History requires concrete evidence to distinguish fact from fiction. Vedic civilisation used extensive system of calculation of time. But modern science is still under- developed to pinpoint with accuracy, the time of Rama’s birth and life based on the clues given in Ramayana. Though this makes a lazy argument for calling Ramayana – a myth; one with an open eye will find enough facts to think otherwise. The grains of truth are scattered all around the Indian subcontinent.
While Ramayan happened in Treta Yuga, Mahabharat happened in Dwapar Yuga having huge gap of time in between them. If we take the Vedic Time system, in the same way as modern System of Time, these yugas are thousands of years apart. Until we gain an understanding of Vedic Time calculation, chronological accuracy is out of question to establish proof. But there are a good number of common characters in both epics such as Hanuman, Parasuraman, Jambavan, Mayasura – Father of Mandodari, Sage Durvasa, Narada, Vayudeva – father of both Hanuman and Bhim, Kuber, Sage Agastya, Sage Viswamitra and Vibhishan.
The other connecting characters are Drona’s father Maharishi Bharadwaja, who was the pupil of Valmiki, who wrote Ramayan. Vasishsta was Sri Rama’s Guru. Vasishtha’s son Sakthi, had a son called Parasara and Parasara’s son was Veda Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharat.
For scientific convenience let us assume that Sri Rama lived at least ten thousand years ago. Historical evidences are unlikely to survive that many millennia. Many of the places mentioned in Ramayana still exists, though that may not satisfy the curiosity of an academic to tick all boxes to call it a fact. Let us go for a walk following the footsteps of Lord Rama, to understand more about Ramayana, searching for the seeds of truth that are scattered all around the Indian subcontinent.
Lava Temple in Lahore Fort
Lahore in ancient times was known as Lavapuri, which means city of Lava in Sanskrit and was found by Prince Lava, the son of Lord Sri Rama. To this day, Lahore Fort has a vacant temple dedicated to Lava (also pronounced Loh, hence Loh-awar or “The Fort of Loh”).
Lord Ram’s younger brother Bharata and his sons settled in Gandhara (The Name Kandhahar has come from Gandhara ) and their descendants ruled there till the time of Alexander’s invasion.
In Mahabharata, the princess named Gandhari was married to Hastinapur’s blind king Dhritrashtra and was mother of Duryodhana and other Kauravas. The prince of Gandhara, Shakuni was against this wedding but accepted it, fearing an invasion from Hastinapur. In the aftermath, Shakuni influences the Kaurava prince Duryodhana and plays a central role in the great war of Kurukshetra that eliminated the entire Kuru family, including Bhishma and a hundred Kaurava brothers. According to Puranic traditions, this country (Janapada) was founded by Gandhara, son of Aruddha, a descendant of Yayati. The princes of this country are said to have come from the line of Druhyu, who was a king of the Druhyu tribe of the Rigvedic period.
According to Vayu Purana , the Gandharas ( Afghanis )will be destroyed by Pramiti, aka Kalika ( A Hindu Goddess ), at the end of Kaliyuga (Kali Yuga began at midnight (00:00) on 18 February 3102 BCE in the proleptic Julian calendar, or 23 January 3102 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar. The Kali Yuga is traditionally thought to last 432,000 years.)
Rama’s Bridge (aka Adams Bridge)
Adam’s Bridge also known as Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu is a chain of limestone shoals, between Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. The bridge is 18 miles (30 km) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (southwest) from the Palk Strait (northeast).
It was reportedly passable on foot up to the 15th century until storms deepened the channel: temple records seem to say that Rama’s Bridge was completely above sea level until it broke in a cyclone in 1480 CE . The bridge was created by Lord Hanuman along with the army of monkeys. Though it is not scientifically proven, there are more indications to believe that the bridge was built by Lord Rama. The floating stones from this region are on example.
Other Places of Ramayana Significance in Sri Lanka
Weragantota means the Place of Aircraft landing in Sinhala. This is the first place Sita Devi was brought to Lankapura
Sita Devi was kept at queen Mandothari’s palace at Lankapura. The place Sita was held captive is called Sita Kotuwa; which means Sita’s Fort in Sinhala.
It is believed Ravana had an aircraft repair centre at Gurulupotha close to Sita Kotuwa. Gurulupotha means Parts of Birds in Sinhala.
In India, from Ayodhya to Chitrakoot, almost all places mentioned in Ramaya are still known by the same name.
Panchavati – Panchavati was the place in Dandakaranya, where Rama lived during their exile. Panchavati means garden of five banyan trees. Ramkund is a holy place for Hindus. Devotees believe that a dip in this tank will fulfill their wishes. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rama used to bathe in this tank during his stay in Panchavati.
Panchavati is in Nasik
Lepakshi – In Andhra a Village named Lepakshi is where Lord Rama met the dying Jatayu. They help him to attain moksha by uttering the words “le pakshi”, which is Telugu for “rise, bird”. Hence the name, Lepakshi.
Rameswaram – Rameswara means “Lord of Rama” in Sanskrit, an epithet of Shiva, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Rama prayed to Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana. Rama installed and worshipped a lingam here . The lingam was built by Sita to worship.
Sita was the adopted daughter of King Janakan. There is a place in Janakpur Mithila. Janaka is the name used to refer to the kings of Videha. The Janaka Dynasty ruled the Videha kingdom from their capital, Mithila, identified with modern Janakpur in Nepal. Now there is a modern Sita Temple in Janakpur.
Rama – A revered figure all around the world?
There are evidences to believe that Sri Rama was a revered figure all around the world. Folklores similar to Ramayana, with even similar names are in China, Cambodia, Malaysia and Russia