The West as usual has a culturally biased view and tends to label non-western scriptures as mythical while its zealots swear fealty to the literal truth of the Bible. In fairness, it subjects its own ancient books to independent verification by acceptable standards, but devotes more time, intellectual effort and talent to the biased purpose. The archeological efforts by Schliemann at Troy and Rawlinson at Beheshtun lend credence to parts of the Iliad and the biblical story of the Assyrian destruction of Israel respectively. There are other ways than archeology, for example human nature, the parallels of selective memory and its fading with time and social relevance and geography and common horizons that can be used to analyze ancient stories.
Let me begin with the Ramayana. There seems to me be little doubt that the Ramayana is an idealized myth to appeal to the better nature of humanity. It is rife with too many characters behaving idealistically and contrary to human nature to be plausible or true. To begin with is the killing of Shravana by Dasratha.
Shravana, a dutiful son opts to carry his blind and infirm parents in the two pans of a balance over his shoulders while walking. The four divine places of pilgrimage form a diamond with the four sides constituting over 4000 miles. At a rate of fifteen miles a day, without paved roads and passing through jungles with rest times, the journey would take years. The story is hyperbole to promulgate reverence to aging parents at the cost of Bhagirathian sacrifice.
The next hyperbole is the sacrifice of Kaikeyi, who inserts her fingers as a fulcrum to prevent the wheel of Dasratha's chariot falling off during battle and ensures his victory in combat. The dutiful wife with infinite capacity for sacrifice for her husband is rewarded by the grant of one wish which she exploits by demanding the throne for her son Bharata and exile for Rama, thus emphasizing that a mother's love should... [continues]
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