In India we always called our epics itihas [history]. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are itihas. It’s only since Max Müller that we were taught: Hey listen, this is myth, this is not historical narrative. I’m not willing to accept that.
Take the Mahabharata. It started off with less than 25,000 verses of a work called Jaya, which morphed into a work of roughly 50,000 verses called the Bharat, which then morphed into the 100,000 verses of the Mahabharat. We attribute all of this to one single writer, the Rishi Vyasa. I believe that’s almost like a nom de plume, a pseudonym, for multiple writers who wrote through the generations. But do you think multiple generations would have spent their time narrating that story if there wasn’t a kernel of truth to the events that happened?
We have 300 versions of the Ramayana, and each version is remarkably different. You have the Valmiki Ramayana, in which Ram is simply a human being, a mortal. You have the Tulsi Ramayana, in which he is elevated to the status of a God. You have versions like the Adbhuta Ramayana, in which it isn’t Ram who kills Ravana, but Sita who manifests as Durga. You have the Jain Ramayana, in which Lakshman kills Ravana. You have versions like the Muslim Ramayana, in which Ram is a Sultan, or the Lao Ramayana, in which Ram is a Bodhisattva.
But at the core, there are elements of the story that remain common throughout. And why would there be 300 versions of a story that never happened? So I believe what we need to do is to find that enticing, exciting overlap zone where history intersects with myth. And there is a lot we can gain by examining it closely. The problem is that mainstream academia has shied away from looking at these things.
I have always believed that the reason why people like reading these stories, and the reason why this new generation is reading them, is because if you take these two words – myth and history – and put them into a particle collider and bring them charging at superfast speed towards one another, they fuse into a new word, which is myth + history = mystery. That’s typically what I try to do.
Q: Wow, that’s wonderful. As you mentioned, there are many, many local myths and different variations of myths. Every 200 kilometers you have a new myth; every district has their narrative. Do you think we are at a stage where there is a danger of the homogenous narrative subsuming all these? For example, the overarching Mahabharata is pan India, and the overarching Ramayana is pan India.
The way I see it is that mythology has been in a constant state of flux. The packaging and repackaging of mythology have been happening over generations. We spoke about 300 versions of the Ramayana, and there are probably more than 1,000 versions of the Mahabharata. And even if we look at today’s narratives, we are finding that actually the narratives do not depend on the popular mainstream.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
UNITY IN A WORLD OF DIVERSITY
BRIAN JONES explores unity in a world full of challenges and diversity. Through different analogies and his own personal experience with meditation, he finds effective ways to achieve unity through the silence of the heart.
DR. ZACH BUSH is a renowned, multi-disciplinary physician and educator on the microbiome as it relates to human health, the environment, and our interconnected future. Here he extends this worldview into the spiritual realm and the field of consciousness, so as to co-create a sustainable and regenerative future for all of us, and understand the role of humanity in the greater scheme of things.
Women & Spirituality
Mirabai Bush is the author of Working With Mindfulness, co-creator of Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program, cofounder of the Center for Contemplative Mind and Society and a founding board member of the Seva Foundation. She teaches contemplative practices, and has facilitated retreats, workshops and courses on spirit and action for over 20 years. To commemorate International Women’s Day, Mirabai spoke with Purnima Ramakrishnan on March 6, 2021.
Katara McCarty – Exhale
Katara McCarty is the source and inspiration for Exhale, a well-being App for Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color. In December 2020, she was interviewed by Mamata Venkat about her life-long journey creating resources for some of the most marginalized people in society, and her approach to spirituality.
What is Success?
Dr. Ichak Adizes shares what true success really means and what is needed to find success in everything we do.
The Ber Tree
V. RAMAKANTHA, Ph.D., is a former Indian Forest Service officer and member of the Green Initiative at the international Heartfulness Center, Kanha Shanti Vanam, India. Having spent most of his working life living in forests and jungles, in tune with the natural world, he shares his knowledge about some of the amazing medicinal plants of India, in this case the Ber Tree.
Decision-Making versus Implementation
DR. ICHAK ADIZES explores the different qualities and skills needed to make a decision and then to implement it – when to be open-minded and when to be closed-minded, and how to find a common interest so that all stakeholders can work together to implement a decision.
THE ZERO BALANCING POINT
JANMARIE CONNOR explores some practical ways to create harmony and balance where there is tension, conflict and disagreement. How can polar opposites coexist?
Feeling, Sensitivity and Consciousnes
ROS PEARMAIN, Ph.D., has been integrating the fields of psychology, psychotherapy and spirituality, through both practical and philosophical approaches, for over 40 years. Here she explores the way a spiritual practice opens up the levels of feeling and sensitivity, as we expand into deeper and deeper levels of consciousness, and how our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies are integrated through the heart.
Creating Balance FINDING YOUR COLORS AMIDST THE BLACK AND WHITE
MAMATA VENKAT opens up about the challenge of finding selfcompassion and self-acceptance in a world of judgment and criticism. She also offers 10 tips from her own experience about how to cultivate a self-nurturing approach to life.
Spirit Of The Gods
As mezcal becomes the world’s trendiest spirit, we travel to Oaxaca in search of its origins and authenticity
...तो ३३ करोड़ देवता भी हो जायें नतमस्तक!
जो सदा प्राप्त है वह कभी हमें छोड़ता नहीं और जो प्रतीत होता है वह सदा हमारे पास टिक नहीं सकता।
भाइयों ने मुख मोड़ा लेकिन भगवान का चिंतन न छोड़ा
सत्यस्वरूप परमात्मा को पाने की जिज्ञासा तीव्र हो गयी तो समझो आपके भाग्य में चार चाँद लग गये।
Between History And Mythology: Amish Tripathi
After six mythological works & one non fiction, Director of the Nehru Centre in London and a columnist, and author, Amish Tripathi is back with his book "The Legend of Suheldev: The King Who Saved India".How this journey unfolded for him, Amish tells us in an exclusive interview.
ज्योतिष में रत्नों का महत्त्व
रत्न आभूषणों के रूप में शरीर की शोभा तो बढ़ाते ही हैं, साथ ही अपनी दैवीय शक्ति के प्रभाव के कारण रोगों का निवारण भी करते हैं। क्या है रत्न, क्या है इनका महत्त्व तथा उन्हें कैसे करें जागृत आदि जानें लेव से।
राधा कृष्ण के प्रेम का साक्षी दोल उत्सव
हमारे यहां त्योहारों की एक खासियत है कि वे आमतौर पर स्थानीय रंगत लिए हुए होते हैं। होली को ही लीजिए तो बंगाल की होली बाकी जगहों से एक दिन पहले हो जाती है 'दोल उत्सव' के रूप में। यहां यह बसंत के स्वागत और राधा-कृष्ण के प्रेम का प्रतीक है