rama

Five major distortions of the Ramayana in academia

1. The educational site www.historyforkids.org characterizes Ramayana as follows in their Ramayana Project:

The Ramayana is partly a metaphor for the Aryans trying to invade the people of southern India. It’s a North Indian story, and it shows the North Indians as the good guys and the South Indians as the bad guys. How should we feel about this? In South India, some people tell this story with the good guys and the bad guys reversed. How would that change the story? ……As a geography lesson, you might show the kids where the Aryans invaded, and where Sri Lanka is, on a map. How far apart are they in miles? Kilometers? How long would it take the people in the story to travel there? How would they travel, without cars?

www.Historyforkids.org is run by Karen Eva Carr,  Associate Professor Emerita at the Portland State University, armed with a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Her professional profile page lists her expertise to be in the fields of  Archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean – Egypt, Greece and Rome, Early Medieval Europe and Roman Pottery. The question that naturally arises is related to her expertise in Ramayana. At any rate, the excerpt makes the intent clear: to teach the discredited Aryan Invasion Theory to kids.

Also of note are the obviously loaded questions—How long would it take the people in the story to travel there? How would they travel, without cars? Needless, they are designed and framed in a way as to plant the seed and thereby derived the desired outcome: of demonizing and painting Hinduism and its countless traditions as mere, primitive stories of violence and oppression.

2. Jonah Blank wrote the book, Arrow of the Blue-skinned God: Retracing the Ramayana through India, where he interprets the worship of Hanuman in South India as a sort of psychological mechanism for transforming contempt into self-respect. In other words, the same colonial narrative: that the Aryans depicted the South Indians as monkeys in Ramayana.

3. Vinay Lal, associate professor of history at UCLA characterizes the Ramayana as a sectarian text that spoke of a clash between Shaivites and Vaishnavites because Ravana is a follower of Shiva and Rama is believed to be an avatar of Vishnu.

4. In the earlier part of the twentieth century the proponents of Dravidianism like Periyar and Maraimalai Adigal presented Ramayana as a story of a war between Aryans and Dravidians.  Dravidianists still assert that Ramayana is a tale of the Aryan Rama destroying the Dravidian culture of Ravana’s Lanka. This false interpretation of Ramayana is  widely endorsed by political organisations like the DMK.

5. A  notable mention is made in the July 2005 edition of the Thanthi Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam journal, where the civil war in Sri Lanka is seen as continuation of the Ramayana which speaks of the LTTE as the true inheritors of Ravana’s struggle against the Aryan Sinhalas who are descendants of the invader Rama.  

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