October 7, 2007
Rama-King of Sumer, Elam and Indus
By Ranajit Pal
“Rama, Lakshmana and Sita are truer to Indians than even their own family members. … If we can cherish and nurture the ideals of brotherly love, truthfulness, chastity and loyalty described in the Epic, then our homes and work-places would remain freshened by zephyrs from the great sea”
The recent Sethusamudram fiasco[i][i] is a stark reminder that dust is yet to settle over the so-called Rama Janmabhumi at Ayodhya[ii][ii]. It is a sad irony of fate that this mordant dispute involves Rama, the greatest hero of Indian myth. No God uniquely symbolizes the spirit of Hinduism but the deified Rama comes closest to a single visible embodiment of the Indian ethos. Rama’s self-sacrifice, piety, righteousness, and valour has enthralled Indians for ages. The fact that some of the greatest Indians like Mahatma Gandhi,[iii][iii] Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore[iv][iv] drew inspiration from Rama is an eloquent testimony of his primacy in Indian culture. Hinduism generally denies the sanctification of rigid written codes, yet the Bhagavad-Gita and the Ramayana are the closest equivalents of Hindu scriptures[v][v]. In Buddhist doctrine, ignorance is at the root of all evil. While the claim of the Hindus is archaeologically absurd, the Muslims have also forgotten that Rama was once their much-adored hero.
‘Build Rama in your heart’, enjoin Rama’s ardent devotees, totally unaware that Rama belongs to the world and cannot be circumscribed within any single country or sectarian creed. The Ramayana once influenced a greater part of humanity than any other Epic. It was also popular in Iran, Central Asia, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan and even the Philippines[vi][vi]. The noted British Sanskritist, J. L. Brockington terms the Ramayana a classic of world literature.
THE COLONIAL ASSAULT ON HISTORY
Myths and miracles are integral parts of all great religious literature but clearly without a historical kernel the Ramayana would never have become a world classic. At the root of the problems with Rama Janmabhumi lies glaring historical ignorance. Writers of the British school like Romila Thapar and R. L. Basham overlook that Rama’s India was a far wider territory than British India. Urbanism in Gangetic India or South India did not begin much earlier than the Mauryan age which makes it absurd to seek the historical Rama in these regions. The great antiquity of Rama can be sensed from the fact that even in the age of the Vishnu Purana his figure had receded to the distant horizon[vii][vii] and he was likened to a God. The historicity of Rama was stressed by elder scholars like R. S. Tripathi and R. C. Majumdar but is denied by writers of the British (SOAS) school[viii][viii]. This highly distorted British view in effect denigrates Rama and has had a very damaging effect on Indian society[ix][ix]. After the discovery of the Indus cities it was hoped that archaeology would unearth figures like Rama and Arjuna[x][x] but this was made impossible by Jones’ false[xi][xi] discovery which in stroke shifted the centre of early India far to the east. This shallow standpoint has deluded many unwary scholars[xii][xii] and relegated not only Rama but many other famous Indian figures like Manu, the Nandas, Chandragupta etc. to the backyard of history. Central to the British approach is an ignorance of not only Mesopotamian history but regrettably also that of neighbouring Iran. Jones had a great respect for India’s heritage and culture and his error was inadvertent but there were others in the government who had sinister motives. T. A. Phelps has highlighted the attempt of the British colonial administration to fraudulently justify Jones’ decrepit theory[xiii][xiii] by moving artifacts and re-inscribing.
http://tinyurl.com/2y7g7xOctober 8, 2007
A Ram-Chapel at Ur
A VERY ANCIENT RAM-CHAPEL AT UR
By Ranajit Pal
An Epic is no history yet its impact on posterity is often moulded by its historical nuance. The worldwide appeal of the Ramayana hints that Rama was a historical figure. Although the efforts of more than a century to unearth Rama from the sub-continent have failed, the quest continues as it is a part of soul-searching for many Indians. It is possible that reference to Rama occurs in the Indus seals but this is still uncertain. Fortunately, concrete proof for a flesh-and-blood Rama comes from Sumer. The highly authentic Sumerian King-list shows that Ram-Sin[xiv][i] of Larsa was Rama Chandra (Sin was the moon-god) who also ruled the Indus cities and Elam. The Sumerian texts furnish the first date of the Indus era – the Ramayana war took place in 1794 BC[xv][ii].
AN ANCIENT RAM-CHAPEL IN SUMER
One of the major triumphs of modern archaeology was the hair-raising discoveries of Sir Leonard Woolley at Ur. Amidst the ruins of Ur, he unearthed a Ram-chapel but totally missed its relevance in world history. This crucial finding not only bridges the wide gaps between Indian tradition and archaeology but also unfolds the historic bonds that once united ancient India, Iran and Sumer. Ram-Sin of (Larsa) to whose memory this chapel was dedicated must have been Rama of Valmiki. The name Ararama of Larsa may be an echo of Rama. This Ram-Chapel of Ur is the earliest known memorial to the great Rama and may have been erected by Dilmun merchants who resided nearby. Dilmun was always mentioned in the Sumerian texts together with Magan and Melukkha and it is possible that these three states were somehow allied to each other.
RAMA, BHARATA & LAKSHMANA IN SUMER
The Cambridge Ancient History[xvi][iii] which is usually not considered as a sourcebook for Indian history by writers like Romila Thapar contains priceless information relevant to Indian ancient history. In the highly authentic Sumerian king list appears such hallowed names as Bharat (Warad) Sin and Ram Sin. As Sin was the Moon god Chandra Ram Sin can be seen to be same as Rama Chandra. Bharat Sin ruled for 12 years (1834-1822 BC), exactly as stated in the Dasaratha Jataka. The Jataka statement, “Years sixty times hundred, and ten thousand more, all told, / Reigned strong-armed Rama”, only means that Rama reigned for sixty years which agrees exactly with the data of Assyriologists. Ram Sin was the longest reigning monarch of Mesopotamia who ruled for 60 years. The mention of the father in the inscriptions of both Warad Sin and Ram Sin is noteworthy and may point to a palace intrigue. Joan Oates is not aware of the Ramayana but writes with great insight (p. 61) that Warad sin was manoeuvred to the throne by his father. In Mesopotamia, a prince normally became king only after the death of his father. Lakshmana, mentioned the Bible as Lakhamar, ruled as a great king.
THE FIRST SYNCHRONISM OF INDIAN HISTORY
In his thirtieth year(1794 BC) Ram-Sin defeated a powerful coalition led by the King of Lanka (Babil). It is most significant to note that while there were ten kings who fought on the side of Ram-Sin, another group of ten kings supported his enemy. This may in fact explain the ten faces of Dashanana. Ram-Sin considered this victory to be of such great importance that he dated all the documents of the last thirty years of his reign by this event [xvii][iv]. Gadd comments on the lyrical nature of Ram-Sin’s long victory inscription[xviii][v] which may have been the kernel around which Valmiki’s Epic grew. The mature Harappan culture ended by about 1750 BC[xix][vi]. According to Dales, the decline of Harappans is linked to the decline of the Sumerians[xx][vii]after Ram-Sin (1822-1763 BC). Rama’s death, not the so-called invasion of Aryans or floods, may have signalled the decline of both the Indus and Sumerian civilizations.
[i][i] The Archaeological Survey of India’s affidavit in the Supreme Court stating that the so-called Rama-Bridge is in no way related to Rama may have been politically motivated but there is nothing to disprove it scientifically. Even Konraad Elst, a staunch proponent of ‘Hindutva’, agrees that the so-called Rama-Setu is not a man-made construct.[ii][ii] In a sense, historicity of Rama, or the Ram-temple, concerns only a small minority of truth-seekers. It is distressing to realize that even for some educated Indians the crux of the matter is not the historical truth but what most people believe to be true. See Tharoor, S., ‘India’, Penguin, 1997, p. 58.
[iii][iii] Even when struck by an assassin’s bullet Gandhi’s last words are said to have been ‘Hey Ram’.
[iv][iv] Tagore warned about the ill effects of false history at a very early stage.
[v][v] Rama is a greatly respected, if not properly understood figure of the sub-continent. Even the MQM chief of Pakistan has recently expressed his veneration for Rama.
[vi][vi] In the third millennium BC, the Gilgamesh Epic swayed the whole of the civilized world from the Indus valley to Egypt.
[vii][vii] “I have given this history. The existence of these kings will in future become a matter of doubt and speculation. Emperors become mere legends in the current of time – the Emperors who thought and think that `India is mine’.” Vishnu Purana (iv,Ch.24 vv.64-77).
[viii][viii] Jacobi and Winternitz considered the Epics to be allegories. A. L. Basham of SOAS London held that the main story must have existed in a form similar to Valmiki’s tale around the beginning of the Christian era. According to him Rama was considered as an incarnation of Vishnu but was still a minor figure in the Gupta age (4th to 6th cent. AD). From this he concluded that Rama and his father were minor chieftains whose exploits were `chance remembered’. Basham’s thesis has been faithfully repeated by R. Thapar of SOAS who has a large following among gullible politicians.
[ix][ix] The recent spate of journalistic writing betrays a pathetic ignorance of the fundamental points of history and archaeology. To use a vulgar usage, Rama has become a “political football’ kicked by ignorant political leaders.
[x][x] Even after rejecting Jones it is not easy to pinpoint relics of Rama and Arjuna. See ante
[xi][xi] The eminent scholar Prof. N.G. L. Hammond, editor of The Cambridge Ancient History, admits that ‘Patna is too far east’. Private communication.
[xii][xii] Even such a keen observer of the Indian scene as Amartya Sen sees Rama mainly through tinted Jonesian glasses.
[xiv][i] The name is usually given as Rim-Sin but it has to be noted that the cuneiform symbol for ‘Rim’ was also read as ‘Ram’.
[xv][ii] The Statesman, Calcutta, October 20, 1991.
[xvi][iii] The Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 1, pt.2
[xvii][iv] Roux, `Ancient Mesopotamia’,1964, p. 169. Khammu-ravi who ascended to the throne of Babylon two years later, may be younger of the two Khammu-ravis known. Initially he was friendly with Ram-Sin.
[xviii][v] Gadd, C.J. Cambridge Ancient History, vol. 1, pt.2, p. 643
[xix][vi] Allchin, F.R., Encyclopedia Britannica, 1989 ed., See under `India’.
[xx][vii] Dales, G. F., `Of Dice and Men’, in `Ancient Cities of the Indus’, ed. Possehl, G.L., Vikas,1979, p.144.