Style of description- What does it say?
Is Ramayana a myth? If it is a myth, then what is its use? Jerry Thomas examines two arguments appeared in the Organiser, the RSS mouthpiece, which argued for the historicity of Ramayana. A close examination of those articles proves those arguments to be unfounded. After proving that Ramayana is a myth, the author explains that myth of Ramayana was an aspiration of our ancestors and a clouded pointer towards the Truth.
Style of Description- Does it Prove Ramayana as a History or a Myth? The RSS mouthpiece, The Organiser, also says in its September 30, 2007 edition that “Valmiki describes the construction of Ram Sethu in great detail. Here is an excerpt and text (translation) of the entire sarga (Book VI: Yuddha Kanda, Book of War, Chapter [sarga] 22) where this description occurs in Valmiki Ramayana.” (emphasis added). However, when one reads the text, there is not much detail. In fact, it is written in mythical genre. To understand the mythical genre let us compare, description of Israelites crossing the red sea from the Bible and the song that followed (Exodus 14 and 15) with the 22nd Chapter of Yuddha Kanda of the Valmiki Ramayana where the Monkey army crosses the sea. The Bible is brief, accurate and does not describe the event in mythical proportion. But Ramayana does. It is because Ramayana was meant to be a myth and the Bible meant to be the history.
Let us read it:
Exodus 14: 15-31And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward: But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians.
And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the LORD fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And the LORD said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the LORD overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore. And Israel saw that great work which the LORD did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the LORD, and believed the LORD, and his servant Moses.
Exodus 15: 1-21
Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. The LORD
is a man of war: the LORD is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea. The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone. Thy right hand, O LORD, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O LORD, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble. And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them. Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation. The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina. Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O LORD, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased. Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O LORD, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O LORD, which thy hands have established. The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.
For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the LORD brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea. And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea
22nd Chapter of Yuddha Kanda (http://www.valmikiramayan.net/yuddha/sarga22/yuddhaitrans22.htm)
Then, Rama spoke these harsh words to the ocean: “O, ocean! I will make you dry up now along with your nethermost subterranean region.” “O, Ocean! A vast stretch of sand will appear, when your water gets consumed by my arrows; when you get dried up and the creatures inhabiting you get destroyed by me.” “By a gush of arrows released by my bow, our monkeys can proceed to the other shore even by foot; O, ocean!” “O, Sea the abode of demons! You are not able to recognize my valor or prowess through your intelligence .You will indeed get repentance at my hands.” “Fixing an arrow resembling the Rod of Brahma (the creator) charged with a missile (presided over by Brahama) to his excellent bow, the exceedingly powerful Rama stretched it towards the sea.”
While Rama was stretching that bow, both the heaven and earth suddenly seemed to be split asunder. Mountains also were shaken.Darkness enveloped the world. All the quarters were obscured. Lakes and rivers were soon agitated. The moon sun and the stars moved obliquely and though the sun’s rays lighted the sky, it was enveloped by darkness and shined with a blaze of hundreds of meteors while thunders reverberated with an unparalleled sound in the sky.
Series of celestial winds blew in their colossal form and the winds, then sweeping away the clouds, tore up the trees again and again. The wind, shattering the mountain peaks, broke off the points of the rocks. Winds of great velocity struck together in the sky and emitted flashes of radiance proceeding from lightning with a great sound and then there were great thunders.The visible creatures cried out along with the thunders. The invisible beings too gave off a terrific noise. The creatures were overpowered, frightened, agitated, lied down and also very much anguished. They did not move due to fear. The great ocean with its waves and water, along with its living creatures including snakes and demons soon became possessed of a terrific velocity. Due to that speed and swelling of wa
ters, the ocean crossed beyond the other shore to the extent of a Yojana (eight miles).
Rama born in Raghu dynasty and the annihilator of enemies, did not retreat before that ocean, which swelled and crossed its limits.Then, Sagara (the ocean god) himself rose from the middle of the ocean as the sun rises at dawn from the huge mountain of Meru.That ocean along with snakes of flaming jaws appeared with a hue of glossy emerald adorned with gold. The valiant ocean, the lord of rivers, wearing a wreath of pearls, with his eyes resembling lotus leaves, bearing a beautiful garland made of all kinds of flowers on his head, with ornaments of refined gold, adorned with excellent jewels made of pearls from his domain, decorated with different kinds of gems and metals, resembling Himavat mountain, wearing on his broad chest a locket shedding a white luster, resembling a Kaustubha gem (adorning the blossom of Lord Vishnu) and hanging in the middle of a single string of pearls, with a multitude of waves whirled around him, encircled by the clouds and winds, escorted by rivers mainly the Ganga and Sindhu, endowed with diverse forms resembling various deities, approached Rama with joined palms, who stood with arrows in hand, addressing him first as ‘Rama!’ and spoke the following words: “O, beloved Rama! Earth, wind ether, water and light remain fixed in their own nature, resorting to their eternal path.”
“Therefore, I am fathomless and my nature is that it is impossible of being swum across. It becomes unnatural if I am shallow. I am telling you the following device to cross me.” “O, prince! Neither from desire nor ambition nor fear nor from affection, I am able to solidify my waters inhabited by alligators.” “O, Rama! I shall make it possible to see that you are able to cross over. I will arrange a place for the monkeys to cross me and bear with it. As far as the army crosses me, the crocodiles will not be aggressive to them.” Then, Rama spoke to that ocean as follows: “Listen to me. This great arrow should not go in vain. In which region should it be descended?” Hearing Rama’s words and seeing that powerful arrow, the large splendid Ocean spoke the following words to Rama:
“Towards my northern side, there is a holy place. It is well known as Drumatulya, in the same way as you are well known to this world.” “Numerous robbers of fearful aspect and deeds, having the sinful Abhiras as their chief, drink my waters there.”
“I am not able to bear that touch of those wicked people, the evil doers, O, Rama! Let this excellent arrow with out vain be released over them there.”Hearing those words of the high-soled Ocean, Rama released that excellent and splendid arrow towards that place as directed by the ocean.The place where the arrow, whose splendor was akin to that of a thunder and a thunder bolt, was descended by Rama- that place is indeed famous as desert of Maru* on this earth.
(Many lines are deleted here. You can read all those in the website given above).
Seeing that Rama’s accomplishment, which was amazing and arduous; celestials, Siddhas (semi-divine beings possessing supernatural faculties) and Charanas (celestial bards) along with great sages, forthwith approached Rama and consecrated him with very splendid waters separately.The celestials, Siddhas and others exalted Rama, who was duly respected by kings with their auspicious -words as follows: “O, king! Defeat the enemies. Rule the earth and ocean eternally for years.”
Differences between the Exodus and Ramayana
Though both have written about similar incidents, Ramayana follows the mythical style in description whereas the Bible writes in historical genre. While building a bridge would be a major accomplishment from human perspective, it could not have been a spectcular accomplishment for celestial beings. Thus, apart from other descriptions which are not apt for the occasion, this description actually proves that this is just a human imagination. However, when one reads the Exodus, it is only the human beings who are excited and thrilled. And that is reasonable to expect so. In addition, Ravanas aircraft would have been a bigger intelligent accomplishment than building a bridge.
Moreover, there are other parts of the Bible which accurately describes the geographical locations which have been verified. It is further confirmed as a true history by archaeology (read http://www.bibleandscience.com/archaeology/exodus.htm).
However, the geographical descriptions from the Ramayana casts doubt again on its historicity. Romila Thapar writes: The two important spaces in the Valmiki Ramayana are Ayodhya and Lanka, on the location of which scholarly opinion differs. The location of Lanka, for example, has been disputed by Indian scholars for the past century and remains unidentified with any certainty. Some have located it in the Vindhyas — in Amarkantak or in Chota Nagpur — and others in the Mahanadi delta. The identification with present day Sri Lanka is problematic. The earliest name for Ceylon judging by Indian and Greek and Latin references of the Mauryan and post-Mauryan period was Tamraparni (Taprobane in Greek). Ashoka in the third century BC, in one of his edicts, mentions Tamraparni as on the frontier. Late
r, the more commonly used name was Sinhala or Sinhala-dvipa, (Silam or Sieledib in Greek). It would seem that the name Lanka was a later adoption of the centuries AD. This becomes puzzling for the historian. If Valmiki was referring to Ceylon, then the name should have been the one by which the island was known, either Tamraparni or else Sinhala, at the time of his composition. But since the name used is Lanka, which at this time appears not to have been the name for Ceylon, then perhaps Lanka was located elsewhere. The location of the Ram Setu would have to be reconsidered. This has been suggested by scholars who have argued that the setu was more likely located in a small expanse of water in central India and not in the Palk Straits. Nor is the setu referred to in every version of the story. Alternatively, if Lanka in the text is a reference to Ceylon, then the composition of the Valmiki poem would have to be dated to a later period when the island came to be called Lanka. (The Hindu, September 28, 2007).
If Ramayana is a myth and not a history, then what is its purpose?
If Ramayana is myth, it does not become a lie. It becomes a lie only when we put our faith in it. But what is Ramayana pointing towards. People when they admire Ramayana after deducting the many questionable aspects, they admire the (a) Obedience of Sree Rama (b) Sacrifice of Sree Rama in leaving the palace (c) Power and Victory of Sree Rama over Nature and Enemy. (4) Finally, the Kingship of Sree Rama at the end.
If Sree Rama is a myth, then who is the Truth who has all the qualities without any questionable aspects.
He is Jesus Christ. Jesus obeyed the Heavenly Father leaving the heaven and even to the death. Jesus has the power over nature. He walked over the water (Matthew 11:26), commanded the sea to obey (Matthew 8:23-27). In His presence, demons trembled and fled (Matthew 8:31). About Him we read “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth.