Adam's Bridge – Mannar, Sri Lanka - Atlas Obscura
Our new kids' book is on sale! Shop now.

Mannar, Sri Lanka

Adam's Bridge

According to Hindu belief, this shallow island chain was created by a god with an army of monkeys. 

Sri Lanka is an island, or at least that’s what they want you to think. The 18-mile gap between it and India is filled with shoals and sandbanks, that religious tradition holds are the remains of a bridge built by Rama, an avatar of Vishnu. And actually, some scientists now believe that the clerics might have a point.

A thin strand of shoals, some only feet below the sea, stretch from India to Sri Lanka. The British Empire made a sort of steampunk Chunnel, going from rail to steamship, a century ago. Plans to blast open the rocks for shipping have run aground on something unexpected: religious Hindus who believe Adam’s Bridge to be a relic from the Ramayana epic.

The story goes that Rama set an army of monkeys to work building a bridge to the island redoubt of the demon king Ravana. It may sound far-fetched to secular ears, but there are records from as late as the Medieval era that describe an international walking path. India’s ruling party has refused to permit construction of the shipping channel.

Satellite imagery is undeniable; a filament connects the landmasses just under the surface. Photographs or videos aren’t enough to make any case closed. Religion or obstruction, history or myth, it’s in the eye of the analyst, but the underwater land link is definitely there.

Plenty of tour agencies have taken advantage of the barely submerged islands, putting the rocky outcroppings on the “Rama Trail” of Sri Lanka’s Hindu legacy. A traveler could do that, or perhaps rent out a private boat. They wouldn’t see anything that hasn’t been argued about online. But at least a traveler could see it for himself.