Did Rama exist?
— Nanditha Krishna
The Newon July 6, 2003
Ayodhya is in the headlines every day. One would have to be an ostrich to avoid the subject. Was there a temple before the mosque?
Archaeologists would have to answer that. Was Rama born there? The answer is a matter of belief. Did Rama exist? Yes, I am quite sure he did. Rama’s life was a fact. His divinity is a matter of faith.
To doubt the existence of Rama is to doubt all literature. There is no archaeological or epigraphic evidence for either Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed, who are known only from the Bible and Koran respectively. Does it mean they did not exist? If Rama performs miracles such as liberating Ahalya, the Biblical story of Jesus walking on water or the Koranic tale
of Mohammed flying to heaven on a horse are equally miraculous. Such stories reinforce divinity, not fact.
The Ramayana starts with Valmiki asking Narada who was the greatest man who ever lived. Narada narrates the story of Rama, king of Ayodhya, in a few terse, factual lines. Valmiki then goes on to elaborate the story in poetry, creating the Ramayana. Creativity distinguishes the epic from Narada’s news report. Rama is not a god in the epic. But we have
contemporary examples of people deified in their lifetime, who need a Valmiki or Vyasa to immortalise them.
The Ramayana is geographically very correct. Every site on Rama’s route is still identifiable and has continuing traditions or temples to commemorate Rama’s visit. Around 1000 BC or earlier, no writer had the means to travel around the country inventing a story, fitting it into local folklore and building temples for greater credibility.
In 1975 the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) unearthed fourteen pillar bases of kasauti stone with Hindu motifs near the mosque at Ayodhya; reports of the excavations are available with the ASI. Rama was born in Ayodhya and married in Mithila, now in
Lumbini with an inscription referring to the visits by both Rama and to Lumbini. Ashoka was much nearer in time to Rama and would be well aware of his facts.
Rama, Lakshmana and Sita left Ayodhya and went to Sringaverapura – modern Sringverpur in
Thereafter, the three wandered through Dandakaranya in Central India, described as a land of Rakshasas, obviously tribes inimical to the bothers’ habitation of their land. Tribals are still found in these forests. The trio reached Nasik, on the River Godavari, which throbs with sites and events of Rama’s sojourn, such as Tapovan where they lived, Ramkund where Rama and Sita used to bathe, Lakshmankund, Lakshmana’s bathing area, and several caves in the area associated with their lives in the forest.
Rama then moved to Panchavati near Bhadrachalam (AP), where Ravana abducted Sita. The dying Jatayu told them of the abduction, so they left in search of Sita. Kishkinda, near Hampi, where Rama first met Sugriva and Hanuman, is a major Ramayana site, where every rock and river is associated with Rama. Anjanadri, near Hospet, was the birthplace of Hanuman (Anjaneya); Sugriva lived in Rishyamukha on the banks of the
Pampa (Tungabhadra) ; Sabari probably also lived a hermitage there. Rama and the Vanara army left Kishkinda to reach Rameshwaram, where the Vanaras built a bridge to Lanka from Dhanushkodi on Rameshwaram Island to Talaimannar in . While parts of the bridge – known as Adam’s Bridge – are still visible, ‘s satellite has photographed an underwater man-made bridge of shoals in the Palk Straits, connecting Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar. On his return from , Rama worshiped Shiva at Rameshwaram, where Sita prepared a Linga out of sand.
It is still one of the most sacred sites of Hinduism.
also has relics of the Ramayana. There are several caves, such as Ravana Ella Falls, where Ravana is believed to have hidden Sita to prevent Rama from finding her. The Sitai Amman Temple at Numara Eliya is situated near the ashokavana where Ravana once kept her prisoner.
The presence of the Vanaras or monkeys, including Hanuman, has made the authenticity of the epic suspect. But this is the most plausible part of the story. The Vanaras were obviously tribes with the monkey totem: after all, the Ramayana belongs to a period when most of
was inhabited by the Vanara people. The Jaina Ramayana mentions that the banner of the Vanaras was the vanaradhvaja (monkey flag), thereby reinforcing the totemic theory. Similarly, Jatayu would have been the king of the vulture-totem tribe and Jambavan of the bear-totem tribe.
Was Lanka the modern? One school of thought places Lanka on the Godavari in Central India, citing the limited descriptions of the South in the latter half of the epic. Narada does not mention Panchavati or Rameshwaram, but refers to Kishkinda and Lanka. Living in the north, it is unlikely that Valmiki knew the south. But Valmiki would know the difference between a sea and a river. Lanka, says the author definitively, was across the sea.
All the places visited by Rama still retain memories of his visit, as if it happened yesterday. Time, in India, is relative. Some places have commemorative temples; others commemorate the visit in local folklore.
But all agree that Rama was going from or to Ayodhya. Why doubt connections when literature, archaeology and local tradition meet? Why doubt the connection between Adam’s Bridge and Rama, when nobody else in Indian history has claimed its construction? Why doubt that Rama traveled through Dandakaranya or Kishkinda, where local non-Vedic tribes still narrate tales of Rama? Why doubt that he was born in and ruled over Ayodhya?
Major settlements, including temples, were renovated several times: restoration is a 20th century development. When the main image was made of perishable materials, it was replaced by stone. For example, we know that the wooden image of Varadaraja Perumal of Kanchipuram was replaced by a stone image, for the earlier image is still preserved in a water tank. The present architecture belongs to the sixteenth century
Vijayanagara style. Yet the temple was known to have existed before the Pallava period (seventh century). This is the story of many sacred sites in . This happened to several Rama temples too.
Rama’s memory lives on because of his extraordinary life and his reign, which was obviously a period of great peace and prosperity, making Ramarajya a reference point. People only remember the very good or the very bad. Leftist historians have chosen to rubbish archaeology, literature and local tradition.
Historicity of Ram
By Dr. Murlidhar H. Pahoja*
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has claimed that it is wedded to science and that scientific evidence to establish the historicity of Ram is lacking. DMK chief Karunanidhi and his party M.P. Balu keep harping on the theory that Ram is mythical and there is no historical basis for the events described in the Ramayana.
Hinduism is based on logic and science, and can face such criticism with ease. Sri Sri Ravishankar ji maharaj has answered the criticism in one sentence “The Ramayana and Mahabharata are called Itihasa in Sanskrit which means it happened.” No one in Indian tradition, in Sanskrit literature, in Prakrit or Pali Literature has ever questioned the historicity of Ram or for that matter of Nabhaga, Nahusha, Janamejaya, Sagara, Yayati, Ambarisha or of Keshava, Arjuna, Bhimasena. All of these names occur in the Nasik inscription of the Satavahana king Vasisthiputra Pulumavi of second century C.E. It is the British racist writers who, to denigrade Indian history and to establish white superiority, were the first to term Ramayana and Mahabharata as mythology. The ASI and the DMK are simply parroting the British tirade.
Besides Ramayana, there are scores of other Itihasa Kavyas in Sanskrit and Prakrit which sing the glory of Sri Rama and narrate the events of Ramayana. One such kavya in Sanskrit is the Raghuvansa by Kalidasa which narrates the history of Suryavansha (descendents of Manu) starting with Raghu son of Dilipa and grand father of Dasharatha. Dilipa married a Dravidian Pandya Princess in a swayamvara. Their son was Raghu. Twenty-nine kings (Including Rama and his twenty-four descendents) and their lives are described in this most celebrated Kavya. Some of the other kavyas based on Ramayana are, Mahaviracharitam by Bhavabhuti, Bhattikavyam by Bhatti, and in Prakrit Setubandham by Pravarasena. The last named Prakrit Kavya in its title itself refers to Ramasetu. Every Indian language has one or more versions of Ramayana composed by local writers. There are also versions of Ramayana in Thailand, Combodia, and Indonesia.
As for inscriptional records, Lichhavis of Nepal derive their descent from Rama and in their inscriptions, list names of kings from Ram down their own time. Rathores of Marwad and Sisodias of Mevad also trace their descent from Ram. Bappa Raval the very first king of Guhil dynasty in the third century C.E., also was a Syryavanshi. The present Maharana of Chittor who is a Guhil prince also claims descent from Rama.
In Iraq, clay tablets have been found with Sanskrit texts on cavalry training and among the names of kings the name of Dasharatha is found (dated to circa 1500 B.C.E.). Has ASI’s science answered which Dasharatha this is? No! It is ASI’s science that is weak. But science per se does not ask for inscriptions as proof of historicity. Because if that were so, we would reach the absurd conclusion that no one before 500 B.C.E. can be historical because no inscriptions before this date are available. Science can take literary evidence as sufficient proof of historicity especially for dates before 500 B.C.E. And if the ASI and the DMK are not satisfied with the literary evidence, science would require them to prove that literary evidence is false. The onus of proof is on the ASI and the DMK.
The ASI and the DMK are both adherends of the Aryan Invasion Theory. DMK’s whole philosophy is based on this theory and therefore the hatred of the Dravidian against the north. And for the ASI this theory is an article of faith because it was propunded by the British. ASI’s science does not ask for proof of this theory. But the scientific Science requires proof before accepting the Aryan Invasion Theory which really has no proof archaelogical, epigraphic or literary. In fact the literary proof negates this theory and provides proof of migration in the opposite direction. The archaelogical proof (clay tablets from Iraq) also points to the same and supports the literary tradition. Would the ASI and the DMK therefore, fall in line with science and give up the AIT. Would the DMK see through the racist plan in the British theory of AIT! and stop hating the north. The DMK politics of hatred have come in handy for the Anglo-American agents to continue to impose the language of subjugation, i.e. the English language on this ancient land of Sanskrit and Tamil. The DMK has also been a loser as is evident from the DMK’s desire for Tamil to be adopted in the High Court.
May Science Prevail.
* The author is a retired IT Professional with doctorate in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics from the University of Illinos, USA. He was formerly on the faculty of IIT, Kharagpur and Delhi.