Lord Rama – Fact or fiction? Part-I
By Stephen Knapp
This article is first in series of articles establishing the historicity of Ramayana
The idea of whether Lord Rama exists or not has been called into question, by some prominent politicians in India. These leaders should be concerned with preserving and protecting the culture of the country. Unfortunately they are either unaware of Ramayana, or they are attempting to dismantle and destroy the historical facts.
Archeologists may argue the lack of sufficient evidence. Historian Pushkar Bhatnagar concludes that lack of archaeological evidence is no excuse for denying the existence of history. “If the buildings of that time over 7000 years ago do not exist today, can we just infer that civilizations and personalities of that time also did not exist?”, asksPushkar. Isn’t this denial of history a sign of our own pride? There is little 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? Rama’s performance of miracles such asliberating Ahalya, is viewed cynically by some modern politicians but the Biblical story of Jesus walking on water or the Koranic tale of Mohammed flying to heaven on a horse aren’t doubted. All these stories of God and His prophets are miraculous and reinforce divinity.
The first Governor General of India, Sri Rajaji, wrote on the Ramayana and called it a history, as also did the English Indologist Sir William Jones. Various renowned western authors such as Philip Lutgendorf, Ann Arbor, W. L. Smith and others have made a study of the culture and history of the Ramayana, and accepted Lord Rama as real. There are also numerous places like Ramesvaram, Nasik, and Hampi, besides hundreds of other places that are indicated as the locations where various events happened in reference to the pastimes of Lord Rama and Sita. These places still exist.
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. In 249 BC, Ashoka erected a pillar in Lumbini with an inscription referring to the visit by Rama. Ashoka was much nearer in time to Rama and would be well aware of his facts.
Sri Lanka also has relics of the Ramayana. There are several caves, such asRavana 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 Sita as prisoner. In describing the places in Sri Lanka that are associated with Lord Rama and the Ramayana, Sri Lankan folklore and religious scholars have identified more than 30 places on the island which are associated with the Ramayana. And interestingly enough, people in these places have a strong sense of history and lore, and a strong sense of possession. “They are proud of their association with the Hindu epic,” explains S. Kalaiselvan, director general Sri Lanka Tourism DevelopmentAuthority. This is the case, even though 90 percent of the people in the Ramayana-related areas are Sinhalese Buddhists.
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?
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