Some Frequently Asked Questions
Certain literary analysts have placed the Valmiki Ramayana to be of the period of 300 BCE based on the style of the language. How do you then place the events of Ramayana to be around 5000 BCE?
Valmiki is considered to be the first poet or Adi Kavi of the Samskrit language. The European colonial scholars had given this date of 300 BCE because they then had to fit the literary Indian calendar well within 1200 BCE. In the last 5 decades of research, this upper cap of 1200 BCE has been rightfully dismissed based on ground facts arrived at using modern scientific processes. This gives the present day analysts the flexibility of placing the text where they naturally belong to.
Their earlier assumption was that if the Veda were compiled in 1200 BCE, then Panini must have lived around 500 BCE. Since the Ramayana narration style is in line with the Paninian grammar, the Ramayana must have been composed post Panini, somewhere around 300 BCE.
Now it has been proved that the Veda were not compiled in 1200 BCE but were infact compiled well before 3000 BCE. Given this, the date of Panini also needs to be looked at afresh and fixed accordingly. A group of literary analysts in their opinion, because of the style of writing have given this date.
Giving a specific date to a text and hence dating the events mentioned in that text, by a few literary analysts, purely based only on analysis of the “literary style” of the language is only an opinion and can at best be termed as a soft evidence.
Whereas, in contrast, dating the events in a text using the hard evidences in the form of “content in the text” that tallies and cross verifies with scientific finds and other texts and legends, across times, is a much more reliable method.
Looking from this hard evidence perspective, 5114 BCE for Rama and the events in Ramayana seems to be a more reliable date.
We are told that, in India, an oral tradition of knowledge transmission was followed. If so, how can we rely on this written text as containing authentic data?
It is only the Veda which are known as Sruthi and meant to be orally transmitted. They were never intended to be written down. Various error correcting transmission techniques were put in place to ensure the correctness of this transmission.
Whereas, the 2 Itihasa namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were written texts which were copied through the ages in different medium over generations through the land, which continues to happen even today for our current texts. From this what comes out, is that minor additions and deletions could have and have taken place in various versions of these texts across the land. On close scrutiny of the different versions is that, the core data is same across these versions.
Why do we have so many versions of Valmiki Ramayana?
These can be called versions or more correctly as editions. Different chroniclers and writers of the Ramayana legend have woven their own interpretation, language and style in their respective edition of Ramayana.
This is obviously because each of these writers, commented based on how they understood the facts of the core data in their times. Hence the multiple versions and editions.
Why do we also have various adaptations of Valmiki Ramayana such as Tulsidas’ Ramcharit Manas, Kalidasa’s Raghuvamsha or Kamban’s Ramayana? Which do we use as the authentic text?
Firstly, it is important to note that all these adaptations across ages are in different forms such as plays, ballads or religious texts. The focus and purpose of each of these poets was different and the social conditions of their times have found expression too in the message conveyed through their works.
When doing a scientific or historic research of an ancient civilization, it is essential to scan through the variety of versions and adaptations and gather the common, credible, core data to analyse and appreciate the historicity of Rama.
How do we explain the monkeys in Ramayana?
Monkeys is a term that has been loosely used in the last couple of hundred years to express the term Vanara in the English language. The term Vanara when analysed can give us vital suggestive clues, to what it really represented, some of them being:
- People of the forest or Vana
- Vanara could be an exclamation as to “Are they human too?”; so human like but yet so different. This may have been the way to express different varieties of people as evident from other words in ur ancient texts such as Kinnara or Kimpurusha too.
It is interesting to note here that, in the British records of the gazette of Bellary district, which is very near modern day Hampi or Kishkinda of earlier times, the then collector has noted that the forest tribes of that area, call themselves the Vanara people and used Monkey as a symbol in their totem pole and flag.
Rama is said to have been born in the Treta Yuga. How does this tally with the date of 5114 BCE?
There are different types of Yuga. Till date we have been able to enumerate atleast 7 different types. The time span of a Yuga starts from 1 year to 5 years and all the way upto 43,20, 000 years.
Of these, which variety of Treta Yuga is discussed in the Ramayana text is till unclear. Further detailed research is required on this. Scholars who have researched on these multiple Yuga concepts and their applicability to various legends are welcome to contact us as email@example.com with their technical opinion to take this study forward.
Was there really a Pushpaka Vimana during Ramayana period?
There have been a variety Vimana or flying machines in the Indian puranic literature. Pushpaka vimana is just one among the many. There are separate technical literature available such as Vaimanika Sastra by Maharishi Bharadwaja in which the avionics of these vimana is discussed in good detail. In the series of Bharath Gyan, we have a separate capsule on Vimana, where these avionics are discussed in detail.