Tuesday 29 March 2022

Raamaayanaa and Srilankaa

 An interesting discussion on the path Prabhu Shrirama traversed during his Vanavaasa in Ramayana and what people in Srilanka know or think about Raavanaa.


A.S.  Mar 15 : Below is a nicely annotated map showing the path that प्रभु श्री राम traversed during HIS रामायणम्. 

[ https://eastindiastory.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Ramayan-mapping-the-route-of-vanvaas.jpg ]

Recommend view it at full screen

There have been many other such images in the Internet, but I felt this was much more detailed and well annotated.

For me, there are two issues with this map. 

(1) I thought दण्डकारण्यम् to closer to present day South of West Begal and North Orissa along our East Coast. Maybe memory of my school-day geography is at fault.

(2) I note from this map that राम सेतु is not at the shortest distance between the shores of India and Lanka. 

This map image is from a nice blog titled Your Myth Is Our Fact [ https://eastindiastory.com/your-myth-is-our-fact/ ] by Ms Manjulaa Shirodkar where the auhor very persuasively tries to establish that Ramayanam is not just a mythology or just काव्यम् reflecting the literay prowess of महऋषि वाल्मीकि but his meticulous chronicling of History as it evolved; not that I need any convincing to accept  Ramayanam  as a part of our ancient history.I



There is a book called: Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia

https://www.amazon.in/dp/0195635183/ref=cm_sw_r_awdo_ZFXQXFK6CANFZN6227DH  Edited by Paula Richman

It consists of several Ramayanams as narrated not only in different parts of India, but also as told and enacted to suit their own ancient cultural ethos, while maintaining the essential core of the narration, in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other Far Eastern countries.. I had read the book long ago, and all I remember now is that I did not like it at that time.

As far as I am concerned, the original Vaalmiki's Ramayanam has been told and retold over thousands of years and eons in all parts of India, mostly unaltered and this itself gives it much weightage as its core narrative being a true description even if one concedes a bit of poetic licence in some of its embellishments.

1) We do now have slightly different versions of the original Ramayanam chronicled by Rishi Vaalmiki in Sanskrit, (and as accepted by a vast majority of persons), by Sant Tulsidas and Tamizh Poet Kamban. There is a very nice third English book closely following Vaalmiki's narrative, by Sh C. Rajagopalachari (1st Governor General of India and CM of Madras State). There could be many more well-followed versions (such as in Bengali, Telugu, Malayalam etc) by other authors, about which I do not know.

2) Having read English translations (Gita Press, Gorakhpur) of both Vaalmiki and Tulsidas, I realise that Tulsidas's versions, for his very good reasons, differs in many anecdotes compared to those of Vaalmiki.

3) Even Tyagaraja Swami, to reinforce his bhakti filled description of Prabhu Sri Rama's 'Mahima' (I think Tulsidas calls this 'Ram ki Kala'), has composed a kriti with an anecdote that is not brought out in Vaalmiki Ramayanam -- I had narrated this anecdote several years ago in the "email-group".

There is a general habit of many writers, who know that they may not become as famous as the original author of any literary masterpiece, and so interpolate their own writing, attempting to imitate the style of the original creator, and add it to the story as though it is a part of the original. This happens in all cultures. I have come across fake additions in great Tamizh literary works; A few of Tyagaraja Swami's beautiful Kritis are said to have been imitated and falsely propagandised as being his own. Same thing has been said of Shakespeare's works too.

As far as I know, only Vaalmiki's Ramayanam is considered original and "Standard". I understand that Valmiki Ramayanam stops with Prabhu Sri Rama and Devi Sita's Pattabhishekam. Uttara Ramayanam (with the Dhobhi story) was a later interpolation by one or more persons who wanted the kalank (shamefilled blame) on a married woman staying at another person's house overnight (that view which was strongly held in the society of those days) to be reinforced on the back of the popularity of Ramayanam.


Based on the Ramayanam pravachanam-s (discourses) I have listened to in Aastha Channel, I understand that Prabhu Sri Rama, Devi Sita and Sri Lakshmana spent most of their exile at Panchavati. By the time they left Panchavati on their way south, 12 years out of 14 had elapsed. Another 4 months or so were lost when Sri Rama and Sri Lakshmana were "grounded" in Kishkinda due to the monsoon season there. Add to this about 9 days of war. After the Yuddham, they accomplished a quick return via aerial route, to reach Ayodhya, bang at the end of 14 years to the day. So all in all Sri Rama had about 600 days to reach Sri Lanka from Panchavati via their meandering path. (In fact, at Ashoka Vanam, Devi Sita tells Sri Hanuman that she will keep her life only for one more year till Sri Rama comes and saves her from Ravana; I think Sri Rama achieved that schedule very comfortably.)

All in all, belief is belief. It may be interesting to know that 'flat earthers' still exist, in fairly good numbers.


AM. Mar 15 at 1:22 PM

  A great revelation indeed if true. There have been many speculations about the places mentioned in Ramayana including where is Lanka. Even the people of Srilanka do not believe in the legacy of Rawana or that Rama visited with his army and killed Rawana there. I had read a theory that the island was actually off the coast of Orissa. 

  Anyhow, descriptions of Chitrakoot, Dandakaranya Forests fairly matches with the Vindhya, Satpura Ranges. Is Nasik really the Panchwati?  Ramji travelled on foot from here to Lankapuri that's nearly 2000 kms by land. It would have taken more than 100 days. 

  Sans some Scientific research, we can keep on speculating on this for years without any conclusions. Thanks.


A.S. Mar 15 

It is well recognised that Sri Aadi Sankara at a very young age travelled on foot from Kerala to the Himalayas and places like Vaaranasi.

I think they were hardy people. I expect, Prabhu Sri Rama, as an Avataaram of Maha Vushnu might have done that.

I would suggest, if you have not already visited Nilesh Oak's blogs / may be YouTube Channel too, you may like to see them where he has presented scientific explanations. 

My view: Archelogical finds need not be only the proofs.

Of course in this matter, whether one agrees with the proposition or not may not be a "head going issue"😊



This kind of "Topic" reminds one happening { true or not ;- no idea, but the  messaging is the moot point } , it seems, Gautam Budhha too had to face once { written almost 2/3  years ago in the main group}, when :-

Two Quarrelling Persons came to Buddha to ascertain whether God does exist  or not ?

The First person asked ,

 "God Exists, isn't it"?

Budhha replied in the affirmative.

When second person came and asked:" 

There is nothing called God, isn't it"?

Again Buddha replied in the affirmative.

When both of them went out , - one third person asked  Buddha , - the reason of saying yes to both of them.

It seems, Buddha told :-The highest attribute goes to the "Faith " system , - presence of which only makes many things to "Exist" , and absence of which makes things the other way ,- and thus subject of "God" is not a matter of any "Argument " { Not even Maths or Science too- My Addition}.

Similar might be the case 

and treatment with all kinds of Mythological Proceedings too, 

Which is:-

" Maano to Ganga Maiya,

Na maano to Behta Paani" .

Btw, It seems, Buddhism truly does not believe in God, but in "Reincarnations"  They  Do Agree !!!


ABG  Mar 15 

We had a temple called Rameshwar near our home town Jamkhandi in Karnataka and the local people believed that Prabhu Ramchandra worshipped Prabhu Shiva at that place. There may be several such legends spread throughout India. Those about Ramtek and Panchavati in Maharashtra and Hampi in Karnataka are very strong, but some other researchers have not accepted them. 

I recently  got a video strongly refuting the traditional story, that Shrirama abandoned Seeta  after hearing a washerman (Dhobi) spreading some doubt about her chastity. Then Seeta went to Rishi Valmiki's Ashram, lived there and gave birth to twin sons. When the sons were about 10-12 years old they went to the court of King Shriram and sang whole Ramayan. As per information of that video maker, Shriram and Seeta stayed together and ruled over the world for thousands of years.


R.Y.A.   Mar 15 

An interesting topic has opened up, just after my 15 days tour of Sri Lanka. I returned on 11th March.

In the Ramayana Ravana is not totally a black character. He is a brahmin, great victorious king, a learned person and a devotee of Shiva who constructed and played Ravana vina, he is attributed as composer of Shiv Tandav Stotram, he ruled over a very prosperous kingdom, which is called A Goldan Lanka. By all accounts he must have been a very popular king and the praja would have been extremely proud of him. Though for us Indians he is the villain of Ramayana.  

I was surprised to find the Sinhala population has no recollection of such a powerful king. Not that they don't trace their ancient history. They trace their history from the 4th BC and earlier of the stone age. They acknowledge the Sangam period. And later their interactions with Chola. Of Course they have reverence to Mahendra and Singhika (spelt in many ways) son and daughter of Emperor Ashok for bringing Buddhism to Lanka. But no recollection of Ravana.  How can this be explained? 

Yes there is a Ramayana tour, for the one who deeply believes in Ramayana. But all the places are of recent origin to boost tourism. The Lankans have nothing to do with it.


ABG  Mar 15 at 6:46 PM

It is amazing to know that people (tourism operators), who have nothing to do with Shriram or Ravana, conduct a Ramayana tour only for promoting tourism and earn some foreign exchange. We also have a slightly different parallel in Bodhgaya. It is said to be thronged with tourists from Japan and other East Asian countries, while local population may have very few believers in Buddhism, but they do relate to Gautam Buddha.


A.M.  Mar 15 at 6:46 PM

Very interesting RYA . 

  Hinduism is much older than Budhism that is only 4-5th century BCE. If they have kept their history so far back, they must know what religion was followed before that. It must be Hinduism being so close in culture to us as well. How can they be not aware of Rama-Ravana when people even as far away as Indonesian were. Thanks 



Dear AM, Your doubt is valid. It is really surprising Sri Lankan don't relate to Hinduism as their pre-Buddhism religion or way of life. They relate to paganism, the elements of nature assuming the status of deities, the way it is in the Vedic period. One such deity which has continued his existence is Suman Saman. You find his statue in Dambulla cave temple as protector of Buddha. He appears in other places as well. He appears at the base of Sripada  or Adam's peak. It is considered holy by Hindus, Buddhist, and all the three Abrahamic religions. At the base devotees worship Suman Saman for protection and success of the climb.   

Hinduism has considered Buddha as the 9th Avatar of Vishnu and in this way has tried to avoid the conflict or competition with the other religion. The same way Sri Lankan Buddhism has considered Vishu as the protector of Buddha. The statue or a temple of Vishnu appears in many Buddhist shrines. I saw it in the Dambulla cave temple standing behind Buddha's image. In Kandy, in the premises of (Buddha's)Tooth relic temple, there is a separate shrine of Vishu. In Tibetan Buddhism and especially the sects devoted to Tantric practices you find adaptation Hindu deities such as Durga and Bhairav, and many more appear more or less as protectors. We did not find such a truce between the deities statues of Hinduism in Myanmar. There is no relation to any of the Hindu deities. Similar is the story in China. Maybe Sinhala Buddhism  picked up and adopted from Hindu influence from the Big Brother, India and maybe that's why Sinhala Buddhism adopted Vishu as the protector of Buddha. It looks like Buddhism introduced Hindu deities to Sinhala, which sound strange. But there is no explanation why Ramayana influence doesn't appear in Sri Lanka. 


ABG   16-03-2022

The relationship between Hindu (Sanatan Dharma), Buddhism and Jainism in historical period appears intriguing. Rishabhdeo ( ऋषभदेव) is considered as an incarnation of Vishnu in Bhaagvat purana and also the first Tirthankar of Jainism. He is not considered as one of the Dashavatar of Vishnu. Buddha is considered as ninth Avatar in Dashavatar. However, though there are some temples of Varaha, Narsimha and Parashuram in addition to many for Shrirama and Krishna,  I have not seen any ancient Hindu temple of Rishabhdev or Buddha nor heard any Hindu worshipping these Avataras. 

Jainism spread all over India and is in practice.  Buddhism might have also spread across India in ancient times, as we can see Stupas in different places. However, though it spread widely to other countries, it almost vanished in India. It has been rejuvenated in the last century after Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced it along with his followers.  They have built several new temples of Buddha in recent times.


A M    Mar 16 at 1:12 PM

Very interesting ABG.

  Though all the three Dharma vis Hinduism, Budhism, Jainism evolved from the Indians, in India, the impact of the later two on ourselves has been vaxing and vaning. It's rather strange why and what for these two took different roots and routes. Did Mahatma Budha or Mahaveeraji find some things lacking in Hinduism, less ideological, too flexible or what else? It's also significant that Hinduism is termed as a "way of life", not as a Religion. Was that the reason?

  All said and done, I find Hinduism or more appropriately the "Sanatam Dharma" as a very practical Dharma, most flexible in nature or operations, with all kinds of God's n Godesses, Philosophies, Ideologies adoptable to all trades and work cultures, War or Peace situations, Rituals for all occasions, Places and kinds of Worships, Life situations, Psychologies et al as compared to other religions (though I am no specialist on this). Perhaps that may also be the main reason for it's survival over eons, as well as by applying the wisdoms of "survival of the fittest (flexible)" criteria. Thanks.

. . . . . . . . .  .. ********************************************************

RYA -  Apr 9 

Sri Lanka is in news for its economic hardship. I was in Sri Lanka just over a month back. I was there with my friends from 25th Feb to 11th March. We were on our Lanka travel going east – west and north – south. We essentially covered the historical sites, the forts of previous colonising powers and two national parks, Wilpattu and Yala. We visited Jaffna and Trincomalee and Point Pedro for the memories of civil war.

When we were about to leave for Sri Lanka, there were reports of fuel and food shortages and conditions deteriorating fast. When we arrived, we did not find the dire situations painted in media. Of course there were lines at the petrol pumps, but much orderly lines. We experienced only a three hours of power outage in Anuradhapura, out of 15 days stay. There were busloads of people on pilgrimage at the Buddhist stupas and temples. In fact we had to abandon our climb (a night trek to be on the top for witnessing sunrise) of Sripada (Adam’s peak), as being weekend, there were too many devotees climbing. There was no space at the top. The narrow steps for the final climb were jam packed. We returned 200 feet short of the top.

It seems the things have taken a political overturn. The economy is stumbling and people are suffering. We were lucky to escape the rallies and curfews.  



AM -  Apr 10 

Dear RYA,

   I missed one main pointer from you, viz what factors prompted you to undertake this trip besides the pandemic lock down itch. Another friend just returned last Sunday, did not face any trouble. Very well made videos by you. I could see some more as well on YouTube in sequence with yours. 

  Srilanka is a peace loving country with deep and long standing cultural, religious even language ties with us, may be same DNA as well. And still wants to project as a different entity. Some background learnt:

Q: "Sinhalese people inhabit Sri Lanka and are the main ethnic group that make up about 74% of the total population of Sri Lanka. They are also referred to as the Hela, or Sinhala; the word Sinhala, meaning “lion people”. According to popular mythology, the Sinhalese people are descendants from the followers of Prince Vijaya who served exile (from 543-483 BC) in Sri Lanka and hailed from a North Eastern Indian kingdom called Singhapur (Modern day Singhur, West Bengal). Genetic studies have shown that the origins of the Sinhalese people lie mainly in West Bengal and South India, with links also to native 'Hela' tribes."

    UQ: Whilst the Tamilians settled here from the times of Chola dynasties. The divide between the two groups is stark in every aspect. LTTE's struggle for a separate state within Srilanka is the root cause of friction between these inhabitants as well as between us as countries 

  Srilanka's GDP/person was twice that of India in PPP or . It's half the size of Tamilnadu but 1/3rd of it's population. 

  It's present crisis is mainly on account of FE drop due to the Tourism industry flopping during the Pandemic that earlier  contributed ~30 % of its import bills, that's now down to just 3% contribution. It may need at least 12-18 months to recover. 

 Overall one gets the impression of a small well managed n maintained State, good GDP, educations, wealth distribution but limited resources. 

. . . 

"Sinhala" may comprise of the two words, Sinha+Hela, meaning the "Lion People".


TP - Apr 10 at 12:23 PM

Dear AM

Good to read your posting. One more reason for the present day problem is the amount of loan present government has taken and spent it lavishily on unproductive projects. Now the interest burden is also hurting them . The ban on use of fertilizers reduced the food production also. 

Yes it is true that the reduced tourists flow has given another shock to Srilanka. 



RYA - Apr 10 at 2:59 PM

Dear AM,

Let me answer first why Sri Lanka. Sometime back I developed interest in exploring the Indian linkages to other nations with regards to Hinduism and Buddhism. My friends were inclined to share my interests and so we started planning our travels. First we visited Thailand and Cambodia. In Thailand we made it a point to visit Ayutthaya (the name is the morphed name of Ayodhya). This was the capital of Hindu kings of Thailand, linking their lineage to Ikshvaku and Rama. They attach Rama to their Thai names even today. There is hardly any trace of old Hindu structures as Buddhism has totally taken over the nation. The push came mainly from Buddhist Kings of Myanmar who destroyed Ayutthaya and instilled Buddhism. Even then you find the Ramayana frescoes in the Royal palace of Bangkok. Angkor Wat is a classical case of Vishnu temple being converted to Buddha temple. Khmer people relate to Indian epics. I was surprised to see the life size statues of Bhima and Duryodhana engaged in a mace battle, in the national museum. Then we journeyed to Luoyang and the White Horse temple to trace the beginning of  Buddhism in China. It was a wonderful trip. We did not miss the Myanmar connection to Buddhism. We traced the 5th century ancient Hindu temples in Penjikent in Tajikistan. At Sarazm saw the ruins of Mitra Culture, a World Heritage site. In 2019 we traveled by retracing the path of Xuanzang (Hsuan Tsang) to India. In all these travels we included many more interesting places and activities. So now you will agree travel to Sri Lanka was but a natural choice. 

You are right in tracing the origin of Sinhala. As per Mahavamsa, the chronicle of  Sinhala history, the account of origin is shrouded in supernatural births, Yaksh and Nags and curse and punishments. 

They also relate to Chandravanshi Clan, to descendants of Pandavas at Mathura etc. I may like to point out a correction to "Hela". As per our guide Hela is not a name of a tribe. It is a Sinhala word and the meaning is humans/people, like the Gond from central India identify themselves as "Koya" and its meaning is human. We have tagged them as Gond, based on their language. 

Tamils and Sri Lankan have a long history of interactions including battles. Cholas overran the city of Anuradhapura, destroying many Buddhist sites. Small kingdoms of Sri Lanka were united to end the Chola rule. They had interests in Chola and Pandian conflicts. But they have coexisted for thousands of years. Tamilians being better educated occupied many government posts along with the Burghers (Eurasian mix race equivalent to our Anglo Indians). After independence Sinhala was made the only official language including the medium of instruction in schools and colleges. This was a classic case of generating the division of We and They. Burghers left for England but Tamilians had no option of that sort. The results were predictable: the two societies drifted apart. As in any other civil conflicts outside elements also play a part. We cannot ignore the local Tamil Nadu politics taking interest in Tamil Sri Lankans. This politics of dividing society along ethnicity, race, language and religion may pay dividends in short term political gains but in long term it inflicts festering wounds on the society and nation. Sri Lanka suffered a bloody civil war which devoured thousands of innocent lives. 

I think the present situation in Sri Lanka is not the result of only the foreign exchange crunch. The resentment against the brazen long term manipulative one family rule  is coming to boil. One does not know yet, how it would end.     



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