Sri Rama: Myth or reality? — VS Sardesai

At present, debate is going on whether Sri. Ram is a myth or reality. Before discussing on the subject of whether Sri. Ram is a myth or reality I would like to refer to the two reports published by English media, which contradict each other. One being the report on the proceedings of three-day Indian History Congress held in New Delhi last year end where it is reported that more than 1000 historians were present as reported by Bangalore Mirror dated 31st December 2007, and the other by electronic media – ZEE  TV, which was broadcast in three parts under the title ‘Mil Gaye Ram’ , and which referred to the report of the Committee appointed by Sri Lanka Government to find out the truth about  Ravana and which reported the existence of five aerodromes  for Pushpak  Vimanas of Ravana, Ashok-Vatika where Sitamayya was kept by Ravana after her abduction and other places connected with Ramayana. While from the ZEE TV revelations it appears that the incidents narrated in the Ramayana in respect of abduction of Sitamayya by Ravana and thereafter have historic basis, and confirms that Ramayana is part of our history and not simply an epic, as per the report of the Indian History Congress held recently, Sri. Rama was non-historic and is only a mythological myth created under Ramayana, which is only an epic having no historic basis Let us first consider the report of the Indian History Congress.

From the report of the Bangalore Mirror, over 1000 historians have participated in the three-day Indian History Congress. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to know that we have got more than 1000 historians. I was under the impression that historians, is a rare commodity in India. In any case let us now consider the report of Bangalore Mirror. It stars saying that putting to rest a nationwide political debate whether Lord Ram has any historicity or not, hundreds of historians said that he is “not a part of the history” but “certainly lives in mind and soul”. It also quoted Sri Ram Sharan Sharma (who incidentally has also the word Ram in his name), who is said to be an eminent historian having written 115 books, saying, “Ram is not a historical figure. We don’t find proof of his existence in the pages of history. But let me clarify, he is in the minds and souls of millions of people”. “Let us not fight in the name of Lord Rama. He is simply beyond history”. Thank God he has at least admitted and clarified that Lord Rama is in the minds and souls of millions of people and not the creation of those fundamentalists and communal Hindus.

It also quoted a historian from Orissa Baba Mishra as saying that not only the pages of history but recent archaeological excavation in several places have not found traces of Lord Rama. G. J. Sudhakar a historian from Chennai said that neither was Rama a human being nor was Ram Setu man made. D. N. Roy, a professor of history ay Bhagalpur University in Bihar said that it is unfortunate that our politicians are dragging our belief, faith in the name of history.
From the above it will be clear that it is not only our politicians, but our so-called historians also who are dragging our faith, belief in the name of history. Our historians appear to be unanimous in saying that recent archaeological excavation in several places in Ayodhya, Nadigram and Shrungabirpur (all in Uttar Pradesh) has not found any trace of Lord Ram existence. But the first question is whether the excavation that was done, was so deep as to find the things of Tetrayyug that is the period when Sri Ram was born. Secondly what traces of Lord Ram, these historians were expecting, which they did not find? And what positive proves they found out to declare that Sri Ram was non-historic?

Is archaeological excavation only means to find out the historicity of a person or event? And if it is not found, can it be declared that the person is non-historic even if there are other proofs? This is what another eminent historian, Smt. Romila Thapar, in her book ‘Somanatha’ says about the other sources. “An event occurs, and it slowly becomes encrusted with narratives about what happened. Sometimes the claim is made that such narratives have been constructed on the basis of initial memories, or that they encapsulate what once was a memory, or that the historiography reflects what are believed to be facets of memory”. “Such questions involve examining more than one set of sources’. “Sources that are textual vary in language, style authorship and purpose and these perspectives have to be co-related”. “Where some sources take the form of material remains-archaeologi cal data and art historical artifacts-they require a different treatment”. She also refers to another source, a repertoire of stories in the oral tradition, collected and recorded. These narratives carry a distinctly different perspective and one that seems to have been current among large number of people. She says that such narratives do not have to be treated as historically accurate but they form a separate genre and like many other similar genres of the oral tradition, the social assumptions that they encapsulate and the versions of events that they present, illumine the historian’s understanding of how the event is perceived at levels other than the formal and textual.

As such only because there in no archaeological evidence found (that too may be for reason that no proper excavation was made at proper places) one cannot conclude that Sri. Ram was not a historical person as is declared in the Indian Historic Congress held in New Delhi in December 2007. Here I will consider only one or two reasons why I consider Sri. Ram as historical person and Ramayana as History and not an epic and those who are interested in knowing other reasons may read my recently published book “Amartya Sen’s Hindu Bash”.
Ramayana was written by Valmiki R’ishi and he clearly says that it is the historical events he is narrating. I presume that no body has denied the historicity of Valmiki. Secondly, Lav and Kush, the sons of Sri. Ram were borne and brought up in his ashram. Further there as so many places in India apart from Sri. Lanka and other places, such as Rameshwar, Nasik, and Panchvati from time immemorial which are associated with Sri. Ram and Sri Ram not only is in the minds and souls of millions of people but they also believe in his historicity which cannot be shaken unless concrete and positive proof is produced for his non-historicity.

Before concluding I would like to reproduce a passage from the book ‘AYODHYA’ by Koenraad Elst (page 152-3) regarding the debate that was supposed to take place between the Babri Masjid Action Committee (BMAC) and VHP at the instance of the then Prime Minister Shri. Chandrasheker in January 1991 to resolve Babri Masjid problem.
“On January24, the parties met in order to discuss evidence. But BMAC team leader, Prof. R. S. Sharma,(the same eminent historian Ram Sharan Sharma referred to by Bangalore Mirror and who has written 115 books) a well known Marxist historian, said that he and his colleagues had not yet studied the VHP material (to which the BMAC had agreed to reply by January10). This is most remarkable, because the week before, he had led 42 academics in signing a much-publicized statement, saying that there was definitely absolutely no proof whatsoever at all for the pre-existing Rama temple. He had issued more statements on the matter and even published a small book on it (Communal History and Rama Ayodhya, People’s Publishing house 1990). There he was, pleading a lack of familiarity with the very material on which he had been making such tall statements”     
V. S. Sardesai.
Vasant_sardesai@ rediffmail. com


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