Did Lord Rama Really Exist?
We generally take it as the Epics, unlike mythologies, are historical narratives and the events depicted in them are actual occurrences in history. Historians of East as well as West have successfully fixed the dates of Rama and Krishna and have also identified the places associated with them. Dismissing the contention that Ramayana is only a literary piece or an allegory woven out of the imagination of a poet. A historian Nandita Krishnan says that to doubt the existence of Rama is to doubt all literature. There is little archaeological or epigraphic evidence for either Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed, who are known only from the Bible and Koran respectively. Does it mean they did not exist? If Rama performs miracles such as liberating Ahalya, the Biblical story of Jesus walking on water or the Koranic tale of Mohammed flying to heaven on a horse are equally miraculous. Such stories reinforce divinity. She also describes in summary what areas the events of Lord Rama’s life took place. She explains: “The Ramayana is geographically very correct. Every site on Rama’s route is still identifiable and has continuing traditions or temples to commemorate Rama’s visit. Around 1000 BC or earlier, no writer had the means to travel around the country inventing a story, fitting it into local folklore and building temples for greater credibility. “In 1975 the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) unearthed fourteen pillar bases of kasauti stone with Hindu motifs near the mosque at Ayodhya; reports of the excavations are available with the ASI. Rama was born in Ayodhya and married in Mithila, now in Nepal. Not far from Mithila is Sitamarhi, where Sita was found in a furrow, still revered as the Janaki kund. “Rama, Lakshmana and Sita left Ayodhya and went to Sringaverapura – modern Sringverpur in Uttar Pradesh – where they crossed the River Ganga. They lived on Chitrakoot hill where Bharata and Shatrughna met them and the brothers performed the last rites for their father. Thereafter, the three wandered through Dandakaranya in Central India, described as a land of Rakshasas, obviously tribes inimical to the brothers’ habitation of their land. Tribals are still found in these forests. The trio reached Nasik, on the River Godavari, which throbs with sites and events of Rama’s sojourn, such as Tapovan where they lived, Ramkund where Rama and Sita used to bathe, Lakshmankund, Lakshmana’s bathing area, and several caves in the area associated with their lives in the forest. “Rama then moved to Panchavati near Bhadrachalam (AP), where Ravana abducted Sita. The dying Jatayu told them of the abduction, so they left in search of Sita. Kishkinda, near Hampi, where Rama first met Sugriva and Hanuman, is a major Ramayana site, where every rock and river is associated with Rama. Anjanadri, near Hospet, was the birthplace of Hanuman (Anjaneya); Sugriva lived in Rishyamukha on the banks of the Pampa (Tungabhadra); Sabari probably also lived in a hermitage there. Rama and the Vanara army left Kishkinda to reach Rameshwaram, where the Vanaras built a bridge to Lanka from Dhanushkodi on Rameshwaram Island to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. While parts of the bridge – known as Adam’s Bridge – are still visible, NASA’s satellite has photographed an underwater man-made bridge of shoals in the Palk Straits, connecting Dhanushkodi and Talaimannar. On his return from Sri Lanka, Rama worshiped Shiva at Rameshwaram, where Sita prepared a Linga out of sand. It is still one of the most sacred sites of Hinduism. “Sri Lanka also has relics of the Ramayana. There are several caves, such as Ravana Ella Falls, where Ravana is believed to have hidden Sita to prevent Rama from finding her. The Sitai Amman Temple at Numara Eliya is situated near the ashokavana where Ravana once kept her prisoner.” In describing the places in Sri Lanka that are associated with Lord Rama and the Ramayana, “Sri Lankan folklore and religious scholars have identified more than 30 places on the island which are associated with the Ramayana. And interestingly enough, people in these places have a strong sense of history and lore, and a strong sense of possession. They are proud of their association with the Hindu epic,” explained S. Kalaiselvan, director general Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority. This is the case, even though 90 percent of the people in the Ramayana-related areas are Sinhalese Buddhists. According to the Ramayana, Ravana brought Sita to Sri Lanka by a vehicle called ‘Pushpaka Vimanam’ by the Hindus and ‘Dandu Monara Yanthraya’ by the Sinhalese Buddhists. According to mythology, this vehicle landed at Werangatota, about 10 km from Mahiyangana, east of the hill station of Nuwara Eliya, in central Sri Lanka. Sita was then taken to Goorulupota, now known as Sitakotuwa, where Ravana’s wife, Mandodari, lived. Seetakotuwa is about 10 km from Mahiyangana on the road to Kandy. Sita was housed in a cave at Sita Eliya, on the Colombo-Nuwara Eliya road. There is a temple for her there. She is believed to have bathed in the mountain stream flowing beside the temple. North of Nuwara Eliya, in Matale district, is Yudhaganapitiya, where the Rama-Ravana battle took place. According to a Sinhalese legend, Dunuwila is the place from where Rama shot the ‘Bramshira’ arrow that killed Ravana. The Sri Lankan king was chalking out his battle plans in a place called Lakgala when the killer arrow struck him. Lakgala is a rock from the top of which Ravana could see north Sri Lanka clearly. It served as a watchtower following the expectation that Rama would invade the island to rescue his consort. Ravana’s body was placed on the rock at Yahangala for his subjects to pay their last respects. Since Ravana was a Brahmin, it was considered a sin to kill him, even in battle. To wash off the sin, Rama performed puja at the Munneswaram temple in Chilaw, 80 km north of Colombo. At Manaweri, north of Chilaw, there is a temple gifted by Rama. According to another legend from the southern part of Sri Lanka, Sita was actually detained in the mountainous forest area of Rumassala near Galle. When she fell ill, Hanuman wanted to bring some medicinal plants from the Dronagiri mountain in the Himalayan chain to cure her. Since he could not find the plants, he brought the whole mountain and dropped it at Unawatuna, which is near the present Galle harbour. Unawatuna means ‘here it fell’. Indeed, the area is known for its medicinal plants. At Ramboda, in the central highlands, known for its massive waterfalls, a temple for Hanuman has now sprung up as the belief is that he had visited Sita who was incarcerated there. Legend has it that the Koneswaram temple, in the eastern district of Trincomalee, was gifted by Lord Shiva to Ravana, as he was an ardent devotee. In the famous Buddha Vihara at Kelani, near Colombo, there is a representation of Rama handing over captured Sri Lanka to Ravana’s brother, Vibheeshana, who sided with him in his conflict with Ravana. Nandita Krishnan continues to explain the importance of these holy sites, “All the places visited by Rama still retain memories of his visit, as if it happened yesterday. Time, in India, is relative. Some places have commemorative temples; others commemorate the visit in local folklore. But all agree that Rama was going from or to Ayodhya. Why doubt connections when literature, archaeology and local tradition meet? Why doubt the connection between Adam’s Bridge and Rama, when nobody else in Indian history has claimed its construction? Why doubt that Rama traveled through Dandakaranya or Kishkinda, where local non-Vedic tribes still narrate tales of Rama? Why doubt that he was born in and ruled over Ayodhya? Nobody believed that Homer’s Iliad was a true story till Troy was discovered after extensive archaeology. To further verify this aspect of the history of Lord Rama, Pushkar Bhatnagar concludes that geographical evidence for the epics is abundant. There still exist many places like Rameshwaram, Kishkindha, Kurukshetra, Hastinapura, etc. where the visits of Rama and Krishna are a basic part of local folklore. Lack of archaeological evidence is no excuse for denying the existence of history, sums up Bhatnagar. “If the buildings of that time over 7000 years ago do not exist today, can we just infer that civilizations and personalities of that time also did not exist?” we can see the affects of the Ramayana tradition in many countries who have adapted their own form of the Ramayana and worship of Lord Rama, especially in the countries of Southeast Asia. These include Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia (Capuchia), Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Other areas can also be found where the influence of the history of Lord Rama is in affect, such as the continent of Africa was once known as Kushadvipa for having been ruled by Kush, one of Lord Rama’s sons. There have also been astronomers who have identified the approximate time of the Ramayana by the descriptions of the stars and constellations as given in the Ramayana, or even in the Bhagavata Purana and other texts. Pushkar Bhatnagar, author of the book Dating the Era of Lord Rama, claims that there is a significant amount of information available to prove that Rama was a historical personality. He says, “Valmiki, who wrote the Ramayana, was a contemporary of Rama. While narrating the events of the epic, he has mentioned the position of the planets at several places.” He explains that by using recent planetary software, it has been possible to verify that these planetary positions actually took place precisely as specified in the Ramayana. These were not just stray events, but the entire sequence of the planetary positions as described by Valmiki at various stages of Rama’s life can be verified today as having taken place. Bhatnagar goes on to explain: “This information is significant, since these configurations do not repeat for lakhs of years and cannot be manipulated or imagined so accurately, Bhatnagar goes on to explain: “This information is significant, since these configurations do not repeat for lakhs of years and cannot be manipulated or imagined so accurately, without the help of sophisticated software. The inference that one can draw is that someone was present there to witness the actual happening of these configurations, which got recorded in the story of Rama.” Bhatnagar provides the following quote from the Ramayana: “Rama was born on the Navami tithi of Shukla Paksha of Chaitra masa (9th day of the increasing phase of the moon in the lunar month of Chaitra). At that time, the nakshatra was Punarvasu, and Sun, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus were in Aries, Capricorn, Libra, Cancer and Pisces respectively. Lagna was Cancer and Jupiter & Moon were shining together. — Ramayana 1.18.8,9 The conditions can be summarized as follows, according to Bhatnagar: 1. Sun in Aries 2. Saturn in Libra 3. Jupiter in Cancer 4. Venus in Pisces 5. Mars in Capricorn 6. Lunar month of Chaitra 7. 9th day after New Moon (Navami Tithi, Shukla Paksh) 8. Moon near Punarvasu Nakshatra (Pollux star in Gemini constellation) 9. Cancer as Lagna (Cancer constellation rising in the east) 10. Jupiter above the horizonAccording to the Planetarium software, it provides the following date: Sri Rama Navami – 10th January 5114 BCE – Birth Day of Rama, Observation at 12.30 p.m It was the ninth day of the Shukla Paksh of Chaitra month too. Moving forward, after 25 years of the birth of Lord Ram, the position of planets in the sky tallies with their description in Ramayana. Again, on the amavasya (new moon) of the 10th month of the 13th year of exile the solar eclipse had indeed occurred and the particular arrangement of planets in the sky was visible. ( Date comes to 7th October, 5077 BC). Even the occurrence of subsequent two eclipses also tally with the respective description in Valmiki Ramayana. (Date of Hanuman’s meeting Sita at Lanka was 12th September, 5076 BC). In this manner the entire sequence of the planetary positions gets verified and all the dates can be precisely determined.” Although this provides verification of the existence for Lord Rama according to calculations as given in the Ramayana, some people feel the timing for the day and year of His birth may be different than what the planetarium software indicates. For example, Vedic astrologer Nartaka Gopala devi dasi points out that “Regarding the calculation of Lord Rama’s birth as 10th of January 5114 BCE – Birth Day of Rama, Observation at 12.30 PM, there are 2 reasons why this cannot be correct. His rising sign, or lagna, is Cancer. That places Aries in the tenth house, and He has the Sun in Aries. The placement of the Sun in any birth chart will tell the time of day of the birth. Sun in the tenth house means birth at noontime (approx. 11 AM to 2 PM). There are no exceptions to this. (Lord Krishna appeared at midnight, the Sun is in Leo, 4th house for Taurus rising. Birth at 6 PM means 7th house Sun. Birth at sunrise means 1st house Sun.) Also, in Lord Rama’s chart the Sun is in Aries, and the dates for Sun in Aries are fixed, which means the same each year on April 14th to May 13th. So how did the January 10 date come up? These two Jyotish corrections are common sense that any Vedic astrologer would immediately see.” So there may be a difference in what the planetarium software suggests. This also corroborates why we who follow the Vedic calendar celebrate Lord Rama’s appearance in April-May each year. So the traditional date appears accurate. further reason why we should accept that Lord Rama appeared millions of years ago. In the Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara-Kanda (or Book 5), Chapter 4, verse 27, [Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India] it explains that when Hanuman first approached Ravana’s palace, he saw the doorways surrounded by horses and chariots, palanquins and aerial cars, beautiful horses and elephants, nay, with four-tusked elephants decked with jewels resembling masses of white clouds. The question is how could there be a mention of the elephants with four tusks unless Valmiki and the people of his era were familiar with such creatures? A quick search on the Encarta Encyclopedia will let us know that these four-tusked elephants were known as Mastodontoidea, which are said to have evolved around 38 million years ago and became extinct about 15 million years ago when the shaggy and two tusked Mastodons increased in population Pargitter says that ‘the geographical knowledge revealed in the Epic could hardly have been obtained except by actual visit to these places by some persons.’ Monnier Williams among his many tributes he pays to the Epic, ranks the Ramayana as the beautiful composition that has ever appeared at any period or any country. Swami Vivekananda proclaims, “In fact the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are the encyclopaedias of ancient Aryan life and wisdom, portraying an ideal civilization which humanity has to aspire after.” Macdonall says, “Probably no work of world literature, secular in its origin has ever produced so profound an influence on the life and thought of a people as the Ramayana.” in 1973, Sri V.D. Ramswami had brought out a book on “Sri Rama Pada Yatra” covering the places visited by Rama during his itineraries, with maps illustrating his trek in the forests. The spot on which Rama crossed River Yamuna to reach Chitrakoota is Kosum, which Cunningham identifies with the ancient town of Kousambi, capital of Vatsa Desha (the Doab). The modern town of Chitrakoota is situated in the district of Banda which is about five miles from the railway station of Karvi. The small hill of Chitrakoota is a part of the Binthachal range and is about five hundred feet high. Pilgrims walk round the hill which is never climbed because people believe Rama is still there. While some historians identify Panchavati with modern Nasik, there are others who hold the view that it must be the modern Badrachalam in Andhra Pradesh. To the west of the town of Bellary on the south bank of Tungabadra is the small village of Hampi where the ancient Kishkinda is placed on general agreement by scholars Major Forbes in his book titled ‘Eleven Years in Ceylon” gives a good account of the various sites in this island whose names are connected with those in the Epic. Lord Rama has been revered as. ‘Maryada Purusottam’. The Sanatana culture of The Hindus has stand to the onslaughts of time and enemies in flesh… It would ever be alive and thriving giving Spiritual and Yogic guidance to the whole world Jai Hind