Wednesday August 22, 2018

Ramayana trail: How Modi government plans to revive the legacy of Lord Ram

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Modi Sri Lanka

By Harshmeet Singh

Prime Minister Modi concluded his three nation tour after making a slew of agreements and announcements in Sri Lanka. While moves such as handing over more than 27,000 homes to the war affected people in Jaffna and an assistance of $318 million gathered much attention, his announcement regarding Indian Government’s plans to establish a Ramayana trail in Sri Lanka went away unnoticed.  

Ramayana Trail

The establishment of a Ramayana trail is aimed at developing all the Ramayana related mythological spots in the country. Though the PM fell short of announcing any budget or a deadline for the same, he did mention that his Government would soon be sending a team of experts to Sri Lanka to visit all such places that can be included under this plan.

The government plans to develop a number of modern facilities around these spots to ensure a constant tourists’ influx which, in turn, would take India’s heritage to different parts of the world. The PM also said that his Government would be happy to assist Sri Lanka in developing a similar Buddha trail in India.

Common history of India & Sri Lanka

The extremely rich Buddhist culture of Sri Lanka derives its roots from ancient India. According to ancient texts of Sri Lanka, it was Indian Emperor Ashoka’s son, Mahinda, who introduced Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Impressed by the message of Buddhism carried by Mahinda, the Monarch propagated Buddhist values to the entire Sinhalese population of the island. The historic Nalanda University also had a number of Sri Lankan Buddhist monks on roll before it was brought to the ground by Mohammed Kilji. Notably, around 70% Sri Lankans still follow Theravada Buddhism.

The Indian epic Ramayana gives a detailed description of the island nation. According to Ramayana, the island was built by Vishwakarma as a gift for Kubera, the Wealth Lord. Kubera was later overthrown by his stepbrother, Ravana. The story of Sita’s abduction at the hands of Ravana is one of the best known folklores around the world. The ‘Ram Setu’ or the ‘Adam’s bridge’, believed to be built by Lord Rama to take his army to Lanka to fight Ravana still remains one of the most significant common heritage points between India and Sri Lanka.

Ram Setu

Historically, the Indian railway network extended up to Dhanushkodi (south of Chennai) from where frequent ferry rides took the passengers to the Mannar Island in Sri Lanka. The ferry used to travel over the submerged Adam’s Bridge. A devastating cyclone in 1964 destroyed the railway facilities at Dhanushkodi which were never resurrected after that. This put an end to the ferry rides between Dhanushkodi and Mannar Island.

The shallow water over the Adam’s bridge doesn’t allow large cargo chips to pass through it. Hence, the large ships coming either from Arabian Sea or Bay of Bengal are needed to travel around Sri Lanka to reach the other side. The construction of a canal through the ‘Ram Setu’ to ease out the marine traffic has been proposed multiple times, with the most recent project being ‘Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project’. Quite understandably, these plans didn’t go well with a number of religious groups who, presenting evidence from NASA’s satellite images, claim that this bridge was built by Lord Rama and has a high religious significance attached to it. Notably, the efforts to build this canal have also received thumbs down from a number of environmental experts who doubt the feasibility of such plans and claim that this could destroy the corals.

 Growing bonhomie through tourism?

A number of experts have lauded Modi’s methods of warming up to the neighbouring nations by giving references to our common heritage. As seen with many nations, tourism and common heritage can help the nations come together and solve a number of grave issues. Let’s hope the story between India and Sri Lanka goes the same way.

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Government Pressure: WhatsApp to Limit Message Forwarding In INDIA

WhatsApp reacted: "In India, where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, we'll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once.

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The app is adding more features to group chats. Wikimedia commons

 Hauled up second time by the government on its failure to check the spread of fake and provocative content on its platform amid growing lynching episodes, Whatsapp on Friday said it is launching a test to limit message forwarding to five chats that will apply to its users in India.

In its second notice on Thursday, the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) took a tough stand, asking WhatsApp to come out with more effective solutions that can bring in accountability and facilitate enforcement of law in addition to their efforts towards labelling forwards and identifying fake news.

“It has been conveyed to them in unmistakable terms that it is a very serious issue which deserves a more sensitive response,” MeitY said in the notice.

WhatsApp reacted: “In India, where people forward more messages, photos, and videos than any other country in the world, we’ll also test a lower limit of 5 chats at once.

“We will also remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” WhatsApp said in a statement.

The test, once comes to practice, will curtail WhatsApp’s services for over 200 million users in India. Globally, the company allows users to forward messages for up to 20 chats (either individuals or groups).

WhatsApp said that with new changes, which it will continue to evaluate, “will help keep WhatsApp the way it was designed to be: a private messaging app”.

“We are deeply committed to your safety and privacy which is why WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted, and we’ll continue to improve our app with features like this one,” it added.

Whatsapp
“We will also remove the quick forward button next to media messages,” WhatsApp said in a statement. Pixabay

In its first reply to the IT Ministry, WhatsApp said the company is “horrified” by terrible acts of violence.

The IT Ministry had asked WhatsApp to ensure that the platform is not used for malafide activities over the growing instances of lynching of innocent people owing to large number of irresponsible messages filled with rumours being circulated on its platform.

The mobile messiging service listed several measures — including labelling Forwarding messages — in its first reply to control the spread of misinformation and abuse on its platform but failed to meet the requirements from the IT Ministry.

Several people have lost their lives in the past one year by lynch mobs after rumours of child lifting triggered via messages on WhatsApp.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for the first time admitted in the Lok Sabha on Thursday that fake news on social media has resulted in many mob lynching incidents in the country, saying the government has asked service providers to put a check on rumour mongering on social media.

Also Read-WhatsApp Begins Rolling Out ‘Restrict Group’ Feature For Admins

Expressing concern over the misuse of social media, Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu also asked the government to evolve a national policy after discussing with all stakeholders including political parties to combat the menace.

The Supreme Court also issued 22 guidelines this week for the central and state governments to put an end to “horrendous acts” of vigilantism, lynching and mobocracy and directed them to work in tandem to take “preventive, remedial and punitive measures”. (IANS)