Social Scientist. v 4, no. 44 (March 1976) p. 68.

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Myth and Reality of Ramayana and Mahabharata

IF THE controversy over Ramayana started with the article, "How Old Is the Ramayana?" by H D Sankalia in The Times of India dated 26 November 1974 which was a preliminary summary of a series of lectures to be delivered at the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the controversy over Mahabharata was touched off by D G Sircar of Calcutta. Scholars are divided mainly into two camps: the first comprising of the orthodox and the second of the archaeologists. The former place the story of Rama between 2850 BG and 1950 BG and the great battle of the Bharatas in 1416 BC while the latter date both the epics not earlier than 1000 BG and 850 BC respectively.

The datelines arrived at after C-14 examinations can hardly be questioned except on the basis of orthodoxy and exclusive reliance on literary sources. But the latter side is not free from its own prejudices and exclusive reliance on archaeology. If Sircar thinks Mahabharata as a whole to be a myth, Sankalia avers that "even much of the critical edition is a myth, but it does contain a kernel of truth which archaeology alone can reveal." But can archaeology rescue all the most essential materials from ravages of time and can they speak? And how can such archaic societies as those of the matriarchal Khasis and the matilineal Malayalis which have come down to modern times be explained on the basis of these rigid archaeological datelines?

Sankalia contends that the Mahabharata war was at best "a family feud" which "broke out between the members of the Kuru family" and was joined by "other rulers." It is true that the account of akshauhinis is an exaggerated one, but to reduce it to a family feud is hardly a historical way of elucidating the episode. Family as an institution we see arising only in the period of Buddha and that too in the new non-tribal kingdoms ofKosala, Magadha, Vatsa and Avanti, while the rest of India was covered by tribes, tribal kingdoms and tribal republics or oligarchies Kecid desa gana-adhinah, kecid raja'-adhinah).The primary unit of these tribal

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