By Sumit S Paul, The Milli Gazette Online
I was reading B R Ambedkar’s The Riddles in Hinduism (my 10th reading!) and its associated commentaries, published by Columbia Press on his 100th birth anniversary in 1991.
Ramayan is believed to have been written by Valmiki much before the putative Ram was born and Mahabharat was written by the blind Vedvyas. Ganesh was his amanuensis. The whole thing appears to be so simple and even realistic to the crores of mostly fanatic Hindus, who swear by Ram and Krishna (they’re thought to be same being the reincarnations of Vishnu; Ram preceded Krishna). But it’s not.
Valmiki wrote only 14 pages (there were no pages at that time, he wrote on palm leaves) and hardly a complete chapter of Ramayan and Vedvyas originally wrote ‘Jay’ which got interpolated into Mahabharat. Mahabharat itself is a spurious title, given nearly a millennium after ‘Jay’ was compiled by Ganesh as if Ganesh had no other work! (actually, Mahabharat’s chapters and stories were added by nearly 1500 sages in different centuries). The interpolations into both the epics continued till as late as 1895 (read Bimal Krishna Matilal’s seminal essay, ‘Ramayan and its mythological characters’ and Redpath’s ‘Where did a monkey (Hanuman) come from?’).
Mind you, both were not Hindu-haters. They left all man-made faiths in order to teach Comparative Religions at Oxford and Cambridge in a truly secular manner because so long as you tie yourself to the apron-strings of any religion, you can’t call yourself truly and completely secular.
Both the long essays are unavailable in India, though Calcutta University included the essays on the syllabus of ‘Religion and Anthropology’ till 1974.
Until circa 650 AD, Hinduism wasn’t an organized religion. It was a mere notion that was a medley of discrete theological undercurrents and perceptions. It was only after Muhammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh in 712 AD and the subsequent foreign rule that witnessed a number of rulers till 1947, the Vedic Sanatan Dharm got ‘organised’ and looked back at its mythical characters with a renewed vigour and false pride, making a simple and fictitious Ram as Lord Ram and a philandering Krishna as Krishna bhagwan. Both the characters were consolatory saviours for the (oppressed) Hindus from the clutches of foreign rulers.
‘An enslaved country (like India for 1200 years) concocts mythical characters and fabricates legends to assuage its battered pride and ego,’ opined Max Müller (d. 1900) when his honeymoon with India and Hinduism got over.
Like scriptures of all religions, the texts and treatises of Hindus are also fraught with late and later unauthentic additions that must be ignored and deleted by all those who’ve reservations about the authenticity of Hinduism’s religious texts.
Lastly, for such a mythical Ram, we’re killing Muslims and others! ‘Jay’ ho.