Writing about Indian history is both complex and curious as the history itself. Of the many people who have written about it is Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi (1907-1966). Purana Mattu Vasthava, is the Kannada translation of three chapters in his book Myth and Reality: Studies in the Formation of Indian Culture by T S Venugopal and Shylaja. This is the second and revised edition of the 200-page book published ten years ago. It has chapters on economic and social aspects of Bhavadgita, Urvashi and Puroorava and the study of Mother Goddesses at Convergent Paths along with some write-ups on Kosambi’s life and works.
Venugopal, a statistics teacher, and Shylaja, an English teacher, had earlier translated Kosambi’s Culture and Civilisation of Historical Outline. Like the previous book, they seek to introduce Kosambi’s views to Kannada readers on history with simplicity, without diluting the maturity of the original work.
The book begins with an introduction which seeks to test the epic themes in the light of literary evidences. The first chapter Bhavadgiteya Arthika Mattu Samajika Amshagalu explains how the age-old celestial song has had a great effect on the social and cultural contexts of India. This is done by examining the facts - which classes does the celestial song apply to, why only Krishna, social functions of devotion and the state of Bhagavadgita in today’s world. Kosambi has narrated all these things in an orderly way and with evidences. He also examines the mythology surrounding Krishna with rationality.
Urvashi Mattu Puroorava is one of the best examples for Kosambi’s mixed methods of study. This examines the mythological angle behind this love-lore, poet laureate Kalidasa’s narration and the subsequent changes it underwent in the light of modern versions. This is indeed a scholastic piece and a testimony to Kosambi’s expertise in this field.
The last chapter of the book Koodudariyalli Matru Devategalu is a study of the context of Mother Goddesses in India. He explores the fact why sacrificial ceremonies were performed for Mother Goddesses at convergent paths in olden days. He dwells upon the social, religious aspects of this fact and traces the roots of Mother Goddesses in commercial routes, Jataka tales of Buddhism and the Mruchchakatika, a Sanskrit work of Shoo draka. Kosambi goes after the rituals which are being practiced since time immemorial and comes out with a satisfactory explanation and narrates them from a physical base rather than glorifying them or dismissing them as age-old practices.