Ramayana is one of the two epics of Indian Civilization, the second one is Mahabharata. Is Ramayana real or myth? well, the historian does not recognize Ramanyana a history, however, there is no absolute denial on it. In this article, we have tried to find out the answer to the question- is Ramayana a real history or mythology?
First of all, we need to differentiate between history and mythology to go deeper into this topic.
What is History?
History is the past as it is described in written documents and the study thereof. Means the sequence of the events which are written by some witnesses and documented. Scholars who write about history are called historians. History also includes the examination and analysis of the sequence of the events.
Though this does not mean that history is written can be 100% true, as we all know that writers, poets, musicians are were honoured by the ruling king. So’ it is possible that some facts and praises may be leaning towards the present king.
Well, there is no proof of the writing age of these two Sanskrit epics of ancient India. Also, there is about 2500 years gap between the actual events of Ramayana and writing of Ramayana epic.
Before the writing of Ramayana Epic by Maharishi Valmiki it was transferred by word of mouth. And there are chances that some fictitious events or characters may have arisen in this storytelling by different people of a different era. This is not enough to establish the Ramayana epic as 100% real, but also can not say 100% myth.
What is Mythology?
“Myth is a folklore genre consisting of narratives or stories that play a fundamental role in a society, such as foundational tales or origin of myths. The main characters in myths are usually gods, demigods or supernatural humans”.
If we go by this definition of mythology, does the main character of Ramayana epic named as Rama acted like supernatural human?
No! according to Ramayana, the Rama did not show any supernatural powers, though he is deemed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu according to Hindu inscriptions. However he lived his entire life as a great human being, but he did not show himself a supernatural human anywhere. Let us discuss this more with some events of his life.
The sequence of events in Ramayana Epic?
- Rama was born to Kaushalya and Dasharatha in Ayodhya, the ruler of the Kingdom of Kosala.
- He had three brothers- Laxman, Bharat and Shatrughna. Today Ayodhya exists in Uttar Pradesh a northern state of India.
- As they grew up, the old king made arrangements for their best education in humanities, art, science, and expertise in war-games.
- They acquired all special skills in archery, etc. at the holy feet of their teachers: Rishi Vashishtha and Maharishi Vishwamitra. (this is quite natural as, in the ancient era, there was Gurukul education system).
- Being the elder son in the family Rama was selected for the coronation. (this was the system in almost every dynasty of Ancient India where elder son become the next king).
- Unfortunately, situations didn’t go well & he had to go to 14 year’s exile with his wife & younger brother.
- Where in Jungle his wife was abducted but he did not show any supernatural power to find her. He did all as a human being.
- To find his beloved wife he went all the way down to south India.
- Rama took the help of many local kings like Sugreev and his army.
- He could have shown the superpower at the time of crossing the ocean between India and Sri Lanka yet he decided to build a Dam.
- He rightfully defeated the Ravana- King of Lanka and bring her wife back with pride.
When we look upon the entire life of RAMA, there is no place where he showed supernatural powers. Though he was the best Archer (Bowman) in those days. This shows that Rama was a real living personality of the history, but again this is too early to judge.
Archaeological facts that support Ramayana was real History.
Let’s discuss some archaeological/geological facts, places & structures mentioned in the epic Ramayana to determine- Is Ramayana a Real History of India or a Mythology?
Archaeological investigations, the existence of places, the existence of structures are key to determine if a story is a myth (fiction) or the real.
Even though there was a long period of oral tradition before the Ramayana was actually written, No one can prove or disprove anything when it comes to Ramayana. But what we can do is trace down the chronology of places as they are mentioned in the Ramayana and put to analysis the level of differences back then and now.
This the place where the whole story of Ramayan begins from. Existence of Ayodhya city with the number of the temple belonging to Rama and Hanuman indicates the history of Ramayana.
According to Wikipedia-
The present-day city is identified as the location of Saketa, which was an important city of the Kosala mahajanapada in the first millennium BCE, and later served as its capital. The early Buddhist and Jain canonical texts mention that the religious leaders Gautama Buddha and Mahavira visited and lived in the city. The Jain texts also describe it as the birthplace of five Tirthankaras namely, Rishabhanatha, Ajitanatha, Abhinandananatha, Sumatinath and Anantnath, and associate it with the legendary chakravartins. From the Gupta period onwards, several sources mention Ayodhya and Saketa as the name of the same city.
Existence of Ramayana’s Nandigram ‘
In Ramayana, there is place Nandigram where Bharat (younger brother of Rama) did devotion during the exile of Rama. The place is still there in the same name where Bharat & Hanuman met. Nandigram located about 20 km towards south from Ayodhya the birthplace of Rama. A beautiful Sarovar (Bharat Kund) exists there with some old temples.
When Laxman fainted with Meghnath’s thunderbolt, Hanuman had to bring a medicine i.e. Sanjeevani Booti from the Himalayan Mountains. He could not recognise the Sanjeevni plant so he picked up a big part of a mountain.
Sri Lanka is located just south of India, in the south and the Himalayas in the north. Ayodhya falls between them. When Bharata, who was doing penance in Nandigram, fell on the giant Hanuman flying above, he fired an arrow in fear. After that Hanuman fell down at this place where Bharat Hanuman was reconciled.
This exact match of the sequence of events with geographical correctness can not be a fiction or myth. This is one more place where Ramayana myth theory seems to be busted.
The Janakpur Kingdom
THEN: Janakpur is the third most important place in Ramayana. Sita (Wife of Lord Rama) was the princess of King Janak of Janakpur a city of Mithila Kingdom. Ramayana also refers to King Janak as “Mithila Naresh”. Lord Rama went to Janakpur from Ayodhya where Rama was married to Goddess Sita.
TODAY: Today the place located in Nepal with many temples belonging to Sita. Footprints of the ancient kingdom are still available there. The area adjoining Janakpur is known as Mithilanchal, which comes in the Indian state of Bihar adjoining Nepal.
This is not possible that a myth (fairly tale) has the places exists in the same way recorded in the Epic. Thus calling Ramayana a myth seems unfair. This indicates that Ramayana was a Real History of ancient India.
THEN: Lord Ram with his brother Laxman and wife Sita crossed the river from this place. The trio spent some time at the Ashram of Sage Bharadwaj here, before travelling ahead. According to Ramayana Nishadraj Guh offered his boat service and helped them to cross the river.
TODAY: This beautiful sacred place is renamed again to its old name Prayagraj (from Allahabad). The city is world-famous for the world largest gathering of people for “Kumbh Mela”. Populations of Nishad community is more than anywhere else in this region. Sanctity of this place has mentioned in Ramayana, Mahabharata & Puranas as well. Prayagraj is also into the downline towards south from Ayodhya.
THEN: This is the place where Bharat went behind Rama to bring him back and claim his rightful throne. But Rama refused to come back before completion of 14 years exile. After that Bharat took his slippers with him to Ayodhya to place it on the throne until Lord Rama’s return to the kingdom.
NOW: Presently, the town lies between the present-day Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Several Hindu temples and sites mentioned in Hindu scriptures are situated here. This is a place of a big number of tourist footfalls.
THEN: Panchvati was the first stop where Rama built his home along with his brother and wife. This place was in the forest of Dandakaranya. This place is called Tapovan where Ravana’s sister Supanakha encounter the trio. And Lakshmana, the brother of Rama, cut off the nose of Surpanakha. At this place, only Ravana sent Mareecha in the guise of a deer to lure Sita and later abducted her.
TODAY: Panchvati of Ramayana era is today’s Nasik. Kala Ram temple is among the famous temples here. The main attraction is- Sita Gupha (Cave) is one of the attractions for tourists visiting Panchavadi. Its location is about 2-3 km from the main Nashik city.
Entry to the cave is quite tricky and slippery so people are advised to sit and crawl through the cave instead stand and walk inside. My son tried and failed. At the centre of the cave, there are three idols Lord Ram, Goddess Sita and Lord Lakshman. It is a place worth seeing.
Cave of Bali ( बाली की गुफा) Kishkindha Shri Ram Hanuman Rendezvous
If we look at the story of Ramayana, it travels from north to south. The journey from Ayodhya to Lanka takes us to many places in India. The traces of Ramayana period are saved, even today.
One such place is Kishkindha Nagar, Kishkindha Nagar a kingdom of monkeys ruled by Sugriva’s brother Bali. Shri Ram killed Bali and made Sugriva king. Hanumanji and Shriram also met for the first time in the forest near this city. Even today memories of that period are inhabited in this area. The city is also a major centre of tourism,
The Kishkindha city of that period is still in the state of Karnataka. The remains of the existence of the famous Kishkindha region of the Ramayana period are still found in two districts of the state Koppal and Bellary. This indicates calling Ramayan a myth is not correct.
Kishkindha was a part of Dandak forest
Here the mountains made of small rocks stand adjacent to each other. There is a mention of Tungabhadra, a river here in the Ramayana. This river is still there which is among the major rivers of Karnataka.
In the era of Sri Ram i.e. in Tretayuga, Kishkindha was a part of Dandak forest. The expansion of Dandak forest started from Vindhyachal and reached the sea areas of South India. When Lord Shriram got exile, he along with his brother and wife entered Dandak forest. Shri Ram came to Kishkindha searching for Sita.
Rishimuk Mountains (ऋष्यमूक पर्वत)
THEN: Hanuman met Lord Rama and Lakshmana here while searching for goddess Sita. Their search brought them to the vicinity of the mountain Rishyamukha, where Sugriva and Hanuman were hiding from Bali.
TODAY: This place is in Hampi town in Karnataka bordering the Tungabhadra River. During the time of Ramayana, there was a dense forest across the entire peninsula from Vindhyachal mountain to the name of Dandak forest.
This state was in the same forest. Hence the inhabitants here were called Vanara. The Rishyamuk mountain which was near Kishkindha in Ramayana is still there on the banks of Tungabhadra river by the same name.
The place is of significance as Lord Hanuman was born on the Anjaneya Hill which is near the Risyamukha mountain. Situated at 4264 ft above sea level, its a delight for hikers and devotees alike.
Rameshwaram & Ram Setu
THEN: According to Ramayana era, this is a place where Vanar Sena (Monkey Army) Gathered. To reach Lanka there was a need to build a Setu (Bridge). This is the place where Vanar Sena builds Ram Setu to cross the sea to attack Ravana. Before climbing Lanka Sri Rama worshipped Lord Shiva by installing the Shiva Linga here.
NOW: Rameshwaram is India’s popular pilgrim site, This is the biggest proof that- Ramayana is real History and not a myth. Ram Setu is visible from the sky shows connecting India to Sri Lanka.
Professor Y Sudershan Rao, Chairperson of ICHR, told once that there are clear indications on the west coast that suggest submersion of the coastal area where civilization was flourishing.
Some people refers this as Adam’s bridge but there is no logic behind. It is Ram Setu and it connects all the stories in a proper sequence.
An Americal TV Channel “History” (A Science Channel) telecasts a report based on the research of American scientists. That claims-
- That there is a chain of stones & sand structure in the sea.
- History further claims that the research says the stone found there is about 6000 years or older.
- Ramayana is about to be 6-7 thousand years old.
- Any other Costal area does not have such a large number of stones submerged with sand.
- Hence this probably is a Man-Made structure and not a natural structure.
- This could be the largest man-made structure by that time.
Here is the Video:
— Science Channel (@ScienceChannel) December 11, 2017
Ashok Vatika (Sri Lanka)
THEN: When goddess Sita refuses to stay in the Palace and stays beneath an Ashok tree in a garden. The garden is famous as Ashok Vatika as per Ramayana. It was the place where Sita was held captive after her abduction.
TODAY: Presently it is available at the Hakgala Botanical Garden, close to the resort city of Nuwara Eliya in Sri Lanka. Not only India but also in Sri Lanka there are lots of places, temples of Lord Rama and Sita. Some are too old. Here is how it looks like today-
Ramayana is Real History or Myth? this question is something that need well research on. After Independence, no government was serious about preserving ancient history. Even there an attempt to destroy the Ram Setu for a marine project. Which was later stopped after the objection of a group of devotees & India’s top court’s intervention.
Today’s if you look at the series of the events and geographical proofs you cannot say Ramayana a myth 100%. Maybe there was some exaggeration of the things. Like how many people fought the battle, was there some giant demons as mentioned or not.
But Rama was a King in the History. He fought some great battles to restore Dharma. He was a true man to take inspiration from. And there is no complete denial on it by anyone.