Sunday, September 30, 2007

Historicity of Ram, Ramayana, Rama Setu - II

Dr. N.S. Rajaram and Shree Vinekar, M.D., on India Forum

In its now withdrawn affidavit the Indian Government has claimed that Rama Setu is a naturally formed coral reef and not a man-made structure. Further, it was also claimed that Rama was not a historical figure though it is unclear what Rama’s historicity has to do with the proposed project of cutting a channel through the Rama Setu. The latter pronouncement is both uninformed and gratuitous that smacks of an ulterior political motive.

The experts who helped the Government in preparing the affidavit have been hasty in both their “conclusions” of Rama Setu being entirely natural and Rama’s dubious historicity. More than just questioning these conclusions we must recognize the ulterior political implications of such pronouncements and their impact on the morale of the majority of the Indian citizenry. In a “secular” country like India it has become a fashion to be Hindu bashing intellectuals who would like to present the Hindus as irrational and ignorant rascals while the other sections receive protections for their irrationalities, disregard for uniform Civil Code, and imposing mythologies with undaunted trampling on the sacred monuments of Bharat and its sacred land.

A coral reef can grow around a long submerged man-made structure just as an anthill or even a geologic structure like a mound can form over an old man-made structure due to the action of elements. Sea levels thousands of years ago were much lower than they are today. What is now a submerged in the shallow waters like the Palk Strait could have been above water or only partially under water in ancient times.

As a result, very detailed marine archaeological work has to be done to determine whether or not Rama Setu has any man-made structures. Neither the Archaeological Survey of India nor any other organization has done any such work. All we have are satellite photos and some geophysical studies. These are inconclusive and subject to varying interpretations. Without undertaking an expensive underwater archeological exploration and survey conclusions regarding absence of man-made structure in the Rama Setu are premature to say the least.

It is a similar story with Rama’s historicity: without thorough historical research one cannot say that no such person existed simply because there are no physical remains like bones or access to DNA evidence. By applying the same distorted logic we should be able to say that Moses, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed also never existed and are indeed mythological figures. Making conclusive statements like that referring to Moses, Jesus Christ and Prophet Mohammed by the Government of India will not only be considered foolish and foolhardy but will cause enormous uproar. It is clear that the Government of India is not afraid to engage in blatant Hindu bashing under the defense of “Secularism,” and like the self-proclaimed atheist E. V. Ramasamy Peryar, is cowardly in not confronting the Christians and Muslims regarding their sacred myths but is “gloriously” impulsive in attacking the sacred among the Hindus. When working on my book Search for the Historical Krishna, I (NSR) found that archaeology is of limited use in dealing with such ancient figures. I (NSR) found it necessary to correlate data from a wide range of sources including literature, ancient ecology, archaeo-astronomy, and others. Prehistoric figures in all cultures present major challenge to historians in arriving at any concrete evidence or proof for their existence or the veracity of the mythological stories attached to them.

We must in all humility recognize that a great deal of work needs to be done before we can even begin to answer these questions.

Fortunately I (NSR) was able to build on a century of previous research going back to Bankimchandra Chatterji and his Sri Krishna Charitra. No comparable research has been done on the Historical Rama. This being the situation, we should refrain from accepting hasty statements made by the Government of India and the Indian Supreme Court like what we have been seeing in the past few days. These are not “gospel” truths besides being statements that are highly offensive to the Hindu majority of India. The psychological and culturally held truths have the same force as the geophysical and historically researched truths for all sections of the populations. Basic respect for these sentimental values held dear by a large section of the Indian population needs to be evident in the Government of India and its affiliated judiciary. It is not even quite clear whether the government elected by the people, for the people and its appointed judiciary have constitutional rights to make such offensive pronouncements based on insufficient or absent evidence and have jurisdiction over such matters. If Indian Government pledges to be neutral in the matter of religion and religious beliefs and to adopt an atheistic socialism or communism as its political philosophy, it needs to be equitable in not permitting proselytization, allocating crores of rupees to a small section of the citizenry to undertake religious pilgrimage, and in permissiveness of building their places of worship or planting their religious symbols over the land and monuments that are considered sacred by the Hindus.

Above all we need to remember: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

hits since Chaitra 7, 2064 Vikram (March 26, 2007)