Ramayana has been an Indian legend and Rama, an Indian Hero right from very early times. Ramayana written by Valmiki gives a detailed account of the events that unfolded during the life of Rama. This story of Rama has been a part of the Indian ethos for many a millennia.
How historical is this text?
How historical are the persons and the geographical locations mentioned in this text?
This text has always been classified in Indian literature as Itihaasa - meaning a historical text.
The colonial British historians who came to India and shaped our thoughts about 200 years ago called this and other texts of India as mythological. How right were they in their branding Indian Itihaasa as mythological?
In the last decade or so, the scientific advancements that have taken place, have helped scientific historians revisit the text for historical proofs.
Bharath Gyan has researched information on Rama from a rational, scientific and logical perspective to try and understand if Rama has in reality been a historical person.
In the Ramayana text the family tree of Rama starts tracing his lineage right from Kashyapa Aditi to his times and after his times down to the times of Mahabaratha. This means at least 50 generations on either side of Rama have been named and their achievements mentioned.
These names and their achievements have been cross verified in other literary texts of other periods of time when those kings who were the ancestors or successors to Rama lived. Such detailed lineage on either side along with their correlation in other texts would be possible if the persons mentioned therein are historical.
In the Tamil text Aga na nooru which belong to the Sangam literature period Rama is mentioned by name in the 70th song of Neithal Thinai. This indicates that he was not only popular in his region but was discussed by the pre-historic Tamil scholars also.
During the Mughal times Begum Hamida Banu, wife of Humayun and the mother of Akbar prepared the Persian version of the Ramayana as it was a historical text of her land. Akbar prepared one more Ramayana during his times as Emperor. These texts are richly painted and are today in various museums of the world. These were not prepared as religious text but as historical texts of the land they ruled.
Ramayana as a text is geographically very correct. Every site on Rama’s route is still identifiable and has continuing traditions in the form of temples to commemorate Rama’s visit.
In those remote days no author had the travel facility to concoct a geographically credible story and building it into local folklore.
This speaks of a convergence of literature, archaeology and local tradition.
One of the ways of proving historicity today is to show archeological proof or evidence. But continuous civilization, while a marvel by itself, does not leave intact, sufficient archeological remnants of its ancestors. Generations come and go and as they keep building and rebuilding their cities, they destroy or alter these remains in order to sustain themselves. Hence while the continuous civilizations and culture itself is existing evidence, archeological artifacts are hard to come by. To understand this, think of a clock which stopped ticking during an earthquake. If nobody repaired it, one can state with assertion the time of the quake. But if it were to continue ticking, then the clock ceases to be the evidence. Today, small occasional finds in deserted places are all what we have, to attempt to learn about our history.
It is because the deep seas swallowed Dwaraka, the town became uninhabitable and frozen in time and hence after so many thousands of years, it is still able to provide evidence for the existence of an advanced township tallying with the city described in the epic Mahabharata.
The only such uninhabited place to look for evidences around Rama’s times as per the epic Valmiki Ramayana would be to look deeper into the Rama Sethu or Adam’s Bridge.
What does the text say about this bridge and what do we find in the bridge?
- Textual Description: It says that, during Rama’s interaction with Samudra Deva, it was revealed that it was in sea’s nature to be deep and not shallow, to have waves and fierce sea creatures. Given this attribute of Sea, it was essential to find a path where Rama and his army would find it easy to cross the sea.
Nala who introduced himself as the biological descendant of Vishwakarma, an architect par excellence, offered his services for the design and construction of a bridge.
On his advice, the Vanara then piled different varieties of trees, some in bloom during that period and then large boulders followed by smaller stones to create a causeway over the sea in 5 days, over which they crossed and reached Lanka.
Physical Observation: Today there is a natural sea ridge formation over the seabed linking the land masses of India and Sri Lanka. This would vindicate Rama and Samudra Deva interaction of locating a place in the sea where it would be easy for Rama and his army to cross over. The question now is whether, under the layers of hardened sands, do the layers of this bridge close to the surface of the sea, show remnants of the trees and rocks as placed there by the Vanara, under the guidance of Nala, as described in the text?
It is to be noted that claims by certain archeological bodies that the Rama Setu is a natural formation is correct.
As per the textual statement and its consequent popular belief carried over millennia, the bridge was manmade.
This has led to a black or white debate of whether the entire structure in the sea which forms the causeway is fully man made or is it fully a natural formation.
If the present structure is explored scientifically along its vertical section by digging through the layers of sand bars on the side and if this reveals the layers to be starting with
- the sea bed at the base
- natural rocky outcrop on top of that
- remnants of the trees as described in the text on top of that
- large boulders on top of that
- smaller stones on top of that
- sand on top of it,
Then it would prove that the textual information found in the Ramayana tallies with the site conditions.
It would reveal that as per the clues in the text, it must be a man made accretion over a natural base i.e. it is most likely a man made bridge constructed over the natural sea ridge formation.
- Textual Description: It says that the bridge’s length by breadth is of ration 100:10.
Physical Observation: Today the bridge measures approx 35 km in length Vs 3.5km in breadth from Dhanushkodi to Talaimannar which is a 100:10 ratio.
Can we give a date to Rama?
The concept of describing dates astronomically has been a practice in India since days bygone and thus lots of Indian literatures are embedded with such astronomical data.
The astronomical data remains left behind in our literature can be analyzed scientifically to arrive at historic dates for various events. This approach is parallel to archaeology where physical remains are analyzed to arrive at historic dates and hence gives rise to a separate branch of scientific dating which may be called Archaeo-astronomy.
The future or past sky configurations can be arrived at using manual calculations or using a scientific tool in present times. This tool eases the task of arriving at planetary positions given a date in future or past and vice-versa i.e. given a set of planetary configurations, arrive at the date either in future or in the past.
Such tools are collectively called Planetarium software. There are probably over 50 such different softwares available. Each software can be used specifically for a particular application, like, plotting the current night sky chart, predicting eclipses and the likes.
When spacecrafts are launched to visit far-off planets like Jupiter and Saturn, it would take a travel time of well over 12 years for the spacecraft to reach these planets. This software helps determine orbital positions of the planets when the spacecraft reaches their orbits. For this, a high level of precision is required in the software.
Searching for the planetary configurations mentioned in the text using the Planetarium software gives us the English calendar dates when these configurations could have occurred in the past. When these dates are logically arranged along with the events, it helps us to scientifically assign dates to events mentioned in Indian legends and historical texts, and validate them.
Various modern day researchers have made use of such astronomical data to arrive at such historic dates for various events described in the Indian literature. We have collated the outputs of such credible work which are worthy of standing up to cross validation.
In the context of the Historicity of Rama, the works of Shri. Pushkar Bhatnagar, as brought out in the book "Dating the Era of Lord Ram" form the basis of what is presented here to understand the dates of the events in Rama’s lifetime
This particular text, Ramayana, when analyzed from a scientific perspective using such archaeo-astronomy techniques, shows tremendous internal consistency between the events described astronomically and the storyline based elapse time between those events.
Sri Rama Navami - Birth day
10th January 5114 BCE
Birth of Bharatha
11th January 5114 BCE
Pre coronation eve
4th January 5089 BCE
Khar, Dushan episode
7th October 5077 BCE
3rd April 5076 BCE
Hanuman's Visit to Lanka
12th September 5076 BCE
Hanuman's Return from Lanka
14th September 5076 BCE
Army March to Lanka
20th September 5076 BCE
This method puts forth the below mentioned dates for the events that occur in the Ramayana legend.
It is indeed noteworthy to observe that these dates are internally consistent
This method of archaeo-astronomy requires knowledge of traditional astronomy, mathematics as well modern day sky chart reading techniques, all of which go into the realm of science. This approach to dating has the potential to date more events from our vast store of literature than traditional archeology can.
Ok, even if this text Ramayana, can form the basis for such validations, why labour over something which is a “mythological” text?
Until 1808, when Mr. James Mill & Mr. Charles Grant from Helebary College, wrote History of India and classified most of the literature of India as Mythological, the texts Ramayana and Mahabharatha were basically classified as Itihasa meaning “It thus happened”.
Mr. Mill & Mr. Grant classified these texts as Mythological on the following 4 grounds:
- The events in these texts seemed to go before the date of creation of the earth as fixed by Father. James Usher as 9 AM, 23rd Oct, 4004. Hence these texts which describe India and the existence of its civilization prior to this time could not be real and must be mythical or imaginary. A fact that has now been proven wrong by modern cosmology and traditional archeological finds. Hence this premise of Mr. Mill & Mr. Grant has been found to be flawed.
- It was held by the colonial British that Alexander defeated Porus in 326 BCE and spread culture and civilized thought to India and that until then Indians were uncivilized barbarians. So the civilization described in these texts which seemed to be more advanced in science, technology, culture, philosophy and linguistics could not have existed prior to the arrival of Alexander and hence the texts are mythical. Not only has the existence of a civilized India prior to the arrival of Alexander been proved beyond an iota of doubt, the talk of the defeat of Porus in the hands of Alexander is also now being questioned with the uncovering of various pre biblical texts and piecing together various circumstantial evidences which point to the contrary namely, Alexander being wounded and defeated by Porus. Hence this premise of Mr. Mill & Mr. Grant is also flawed.
- The British came up with the concept of the Aryan Invasion of India which spread culture and civilized thought to India and that until then Indians were uncivilized barbarians. Hence, again, the civilization described in these texts, which seemed to be more advanced in science, technology, culture, philosophy and linguistics could not have existed prior to the Aryan Invasion and hence the texts are mythical. The Aryan Invasion has now been dismissed by the Western historians as a figment of concoction by the British to justify their occupation of India as a rightful occupier of this Indian territory and beneficiary of its natural resources by painting the Indians themselves as belonging to the Aryan race in reality who had invaded and settled in India and set aside the original inhabitant Dravidian race as lower castes. This Aryan – Dravidian classification has now been proven to be racially incorrect as the entire Indian population has been found to belong to the same race despite their differences in features and complexion. Also the study of traditional Indian text has thrown to light how the terminologies Aryan and Dravidian were based on geographical division and not racial, cultural or civilization. Thus this premise of Mr.Mill & Mr. Grant also seems to be flawed.
- They held that the Genealogies were incoherent and hence the texts were imaginary or mythical. It is to be noted that while texts contained Genealogies, their focus was on key human achievements, Dharma and Principles to be followed – basically lessons for life. Given this, there is a therefore a good possibility for gaps or inconsistencies in discussing the order in Genealogy, but that cannot detract from the historicity of the texts.
Thus on all 4 grounds, Mr. Mill & Mr. Grant’s assumptions for classifying the Indian literature as mythological have been found flawed. Hence it is but natural to revert back these texts to the original classification they enjoyed prior to this incorrect reclassification. That would bring these texts back into the classifications as historical texts.
Much to the consternation of the so called post British historians, it is to be noted that there is no other civilization that is as ancient and continuous as India and hence the branches of history and archeology themselves have a lesson or two to be learned on how to pursue history and archeology, from this civilization and culture. These fields of sciences would be at a great loss if they try to pursue the science through a constrained point of view as adopted by more recent civilizations or schools of thought.
Ok, even if these texts are to be considered historic texts and the events mentioned therein to be dated as close to 7000 years ago based on archaeo-astronomy, there seems to be an inconsistency with the time period pronounced as 17,50,000 years ago, based on NASA’s satellite image? Why this mismatch?
If we go back to NASA’s statement, it conveys the following:
There is a structure which by its curvature appears to be manmade, connecting India and Sri Lanka and human inhabitation in Sri Lanka on the basis of archaeology can be dated to 17,50,000 years ago.
It is to be noted that NASA also added that it is not possible to date or comment on earth based structures based on satellite images alone.
NASA by its statement did not mean to really date the man made bridge as much as indicate the man made nature of the link between the land masses .
However, many people who are familiar with the Indian concept of calculating time in the form of Yuga, immediately have done a back calculation and arrived at dates for Rama’s period going back well over lakhs of years and attributed it to NASA’s finding.
While the basic concept of Yuga, Chathuryuga etc. are fundamental, the measure of a Yuga varies based on the object being measured. E.g. Yuga for Cosmic events is different from Yuga for Solar events Vs Yuga for earth events etc. Yuga is thus a unit of measure in different scales. There are other Yuga scales as per which the dates for Rama arrived at using Archaeo-astronomy tally.
So, the texts are historical and the dating of 7000 years ago looks plausible,
Even so, is there any proof for this causeway ever having been used as a bridge ?
Not only do these Itihasa texts corroborate each other, with the Mahabharatha declaring the Nala Setu as a protected monument, but even recent history as recorded by the post British Historians and the pre British travelers to India, have continuously alluded to many of the cities as listed in Ramayana as well as the Rama Bridge in the context of Rama only.
This bridge until 1480 was used by the population to cross over to Lanka by foot. There have always great plans made by the British to build a railway bridge over this causeway to link India and Sri Lanka but they were not carried out. Infact a plan to build a shipping channel was also abandoned in deference to the sentiments of the locals.
The great Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi also refers to building a road bridge over this causeway in his poetry.
How did the name change from Nala Setu to Adam’s Bridge?
Infact, the bridge was referred to as Adam’s bridge by the Sri Lankan Muslims as their first Islamic leader traveled over this bridge by foot from India and thus this bridge had a holy connotation for them. When the British conquered Sri Lanka, since the name Adam was easy on the tongue and had a meaning for the Europeans too, it popularly came to be called Adam’s Bridge.
For Rama, this bridge was “Nala Setu”. The bridge was named Nala Setu by Rama, in honor of Nala, an Engineer par excellence, who was settled in the southern regions of India and belonged to the Vishwakarma clan which exists even today in the town of Kumbakonam, Tanjore, renowned and engaged globally for their work of temple construction and sculpture. Rama was not the engineer but the leader.
What does the Setu symbolize today?
Nala Setu symbolizes today five aspects:
- The concept of extraordinary effort against adversity and the consequent victory of good over evil.
- The victory of Rama who is a Kshatriya over the anyaya of Ravana, a Brahmin by caste.
- While Rama needed this bridge to cross over to Lanka, He was no civil engineer.
- For this purpose, he utilized the services of Nala, a Vishwakarma by birth and education which means that he was a qualified civil engineer of his times. The workforces for the construction were the Vanara hordes. Hence the bridge today symbolizes the engineering skill of Nala and the Vanara who were residents of Kishkindha which is modern day Hampi in the Karnataka state. Both Nala and Vanara thus geographically belong to Dravida region and perhaps were the original Dravida – Adi Dravida, while Rama geographically belonged to the Aryavarta region.
So this bridge can be rightly be called as a civil engineering marvel of the Adi Dravida.
- This indicates a North-South cooperation and also brings forth as to how India was culturally and geographically one united entity right from those days.
- This Setu also symbolizes the bridge between faith and a logical, scientific and rational understanding of India and its legends.