As a child, I often wondered why there was no bridge connecting India with Sri Lanka. I have been to a number of causeways that connect lands across the sea, and I was curious as to why we hadn't built one. Apparently, I realized later, that thousands of years ago, we had, or so says the Ramayana.
In Hindu mythology, this is known as the Rama Setu, the place where Lord Rama with the help of the Vanara Sena or the army of apes, built a bridge across the sea to reach Lanka and defeat the demon King Ravana. This bridge connected what is now known as Rameshwaram in India to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.
The Rama Setu, also known as Adam’s Bridge, has been a controversial issue, with some using satellite imagery to argue that there is a line of shoals submerged in this stretch, which once connected the two land masses. In fact, large vessels cannot travel in this strait, as the depth of the sea in some areas is only a few feet.
Today, the island of Mannar is one of the 25 districts of Sri Lanka. Talaimannar and Mannar are the two main towns located on the island of Mannar, right off the coast of mainland Sri Lanka. Once a town known for year-round pearl fishing, in the Portuguese and the Dutch era, Talaimannar now retains the charm and beauty of a coastal Sri Lankan town. Not only is the Ramayana’s influence evident here, but you will also catch glimpses of Portuguese, Dutch and Arab cultures in the architecture and monuments.
Places To Visit In Talaimannar
Adam’s Bridge: Take a 15-kilometre boat ride along the former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. The bridge is now separated in 18 parts and is made of limestone shoals. For mythology and history enthusiasts, it would be interesting to walk on the sand banks which are said to be once trodden by Lord Rama. The grandeur of the Indian Ocean, the beautiful sunsets and the natural beauty of the region add to the charm of this attraction.
The Baobab Tree: Believed to have been planted by the Arabs, this tree has the record for the largest circumference of any tree found in Sri Lanka. The tree is native to Africa, Madagascar and Australia, and is said to be around 800 years old! Anything living for that long is definitely worth seeing.
St. Mary’s Church at Madhu: Located on the Talaimannar main road, this Portuguese style church is home to the statue of Our Lady of Madhu, or a depiction of Virgin Mary. This beautifully crafted statue attracts Buddhist, Hindu and Catholic visitors every year.
Air: The nearest domestic airport for Talaimannar is Anuradhapura Airport (ACJ), which is around 80 kilometres from the Mannar Island.
Road: A 30-kilometre long causeway connects the Mannar Island to mainland Sri Lanka. Buses from Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Colombo reach Mannar frequently.
Sea: You can take a ferry ride from Rameshwaram, which is only about 30 kilometres away from the island.
A writer. A reader. An observer. A traveler. In no particular order. The path to self discovery has taken Neha from India to Italy, from Bahrain to Dubai and back to India. Her journey has only just begun.