Ramayana, Mahabharata true accounts, not myths

…If Ayodhya is not the place of Ram, where did he live? Looking at the
present structures in Ayodhya, we can see people still living the way
that finds a mention in the Ramayana. Historians can only give their
opinion to enlighten people.

The problem with left-liberal academicians (DN Jha, Sumit Sarkar and others) is that the secular fan-base in India is microscopic and there is not much love from minority communities (who are to be sure appreciative of the majority bashing).

Conservative Muslims are least interested in the “secular” record of Akbar, they hate him for his out-reach (and the plan to kick-off a new religion). 

Conservative Sikhs are repulsed by praise for “marxist-atheist” Bhagat Singh, they believe that Sardar Singh was a faithful follower of the Panth. 

The Dalits dislike the liberals intensely since the ideologues are primarily drawn from the super-caste community- red/pink Bengal has remarkably seen only Brahmin Chief Ministers for the past two decades. Even Navayana – the pro-Dalit megaphone – is led by the non-Dalit firebrand S Anand.

There are now dark clouds on the horizon, the new govt will be sympathetic towards Hindutva scholarship and will be headed by people like Rao who are convinced that “folklore is history.” Going forward, any book considered anti-saffron will not be publishable in India. That leaves only the West and the public forums afforded by the New York Times and the Guardian (and others). That will be one crowded space already occupied by super-stars.
The media describes him as an RSS man and the author of the
Mahabharata Project, but very little is known about the mild-mannered
historian from Telangana in academic circles. 
Yellapragada Sudershan Rao,
the new chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR),
describes himself as a colonial historian and argues that faith and
reason can go hand in hand in the writing of history.

You have lashed out against Marxist historians and their
interpretation of history. Why is the writing of history a Right vs Left

I think it is time to think about India’s history from an Indian

For the last 60 years, our writing and understanding of
history has been influenced by the West. Indian research has been far
too dependent on the West to write its own history. We are dependent on
their translations and interpretation. And, these are my personal views,
history writing in India is Euro-centric and imperialistic. The ICHR, I
understand, is in the process of acquiring digital records from centres
of history in the US and Europe. This will not only give us access to
our own records but will also aid us in writing history from our

You have been appointed by the BJP government. Don’t you think institutions such as the ICHR should be free of politics? 
The MoU (memorandum of understanding) prepared by the founding fathers
of ICHR gave the powers to the government to appoint heads of social and
historical institutes. I have no qualms in admitting that these
appointments are political. 

Have previous heads of social institutes
been questioned about their appointments? Why are these questions asked
only about me? The government has been formed by a democratic process.
It has been elected by the people. To question that is to question
democracy itself. Unlike other social institutes, the ICHR attracts a
lot of attention because history is an important subject. But history
belongs to the people. We have not shown or written a comprehensive
history of India to the people of India. History is by the people, for
the people and of the people.

You are the author of the Mahabharata project? What is the project about?

There is a certain view that the Mahabharata or the Ramayana are
myths. I don’t see them as myths because they were written at a certain
point of time in history. They are important sources of information in
the way we write history. What we write today may become an important
source of information for the fut­ure in the future. 

When analysed, of
course, they could be declared to be true or false. History is not
static. It belongs to the people, it’s made by the people. Similarly,
the Ram­ayana is true for people…it’s in the collective memory of
generations of Indians. We can’t say the Ramayana or the Mahabharata are
myths. Myths are from a western perspective.

What does that mean?

For us, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are true accounts of the periods in which they were written.

But shouldn’t the writing of history be rooted in historical evidence and research?

Western schools of thought look at material evidence of history. We
can’t produce material evidence for everything. India is a continuing
civilisation. To look for evidence would mean digging right though the
hearts of villages and displacing people. We only have to look at the
people to figure out the similarities in their lives and the depiction
in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. 

For instance, the Ramayana mentions
that Rama had traveled to Bhad­ra­chalam (in Andhra Pradesh). A look
at the people and the fact that his having lived there for a while is in
the collective memory of the people cannot be discounted in the search
for material evidence. In continuing civilisations such as ours, the
writing of history cannot depend only on archaeological evidence. We
have to depend on folklore too.

Are you for correcting the writing of history?

I won’t put it that way. But real history has to come through. I am a
follower of truth. The ICHR should encourage research about India and
Greater India—from Southeast Asia all the way to Afghanistan, Iraq and
Iran. There is enough archaeological evidence to show the connect of our
civilisation there.

What is your view on Ayodhya?

Is it not a fact that mosques as structures came to be in India in
1000 AD? Is it not a fact that the mosque was built by a lieutenant of
Babur? A historian can only enlighten people on the facts of history.
Historians can at best say evidence of earlier remains of a Hindu
structure are there. Conflicting views are created by political leaders. 

If Ayodhya is not the place of Ram, where did he live? Looking at the
present structures in Ayodhya, we can see people still living the way
that finds a mention in the Ramayana. Historians can only give their
opinion to enlighten people.

Doesn’t correcting history pose a problem? Why only cast it
in the context of two communities? How about Dalits and untouchability?

The question of untouchability is relatively recent, as recent as
3,000 years. And it has its basis in the economy. It was not based on
social status. Did we hear of untouchability before this period of 3,000
years? Let me give you an example. Sage Vishwamitra went to a Dalit hut
and asked for dog’s meat as he was hungry. The Ramayana and Mahabharata
are replete with instances of different castes, did we find a mention
of untouchability there?

As a historian, are you trying to give a religious interpretation to history? 
I am a Hindu and a Brahmin. To be a Hindu isn’t a religion. In my
personal practices, I can adopt religious practices of the community to
which I belong—as a Shaivite or a Vaishnavite. But that is not what
being a Hindu is about. 

Reli­gi­ons are recent manifestations. I feel
the­re’s only Sanatana Dharma. There was no conflict between communities
or on religious lines as there was only one sanatana dharma. Now there
are several reasons for conflict to take place. 

Besides, Muslims are the
only ones who have retained their distinct culture. Can Christians or
Muslims say all religions are one? A Hindu can say that. There was no
conflict when there was sanatana dharma, Conflict or contests came about
when temples were destroyed and mosques built on the sites in medieval

Didn’t Hindus destroy Buddhist monuments?

I agree. But Buddhism was on the wane then, in decline. But were
thousands of people killed as they were in the raids to the Somnath
temple? I won’t use the word corrections here. But the real history has
to come up.


Link: http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?291363



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