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How Did Sri Lanka Become an Island?

Sri Lanka which was formerly called Ceylon is well-known for its unique biodiversity, extensive cinnamon and tea exportation, and breathtaking natural wonders. But did you know that it only became an island in the 1480s?

Sri Lanka and India were originally connected by a land bridge called “Adam’s Bridge”. But because of a cyclone, the bridge was destroyed separating the two countries in 1480.

What is Adam’s Bridge?

Adam’s Bridge, also known as Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu, is a natural limestone shoal chain that connects Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. 

According to geological evidence, this bridge was once a land connection between India and Sri Lanka. The structure was 48 kilometers long and connects the Gulf of Mannar located in the southwest to the Palk Strait in the northeast. Some of the regions are dry, and the sea in the area rarely exceeds 1 meter in-depth, making navigation difficult. The channel was reportedly passable on foot until the 15th century, when storms deepened it. 

Ramanathaswamy Temple records say that Adam’s Bridge was entirely above sea level until a cyclone destroyed it in 1480. (Source: Rediff)

The Legend of Adam’s Bridge

Legends about the structure’s supernatural origins are found in Indian culture and religion. According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, Ravana, the demon King of Lanka, kidnapped Rama’s wife Sita and brought her to Lankapura as a form of vengeance against Rama and his brother Lakshmana for cutting off Ravana’s sister Shurpanakha’s nose, 

Shurpanakha had threatened to kill and eat Sita unless Rama agreed to abandon her and marry Shurpanakha instead. Rama had to travel to Lanka to save Sita. Brahma assembled a vanara army, these were intelligent warrior monkeys made to aid Rama. The vanaras built a bridge to Lanka in five days, led by Nila and under the engineering direction of Nala. The bridge is also known as Nala Setu or the Nala Bridge.

Rama used this bridge to cross the sea and pursue Ravana for several days. He fired hundreds of golden arrows that transformed into serpents and severed Ravana’s heads, but in the end, he had to use the divine arrow of Brahma which contained the power of the gods and could not miss its target to slay Ravana. (Source: Hakai Magazine

None of the early Ramayana versions contain geographical references that directly imply that Lankapura was Sri Lanka. Versions of the Ramayana arrived in Sri Lanka in the sixth century. 
Still, the identification of Sri Lanka with the land of Ravana appears for the first time in an 8th-century inscription from southern India. The idea that Sri Lanka was the Lankapura of the Ramayana was promoted in the tenth century by Chola rulers seeking to invade the island. The identification of Sri Lanka as Ravana’s land was supported by Aryacakravarti dynasty rulers, who considered themselves guardians of the bridge. (Source: T and F Online)

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