Gods, demons, their powers and politics as well as the mythical kingdoms __ mythology has gone beyond its traditional boundary of fantasy. It has become so much a part of us in our socio-political lives that the fine line between what is real and what is not has blurred.
Best-selling writers of the country on Thursday argued strongly in favour of mythology and said it is not just about imaginary tales that have been told down hundreds of years. Mythology is history, or at best, tantalisingly close to it. Since it deals with people’s faith, mythology writings should be approached with respect and based on research, they strongly emphasised.
On the opening day of the Odisha Literary Festival, 2013, the second session __ ‘The Resurgent Lure of Mythology’ __ proved to be a crackling one. It had every ingredient __ in-depth analysis of the genesis of mythological characters, their social backdrop as well as relevance, politics built around it and a strong undercurrent of humour.
Ashwin Sanghi, author of ‘Krishna Key’, said he does not see Krishna simply as a God. ‘’I believe that there is no way there could be so much worship around Krishna unless and until there is a real human being by that name who later on came to be deified because of his deeds.’’ Our mythology, Sanghi added, is based on real people and over the years layers have been added to them.
Anand Neelakantan, whose ‘Asura __ Tale of the Vanquished’ created ripples for looking at Ramayana from Ravana’s perspective, was more emphatic in his views. Mythology has been living for the last 3,000 to 4,000 years. ‘’For me, it is ‘’itihaas’’ though the West would like to see it just as tales.” Mythological stories, he said, are about underdogs and Rama too was one. ‘’If you look at Rama before he became God, before people chose to use him as a political weapon and start using him as a method to become prime minister, he was an underdog who was pitted against a powerful King Ravana,’’ he said leaving the audience in splits.
Noted translator and researcher Arshia Sattar, who moderated the discussion, felt that metropolitan Indians are waking up to the mythology because of a plethora of reasons. One reason could be they are looking for their mythical roots, rather than mythological roots. Another reason, she said, was the rise of Hinduvta. ‘’They want to know what it is about the religion that has allowed it to transform itself in this way so rapidly. They are curious about whether they are Hindus or non-Hindus. What are the stories that this religion tells that makes it possible for it to go for such extreme transformation such rapidly,’’ she pointed out.
Anuja Chandramouli, hailed as the new age Indian classicist whose debut novel ‘’Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince’’ has received huge appreciation, felt that Indian mythology holds that promise and hope of what our nation could have been in an age where we have lots of issues as citizens and our patience is wearing thin.
Neelakantan said of late, mythology has got linked with religion and politics and it has become fashionable to become very sensitive. It is being used as a tool for political gains. Sanghi said good research and a sense of respect while approaching the subject are a must for mythological writing since it deals with people’s faith.