CHURUMURI POLL: Lord Rama, man or myth?

As if India’s political pond wasn’t muddied enough, the Archaeological Survey of India has lobbed a boulder in its backwaters by telling the Supreme Court that there is no “historical record” to incontrovertibly establish the existence of Lord Rama, the other characters of the Ramayana, or the events depicted in it. The ASI’s submission comes in its affidavit on the Ram Sethu project—the 26 km, Rs 2,800 canal cleared by the BJP-led NDA government that seeks to provide a shorter sea route to Sri Lanka from Rameshwaram. Work on the project has come to a halt following claims that it imperils the bridge built by Rama’s monkey brigade to reach Lanka to save Sita from Ravana.

Predictably, the BJP sees the Congress-led UPA government’s hand behind it all. It has termed the ASI submission “sheer blasphemy” and “an insult to Hindu sentiments, a ferocious one”. Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists have blocked rail and road traffic, and clashed with the police in several parts of the country. The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad has already spoken of the Ram Sethu taking on the dimensions of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement while calling the ASI’s submission as a “classic patent example of appeasement politics”.

“We wonder why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi have been going for the Dussehra festival if their government does not believe in Lord Ram’s existence,” the BJP’s Vijay Kumar Malhotra has been quoted as saying.

Questions: Is the ASI wrong in questioning the physical historical existence of Lord Rama or other mythological characters in order to make a scientific case for the canal? Or is the BJP right in claiming that the Ram Sethu is “a fact, not a myth“, and that it was used for “pedestrian traffic” till AD 1480? Is the Congress-led UPA indulging in “minority appeasement”, or is the BJP-led NDA indulging in “majority appeasement” to whip up an electoral frenzy? Does the Ram Sethu have the momentum to become another Ayodhya movement?

Also read: Was there really a Ram Sethu?

Above: A satellite picture, courtesy NASA, of the Ram Sethu aka Adam’s Bridge