The character of Rama is one of the most influential ever portrayed in the history of India. The basic Indian ethics of righteousness is modeled on the legend of Rama. He has influenced the lifestyle and temperaments of many Indians, including the Mahatma Gandhi. In the words of Swami Vivekananda: “Rama, the ancient idol of the heroic ages, the embodiment of truth, of morality, the ideal son, the ideal husband, and above all, the ideal king.”
The original legend of Rama appears to be an ancient folk-lore, dating back to some thousands of years and was passed on orally from generations. The original story may also have evolved with spicy additions, of fantasy, when passing down the ages.
The Ramayana, built on the mass legend of Rama, is the first epic of India.. Based on the analysis of linguistic style of the text, Ramayana is considered to have been compiled between 500 BC and 200 AD. A portion of Ramayana was added even during 4th 12th century AD. But the core story could be as old as 700 BC considering reference to the kingdom of Kosala. The epic of has undergone numerous modifications and interpolations during the course time. A large number of fantasies have been added to increase the mass appeal of the product. So Ramayana as it is available now was not written by Valmiki alone. Sages of Bhrgu clan who composed AtharvaVeda also contributed to the text of Ramayana. The chief composer Valmiki is considered a descendant of Bhrgu. Apart from the Valmiki Ramayana there are also other versions.
As S.S.N.Murthy (2003) has summarized Ramayana was compiled and written when the cult the Brahma was held in high esteem in the pious society. The numbers four, seven and ten symbolic of the Brahma cult have been profusely used in the Ramayana compiled during that period. Besides, a lot of symbolism has been included. Sita (the word means furrow) is an symbol of agriculture. Similarly astrology and geographic details have been profusely added. However, archeological excavations so far have not confirmed any of the historical aspects cited in Ramayana. According to various scholars the places mentioned in the epic are from northwestern Indian subcontinent and the surrounding areas. Many scholars including Murthy have suggested that Lanka mentioned in Ramayana literally means an island and need not be the Srilanka of today.
In southern India many locations are describes as part of Rama legend. The Srilanka is described as the Lanka of Ramayana with the land connection between India and Srilanka as the ‘Rama Sethu’ built by Vanaras.
Pushkar Bhatnagar has dated Ramayana based on the digital analysis of position of stars and planets described by Valmiki and the date of birth of Rama arrived at is 10th January 5011BC.The date of birth looks accurate but does not tallies with the dates inferred by linguistic analysis. Simply it put Rama in an age older than Indus Valley Civilization.
Ancient folklore of Rama.
Rama was a simple ideal son who willingly took trouble of living in a forest for years just to ensure his fathers oral agreement. The Rama, however, is not of an infallible superman: he made mistakes like ordinary mortals. He ordered for his wifes ritual testing (agnipariksha) to appease his subjects. He killed Vali (or Bali) in an unrighteous manner. Had the legend been a creative masterpiece without factual basis, Rama would have been totally infallible in righteous judgments.
There are several interesting backdrops in the legend of Rama that indicate a primitive environmental setting.
1.Rama (the word means 'pleasant') has been described as blue-skinned. Either this is pure eulogy for the dark skinned charming young man. Or maybe at some point in the early history, almost gray-blue appearing men existed during the course of post-glacial evolution. The dark skinned Rama can be visualized as a primitive Indian young man.
2.He used primitive bow and arrows like those used by hunters and nomadic tribes.
3.The legend curiously describes Vanara tribes, the primitive homonids that were existing before the evolution of homo sapiens(‘Nara’)! It is possible that in the early history species of homonids (‘Vanara’) co-existed with homo sapiens.
4.The cart was a rare vehicle in those primitive days. The chariot used by the kidnapper Ravana, spelled wonders to the beholders.
5.The land bridge between India and Srilanka has been described. The land bridge in fact is a natural structure formed on the earth when the super Gondwana continent broke into several smaller continents some 90 million years ago. Since then India and Srilanka are attached through this natural continental link. The land area between India and Srilanka was evidently exposed during major recession of sea levels during major global droughts like those between 135,000-75,000 years and during the last glacial maxima some 10.000 years ago facilitating to and fro migration of human beings.
The continental connection is a natural structure of the earth. The rocks found at the top of the ‘Ram’s bridge’ zone, at present under the shallow sea (about 1 to 30m deep), consists of coral reefs. Some people have suggested that the light weighted coral reefs were carried to the sea and dumped to form the bridge by the homonid army. Coral reefs are built by living corals, a kind of primitive life forms, and do not grow on land; they grow naturally under favorable shallow marine conditions. The sandy formations reported by some geological studies in the ‘Rama Sethu’ link area indicate that it was an exposed land bridge in the historical past.
One possibility is that where only a small part of the continental connection was under water, it could have been filled by sundry material as a temporary measure.
6.Recent excavations and archeo-botanical studies have proved existence of early primitive men some 75,000 years ago in southern India. And in the Post Glacial Neolithic age,due to decrease in sea levels, the natural land bridge exposed and was accessible for journey to and fro between India and Srilanka by foot.Archeo-botanical studies have confirmed the existence of extensive agricultural habitations in various river valleys of India.
In the light of these it appears to me that the legend of Rama is a very ancient folk lore (paD-dana) built on the original story of a dark, righteous,primitive, unassuming young man whose wife was abducted to Srilanka through the natural land bridge during the Early Neolithic age. And with the help of Vanara hominid friends he fought with the kidnapper and brought back his devoted wife.
Valmiki, a hunter himself, representing the lineage of ancient Neolithic aborigines of India, made employed this folklore as a back ground story to compose the famed Valmiki Ramayana.Valmiki and numerous other later anonymous writers and editors have added and contributed their bits to blow up the simple, original legend into a fantasy filled Ramayana as we find today.
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