Valmiki and Homer – A Critical Study of the alleged Greek influence on Ramayana
K. V. Ramakrishna Rao B.sc., M.A., A.M.I.E., C.Eng (I)., B.L.,
Introduction: The controversy was initiated by Rev. D. C. Boyd1, by translating an article of Albrecht Weber, a Professor at Berlin, written in German. D. C. Boyd brought out the Weber’s conclusions in Indian Antiquary (Vol.I, 1872) as follows:
1. The entire narrative of the exile itself has to a large extent, been developed out of germs furnished by Buddhistic legends.
2. In the existing condition of the text, however, we find unmistakable indications that the influence of Greece upon India was already firmly established.
3. It is possible that in addition of these two elements (namely the abduction of Sita and the siege of Lanka) by Valmiki, we should recognize the influence of an acquaintance with the Homeric saga cycle.
4. The work of Valmiki can hardly date earlier than this (i.e, about the beginning of the Christian era).
K. T. Telang read a paper2 before the Student’s Literary and Scientific Society, Bombay on September 2, 1872 refuting the above points. M. Krishnamachariar3 (1937) and others too pointed out the fallacies in such hypotheses. However, they were not publicized like the Weber’s writings. After that, many western and Indian scholars proceeded in the lines of Weber and filled the libraries with their hypotheses and theories, thereby, the modern Indian mind is still haunted and daunted by their writings. R. C. Dutt, H. Jacobi, Lassen, Monier Williams, H. H. Wilson, J. C. Chatterjee, M, V. Kibe, P. E. Pargiter, C. V. Vaidya, H. D. Sankalia, S. N. Vyas, and host of historians, archaeologists and sociologists have though delved on the subject, they have almost decided the issue by accepting the Greek influence. Therefore, the Homeric / Greek sources are analyzed here to find out the facts and review the issue in the right perspective.
The Western Views on the Epics Contradicting: The western views on the epics have been contradicting, confusing, bringing extraneous issues and hence definitely motivated. One thing is clear that they wanted to bring all Indian history after the Alexander’s invasion to prove the Greek influence on Indian arts and sciences. Even in the case of drama, their debate recorded is revealing as how they attempted to show the Greek influence on Indians just by taking the word “yavanika”! For illustrative purpose, Winternitze is quoted, as he covers all the debatable points:
M. Winternitze4 concludes, “If we briefly summarize the results of our investigations into the age of Ramayana, we can say the following :-
1. The later parts of the Ramayana, especially Books I and VII, are separated from the genuine Ramayana of Books II to VI by a long interval of time.
2. The whole Ramayana including the later portions, was already an old and famous work when the Mahabharata has not attained its present form.
3. It is probable that the Ramayana had its present extent and contents as early as towards the close of the second century A.D.
4. The older nucleus of the Mahabharata, however, is probably older than the ancient Ramayana.
5. In the Veda we find no trace of the Rama epic and only very faint traces of the Rama legend.
6. The ancient Buddhist texts of the Tripitaka betray no knowledge of the Ramayana, but contain traces of ballads in which the Rama legend was sung.
7. There are no obvious traces of Buddhism to be seen in the Ramayana, but the characterization of Rama may possibly be traceable to remote Buddhist influence.
8. There can be no question of Greek influence in the Ramayana, and the genuine Ramayana betrays no acquaintance with the Greeks.
9. It is probable that the original Ramayana was composed in the third century B.C by Valmiki on the basis of ancient ballads.
Indian writers have spent their times either accepting and few refuting these views effectively. As the dominant view prevailed, the other way was almost died down, but, it does not mean that whatever said about the Greek influence is completely correct in Indian context (Note point no.9 above). Therefore, the issue is dealt with directly starting with the “Homeric question”.
Who Was “Homer”? The very existence of “Homer” has been questioned5. Who Homer was, when he lived, where he was born and other details had / have been matters of doubt based on different traditions. Even the “Father of History” ventured to opine6 that he lived not more than 400 years before him i.e., 900 and 850 BCE! J. B. Bury7 openly declared that the author of Iliad was a native of Chios. He gives the following details:
1. The poets who composed the Iliad and Odyssey did not live before 9th cent.BCE.
2. The name “Homer” means “Hostage”, implying that he had come from outside to settle there perhaps captured or seeking asylum. He was hailing from a family of bards.
3. Tradition made Homer the author of both the epics.
4. Many critics think that the Iliad we have is not the original Iliad of Homer, but that his poem was a much shorter work and was remoulded and expanded by succeeding poets in a way that was not entirely to its advantage.
5. It is impossible that he committed the Iliad in writing, because the earliest example of a Greek writing is available on an Attic jar of the 7th cent.BCE (thereby the writing could have attained the level of poetry with metre/scale). The Greek Alphabet was derived from the Phoenician invented in 10th to 9th cent.BCE.
6. His successors sang the songs in Ionia and Iliad was arrayed in Ionic dress.
Westerners claim that Aristarchus, a commentator who lived in Alexandria about 150 BCE divided Iliad and Odyssey into 24 books each and even in his times, Chorizontes or Separatists also dubbed as heretics refused to accept the authorship of both to one person. Even today, though forceful views are expressed about the “Homeric poetry” in historical sense, because of Troy and Minoan excavations, Homer and his reshaping of story are considered more a matter of myth than of historical fact, as it satisfied the social agenda. Gregory Nagy8, the most influential Homer scholar of our generation, besides the above point opines as follows:
1. Around 1200 BCE, in the Anatolian plains, nothing would have been more frightening than a mass of Chariot warriors ready to attack.
2. Chariot fighting in the Greek-speaking world in the first millenium BCE became metaphysical, cosmological and ceremonial. It might be introduced into the Olympics around 680 BCE.
3. There was a Homer in the minds and hearts of the people who lived by the song culture that was dominated by what we know as Homeric poetry. There was a Homer for the audience of Homer, so to speak.
4. Homer’s poems were being transmitted by being recited, not by being written down.
5. The five stages of evolution of Homeric poetics are as follows:
i. First stage: By the 5th cent.BCE, the Iliad and the Odyssey were performed at the Panathenaea (the principal religious festival of Athens) and the poems were evolving. For a long period, an amorphous collection of oral poems coalesces into a coherent cycle of poems.
ii. Second stage: Then, this cycle of poems gets streamlined and regularized.
iii. Transcript stage / phase: Poems recited by the rhapsodes (oral poets) at the festival of Panathenaea.
iv. Script stage (4th cent.BCE): The poems are fixed, scripted; writing does not matter.
v. Scripture stage (3rd cent.BCE): Homer is reconstructed with divinely inspired versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey. One of the Alexandrian Library scholars Aristarchus of Samothrace (c.217-145 BCE) finally nailed it down.
Thus, to Harvard classicist Gregory Nagy, the man who is called “Homer” is a myth.
Who Was Valmiki? About the authorship of Ramayana, there is no dispute, as he is the author. Scholars might fix period for the composition based on different factors in the range pre-Buddhist - 600 BCE and 200 CE. But, Valmiki lived during Ramayana period (Tretayouga, traditionally) and Lava and Kusa rendered it before Rama himself.
Valmiki’s original name was Ratnakara, and he was also known as Bhargava and Pracetasa living on the banks of Ganges. He was a sage and he had a hermitage there itself. In Adhyatma Ramayana9 (Chap.VI, I.64-85), he himself narrates his past history of his life. The brief points are as follows:
1. He was a Brahmin, but following the practices of Sudras married to a Sudra wife.
2. Later, he became a brigand and tried to rob seven Munis.
3. Then, as per their advice, he renounced robbery and started meditating (ma ra).
4. When, the Munis returned, they found him in an ant-hill grown around him.
5. Thus, he became Valmiki (for he emerged from the white-ant-hill).
6. Then, he composed Ramayana, as contemporary.
Going by Vedic references to Ramayana, it is evident that Ramayana story was rendered as poems during c.4500-3500 BCE, though this date also differs widely according to various authorities. It may be noted that just because, Vedas were recited but not written, their date cannot be unhistorical, as historians do so. The recorded epic poetry has been found in the Vedic literature – Satapatha Brahmana, Atharvan Samhita etc. That Rama’s sons performed the Rama’s story before Rama itself proves the popularity of Rama during that period and the exiting tradition of reciting poetry before audience. As the gap between IVC (2250-1950 BCE) and Mauryan period (c.300 BCE, now going back to 1200-1000 BCE based on megalithic evidences) is not explained by the historians still, these evidences cannot be ignored. Thus, the recital of Veads and epics continued crossing the pre-Jaina/Buddhist, Jaina/Buddhist, Maurya periods and extending upto Southeast Asian countries during first centuries itself, as otherwise, the cultural imprints even today exhibited there could not have been possible. Such factors could not be imposed by force or other political, civil or administrative methods.
The Spread of Ramayana and Iliad: It is well known that the Homeric epics have not influenced any society as Valmiki’s. That Ramayana influences people of the world is well felt even today, because of the historical human continuity passes down through their strands of heritage, tradition, culture and living civilization as reflected in India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, and other African, European and American countries. Ramayana has imprinted in their way of life exhibited through art and architecture, music and dance and other modes. And the remnant culture has been still a living tradition among the people groups. There is no Sundarakandam in Iliad or Odyssey for any Greeks or others to recite and soliloquize to remember Sita and thereby enduring the passions and difficulties of human life. The books published by Sahitya Academy10 give much more detailed information.
The Greeks and the Indians: Scholars have been divided about the origin of Greeks, but not of Indians. Indian sources assert that Yavanas were degraded Kshatriyas. Bury’s notings11 are given for convenience about the Greek origins:
1. The Greek sources themselves accept that Iavana = Iavones (= Yavana) is the oriental name for Greeks.
2. The name “Greece” is derived from Graia -> Graii (L) -> Graeci -> Greece and applies to the colonists implying that they came from outside replacing Pelasgians. Though, even Bury records it, he does not mention to which oriental language that orient name belonged.
3. The original coming of the Greeks was utterly forgotten by their descendants, and we are unable to fix the date.
4. The old home of the invaders is supposed to have lain in the north-west regions of the Balkan peninsula.
5. The Greeks of history who had completely forgotten this far-distant past were not exclusively the descendants of these Greek invaders.
Edward Pococke12 shows how Indians colonized Greece. Col.Tod13 delves on the similarities between Indians and Greeks. C. F. C. Volney14 in his search of lost tribes finds that both belong to the same stock. H. P. Blavatsky15 has been specific about the Indian origin of Greek civilization. Chamanlal16 and other scholars also point out the fact with linguistic, anthropological and archaeological evidences.
Only later, they reverse stand is popularized and propagated in textbooks. In any case, as the antiquity of Indians has been well before the advent of the Greeks, only the Indian influence is plausible, probable and possible and not the other way.
However, Weber proposed, assuming on the Alexander invasion, that his expedition into India brought about some kind of knowledge of the substance of the Homeric story found its way into India. This clearly proves that the argument was put forward to strengthen the theory of “Alexander invasion of India” and thus show that everything came to India through Greeks thereafter. This syndrome working in them could be noted in the writings of John Bentley, William Jones, Vincent Smith, Heras and others.
The occurrence of a list of names of Kamboja, Yavana, saka, Barbara, Mlechchha, Tushara, Harita, Kirata and others in Ramayana was taken as the proof of Greek influence. That Indians and their literature considered Yavanas as their degraded Khastriyas and thus excommunicated people group is not at all denied. Therefore, Indians never considered them alien, in fact, the learned ones were treated with respect (Yavanacharya). Even Sangam Tamil Literature uses “Yavanas” in geographical context without specifically pointing to any people group. Moreover, from the western sources, it is noted that the word “yavana” was never used to denote only “the Greeks”.
1. Max Mueller17 himself showed that “yavana” is not the exclusive name of the Greeks or Ionians.
2. Goldstucker18 pointed out that “yavanani’ as alluded by Panini was in fact referred to the Persian cuneiform alphabet.
3. Of course, Panini19 himself points out the three different meanings prevalent to the word “yavanani”.
Even in the dramaturgy, chronologically, the Indian drama is traced back to Vedic period (literary evidence – c.4500-3500 BCE), well before the advent of the Greeks in Greece itself (c.,1000 BCE) 20. The archaeological evidences from Indus / Harappan valley, again proves the antiquity of dance and drama to 2500-1950 BCE period21. The philosophy behind the first drama of Persoe Aechylus is traced back to Indian origin based on Zeus and Promethecus discussion22. Therefore, the Greek influence on Valmiki is ruled out and in fact, the Ramayana’s influence on other literature has to be studied critically.
Many figures in the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Kassite, Hittite, Assyrian, Achaemenian, Seleuid or Parthian, Sassanian and other seals make any researcher think about India only, as in no other country such figures are used even today as being used in India23.
Particularly, the two or three figures with bow and arrows standing together remind Rama and Lakshmana or with Sita together as depicted in India24. In fact, the occurrences of Indian seals (IVC) in the Middle East and the commercial contact between these civilizations prove25 only the Indian influence.
Some of the seals are shown as illustration. How this type of Indian features should figure should be subjected to a separate study.
Trojan War versus Ramayana War: As the historicity of Trojan War has been questioned, the historicity of Ramayana War has also been questioned. But, its depiction in art and architecture of many countries, in the case of Ramayana questions such argument. If an incidence had been a myth, why such myth was carried on for thousands of years consistently? The War is closely connected with Ravana’s Lanka and is located differently by the scholars, because of the time factor involved. However, the Indian astronomical works have been consistent in fixing Lanka only on Niraksha i.e, on equator. Incidentally, these astronomical works have been the authority of Indian chronology defining the four yugas and giving specific date for the beginning of Kaliyuga on February 17th / 18th 3102 BCE.
Chronological Issue: The westerners / orientalists have placed the date of Ramayana differently. The dates based on arcahaeological evidences place it to c.600 to 200 BCE, whereas, the astronomical evidences take it to c.5000-4000 BCE (some fix the date of Rama c.4436 BCE). The differing date are as follows:
Balfour’s Cyclopaedia of India Volume II gives the dates as follows:
1. Rama of the solar line of Hindu chronology is, ….placed by Brahmins, 867,102 BC between the silver and brazen ages.
2. William Jones placed Rama was supposed to have lived around 2200 BCE.
3. Hamilton – 960 BCE.
4. Todd – 1100 BCE.
5. John Bentley – Rama was born on April 6, 961.
The other determined dates are tabulated as follows:
Book / work Reference
Many traditional scholars
The Society of Ramayana, Ceylon, 1960, p.35.
V. S. Dalal, A History of India, Bobay, p.196.
On the Chronology of Hindus in Asiatic Researches.
K. S. Ramaswami Sastri
Studies in the Ramayana, Baroda, 1944, p.23
A. K.. Majumdar
15th and 14th centuries BCE
A History of India, Dacca, 1920, p.60.
15th and 14th centuries BCE
Valmiki’s Ramayana, Parigi, 1843-67 (in six volumes)
R. C. Majumdar, A. D. pulaskar and A. K. Majumdar
c. 2350-1950 BCE
Vedic Age, 4th edition, Bombay, 1965, p.292.
Sita Nath Pradhan
Chronology of Ancient India, Calcutta, 1927, p.175.
F. E. Pargiter
Ancient Indian Genealogies and Chronology, New Delhi, 1910, p.52
Political History of Ancient India, Calcutta, 1950, pp.78 and 101.
As the date of Ramayana widely differs, it has to be settled.
The Gap between IVC and Mauryan Period: The period between Indus Valley Civilization (2500-1950 BCE) and Mauryan c.300 BCE) has to be explained historically, which is not done. Only few scholars have pointed out the following facts:
1. A. L. Basham26 pointed out the continuation of depiction of floral motifs from IVC to Mauryan and the existence of pre-Asokan pillars. He also observes that the Mauryan art form was “directly descended from the engravers of the Indus seals”.
2. A. Sundara27 (2000) pointed out the megalithic Iron users of Karnataka going before Asokan period to c.1000 BCE taking the evidences of Karnataka, which are dated to c.1440 BCE (Komaranahalli), c.1380 BCE (Redware Pottery) and c.1320 BCE (Blackware Pottery). He also points out that the Mauryan period seems to be nearer to the end of the Harrappan civilization (c.2000 BCE).
3. Vedaprakash28 (1999) questioned the existence of stone architecture before Asoka in Sri Lanka pointing out the distance between Patna and Ceylon (Patna and Greece / Persia).
4. Dr. Deraniyagala29 (2004) pointed out the existence of early Brahmi script in Srilanka datable to 600-500 BCE, but absence of Asokan inscriptions.
5. K. D. Sethna30 (1989) too correlating the art form of IVC with Mauryan, places Asoka in c.650BCE.
Therefore, the historical period of India cannot be resatricted to c.4th cent.BCE and the period c.3500 to c.4th cent.BXE can be ignore by assigning to “proto-historic”, shutting down the research of ancient India.
The Issue of Buddhism: Many important factors about Buddhism is forgotten in interpreting the alleged influence of Jataka stories on Ramayana.
1. J. G. Jennings31 gives a clear picture of how Buddhism originated in Hindu religion and consistent with its principles in his “The Vedantic Buddhism of Buddha”.
2. Max Mueller32 says: “Buddhism in its original form was only a modification of Brahmanism. It grew up slowly and imperceptibly and its very founder could hardly have been aware of the final result of his doctrines”.
3. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy33: “The more superficially one studies Buddhism, the more it seems to differ from the Brahmanism in which it originated; the more difficult it becomes to distinguish Buddhism from Brahmanism, or to say in what respects, if any, Buddhism is really unorthodox”.
However, after Buddha, definitely, Buddhists had taken a belligerent attitude against Vedic followers by all means. The fierce battle waged between them theologically and philosophically is revealed from the Buddhist literature. The utter contempt and hatred shown against Adi Sankara proves the factual position. At one stage, Sankara was accused as a Pracchanna Buddha (a crypto-Buddhist)34. As Buddhists had and followed missionaryy zeal and activities vigorously in spreading their religion, they adapted and adopted the factors of customs, festivals and stories of the prevalent ones, popularly among the people. Thus, the Jataka stories were created profusely imitating epic characters and episodes, however, making Buddha supreme. Thus, we see very often Brahma, Indra and other Devas depicted as obeying to Buddha and so on. Therefore, it is clearly understandable that they immediately imitated Ramayana by changing certain characters and episodes. The influence of Ramayana had been so dominant that even Homer or any other poet might have also adopted in their Iliad and Oddeyssy. That is why they differ with Ramayana in comparing with characters though they appear to be similar.
The Question of Iron, Horse, Magnificent Palaces, etc.,: H. D. Sankalia35 has dealt with all these issues and come to a conclusion that Valmiki could have written Ramayana only after seeing the existing art and architectural specimens at different places of India, Partitioned-India and Pan-India. Taking a cue from the literature, he even asserts that that Dasrata and his wives lived in a hut with mud-floor. How then, Valmiki mentions about Pushpaka Vimana and Dynasoruses? Did Valmiki live during Jurassic Period or Steven Speilsburg Period to see it and describe in his work?
The attempt to bring everything into “present time and place of reference” cannot make research in “historical perspective”, as historians or archeologists are dealing with “material evidences of different time and place of references”. The study of past in the present cannot make the past material evidences to suit with the present ones. Having accepted that the core story of Ramayana belonged to Vedic period (c.4500-3500 BCE), how the experts try to correlate and corroborate material evidences of later period? Is it not historical idiosyncrasy and anti-synchronic? Thus, misinterpretation and misrepresentation of archaeological evidences too lead to wrong and unhistorical conclusions.
Critical Edition Evidence: The available Homer’s works have been reconstructed from the references and quotations attributed to Homer from the secondary sources written between first century BCE to fourth century CE, as the original sources were lost already. Some scholars36 talk about “Official edition of Homer” – made, however, without mentioning that it was written. The Ramayana critical edition, in spite of critical methodology adopted to sift the interpolated verses contains majority of verses and they convey the meaning with or without the interpolated verses. Only the experts, who discovered the interpolated verses could not appreciate the significance of such interpolations, which they themselves dated to first century CE.
The interpolated verses contain –
1. Astronomical descriptions of planets, stars, eclipses etc.
2. Geographical description of four quarters of the world as described by Sugriva.
3. geological, and other scientific details.
4. Iron / divine weaponry, horses, chariots, armies
5. urbanization, city construction, multi-storeyed buildings, 1000 pillared hall in Asokavana
6. Pushpaka vimana, air-travel,
7. Burial and crematory practices
8. Rama as a God, i.e, deification of Rama, Dasavatara,
9. Sita with yellow silk saree, offering 1000 / 100 pots of wine to Kalindi (the critic himself makes a mistake, in one place he says 100 pots!),
10. The problem of yugas, running into 4,32,000 years etc.
However, the bias or professional ignorance or tactful avoidance, willful evasion of certain subject matter whereas excessive or purposeful dealing with certain specific matters make other researchers to question their methodology. Some points are submitted for consideration:
1. H. D. Sankalia declared that – Sala trees are located in Chota Nagpur and the botanical literature showed that the sala – shorea robusta – grow in the Chota Nagpur only and nowhere else. Very good indeed. Why not go through other than botanical literature? What prevents these scholars referring to astronomical, geographical, geological, architectural, aeronautical, weaponry literature to find out the truth? Is the botanical literature is more historical or historical to historical research than other scientific literature?
2. The loath-contempt, stigmatic-disrespect, venomous-hatred and audacious-indifference shown by the Indian historians, archaeologists and inter-related disciplined scholars is astonishing. They coolly forget or do not know or knowingly suppress the fact that the so-called Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian chronologies have been constructed by astronomical dating. But, when it comes to India, it comes under the untouchability category.
3. Another argument – It is fanciful to suppose the existence of golden gateway, walls etc., because no such gateway ever existed. The nearest we have are the Isthar gateway from Babylon now reconstructed and exhibited in the eastern sector of Berlin. Why not any gateways of India reconstructed and exhibited? What about the gateways made in rock exhibited at different sites? What about the gateways of IVC? How then to believe Herotodus?
4. Dasratha and others living in huts and mud houses: Without horizontal excavations, he himself asserted that we do not have any archaeological evidences for the existence of Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka, Kanishka and others.
“………our want of planned, problem oriented excavations is responsible for our total ignorance. For a horizontal excavation at sites like Ayodhya, Vaisali, Kausanmbi, Ahichhatra would surely give us a factual picture of the development of the city-life before and after Buddha. In fact we have no evidence at all of this kind, even for the Maurya, Sunga, Kushana and Gupta periods” 37.
5. Why, then, we worry about as to whether they ever walked on the roads of their respective kingdoms or lived in their palaces or not. As long as the archaeological evidences to decide a particular issue is not final, the interpretations made on such findings must be kept as provisional only without making any forceful conclusions to influence others.
6. D. C. Sircar38 taking a cue from the Nagarjuni hill (Gaya Dist., Bihar) inscription, assertts that Ramayana was known in the last quarter of 3rd cent.BCE, as it mentions the Mauryan King “Dasratha”. The Mittani who worshipped Vedic gods, belonged to an Indic kingdom that was connected by marriage across several generations to the Egyptian 18th dynastry to which Akhneten (1352-1336 BCE) belonged. The first Mittani King was Sutarna I (good sun). The names of the successors are Indian as listed below:
Name of the King
In a treaty39 between Mittanians and Hittites dated to 15th – 14th cent.BCE (the Boghkoi inscriptions), the gods Mitrasil, Arunasil, Indar and Nasattyana side by side with Teshup and Hepa have been mentioned. They are nothing but Indian gods – Mithra, Varuna, Indra and the Nasatyas. Teshup and Hepa are local gods. Their kings too had names like Mattiwaza, Tushratta, Mariannu and so on and they are typically Indian. Not only kings have Sanskrit names, their records have many such words denoting day to day to things, goods etc. Few examples are –
1. A text by a Mitannian named Kikkuli uses words such as aika (eka, one), tera (tri, three), panza (pancha, five), satta (sapta, seven), na (nava, nine), vartana (vartana, round).
2. Another text has babru (babhru, brown), parita (palita, grey) and pinkara (pingala, red).
3. Their chief festival was the celebration of vishuva (solstice) very much like India.
Ruler with axe
Son of Sukshatra, the good ruler
Artatama or Ritadhama
Abiding in cosmic law
Mtivaja or Matiwazza
Whose wealth is prayer
Here also Dasharatha is found, why not, historians ignore this reference and deny Ramayana’a influence there? Have scholars been selective in choosing and quoting the inscriptions? In fact, it is evident that Ramayana had been so popular that it was known among the Hittites during c.14th cent.BCE itself. Therefore, the influence on the Greeks is very imminent and factual.
History of Story-Telling: Anthropologists, archaeologists, historians, sociologists and other scholars have found out that story-telling has been one of the important factors in deciding the antiquity of the people.
That in India, epics are repeatedly edited and compiled the epics prove such art had been there already. Interestingly, Vayupurana says that the present Mahabharat is the 28th recension compiled by Dwaipayana Prabhu, also called as Vyasa:
Parivarte chaturvimshe Riksho Vyaso bhavishyati,
Ashtavimshe punah prape parivane kramagatagh yatha
Bhashyati Vyasah namna Dwaipayana Prabhu (28th chapter)
As it was compiled some 2000 years ago, it is evident that 27 recensions must have existed from the date of Mahabharat (3102 BCE) to the date of Vayupurana.
That is why the western scholars had great interest in studying the Indian stories. They know very well that –
“India is indeed the home of storytelling. It was from here the Persians learned the art, and passed it on to the Arabians. From the Middle East the tales found their way to Constantinople and Venice, and finally appeared in the pages of Boccaccio, Chaucer and La Fontaine.
It was not until Benfey wrote his famous introduction to Panchatantra that we began to realise what a great debt the Western tales owed to the East”
“The great advance made in the study of Sanskrit has shown that incidents in stories well known to every European child existed in India over two thousand years ago. This does not mean that the story, or incident , or incident in the story, travelled, slowly but surely, from India to the English nursery……..it is particularly interesting to note that some of the early stories from the Ehyptian papyri are so similar to tales in the Ocean of Story that one is led at once to suspect some connection”40
This is the confession made by C. H. Tawney, who translated Katha Sarit Sagara to English as “The Ocean of Story”. He also recorded the historical reasons for the development of story telling in India and they are summarised as follows41:
1. Environment – warm latitudes, the temperature
2. The habits of people – exaggerated code of hospitality
3. Gathering of men in the cool evenings
4. Prevalent of professional storytellers.
5. Antiquity of Indian civilization.
6. The early voyages of exploration and trade of Indians.
Therefore, taking all factors into consideration, it may be interpreted that the Ramayana had influenced ancient civilizations in such way, that it was recorded in different modes exhibited through their art and architecture. As the ancient people left out at Bharat recreated their culture, tradition, heritage etc., immediately, they could establish contacts with others instantaneously. Thus, the Ramayana stories spread to other civilizations.
Conclusion: The critical study of the origins of the Greeks, their language, Homer, “Homeric question”, the evolution of Iliad and Odyssey and related topics prove the following facts:
1. First, the scholars up to 18th-19th centuries traced the origins of the Greeks to India. Then, they changed the stand and started propagating the idea that Indians derived everything from the Greeks, particularly, after the “Alexander’s invasion”.
2. However, the more and more the archaeological evidences are studied critically, the depictions of human figures, gods and goddess, flora and fauna etc., point to India and living Indian tradition, as no other western country or even for that matter, Greece preserves and protects such living tradition, culture and tradition exhibited through material evidences.
3. As the origins of the Greek people (.c.1000 BCE), their language (c.800 BCE), “Homer” (c.800 BCE), the works attributed to him (c.400 BCE), their presentation (c.200 BCE), development in stages (up to first centuries of CE), committed to writing in Greek (may be after c.400 BCE) after the development of Greek script from the Phoenician (10th-9th cent.BCE) etc., have been uncertain but a lot of assumptions have been made, their origins have to be decided.
6. The arguments put forward that at the Greeks themselves utterly forgotten by their descendants, and therefore we are unable to fix the date, the old home of the invaders is supposed to have lain in the north-west regions of the Balkan peninsula, the Greeks of history who had completely forgotten this far-distant past were not exclusively the descendants of these Greek invaders read with other views recorded subscribing to the Indian origin, make to think that scholars have changed their stand for the best reasons only known to them.
7. However, the forceful Greek origin for every Indian arts and sciences makes one to analyze the truth, as the evidences make the bubble burst.
8. As the Ramayanic incidences had happened long back, it is evident that such happenings had been recorded in different civilizations variously, but preserving the core story. However, in Indian (and Southeast Asian and other) tradition, it has been preserved and protected to greater extent and followed and practiced even today in social, cultural, religious and inter-related forms.
9. The scholars who dub Ramayana as myth have evidently not gone into all details, as they have been experts in their respective fields. Therefore, multi-disciplinary approach should be adapted and adopted to analyze literary evidences, scrutinize the fanciful / strange descriptions presented, verify with material evidences, sift, corroborate and correlate such evidences and then come to conclusions without any bias of any kind.
10. Research without Professional bias, Social prejudice, political dominance, pre-determined disposition and religious indoctrination also makes scholars spiritual, in the sense to attain Professional Spirituality. Finding truth is always hall mark of spirituality in any field.
Notes and References
1. D. C. Boyd, Weber on the Ramayana, Indian Antiquary, 1872,Vol. I, p.120, 172, 239 and 1875, Vol.I.
2. Kashinath Trimbak Telang, Was the Ramayana Copied from Homer? A Reply to Professor Weber, (first printed in 1873), Publishers Parlor (India), New Delhi, 1976.
Ramayana and Jatakas, Modern Review, Vol.XVII, p.96.
3. M. Krishnamachariar, History of Classical Sanskrit Literature, Motila Banarasidas, New Delhi, 1937, pp.14-22.
4. M. Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, University of Calcutta, Vol.I, Part.II, 1978, p.453.
5. H. G. D. Turnbull, The Homeric Question, Annals of Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (ABORI), Vol.2, 1921, pp.143-153.
Stanley Casson, How Homer Wrote the Odyssey, Antiquity, Vol.XVI, 1942.
Colin Hardie, Homer and Odyssey Another Point of View, Antiquity, Vol.XVI, 1942.
T. B. Webster, Homer and the Mycennaean Tablets, A, Vol. XXIX, 1955, pp.10-
M. A. Littauer & J. H. Crouwel, Chariots in late bronze age Greece, A, Vol. LVII, 1983, pp.187-192.
R. W. Hutchinson, Notes on Minoan Chronoloy, A, Vol. XXII, 1948, pp. 61-74.
R. W. Hutchinson, Minoan Chronoloy Reviewed, A, Vol. XXVIII, 1954, pp. 183-164.
6. H. G. D. Turnbull, opt.cit, p.143.
7. J. B. Bury, History of Greece, MacMillan & Co., London, `p.69. See p.50, 68, 69 etc., for discussion on Homeric question. See Notes and References, p.855, where ne notes, “The Homer of the Iliad, a dweller of Chios, referring to Fick’s article:
Fick, Die Erweuterung der Menis, Bezzenberber’s Beitrage zur Kunde der indogermanischen Sparchen, 1899, 20 sqq.
The great role which Hector plays in the Iliad may be connected with the fact that Hector was a name in the royal family of Chios, which connected itself with Hector of Troy.
8. Is Homer Historical? An Archeology odyssey Interview with Gregory Nagy: http://olympicwatch2004.com
9. Adhyatma Ramayana is considered to be an extract from Brahmanda Purana.
10. “A Critical Inventory of Ramayana Studies in the World”,
“Ramayana Traditions in South East Asia”, etc.
11. J. B. Bury, Opt.cit, p.78.
12. Edward Pococke, India in Greece, Cosmos, New Delhi, 1976.
13. Col.Tod, Annals and Antiquity of Rajasthan, Motilal Banarasidas, New Delhi, 1971.
14. C. F. C. Volney, The Ruins of Empires,
15. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Theosophical Publishing Society, Madras, 1975.
16. Chaman Lal, Hindu America, Visveshvaranand Institute, Hosiarpur, 1956.
…………., Gypsies, the Forgotten Children of India, Publications Division, Government of India, New Delhi,
…………., India Mother of us All, by the author, Thomson Press (India) Limited, Faridabad, 1968.
17. Max Mueller, Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p.501.
18. Goldstucker, Panini, p.17.
19. A special rule was inserted in the great grammar of Panini (c.7th / 4th Cent.BCE) to distinguish three feminine forms of yavana:
1. a Greek woman was yavani,
2. the curtain was yavanika, and
3. the Greek script was yavanani.
20. K. V. Ramakrishna Rao, “Yavanika” – Myth and Reality in the Context of Indian Art and Craft of Drama, a paper presented at the Workshop “Yavanika” held at Pune on 8th and 9th December, 2003.
21. Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization, American Institute for Pakistan Studies, Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 1988.
The “Dancing girl” made of copper-Bronze, “male dancing figure” made of Copper-bronze explained and other terracotta figures – a male torso made of sandstone and twisting figure of a male dancer made of gray sandstone - clearly prove the existence of dance and drama. The numerous circular platforms have been found inside the houses and in small courtyards were platforms used for the performance of dance and drama.
22. H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Theosophical Publishing Society, Madras, 1971, Vol.3, p.411, 417 etc., pp.99-117.
23. Hans Henning Von Der Osten, Ancient Oriental Seals in the Collection of Mr. Edward T. Newell, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 1934
24. Ibid. See the plates appended I to XLI. Scholars have identified Meluha interpreter, Kamandalu carrying person, Rishi like persons etc., as Indians.
25. Geoffrey Bibby, The ‘Ancient Indian style’ Seals from Bahrain, Antiquity, XXXII, 1958, pp.243-246.
Asko Parpola, Deciphering the Indus Script,Cambridge University Press, UK, 2000.
James Bailey, The God-Kings & the Titans - The New World Ascendancy in Ancient Times, Hodder and Stoughton, UK, 1973.
Swami Sankarananda, Hindu States of Sumeria, Mukhapadhyay, Calcutta, 1962.
26. A. L. Basham, The Wonder that was India, Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 1990, pp.364-366.
27. A. Sundara, The Traditional Date of Asoka Maurya: Archaeological Evidences in Karnataka: A Consideration, 329, “Saundarya”, Bharati Nagara, Dharwad, 2000.
………….., The Traditional Date of Asoka Maurya: Literary Evidences in Karnataka: A Consideration, Dharwad, 2000.
28. Vedaprakash, Was Indian Stone Art Derived from the Chaldeans, Greeks, Romans or Persians?, in Contribution of South India to Indian Art and Architecture, Bharatiya Itihasa Sankalana Samiti, Madras, 1999, pp.36-43.
29. S. U. Deraniyagalu, Early Man and the Rise of Civilization in Sri Lanka: the Archaeoilogical Evidence, see –
……………………., A Bridge to Sri Lanka, in
Recently, he had delivered a lecture at Madras Museum.
30. K. D. Sethna, Ancient India in a New Light, Aditya Prakashan,m New Delhi, 1989, pp.390-394.
31. J. G. Jennings, The Vedantic Buddhism of Buddha, Geoffrey Cumerlege, Oxford Universitry Press, London, 1941.
32. Max Mueller, History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, p.134.
33. Ananda Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism, The Wisdonm Library, New York, p.45.
34. S. S. Roy, The Heritage of Sankara, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 1982.
Taking cue from Padma Purana, “Mayavadam asacchastram pracchannam buddham eva ca kathgitam devi kalau brahmanarupina” (Uttara kanda, Chapter236), it is argued that Sankara was responsible for Mayavada (to counter the Buddhists) by practicing Buddhism secretly.
35. H. D. Sankalia, Ramayana Myth or Reality, Progress Publishing Company, New Delhi,
………………, The Ramayana in Historical Perspective, MacMillan India Limited, New Delhi, 1982.
C. V. Vaidya, The Riddle of Ramayana, Bombay, 1906.
36. Greene, History of Greece, London, 1944, p.145.
“………..it was provided that the Rhapsodes should recite the Iliad or Odyssey in a regular and officially recognized order, and to that end an official edition of this poems was made, the foundation of our present text; some, however, doubt the reality of this “Peisistratean recession”. Most important was the work done in connection with the popular cult of Dionysus” (emphasis added). Therefore, the Greek / modern historiographers superimposed such details making the superimposed ones apper to be authentic and historical.
37. H. D. Sankalia, Ramayana Myth or Reality, Opt.cit, p.46.
38. D. C. Sircar, Problems of Ramayana, A. P., Govt. Museum Series No.19, Hyderabad, 1979, p.28.
…………………, Select Inscriptions, Voil.I, 1965, pp.77-78.
For the name “Rama” in earlier records, he draws attention to –
Luders’ List of Inscriptions, Nos.125I, 979.
39. The Boghzkoi inscriptions of 14th cent.BCE records the agreement between Mittanis and Hittites, in which Indian gods and words are appearing.
40. C. H. Tawney, The Ocean of Story, Motilal Banarasidas, New Delhi, 1968, pp.xxxiv-xxxv of introduction.
41. Ibid, p.xxxvi. Also see –
Vedaprakash, History and Art of Story-Telling, Vivekananda Kendra Patrika, Madras, Vol30, No.2, Aug.2001-Jan.2002, pp.83-94.
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