, 1,278 marginal workers, 11 marginal cultivators, 26 marginal agricultural labourers, 44 marginal workers in household industries and 1,197 other marginal workers. The total number of households below poverty lane (BPL ) in 2003 were 976, which is 10.45% of the total households in the town and these were raised to 3003 (29.12%) in 2007.

As per the religious census of 2011, Rameswaram
Rameswaram
had 87.4% Hindus
Hindus
, 4.36% Muslims
Muslims
, 8.13% Christians
Christians
, 0.03% Sikhs
Sikhs
, 0.01% Buddhists , and 0.07% following other religions.

MUNICIPAL ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICS

A street in Rameswaram
Rameswaram

MUNICIPALITY OFFICIALS

Chairman A. Archunan

Commissioner P.M.N. Mujibur Rahman

Vice Chairman R.Ghunasekaran

ELECTED MEMBERS

Member of Legislative Assembly Dr. Manikandan

Member of Parliament A. Anwhar Raajhaa

According to the Madras Presidency
Madras Presidency
Panchayat Act of 1885, Rameswaram was declared a panchyat union during British times. It became a township during 1958 and was declared a municipality in 2004. Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is a 3rd grade municipality having 21 wards, out of which 6 are General wards for women and one is reserved for SC (Scheduled Caste) women. The major sources of budgeted income for Rameswaram municipality comes from Devolution Fund of ₹ 17 million (US$0.3 million) and property tax of ₹ 2.4 million (US$43,000). The major expense heads are for salaries of ₹ 06 million (US$0.1 million), operating expenses of ₹ 03.7 million (US$65,000) and repair "> Rameswaram
Rameswaram
Island Aerial view from Pamban Bridge

India's renowned scientist and former President of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam , was born in Rameswaram.

ECONOMY

Being a pilgrimage town, the majority of the population is involved in tourism related industry consisting of trade and services. Service sector increased from 70% in 1971 to 98.78% in 2001, while the agricultural sector reduced from 23% in 1971 to 0.13% in 2001. Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is an industrially backward town – there has been no demarcation for industrial land due to the pilgrim sanctity and ecological fragile geography. Being an island town, the traditional occupation was fishing, but due to poor returns, the people in fishing community have gradually shifted to other professions. Banks such as State Bank of India
India
, Indian Bank
Indian Bank
and RDCC Bank have their branches in Rameswaram.

TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION

Road and rail bridge

Pamban Bridge is a cantilever bridge on the Palk Strait
Palk Strait
that connects Rameswaram
Rameswaram
to mainland India. The railway bridge is 6,776 ft (2,065 m) and was opened to traffic in 1914. The railroad bridge is a double-leaf bascule bridge section that can be raised to let ships pass under it . The railway bridge historically carried metre-gauge trains on it, but Indian Railways
Indian Railways
upgraded the bridge to carry broad-gauge trains in a project that finished on 12 August 2007. Historically, the two leaves of the bridge were opened manually using levers by workers. About 10 ships – cargo carriers, coast guard ships, fishing vessels and oil tankers pass through the bridge every month. After completion of bridge, metre-gauge lines were laid from Mandapam
Mandapam
up to Pamban Station, from where the railway lines bifurcated into two directions, one towards Rameswaram
Rameswaram
about 6.25 miles (10.06 km) up and another branch line of 15 miles (24 km) terminating at Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi
. The noted Boat Mail
Boat Mail
ran on this track between 1915 and 1964 from Chennai
Chennai
Egmore up to Dhanushkodi, from where the passengers were ferried to Talaimannar
Talaimannar
in Ceylon
Ceylon
. The metre-gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi
was abandoned after it was destroyed in a cyclone in 1964 . Pamban lighthouse, Rameswaram
Rameswaram

There are daily express trains connecting major cities in Tamil Nadu like Chennai, Madurai, Trichy
Trichy
and Coimbatore
Coimbatore
. There are weekly express trains connecting Coimbatore, Varanasi
Varanasi
and Bhubaneswar
Bhubaneswar
. Passenger trains ply from Rameswaram
Rameswaram
to Madurai
Madurai
and Trichy
Trichy
daily, making railways as the major mode of transportation. The Ramanathapuram
Ramanathapuram
Rameswaram
Rameswaram
National Highway is the main connecting link from Rameswaram
Rameswaram
to the mainland. Prior to the 1914 train service linking the mainland with Rameswaram, boats were the only mode of transport to Rameswaram
Rameswaram
island. Rameswaram
Rameswaram
TV tower

The National highway NH 49 connects Madurai
Madurai
to Dhanushkodi, linking major towns like Manamadurai
Manamadurai
, Paramakkudi , and Ramanathapuram
Ramanathapuram
in the Ramanathapuram
Ramanathapuram
district. The Rameswaram
Rameswaram
municipality covers a total road length of 52 km and 20 km of national highway covering about 80 percent of the town. The Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
State Transport Corporation runs daily services connecting various cities to Rameswaram
Rameswaram
and operates a computerised reservation centre in the municipal bus stand of Rameswaram.

Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is the important port among all the ports in the district, having a ferry service to Talaimannar
Talaimannar
of Sri Lanka, though not operational throughout the year. Limited foreign trade is conducted with Jaffna
Jaffna
, Kaits, Talaimannar
Talaimannar
and Colombo
Colombo
.

The Rameswaram TV Tower
Rameswaram TV Tower
is the tallest tower in India. The tower is a 323m tall circular concrete tower with a square steel mast of 45m height, diameter of 24m at the bottom tapering to 6.5m at top. The tower has been designed for a wind velocity of 160 km/h. There are two lighthouses in Rameswaram, the Pamban lighthouse and Rameswaram lighthouse .

EDUCATION AND UTILITY SERVICES

Ramanathapuram district
Ramanathapuram district
has one of the lowest literacy rates in the state of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
and Rameswaram, following the district statistics has a lower literacy rate. There are a couple of Government high schools, one each for boys and girls. There are seven other schools namely, Swami. Vivekananda vidyalaya Matriculation School( which provide excellent education in the island and secure district and state level ranks in board exams frequently), St. Joseph Higher Secondary School, Mandapam
Mandapam
Panchayat Union 9 – School, Micro Matriculation School, Sri Sankara Vidhyalaya, Holy Island Little Flower School and Kendriya Vidhyalaya School. Alagappa University Evening College is the only college present in the town and all the nearest colleges are located in Ramanathapuram
Ramanathapuram
and Paramakudi
Paramakudi
.

Electricity supply to the town is regulated and distributed by the Ramanathapuram
Ramanathapuram
circle of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Electricity Board (TNEB). Water supply is provided by the Rameswaram
Rameswaram
Municipality
Municipality
– the head works is located at Nambunayaki Amman Kovil, Meyyambuli, Semmamadam "> Corridor of 1000 pillars

The Ramanathaswamy Temple
Ramanathaswamy Temple
is the most notable historic landmark of the town. Located in the centre of town, Ramanathaswamy Temple
Ramanathaswamy Temple
is a famous Hindu
Hindu
temple dedicated to the god Shiva. The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga
Jyotirlinga
shrines, where Shiva
Shiva
is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlinga
Jyotirlinga
meaning "pillar of light". It is also one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalam
Paadal Petra Sthalam
temples and is glorified in hymns by the three of the most revered Nayanar saints (7th century Saivite
Saivite
saints), Appar
Appar
, Sundarar
Sundarar
and Tirugnana Sambandar . The temple in its current structure was built during the 12th century by Pandya Dynasty
Pandya Dynasty
. The temple has the longest corridor among all Hindu
Hindu
temples in India. The breadth of these columned corridors varies from 17 to 21 feet with a height of 25 feet. Each pillar is sculpted in Nayak style as in Madurai
Madurai
Meenakshi Amman Temple . The contribution of the kings of the Sethupathy dynasty (17th century) to the temple was considerable. Large amount of money was spent during the tenure of Pradani Muthirulappa Pillai towards the restoration of the pagodas which were falling into ruins – the Chockattan Mantapam or the cloistered precincts of the temple was reconstructed by him. The rulers of Sri Lanka
Lanka
contributed to the temple – Parakrama Bahu (1153–1186 CE) was involved in the construction of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The eastern tower and shrine of Nataraja were built by Dalavai Sethupathy in 1649 CE. The second enclosure is ascribed to Chinna Udayar Sethupathy and his son Ragunatha Thirumalai (1500–1540 CE). The third enclosure was constructed by Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathy (1725–1771 CE) – his statue is located in the entrance of the corridor.

TEMPLE TANKS

Kothandaramar Temple, Rameswaram
Rameswaram

There are sixty-four Tīrthas or Theerthams (holy water bodies) in and around Rameswaram. According to the Skanda Purana
Skanda Purana
, twenty-four of them are important. Of the 24, 14 are in the form of tanks and wells within the precincts of the temple. Bathing in these tanks is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram
Rameswaram
and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the tanks are within the Ramanathaswamy Temple. The foremost one is called Agni Theertham, the sea ( Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
). Jatayu
Jatayu
, King of the Birds, who fought in vain with the demon-king Ravana
Ravana
to save Sita, is said to have fallen down at Jadayu Theertham as his wings were severed. Villoondi Theertham literally translates to 'buried bow', is located around 7 kilometres from the main temple on the way to Pamban. It is believed to be the place where Rama quenched the thirst of Sita
Sita
by dipping the bow into the sea water. Other major holy bodies are Hanuman
Hanuman
Theertham, Sugreeva Theertham and Lakshmana
Lakshmana
Theertham.

GANDHAMATHANA PARVATHAM

Gandhamathan Parvatham, a hillock situated 3 km to the north of the temple is the highest point in the island. There is a two storeyed hall, where Rama's feet is found as an imprint on a chakra (wheel). The Ramarpatham Temple is located on the hillock.

DHANUSHKODI

Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi
is the southernmost tip of the island and houses the Kothandaramaswamy Temple dedicated to Rama. Though Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi
was washed away during the 1964 cyclone , the temple alone remained intact. It is 18 km way from the centre of the town and can be reached by road. A popular belief is that, Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi
is where Vibishana
Vibishana
, a brother of Ravana
Ravana
surrendered before Rama
Rama
in the epic Ramayana.

HINDU PILGRIMAGE

People taking a holy dip in Agni theerth, Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal

Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is significant for many Hindus
Hindus
as a pilgrimage to Varanasi is considered to be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Rameswaram. The town along with the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham
Char Dham
(four divine sites) sites comprising Badrinath
Badrinath
, Puri
Puri
and Dwarka
Dwarka
. Though the origins are not clearly known, the Advaita school of Hinduism
Hinduism
established by Sankaracharya , attributes the origin of Char Dham
Char Dham
to the seer. The four monasteries are located across the four corners of India
India
and their attendant temples are Badrinath
Badrinath
Temple at Badrinath
Badrinath
in the North, Jagannath Temple at Puri in the East, Dwarakadheesh Temple at Dwarka
Dwarka
in the West and Ramanathaswamy Temple
Ramanathaswamy Temple
at Rameswaram
Rameswaram
in the South. Though ideologically the temples are divided between the sects of Hinduism, namely Saivism and Vaishnavism
Vaishnavism
, the Char Dham
Char Dham
pilgrimage is an all Hindu
Hindu
affair. The journey across the four cardinal points in India
India
is considered sacred by Hindus
Hindus
who aspire to visit these temples once in their lifetime. Traditionally the trip starts at the eastern end from Puri, proceeding in clockwise direction in a manner typically followed for circuambulation in Hindu
Hindu
temples. The temple is one of the famous pilgrimage sites historically – the Maratha kings who ruled Thanjavur
Thanjavur
established chatrams or rest houses all through Mayiladuthurai
Mayiladuthurai
and Rameswaram
Rameswaram
between 1745 and 1837 CE and donated them to the temple.

INTERACTION WITH SRI LANKA

Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is frequently in headlines over fishermen issues like attack, arrest and alleged harassment by Sri Lankan navy for alleged cross border activities, Sethusamudram
Sethusamudram
canal project, Kachchatheevu, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and also on intercountry smuggling between India
India
and Sri Lanka. As an initial step to curb enhanced smuggling, the Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
government has set up 30 more marine police stations to bring the state’s entire coastal belt under close vigil.

SRI LANKAN TAMIL REFUGEES

During the intense civil war of Sri Lanka, post 1980, Rameswaram acted as one of the focal points of smuggling and intense patrolling was carried out during the period. There are a total of 65,940 registered destitute Sri Lankan refugees dwelling in 129 Refugee camps situated in different parts of Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
as of Apr 2000 and a majority of them enter via Rameswaram. There are an additional 20,667 non-camp refugees who entered via Rameswaram, registered in Mandapam transit camp and opted to reside outside the camps in various parts of Tamil Nadu. On 11 March 1990, a record number of 2,337 refugees in 38 boats arrived from Talaimannar
Talaimannar
in Sri Lanka
Lanka
to Rameswaram
Rameswaram
– this was the largest number of refugees arriving in a single day since the ethnic violence from July 1983. As of October 2006, an estimated 200,000 refugees have been reported in Mandapam
Mandapam
Camp . Sivarasan, one of the mastermind behind the Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi
Rajiv Gandhi
, the ex-prime minister of India
India
registered as refugee in Rameswaram
Rameswaram
camp on 12 September 1990.

RAMESWARAM FISHERY

Fishing boats in Rameswaram
Rameswaram

Being an island, a significant population is involved in fishery traditionally. There have been incremental cases of Rameswaram fishermen allegedly killed or arrested by Sri Lankan navy along the maritime borders of India
India
and Sri Lanka
Lanka
from the time of Sri Lankan civil war during 1983. In the face of simmering tension after the 1985 January Colombo
Colombo
bound Yaldevi train attack in which 22 Sri Lankan soldiers and 16 civilians were killed, Rameswaram
Rameswaram
fishermen dared to venture to seas spelling acute hardship for the 10,000 fishermen family. An estimated 381 fishermen have been killed in the sea due to shoot outs from 1983 to 2009. The Sri Lankan army attributed the killings to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
(LTTE), but the casualty continues even after the end of LTTE in the region. The Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
state government has increased the compensation of casualty from the original ₹ 100,000 to 500,000 (US$1,800 to $9,000). There has not been a single prosecution in any of the 381 killings committed so far from the Indian judiciary. The cases not being filed is attributed to the fact that people killed beyond the maritime boundary of India
India
are not eligible for compensation and not many file complaints against the Sri Lankan navy. Though the Indian judiciary has provisions to prosecute foreigners, there is little progress due to the diplomatic overheads involved. Indian government has also ventured into the use of technology like use of Global positioning system (GPS) by the fishermen and enabling cellphone blips to alert their mobile phones whenever they are crossing into Sri Lankan waters. The Sri Lankan navy has confirmed reports on Indian fishermen risking the international boundary due to depleted catch in Indian waters.

There is a yearly 45-day ban on fishery with motorboats in the region. The fishing ban for the year 2012 was effective during the months of April–May. The jetty at Rameswaram
Rameswaram
is the largest landing centre for fishing boats in the region and it usually comes alive after the ban, with the arrival of fishermen, boat captains, shore workers and others from their native places.

Sea World Aquarium is a natural habitat lying opposite to the Rameswaram
Rameswaram
Bus Stand, having an assortment of underwater creatures – it is the only one of its kind in the state, filled with such varied marine life forms including exotic species.

KACHCHATHEEVU

NASA
NASA
satellite photo: Rameswaram
Rameswaram
on top, Sri Lanka
Lanka
at the bottom of the photo

Another focal point on the simmering tension between Indian and Sri Lankan governments is over the use of Kachchatheevu
Kachchatheevu
, an uninhabited island 15 km north of Rameswaram, belonging to Sri Lanka. The accord of 1974 allows fishermen of both the countries for resting and soaking the nets in the island. Repeated allegations on attacks by the Lankan navy, which on many occasions killed Indian fishermen, prevented them from making it to the island. The annual two-day Saint Anthony fest at the island draws huge number of people from the fishermen community of both the countries. The number of pilgrims for the 2012 function crossed 4,000, the largest attendance in the past two decades. The feast also provides an opportunity for the Indian fishermen to meet their Sri Lankan counterparts and exchange views on their mutual problems. The event served as a meeting point to find brides and grooms from both countries, but this practice has now been stopped from the 90s due to political constraint of fishermen family living in different countries.

SETHUSAMUDRAM CANAL PROJECT

Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India
India
and Sri Lanka
Lanka
by creating a shipping canal through the shallow sea sometimes called Setu Samudram , and through the chain of islands variously known as Ram Sethu or the Rama's Bridge. A few organisations are opposing the dredging of Ramasethu on religious, environmental and economical grounds. Many of these parties and organisations support implementation of this project using one of the five alternative alignments considered earlier without damaging the structure considered sacred by Hindus. With 22 km (14 mi) of dredging remaining, the project is held from March 2010 by a Supreme Court order seeking the Central Government to clarify the status of the bridge as a national monument.

FOOTNOTES

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