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M G S Narayanan Cautions against Treating Epics as History Texts

Published: 20th August 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th August 2014 04:26 AM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Historian M G S Narayanan on Tuesday warned of the pitfalls in treating epics like the Ramayana or Mahabharatha as reliable history texts, and stressed the need for a correct perspective of what constitutes historical fact.

M-G-S-Narayanan.jpg‘’Even our forefathers called the Ramayana the ‘Adikavyam,’ not ‘history’. It is a story re-told countless times with many sub-stories added to it,’’ M G S Narayanan said, criticising the dedication of two full pages to the myths on the origins of Kerala in the revised edition of ‘Sarvavijnanakosham’ Volume 8 brought out by the State Institute of Encyclopaedic Publications (SIEP).

 He was delivering the keynote address at the book release function here on Tuesday.  ‘’It is generally accepted now that epics such as the Mahabharatha or Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey are not works by a single author. The Ramayana too has no different a story,’’ he said. Narayanan cited the story of the Pushpaka Viman in the Ramayana as an example.

‘’That it is a figment of the imagination is evident from a reading of the Adhyatma Ramayana. The story goes that not just Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, but the lakhs of Vanaras also flew in it to witness Rama’s coronation. How can that be? It is poetic licence, and as such, not wrong. It is a ploy used to end the story  quickly, in fact, as you cannot prolong it too much after the slaying of Ravana,’’ Narayanan said.  Narayanan, in fact, had touched upon the epics while speaking on the inclusion of the Parasurama myth on the origin of Kerala in the Sarvavijnanakosham. The references to ‘Kerala’ in the epics and the Puranas should be treated with scepticism, according to him. ‘’In some texts, ‘Kerala’ is mentioned, but in others, ‘Kundalam’ is given in its place. Besides, the older Puranas have no mention of Kerala,’’ Narayanan said. He also cited similar examples, one such being the story of St Thomas, the Apostle who is believed to have visited Kerala in AD 52, converting Brahmins to Christianity.

“Brahmins arrived in Kerala much later. So he could not have converted them,’’ he said.  On the classical language status accorded to Malayalam, M G S Narayanan said that Malayalam cannot strictly be termed a classical tongue. Nor can Telugu or Kannada. “But then, if they can be treated so, why not Malayalam? Sanskrit and Tamil are languages that can be treated as classical,’’ he said.  Cultural Affairs Minister K C Joseph released revised ‘Sarvavijnanakosham’ Volume 8 by handing a copy to writer Benyamin.

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