vedaprachedasatdhasit sakshat ramayanatmana
Vedas incarnated as Srimad Ramayana. Ramayana appeared to teach the greatness of saranagati [total surrender]. Saranagati means, we are unable to do anything, and we seek asylum and cling to the Lord's feet for protection. Everywhere in Srimad Ramayana one can find the principle of saranagati. Lakshmana to Sri Rama, Bharatha to Sri Rama, Dasaratha to Sri Parasurama, etc, have all performed saranagati. Crowning all these saranagatis is the saranagati performed by Vibheeshana. Vibheeshana, renouncing Lanka, flew in the sky with four companions and came to Thiruppullani, where Sri Rama and the monkey troops were camping. We are on the shores of Sethu, where he clung to the feet of Sri Rama and sought protection. This shore of the ocean is called Sethu coast, Adi Sethu, Rathnakaram, Thiruanai, etc,. From here only Sri Rama got built a bridge [sethu] so that all the troops could crossover to Lanka. It is customary to indicate the entire country of India, as 'aasethu himachalam'. Beginning from Sethu till the Himalayas, India is spread. According to Tamil culture five types of lands are there: kurunji, mullai, marutham, neydhal and paalai. Ocean and ocean adjoining lands are called neydhal. Lovers separated and languishing are characterized by neydhal. Varuna is considered as the god of seas. Varuna is here as the ocean and he also surrendered to Sri Rama here. Sri Rama starting from Dhandakaranya forests, came to Kishkinda and then travelled along south sea coast, crossing Tutucorin and Thiruchendur, came to this place, in search of Sri Sita. Instantly, abandoning Lanka, Vibheeshana acme to this place where Sri Rama was seated along with Lakshmana, amidst the monkey army. Sarvaloka saranyaya Raghavaya namathmane. " I surrender and seek refuge in Sri Rama, the Supreme God and the Protector of all Universe', said Vibheeshana to Sugreeva, who communicated Vibheeshana's arrival to Sri Rama. Sugreeva was against accepting this request, while Anjaneya favoured it. Sri Rama then proclaimed that even if Vibheeshana was the brother of Ravana, who abducted Sri Rama's wife and even if he is a sinner, He would never abdicate a person surrendered unto Sri Rama:
sakruteva prapannaya tavaasmitica yatate
abhayam sarva bhoothepya tadam etat vratam mama
[Considered as Charama sloka of Sri Rama] He proclaimed, " who ever surrenders once unto My feet, I will release him from all [sufferings] and protect him. This is My vow", Sri Rama pledged from this place only. So, a bathe in this Sethu with memory of Sri Rama, and worshiping the Lord of Thiruppullani will guarantee His pledge that He will always protect us, if we surrender. Sri Rama accepted Vibheeshana. Then they all discussed as to how to cross the ocean, especially with millions of monkeys. Vibheeshana suggested Sri Rama to perform saranagati to the King of the oceans, Samudra Raja. Accepting this, Sri Rama surrendered and spreading darbha grass as bed and His own arm as pillow, He laid here for three days, waiting for a favourable reply from Samudra Raja. Unfortunately, Samudra Raja did not come in response. Sri Rama was angered at the neglect by Samudra Raja and so He ordered Lakshmana to bring His bow and the best of missiles so that He would dry up the entire ocean and cross over to Lanka. Rectifying his mistake, Samudra Raja immediately appeared before Sri Rama and appealed for pardon as he was thinking of ways and means to fulfill His request. Then, he suggested a method. Nala, one of the monkeys in the army of Sri Rama, had the blessings of Viswakarma, the heavenly builder. Nala was blessed with a boon granted by Viswakarma and so stones touched by Nala would be accepted by the oceans and they will not immerse but float. With those stones a bridge could be constructed and army would be able to cross and reach Lanka. Immediately, work was started to build a bridge of 10 yojana width and 100 yojana length. All monkeys enthusiastically brought various stones and gave to Nala and the bridge got constructed. Seeing monkeys in the construction, squirrels also wanted to join in that sacred duty, says Thondaradippodi Alwar. Squirrels wetted their bodies in the waters and rolled in the beach sands so that sand dust would stick to their bodies. Then, they went to the bridge under constructin and shook away all the sand dust so that the stones laid were cemented! Alwar laments that he could not serve the Lord even the way the squirrels did. Poet Kamabar, in his epic Ramayana in Tamil personifies Lanka to a woman, suffering at the hands of Ravana, praying to Sri Rama for help with stretched arms. Sethu appears as the arms of this woman. Saiva saints Thirunavukkarasar and Thirugyana Sambandar have praised this Sethu. Pullankadar, a poet of the ancient sanga age, was a native of this place. In the ancient poems of Agananooru, Sethu has been mentioned. After the bridge construction was completed, Vibheeshana crossed over to Lanka and then beckoned all to travel safely on the bridge to reach Lanka. Valmiki mentions the time taken for the construction. On the first day 14 yojana length was completed. On second day it was 20, third day it was 21, 22 on th fourth day and on the fifth day 23 yojana length was constructed to complete the entire construction. Sri Andal says that the Lord constructed the Sethu, but He should not destroy the small sand castles She and other girls have made. In Sri Vishnu Sahasranama it is mentioned 'aushadam jagata sethu'. So He is acting as a bridge between this loka of samsaram and Vaikuntam. Upanishads mention that the Lord is the sethu for Moksham. All descriptions about the Sethu are mentioned in sargas 21 and 22 in the Yuddha canto of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana. Not only this, Sri Rama, after killing Ravana and rescuing Sri Sita, is returning back to Ayodya from Lanka. While flying in the Pushpaka vimana along with Sri Sita and others, He points to the sethu from the sky, and tells Sri Sita that Nala constructed this difficult bridge. Henceforth, all from all the three worlds would be going to worship this Sethu. It will be known as Sethu bandham. It is so sacred that it will wash off all sins committed. By bathing or by sprinkling the water on or by staying here for three nights, many good things like bearing good children or negating the curses of forefathers would accrue. People come in crowds and get sanctified. But a request is that one should not just visit for a few hours and go away after a bath. Everyone should stay for three days and that has been the custom followed. Like Kasi and Gaya, Sethu is as much sacred. We have to imagine a scene. Sri Rama, the King in exile and the Lord, is seated here. Surrounding Him are Lakshmana, Sugreeva, Anjaneya, all monkeys and bears, Vibheeshana and his four friends. Sri Rama says aatmanam manusham manye ramam dasarathatmajam. 'Please consider Me as one among you all', says Sri Rama. That is He does not want to be differentiated. Sugreeva tells Sri Rama that though he opposed garanting asylum to Vibheeshana, Sri Rama should shower on Vibheeshana all the friendliness He was showing to him and the monkeys. All atman are same no matter by body they might be monkeys or bears or demons. Now the sloka 31:
sarva-bhuta-sthitam yo mam
bhajaty ekatvam asthitah
sarvatha vartamano ’pi
sa yogi mayi vartate
"Such a yogi, who sees all living beings in Me, sees oneness existing, remains always in Me, even in performing duties [for maintaining his body, family or society]."
Sa yogi = that yogi, vartate = lives, mayi = in Me [Sri Krishna]. We tend to be near the God while praying and thereafter we are away from Him as we are busy with our routines. But the yogi in this third stage never parts His company and is always with Him. For God we are all prakaram or body. In our body we never differentiate one limb from another or one organ from another. We consider all are important and equal. So, if we can visualise all the monkeys bears and demons as the body of Sri Rama, then there will be no differences and all will be equal. This yogi sees, sarva bhuta sthitham = existing in all living beings ,mam = Me [Sri Krishna]. When atman is associated with a body its gyana or knowledge is shrunk or contracted. In mukta atman swaroopam, the gyana is fully expanded and flourishes to the full extent. In this expanded state all atmans are equal, not only among themselves, but equal to Paramatman also. Ekatvam asthitaha bhajati = considers one or same with Paramatman, in this gyana expanded state. Sarvata vartamano 'pi = even if he is attending to his other routines. This yogi is always with the Lord not only when meditating but even when he is in his routine duties in the family or society. This yogi knows that all atman are body to the Paramatman, with gyana fully blossomed, considers his atman and Paramatman are one and the same. There is an Anjaneya temple near the Sethu. Anjaneya knows all the knowledge, power and means for any effort of ours. Sri Rama travelled on the shoulders of Anjaneya to cross the ocean and Lakshmana rided on Angatha. While worshiping here after a sacred bath, let us all consider all atman are same, as described in this sloka 31.