Tag Archive: Rama and Sita


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By Sharon St Joan

 

Peering around a screen to catch a glimpse behind the stage, the eight-year old boy saw a man smoking. Startled, he burst into tears. The problem was not that a man was smoking – the problem was that it was Rama, the great cultural hero and god-king of India who was smoking. Standing off stage and out-of-sight of the audience, taking a break during an intermission in the performance, there was Rama, with his blue skin and regal bearing, smoking a cigarette. How could Rama be smoking? The young boy Jagam with tears streaming down his face, told the other boys what he had seen, and they started crying too.

 

What would otherwise have been an inspirational performance of the life of Rama had turned into a disappointment. Over time, the shock of the actor smoking faded into the background, and only the heroes of the Ramayana remained in the forefront of the boy’s consciousness.

 

The impact of the story of Rama and his wife Sita on the people of India cannot be overstated.  Their influence extends across all strata of society and every region of the country. In every rural village there may be found among the fields, nestled under a tree, stone icons of Rama and Sita – worshipped and cared for. Rama is the divine figure who lived maybe 5,000 years ago, maybe much earlier, who exemplifies the deeply-rooted Indian concepts of truthfulness, selflessness, and absolute devotion to duty.

 

Rama, unjustly exiled into the forest for fourteen years by his father, at the demand of his step-mother, went willingly and graciously, placing his duty to obey his father above all other considerations.

 

To this day, Indian children are taught to obey and respect their parents and all elders – not only while they are children, but throughout their entire lives – this is the glue that holds Indian society together. The ideals that are intrinsic to their society are not, as in the west, the values of freedom, of seeking one’s rights, and the pursuit of individual happiness, but rather, devotion, respect, and reverence for those who came before them. Uppermost is the concept of placing the welfare of others before one’s own personal wishes and desires.

 

Obviously, in the world as it is today, one finds exceptions; in India there is immense western influence, and age-old traditions have suffered much erosion over the centuries. Yet, despite all this, one still finds, even now, in the heart of nearly every Indian, deep within the psyche, a fundamental attitude of reverence and humility that has never been entirely extinguished – a wish first and foremost to carry out one’s duty in life and to fulfill one’s sacred obligations.

 

Every character in the epic story of Rama and Sita offers either an example to follow, or, instead, a lesson in patterns of behavior to be avoided. All are instructive and are remembered by children for the rest of their lives.

 

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Jagam carried throughout his life a reverence for the Ramayana, and especially one of the great heroes of the story, Hanuman – the divine monkey God, much beloved all over India. Every day of his life he read at least one passage from the Ramayana.

 

Many see Hanuman as the real hero of the Ramayana.  He is worshipped for his unfailing loyalty and devotion to Rama.  It is Hanuman who enables Rama to cross the sea to rescue his wife Sita who has been abducted by the wicked demon-king of Sri Lanka, Ravana.

 

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The boy who was dismayed by Rama smoking became a man, A.R. Jagannathan. His daughter, Dr. Nanditha Krishna, recalls her parents taking her on a trip when she was a child to the island of Rameshwaram, where floating in a boat over the sea, her father lowered her into the waters (much to the alarm of her mother!) so that she could experience firsthand the waves of the ocean where Hanuman and Rama had so long ago stood on the shore planning how to rescue the beloved Sita, how to build a bridge to Lanka, and with what strategy to conquer the armies of Ravana.

 

Nanditha Krishna also credits her father, as well as her mother’s father and her great-grandfather, with instilling in her a great love and reverence for the world of nature.  He took her when she was a child on countless trips to the forests and wildlife preserves of India, pointing out the graceful beauty of the trees, plants, birds, and animals, imparting a profound love of the wild places and the living beings who find their home there.

 

In his public life, A.R. Jagannathan was Founder Managing-Director and Vice-Chairman, Tata Projects Ltd. A very wise and conscientious man, he was a beloved counselor to this extended family, who sought out his advice for all the important decisions of their lives: marriages, careers, businesses, and any important decisions. Kind and always thoughtful, his counsel was given sincerely and was of great benefit.

 

One of his favorite songs, which he loved to listen to all his life was one of the songs about the God Kartikeya. The song told the story of how the heart of his beloved was filled with love for him. Kartikeya was radiant as the moon.

 

He felt a great love for wildlife and the forests, while his wife, Shakunthala, felt a tremendous appreciation of Indian culture and tradition. They complemented each other beautifully, in a marriage made in heaven.

 

He often told the story of when he was a boy, walking with a group of people, 40 kilometers through the forest, up a hill towards the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. They walked all day, gradually climbing higher along the jungle terrain. As they walked, they saw movement off to the side in the brush. They became aware that in the underbrush there were tigers walking along with them, just out of sight, visible here and there, gliding through the spots of sunlight and shadows of the thick forest. The number of tigers grew over the hours, as more tigers joined them.  They were curious, but never threatening. The tigers were simply walking with them, keeping them company. It was a beautiful experience of harmony with nature and the profound peace of the forest.

 

Top photo: Sumeet Moghe / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / A Bengal Tiger in Jim Corbett National Park

 

Second photo: Raja Ravi Press / Wikipedia Commons / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / A painting done in the 1920’s / Rama, exiled to the forest, accompanied by his wife Sita and his brother Laksmana.

 

 

Third photo: CC-by-sa PlaneMad/Wikimedia /”This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.”/ The bridge near Rameshwaram.

 

© 2015, text, Sharon St Joan

 

 

 

 

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In the great Indian epic, the Ramayana, when Laksmana, the brother of the hero Rama is lying unconscious on the battlefield and all seems lost, their loyal friend, the divine monkey, Hanuman, flies through the air all the way from Sri Lanka to the Himalayas to bring life-saving herbs back to the herbal doctor who can use them to heal Laksmana. In fact, it turns out that Hanuman has to bring back the entire mountain on which the herbs are growing because when he arrives in the Himalayas, he realizes that he doesn’t know the difference between one herbal plant and the next, so he can’t just pick out the right ones. All ends well, fortunately, and when Hanuman returns to Sri Lanka, the herbal doctor is able to use the right herbs from the transported mountain to revive Laksmana from the brink of death and restore him to good health once again.

The world of plants

The world of plants is central to the Ramayana, and though this long poem of several books was written thousands of years ago, the trees and plants depicted in this amazing epic, are geographically accurate, and even today, the plants that are described are found growing in the exact locations all over India where Valmiki, author of the Ramayana, has placed them. It is all geographically and botanically correct.

Mr. M. Amerthalingam, botanist with the C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre, Chennai, presented the paper, “Plant Diversity in the Valmiki Ramayana” at the February 2013 Conference on The Ramayana in Literature, Society, and the Arts. The proceedings have recently been published.

He highlights the extraordinary range of the plant life of India at the time and notes the precise descriptions each of the 182 different plants mentioned in the Ramayana.

The Ramayana as historical reality

Fewer and fewer people these days see the Ramayana, one of the two great epics of India, as a work of mythology or fiction. Indeed, it has never been viewed as anything other than history in India. Only western scholars have had difficulty accepting the basic historical reality of Rama, Sita, and the events of their lives. It is true enough that there are poetic aspects to the story – and whether or not Hanuman really flew through the air or not may be questionable, but that Rama and Sita did really live and that the major events of their lives are true is accepted as fact.

The dates when they lived are the subject of much scholarly speculation, but possibly they lived around 3,000 BCE, or maybe earlier, or maybe later.

Mr. Amerthalingam has compiled a list of all the plants described in the Ramayana. In his travels to rescue his wife Sita, who had been abducted, the hero Rama traveled from Ayodhya in the north of India to Lanka (Sri Lanka) in the south. On his way, Rama journeyed through numerous forests, each was unique, and remarkably, each account is true to the actual plant life which is native to that forest.

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In the beginning of the epic, in Chitrakoot forest where Rama and Sita spent time in exile, there were many beautiful flowering trees; mango and jackfruit; there were neem and bamboo, and a host of other trees, all of which are found in that area today and which are described very precisely.

In the Dandakaranya forest, there were tall trees and trees bearing fruit.

The Panchavati forest, from where Sita was abducted, lies on the banks of the River Godavari.

In Sri Lanka, there were evergreen forests – these are not the kind of evergreens one might think of in the west, like spruce, pine, and fir trees – they were the evergreens in India and Sri Lanka which remained green year round, like the ashoka tree, a rain forest tree with lovely red flowers.

In what is today the Bellary district of the state of Karnataka, Rama met Hanuman and Sugriva, two leaders of the monkey people who, throughout the epic poem, provided invaluable assistance to Rama in his search for the lost Sita. Without Hanuman’s help, it is hard to see how Rama could have rescued Sita.

They spent some time there in the forest, near the Pampa sarovar (lake) among a great wealth of trees and plants – both moist and dry deciduous plants. There were rose-apples, banyan trees, jackfruit, peepal, and mango trees, sandalwood, ashoka, and kadamba. There were lotuses, lilies, wild cherries, and jasmine, and around thirty more species, all mentioned by name.

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Medicinal herbs in the Ramayana

In the story mentioned above, during a huge battle that took place between the forces of Rama and the demon king Ravana, when Rama’s brother, Lakshmana, was lying unconscious on the battlefield, the doctor Sushena asked Hanuman to fly to the Himalayas. Hanuman set off, flying through the air over the snow-covered terrain until he reached the Dronagiri Mountain. After Hanuman had picked up the entire mountain and flown back with it, Sushena was able to identify the four herbs that were required; Mrita sanjeevani (which brings the dead back to life), Vishalyakarani (which cures all wounds caused by weapons), Suvarnakarani which restores the body), and Sandhani (which joins severed limbs and fractured bones). Thanks to the herbal knowledge of Sushena and the strength and heroism of Hanuman, Lakshmana sprang back to life and was ready to fight again.

The entire Ramayana is filled with beautiful and very accurate accounts of plants. On the island of Lanka, it was forbidden to cut down trees. Although the demon king Ravana was a criminal, guilty of abducting Sita, he did always show a sincere appreciation for trees. In his country, planting trees was considered a very praiseworthy activity. It was believed that a wood cutter and his family would suffer death and destruction as a karmic consequence of harming trees. Trees were worshipped in Lanka and throughout India, as they still are today.

It is clear from the detailed and abundant descriptions of the 182 plants that the Ramayana could only have been written in India, and that the author, Valmiki, was writing botanically correct information. He was also absolutely familiar with the medical uses of the plants.

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Listening to the natural world

Keenly aware of plants, Valmiki knew them exceptionally well. Today so many of us are unaware of plants; we brush them aside into the background, not listening to what they have to say and unaware of the souls of the living world around us. Only by once again revering the world of trees and plants can we reawaken our consciousness to the natural world, so that the earth may be restored and renewed.

Thanks to Mr. M. Amerthalingam for his amazing knowledge of these trees and plants and for bringing them to life for us.

The Proceedings of the Conference on The Ramayana in Literature, Society, and the Arts, February 1-2, 2013 has been published by C.P.R. Publications, C.P.R. Institute of Indological Research Chennai. To visit their website, click here.

To find the book, Sacred Plants of India by Nanditha Krishna and M. Amerthalingam, on Amazon, click here.

Top photo: Photographer: Eric Guinther / permission: GNU / Wikimedia Commons / “Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2…” / Leaves of the peepal tree.

Second photo: Photographer: J.M. Garg / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.” / Leaves of the neem tree.

Third photo: Author: ProjectManhattan / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / The jackfruit tree.

Fourth photo: Original uploader was Indiancorrector at en.wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons / “This work has been released into the public domain by its author, Indiancorrector at the wikipedia project. This applies worldwide.” / Kishkindha, the kingdom of the monkey people in the Ramayana, view from atop Aanjaneya Parvat, near Hampi, in Karnataka.

© 2014, Sharon St Joan

 

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One must walk barefoot on the grounds of a Hindu Temple. At the Ramanathaswamy Temple, the approach to the temple begins several streets away, and all this ground is sacred and belongs to the temple; walking barefoot over the cobbled stones and occasional debris can be a bit of a challenge.

 

Inside the temple, it is cool and dark. Through large windows, one can see through to the outside, where the temple is surrounded by 22 theerthas. These are huge sacred tanks; pilgrims are blessed by immersion in the water. This is generally accomplished by people filing by as a priest pours an entire bucket of water over each of their heads.

 

Still dripping, the pilgrims then enter the main part of the temple. In the floor near the entranceway, are shallow channels which carry away the water.

 

Thousands of years ago, during the course of rescuing his wife Sita, the ancient King Rama killed her abductor, the demon-king Ravana. The problem that arose, however, was that Ravana, even though he was not a very nice fellow, was a Brahmin – and this meant that by killing him, Rama was guilty of the sin of Brahmahatya, or killing a Brahmin – a sin that had to be expiated.

 

Ravana

 

So Rama, on his return from Lanka with the rescued Sita, stopped at the site, where today the Rameshwaram temple stands, to worship Shiva and to be cleansed from his sin. The very ancient site was sacred to Shiva even then. Rama sent his trusted friend the monkey God Hanuman to go to Mount Kailash to bring back a shivalingam, a representation of Shiva, to install in the temple. Mount Kailash is in the Himalayas, thousands of miles north of Rameshwaram which is in the far south of India, so, even though Hanuman could fly, it took him a while. It took so long that in the meantime, Sita had built a small lingam out of mud and placed it in the temple.

 

When Hanuman returned with the large stone lingam he had brought from the far north, Rama decreed that both lingams would always remain in the temple, where they are today.

 

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Like other ancient south Indian temples, the Ramanathaswamy Temple is surrounded by a high rectangular wall which runs 865 feet from east to west and 657 feet from north to south.

 

The temple is at least as old as the time of the Ramayana, which may be around 1,000 BCE or maybe older. In the beginning, it was a simple shed in the charge of a hermit. The building of the temple in its current form was begun during the Pandyan Dynasty of south India.

 

Other kings added structures from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries CE, gradually expanding the temple to the huge complex it is today.

 

The temple contains the longest temple corridor to be found anywhere in the world; the outer wing of the third corridor goes 690 feet east and west, as well as 435 feet north and south. Standing at the corner where they meet in a right angle, one can look a very long way down one way and then down the other. On either side of the corridor, 1212 carved columns rise from five foot high platforms and stretch 27 feet up to the ceiling. There are also inner corridors.

 

On a visit to the temple in the early years of the twentieth century, the Hindu saint, Swami Vivekananda, said: “Let me tell you again that you must be pure and help anyone who comes to you as much as lies in your power. And this is good Karma. By the power of this, the heart becomes pure and then Shiva who is residing in everyone, will become manifest.”

 

Rameswaram is one of the four holiest places of pilgrimage in India; these lie in the four directions. They are Varanasi (Benares) in the north, Puri in the east in Odisha, Rameshwaram in the south, and Dwarka in the west. Rameswaram is sacred to both Vaishnavites and Shaivites, both those who worship Vishnu and those who worship Shiva.

 

 

© Sharon St Joan, 2014

 

Top photo: Purshi / Wikimedai Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / One of the long corridors.

 

Second photo: Painting by an unknown artist around 1920. /Wikimedia Commons. / “This work is in the public domain in India because its term of copyright has expired.” / A depiction of the ten-headed demon-king of Lanka, Ravana.

           

Third photo: Vinayaraj / Wikimedia Commons / “This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.” / One of the gopurams or gates of the Temple.

 

 

 

 

 

Sita

Sita

The suitor, hoping to wed Janaka’s daughter strained and struggled, then struggled and strained, groaning all the while, as he tried in vain to bend the gigantic bow in order to win the hand of Sita, Janaka’s daughter.  Finally he gave up, and wobbled off the stage, mumbling, “I didn’t want to get married anyway!”

 

The hero, Rama, a resplendent blue figure, stepped up to the bow. Not only did he lift it, but he held it aloft, and with a resounding crack, Rama broke the bow! With this astounding feat, Rama won the right to marry the beautiful Sita.

 

500 children watched

500 children watched

 

500 children cheered, watching the marionettes wide-eyed in amazement as they enacted the age-old story of Rama and Sita, at the C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation in Chennai, India, presented on Saturday, February 16, 2013, as part of a month-long celebration, the Ramayana Festival. Children from the Grove School and the Saraswati Kendra School, both run by the C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation, as well as other children, attended.

 

T.N. Shankaranathan and Murugan

T.N. Shankaranathan and Murugan

 

T.N. Shankaranathan, now 85 years old, his son Murugan, and six others make up the marionette troupe that brought so much life and magic to this spectacular performance.  They traveled to Chennai from their homes in Kumbakonam, bringing with them their elaborately costumed and beautifully crafted marionettes, each over two feet high. They are part of the few-thousand strong Sourashtrian community, descendants of people who left Gujarat 400 or 500 years ago. To escape the threat of forced conversion to Islam, they traveled south to Tamil Nadu, settling near Madurai.  Most were weavers, and some remain weavers even today.

 

Many decades ago, T.N. Shankaranathan and two of his brothers along with their families were taken in and looked after by a well-off family from Kumbakonam, and there he learned his craft from the famous puppeteer, Mani Iyer.

 

He and his son Murugan, along with Vasan, one of the C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation officers, sang the music for the performance, which was dramatic, plaintive and joyful in turn.  All was whimsical, sprinkled with many comical moments, and with an underlying thread of a deeper meaning.

 

A clown

A clown

 

The show was entirely in Tamil. One of the marionettes, a clown, spoke a few profound words at the beginning, “We are all marionettes, attached by strings that pull us this way and that; we are dolls, and it is our duty, while we are here in this life to do as much good as we can.”  Of the history of marionettes, he said,  “We are not one hundred years old, or even four or five hundred or a thousand years old.  Marionettes are as old as the stones of the earth.” He gave an ecological message too, about protecting and caring for the earth, the animals, and plants.

 

As the marionette play began, following the Ramayana story by Valmiki, the old and very powerful rishi, Vishwamitra, is asking the King Dasharatha, to allow his son Rama to go with him, to be trained as a warrior and then to do battle with the horrid demoness Tataka.  Reluctantly, the king consents and Rama, with his brother Lakshmana, sets off to be trained in warfare by Vishwamitra.

 

The demoness Tataka is killed by Rama, the only hero who is strong and righteous enough to kill her.  Her son Maricha is chased away, to live, then to die at Rama’s hands much later in the epic. A pale, skeletal ghost appears too, looking appropriately terrifying and is also dispatched with.

 

After Rama breaks the gigantic bow, which is Shiva’s bow, King Janaka gives him the hand of his daughter Sita in marriage, and there is a scene of great joy and celebration as the two are happily wed. Rama and Sita exchange garlands and are given long beautiful stoles.  The marionette story ended here on this joyous occasion, though this is just the first chapter of the traditional tale.

 

Dasharatha, Rama's father, and Vishwamitra, a rishi

Dasharatha, Rama’s father, and Vishwamitra, a rishi

 

The captivating story of Rama and Sita, one of the most enchanting stories in the world, is performed and read not only in India, but wherever Indian traditions and stories have spread over the centuries, especially throughout Southeast Asia. As an avatar of Lord Vishnu, Rama is worshipped by hundreds of millions of Hindus.

 

Earlier, on February 1 and 2, at the Ramayana Conference, put on at the C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation, a mountain of evidence was presented by scholars in support of the view that the story, long considered by western authorities to be a myth, was based on historical reality, and that Rama was not a myth, but a historical king of early India.

 

This marionette troupe is the last one remaining in the state of Tamil Nadu.  They carry on a lovely, meaningful tradition, handed down through many generations.

 

Photos:  Sharon St Joan

 

To visit the website of the C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar Foundation, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Rama and Sita – history or myth?

Grove School students re-enact a scene from the Ramayana

Grove School students re-enact a scene from the Ramayana

 

 

The Ramayana, one of the two great epic poems of India is known, not just throughout India, but all of southeast Asia, and to an extent, throughout the world.  It has captured the hearts of billions of people over millennia.

 

Briefly, this is the story of Rama and Sita, who are believed to have lived around 1,000 BC:

 

One of four brothers, Rama, as the eldest son of King Dasharatha, is about to be proclaimed the crown prince.  Before this can happen, one of the wives of Dasharatha, Kaikeyi, demands that her own son, Bharata, be named crown prince instead, and that Rama be sent off to live in the forest for fourteen years.  She demands this as her right because, once, many years before, she had saved the life of Dasharatha during a battle.  At the time, he promised her two wishes, which she never claimed, and spurred on by her scheming maid, she chooses this moment to claim the two wishes.

 

Students from the Grove School in a scene from the Ramayana

Students from the Grove School in a scene from the Ramayana

 

Virtually everyone in the city of Ayodhya is aghast at the thought of the beloved Rama, who is adored by all the people, being exiled to the forest.  No one is more profoundly distressed than his father Dasharatha, who worships the ground that Rama walks on.  Only Rama himself seems unperturbed and calmly accepting of his fate.

 

Dasharatha is king, and as king he must honor his commitments, whatever the cost. He promised the two boons to his wife, and he must not go back on his word. He has no choice but to grant the two wishes, pledged so many years ago, and to send his beloved son into the forest.

 

Rama leaves for the forest, accompanied by his loyal brother Lakshmana and his wife, Sita, who has insisted on going with her husband to live in the forest.

 

After spending over twelve years living in the forest, one day Sita is abducted by the demon, Ravana and is carried off to Sri Lanka, Ravana’s kingdom.  Rama, in despair, sets off to find Sita, and is only kept going by the help of his brother, and the many friends he meets along the way, including an army of monkeys and a wise old bear.  One of the greatest heroes—perhaps the true hero of the story, Hanuman, is a divine monkey, who exemplifies the qualities of absolute loyalty and selfless devotion to Rama.

 

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana in the forest

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana in the forest

 

With the assistance of so many loyal friends, Rama is able to defeat Ravana and rescue Sita.  The two return to Ayodhya triumphant and, with the fourteen years of banishment over, Rama, with Sita at his side, is crowned king, in a happy conclusion.

 

This is only the barest outline of the story which is infinitely complex, with every character existing on multiple levels, good and bad – divine and human –demonstrating nobility and a higher purpose, as well as human failings and flaws.

 

The overarching theme of the story is that Rama illustrates the profoundly Indian concept of dharma – or righteousness. Never deviating from his appointed path, he is unfailingly loyal and obedient, first and foremost to his father. It is Rama himself who is determined to obey his father and who never hesitates a moment, following his destiny, to endure a hard life in the forest for fourteen years.

 

This theme of loyalty, respect for one’s parents, and profound humility has carried through all of Indian culture, throughout the millennia, and is very much alive today in the heart of every Indian.

 

The story of Rama and Sita, the greatest legend of India, and perhaps the world, was for a long time relegated by western historians to the unhistorical status of myth.  One of the extraordinary reasons early European writers gave for this was that James Ussher, an Archbishop of Ireland in the seventeenth century, had calculated, based on the Bible, that the earth itself had been created on October 23, 4004 BC. Consequently, any records, anywhere in the world, which went back before that date must be mistaken. Rama and Sita thus fell into the category of myth, and there they remained until recent years.

 

During the Ramayana Festival Conference at the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation in Chennai, India, February 1-3, it became abundantly clear that the age-old tale is in fact based on history and is not simply mythical.

 

Indian scholars and authorities are increasingly questioning the assumption by western authorities that the tale is nothing more than a story.

 

Every event in the story is firmly based on geography, having a precise location that can be pinpointed on a modern map.  The Ramayana is filled with lovely descriptions of trees and plants which are all geographically and scientifically precise.

 

The trees near the kingdom of Ayodhya are those species that are found there today.  The trees in the various forests where Rama and Sita lived – and those on the mountain where they met the army of the monkeys are all real, botanically correct trees.

 

Hanuman carrying the mountain

Hanuman carrying the mountain

 

Amazingly enough, though this is quite hard to explain scientifically, there is a mountain in Sri Lanka that is pointed, not rounded like the surrounding mountains. On it grow plants and trees that are found only in the Himalayas, over a thousand miles away.

 

In the Ramayana, Hanuman, the monkey god, is sent off in the midst of a major battle, to bring back an essential herb that is found only in the Himalayas.  Hanuman flies through the air, finds the mountain, and then realizes that because he is not a herbalist or a botanist, he has no idea how to recognize the herb he has been sent to get, which is urgently needed to revive Rama’s brother, Lakshmana, who is lying unconscious on the battlefield.  All the herbs and plants look alike to Hanuman.  Perplexed, he solves the problem, by picking up the entire mountain and flying back to Sri Lanka with it held aloft in one hand.

 

Lakshmana is given the correct herb and recovers.  Whatever all this means, who knows, but the herbs and plants growing on the only pointed mountain in Sri Lanka, grow nowhere else except in the Himalayas.

 

The tribal peoples of India have many legends about Rama, Sita, and Ravana.  The Gond people, for example, have legends that Rama and Sita visited them.  These stories are unique to them, and are not found in the standard story of the Ramayana.  This means that they have had a separate, native origin.  They are not simply derived from the Sanskrit version of Rama’s and Sita’s life.  This fact serves to confirm the authenticity of the historical reality of Rama and Sita – since they exist not only in Sanskrit stories, but quite independently – in tribal sources.

 

The evidence for the historical reality of the lives of Rama and Sita grows only stronger as time passes.  Tales and legends from many cultures throughout the world are being found to be not just made up as had for so long been the assumption, but to be based on the actual lives of people and on real history.

 

Top photo and second photo: Sharon St Joan / Students from the Grove School enacting scenes from the Ramayana.

The Grove School is run by the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation and the students took part in the Ramayana Festival.

 

Third photo: Raja Ravi Press /1920’s / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain / “The lord Rama portrayed as exile in the forest, accompanied by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana”

 

Fourth photo: Raja Ravi Varma (1848–1906) / Original Raja Ravi Verma Lithograph / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain / Hanuman carrying the mountain from the Himalayas

 

To visit the website of the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, click here