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We need to change the way we narrate Ramayana: Here is why

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The telecast of Ramayan on DD National and it’s record breaking TRP was a strong reconfirmation of the connection India still has with Ramayana. It was a pleasant surprise to see people respond extremely well to Ramayana even when loads of other content is available on TV as well as on OTT platforms. The telecast of the serial, however, leads to a very important question – What is Ramayana and how it needs to be told, especially to the youth of this country.

Growing up on the western coast of Maharashtra, I am well aware of the exceptional achievements of Shivaji Maharaj and have been fortunate enough to visit some of his forts and military bases. There are quite a few common factors between Shivaji Maharaj & Raja Ram – both are revered and respected by millions across the globe, both have had a big impact on the culture & traditions and thus both have a significant influence on the fabric of the society. However, there is one major difference between the two – we find Shivaji Maharaj in history textbooks, but not Lord Ram! And this difference starts right from childhood – in the way we tell stories.

The story which I vividly remember listening to as a child was when the army of Ram constructs the bridge, famously called the Ram Setu, across to Sri Lanka. The story which is often told mentions that the army of Ram wrote the name of Ram on the stones and boulders and by this mere fact alone, the stones started floating in water and thus the construction of the bridge was completed. What this story often misses is any mention of Nal and Neel – two engineers who were in Ram’s army and had planned the entire construction project. Also, what we lose in this story is that fact that ancient Indians were technologically advanced enough to build a stone bridge across the sea – an exceptional engineering marvel considering the times.

The other story which is often told is how Ram had a vanarsena and how they defeated the Lankan army. The question to ponder over is whether Vanarsena actually means ‘an army of monkeys’ or else it means something else? If yes, what? I raise this question because even today there is a community living in Sri Lanka which is called Vanavaras [1]. So there is definitely a chance that the term vanarsena meant an army of people belonging to the vanara community and not literally ‘an army of monkeys’.

Many stories of Shivaji Maharaj are narrated as well; and these stories always refer to Shivaji Maharaj as a human who achieved unbelievable feats in spite of human limitations and within the constraints of human capacities.

This anomaly needs to change. We need to identify Ramayana as history; and this can be achieved in 3 broad ways:

  1. We need to incorporate Ramayana in history textbooks based on facts and evidence which are available. The current and future youth of India are going to ask many relevant questions and we need logical & satisfying answers to ensure that Ramayana has evidence based credibility in the eyes of the youth.
  2. There is a need to build museums showcasing all artefacts and other evidence which have been unearthed relating to the Ramayana era. Ram travelled to multiple places in India during his conquest – from Ayodhya in north, Nashik in west to Rameshwaram in south India. This works as an excellent opportunity – regional museums can be set up at these locations highlighting his stay at that particular place. It will also make it easier to people staying in different parts of the country to visit at least one museum relating to Ramayana.
  3. We, the people, need to be responsible when we are narrating Ramayana to anyone. A very conscious effort has to be made to narrate Ramayana as history and not as mythology.

This redefining is necessary to ensure that the history of this country does not lose its true color and achievements and also reminds our people how capable our ancestors were. Jai Hind.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanara

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