Everything does pass, and we can endure and we can survive!! – Rahul Dravid
Many people have asked me why I believed in stories – especially of people like Arjuna, Krishna, Rama and Ravana. When I tell them that it is history, they don’t believe me. When I tell them that I believe these things really happened, they look at me with pity, some look at me as though I have come from Pluto.
On my visit to England, I went to a museum in Portsmouth that hosted a ship called HMS Mary Rose. Mary Rose was built in the early 16th century and sunk while fighting the French in 1545. It was discovered under the sea and excavated in 1965. The MaryRose contained a crate full of longarm bows and arrows. Most bows are close to 2 m long and some of them are on display at the museum. Visit http://maryrose.org for full details.
As a visitor, they encouraged us to lift the bow. Most men couldn’t lift it. It required, in most cases, the combined effort of 2 fully built men to lift one bow – just to lift. The MaryRose didn’t carry these bows as showpieces. She was a warship and she carried them for warfare. This is proof enough that there were men in the 16th century who were capable of singly lifting each bow and performing warfare with them. They could move with agility with bow and entire kit in hand. If that can happen in the 16th century (when guns started replacing bows), why is it so impossible for people to belive that Rama broke Shiva’s bow when no one else could? In Rama’s days, bows were common weapons. Plus, he had trained in archery and excelled in it. Certain skills, knowledge gets destroyed/ are lost with time. Rama is in fact described in The Ramayana as having skills hitherto unfound in many Kings.
Many have asked me – “If you find Superman comics buried in the earth after 1000 years, would you believe that Superman really existed?” Valid question.
Assume for a moment that we are a 1000 years in the future. Assume some destruction happened and that all records of cricket are lost but only its knowledge has survived. It has been passed on from generation to generation. Suddenly some record is found under the soil and it hails Sachin. It says things like he was a God and that he could hit sixes out of the park. It says that Sachin hit 18000 runs in ODI cricket! It also says that he was the best in all forms of the game and that many people worshipped him as a hero. It says that he has saved India on countless occasions. This is but a glimpse into Sachin’s achievements. How many people would believe it? I am not sure that many would.
Because today, many people don’t believe that Rama could pierce 7 sal trees with one arrow. Many people don’t believe that mountains could fly. Many don’t believe that Arjuna could let out of thousands of arrows from one bow. Some question whether Rama could really have built the Sethu to Srilanka. Future generations are not going to believe that Sachin existed just like many today don’t believe these things. That doesn’t mean Sachin did not exist or that he did not achieve those feats. Same is the case with Lakshmana and Bharata.
So, how does one differentiate between Sachin and Superman? How does one ascertain that a piece of writing is fact or fiction? It is important here to see/ perceive the intent of the author who wrote a manuscript, the nature of the literature, the descriptions given, etc to ascertain facts and to differentiate it from fiction.
The intent in the case of both The Ramayana and The Mahabharata is clearly stated in the beginning of the epic. The authors say they write this for the benefit of mankind. They are very clear that they want to describe the various trials that a man who wants to follow Dharma is put through. They believe that Rama and Krishna will instill ethics in humans. This kind of intent is not stated in Superman or anything else.
Take Shakespeare’s works. His works on Henry the VIII and Julius Ceaser are much different from the likes of Macbeth and Othello. Henry the VIII has intent, extent of details on administration, relationships, names and description that one can relate with modern day London. All this Macbeth doesn’t have. One must have an avid interest and knowledge of literature and an ability to see through poetic lines to spot those.
One prime character that differentiates fact from fiction is precision. Fiction is never precise. The Ramayana events are precisely dated by means of astronomical events – like eclispses, positioning of planets, their moons and stars. Valmiki chronicles the occurrence of two solar eclipses within a span of 14 days before Dasaratha’s death. He tells us that Rama was born when the sun crossed the Punarpusam star in the zodiac and when 4 planets were in their prime positions. Each and every event – Valmiki and Vyasa have chronicled like this. This is starking evidence that it is a real life chronicle.
Another feature is that fiction is never explained. Superman gets his power from nowhere. Sita and Draupadi derive their power from their inner selves, from within their minds, from ardent and proper mind training and education that they underwent under their gurus. Modern science is only slowly coming to realize the power of the human mind. No incident in these epics is unexplained.
Let us go back to the Sachin case. How would I know Sachin was not someone’s imagination? Like Hogwarts. I would look for description of grounds, cities, names of locations, other cricketers, records obtained in other places (if any), mention of family, his quotes or interviews and such details. If I can relate these with those present now, I would accept Sachin as reality. If some other excavation results in Gavaskar’s or Dravid’s cricketing feats, it strengthens the case of reality.
Valmiki details 59 cities in Srilanka alone that still carry the same name. He explains the structure of the Pushpaka Vimana, the design and firing range of weapons! He and Vyasa ofcourse detail plenty of places, temples, festivals and many other celestial events in India. The Kishkintha Kanda in Ramayanam has a description of geography of various places – North, South, East and West in India. This description is given by Sugreeva to his army when they leave to search for Seetha. Today, after thousands of years, we are still able to find places with the same names.
Valmiki and Vyasa also name many king, chieftains, rishis, ministers, clans, officers and citizens who existed during the period. Both of them name Chozha, Chera and Pandiya kings and describe them in detail! Both have praise their valour in pages! Purananuru, which is a literature from the South talks about The Mahabharata. These things are solid proof of real historical events and characters depicted in The Ramayana and The Mahabharata.
Even if people didn’t get any records and Sachin were just a hearsay, 1000 years later, it would be better to still believe in Sachin. Because his causes for playing cricket are the pride of playing for India and love for the game. Believing in Sachin would result in people taking up cricket – even as a passtime. People would start building small teams. This brings about good things like team spirit, patriotism, encouraging talent, etc. A lot more positives would come out of this small belief than negatives. Hence, even if Sachin were a myth, believing in him as a reality would be correct.
In the case of our epics like The Ramayana and The Mahabharata – each of these things – intent, description, records, artifacts, geography, names, places, quotes, archeaological evidence – is present in plenty. And like in the case of Sachin, believing in these characters existed would lead to a better society. They help build ethics.
It is ok to question, in fact one must question everything. But with a desire to learn, with an open mind. Questioning should not be done to criticize. One must try and look at things from a larger perspective and move beyond belief into the realm of realization. If we can learn this one lesson, we will fare much better!