Where Rama lives
I have not encountered any other website less friendly to seeking comments. How can you champion free speech if you can’t even allow dissenting opinions? Also, you need to provide information regarding the writer of any piece, eg- in this article about Ramayana being set in Afghanistan, Dhiman Dasgupta, one has no idea who he is or if he is even competent to write about such topics.
About the article, it is an intriguing one. Historians have long suspected that the Ramayana may have been set in present day Afghanistan, as the article points out (“Was the Ramayana actually set in and around today’s Afghanistan?”). However, the article reeks of mediocre analysis. One needs to read the work of Edwin Bryant's brilliant work, The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture, to fully comprehend the root cause of the current debate about the Ramayana.
To term all Indian historians exploring the question from the traditional view 'right-wing' or ‘Hindutva’ is erroneous. There is no historical proof whether Ram was real or not. The way Dasgupta has framed the article, one gets the sense that yes, Ram did exist but he didn’t live in Ayodhya but in Afghanistan. This is not correct at all. – Vipul Sharma
I agree that the Ramayana should be researched and studies to separate the fact from myth, but what you have written is mere speculation. The article was just imposing an opinion. Moreover, it reflects your bias towards Hindus as you use the word "fundamentalist" interchangeably with the prior.
Rama is a historical hero. Rama never was and will never be a myth. A mortal? Yes. A myth? Never. Ramayana works on a simple premise – the hero goes on a quest, faces a lot of trouble, and comes back a victor. This story exists in almost 90% of religions. The story of Rama did not happen in India. It probably happened either in the islands of Indonesia or somewhere in the Middle East.
Just like how stories spread and get added to the folklore, this might have happened here too. We have Ramayana's influence even in Finland – The Legend of the Stagg. The Egyptians believed in the sun god Ra. Rameses is a very famous Egyptian king. We even have a king called Rama in the Hebrew Bible.
There is a lot of material out there that proves that Rama did exist – but not in the manner we think he existed. – Saikat
Thank you for the fascinating look into the history of the epics. However, the dissonant structure of the article is slightly annoying. I wish it had been a little clear. A lot of these issues might be controversial, but need to be said.
As a student of this topic, however, I am still not sure whether going the Pargiter and the HC Roychoudhary way helps in clarifying anything with certainty. Depending on the scriptures and epics to ascertain facts looks a little ambiguous to me. It is easy to fall into the same trap as the opponents of this viewpoint, that whatever was mentioned in those writings is the unvarnished truth with little exaggeration (although, I was not really convinced about the HariRud river being Saraswati, much before this article). Linguistically, very logical that Harahaiti could be transformed into Sarasaiti and thus derived from Saraswati. But it is not convincing enough.
If the epics were popular folk-lore in that age, then it could be very well that the people of a certain region identified their own local geographical features as akin to those mentioned in the lyrics. – Kishore Tejaswi
I would like to point you to a place called "Ram Shahristan", which is also in the Sistan basin.
Wikipedia says: Ram Shahristan (or Abrashariyar) was the ancient capital of Sistan, in what is now south western Afghanistan and south eastern Iran.
As per Arab geographers, prior to Zaranj the capital of Sistan was Ram Shahristan. Ram Shahristan had been supplied with water by a canal from the Helmand River, but its dam broke, the area was deprived of water, and the populace moved to Zaranj. The ruins of Ram Shahristan were, by 10th century AD, already swallowed up by the deserts, with only a few remnants of buildings visible. – Kamal Lodaya
An excellent, well researched and detailed article. I wish a few sketches had been added too. – Nandi Datta
It seems like the author is more interested to prove that the rock formation between India and Sri Lanka is not a Ram Sethu and this Lanka and the Lanka of the Ramayana are different. Reading the complete Ramayana from the beginning till the end will probably help him end his confusion. – Chaitra Rao
To say that there was no sword in the Ramayana is not correct. The famous chandrahas sword of Ravana is well documented in the Ramayana. – Hariom Sharma
The article is well worded, no doubt, but I would humbly ask author Dhiman Dasgupta to read the Ramayana once before writing this article. He has mentioned that there is no mention of Shiva, Vishnu or Brahma. But, even a small child knows that the bow that Rama broke to marry Sita belonged to Lord Shiva.
Also, regarding the geographic location of Sri Lanka, I am sure that the present Lanka is the one mentioned in the Ramayana. If we read the Ramayana carefullly, we can see that Rama will advise the monkey troops as follows. "Keep going southward where you will reach the holiest mountain of Thiruvengadam. After the prayers there, keep moving further south".
As per today's geography, we know the location of Thiruvengadam, which is south Andhra Pradesh, 80km from Chennai. This clearly shows that the troops of Rama were moving towards what is the currently Sri Lanka. - Karthik Sekhar
You say river Ganga is not mentioned in the Ramayana, then who is Guha and why did he take Rama, Sita and Lakshmana on his boat helping them to cross the Ganga?
The sword is not mentioned – only bows and arrows: Ravana during his penance for pleasing Shiva, cuts off his head with his sword. Parashu-Rama is famous for his Parashu which is of Iron and is used to cut trees even now.
The city of Rameshwara situated on the east coast is nearly at the tip of the said Rama Sethu, and where Rama lived for a long time during its construction.
I think this is enough to debunk your theory. – Shivaji Kumar Adhikari
I am fascinated by your interest in trying to locate the Ramayana places based on the Rig Vedic information about rivers. I am not an expert in Rig Veda or the Ramayana written by Sage Valmiki. A pertinent question needs to be asked as to why various places in India, from north to south, have been associated with the travels of Rama in the forests of India for 14 years till the crossing of the sea and vanquishing of Ravana.
The events of Ramayana when correlated with the time scale of the period of exile will make it abundantly clear that the story is connected with the Indian subcontinent. All the places associated with Rama’s travels in exile are very well known in India since over 1500 years before the Hindutva or Europian Historians. The folklore legends and accounts cannot be wished.
Rama lives in the hearts of every Hindu, from pandit to illiterate villager. The tenuous logic of placing Ramayana in central Asia or some other continent appears hollow. – Veer Raju Ayilavarapu
This is to express my compliments for creating the Scroll e-magazine and e-mailing us the story briefs regularity. The articles are well-researched, easily readable, informative, unbiased and on varied topics. It is a complete news-magazine.
The pictures are good and encapsulate the gist of the article. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Kindly keep up the good work. – GR Vora
As for those IITians...
The author of the letter to Smriti Irani is indeed correct in mentioning that taxpayers’ money is unnecessarily wasted on the IITians (“Dear Smriti Irani, stop giving my money to IITians”). Around 15 to 20 % of students at the IITs opt for UPSC exams. If they want to go to the administrative services, why study engineering at all? This costs a student who really wants to study engineering a seat at the premier institute.
Also, with reference to those who went to Flipkart , they could have done some business courses instead of wasting our money. The author also points out that the government spends about Rs 1,000 crore on IITians’ education. But we have to also consider that the government also provides vast infrastructure, library and other services either free of cost or at minimal fee. Taking into account on all these expenditures incurred on behalf of these IITians, the amount they give in return for the country is not at all equal.
The government could use those funds or subsidies for upgrading the existing rural schools or open new schools so that all of India's gifted children will have access to education, at least a basic level. – Durga Prasad
I fully support ending the subsidies given to the IITs. We should stop paying our tax money to them. – Rajneesh Sandal
How many IIT graduates work in India and how many abroad? Everyone who studied in the IITs should be made to work in India for a certain number of years. Most IITians get management positions without any design experience, so they are of no use to the industry. That is why we only have manufacturing by foreign companies who take their profits abroad relying on cheap local labour. In the West, the arms industry is helped by universities who do research and tests using government funds. But with the official and political nexus running the country, it is not going to get better anytime soon. – Duleep
Why should the government pay part of the IITians' fees if they are not serving in India? All student of the IIT can get loan from many banks . Most of IITians don’t even disclose their actual salaries. Even the armed forces cannot leave their jobs without paying the amount spent on their training. All IITians should work within India for the next five years after completing their course. – Tutu Saket
Kudos to the translator
Excellent work and explanation. Thank you, Padma Narayanan for this article (“Why I translate, how I translate, what I translate”). – Veena Sadana
The North East blues
Good analysis of the situation in the North East (“Minority councils in the North East want direct funding but will that really help them develop?”). It is greed which is the cause of suffering. We cannot give powers to autonomous councils similar to the state, otherwise the North East would break up into many tiny Union Territories. We have already divided Assam into five or six states. It was the British policy to ‘’divide and rule’’, which is still prevailing in this region and which needs to be corrected. The Centre has to give more importance to North East states and ensure better administration and accountability. – RK Patyal
Utterly brilliant (“Salman Khurshid does his bit for Indo-German relations, woos envoy's wife in music video”). – Kamakshi
In the article about India's Swachh Bharat campaign, the issue of open defecation is framed entirely as a matter of choice, especially for households that have latrines (“What India’s Swachh Bharat campaign can learn from French smokers”). People have been forced to construct latrines because of various schemes offered by the government. But to use latrines, one needs sufficient water, an issue conspicuously ignored by Swachh Bharat and by this article. – Sushmita
Modi and video tape
Filmmaker Rakesh Sharma is right when he says propaganda works. In fact, his latest move to release Modi’s speeches online is a pointer to that respect (“Film-maker releases a dozen clips of controversial Modi speeches made just after Gujarat riots”).
I request Sharma to give Modi a chance. He does not seem to be communal at present, unless we Indians want him to be so. There is a slur on India because of the Gujarat riots, but even then the Muslims voted him overwhelmingly. Would it be not be fair to give him a chance now? For that I would ask Sharma: what about exposing covert communalism as we Indians are very much at ease with it?
To Sharma, everything is bad from Gujarat, from the economy to statistical inferences. It is high time he introspects in the changing situation and portraits a balanced outlook. - Debasis Bagchi
Why did this filmmaker not collect any clip during the 1984 riots? He says that he collected money out of India, a typical example of anti-India propaganda by an Indian against his own country. If Narendra Modi is the butcher of India, than what was Rajiv Gandhi? – Sudha Chandele
I viewed the video and nowhere did I find that Narendra Modi is provoking the people to kill. He is just asking them whether they are killers or not, or have they killed anybody of the other community. If asking that type of question is communal, then I do not know what secular is.
Why has the filmmaker not covered the Godhra train burning incident? Was that not a communal act? Why has he not done filmed a documentary on Muzaffarnagar where the so-called secular Samajwadi Party was in power? I think he is an agent of the Congress party or is a foreign-funded agent. Yes, I agree that there was madness of hatred towards the other community. He should have covered the other side too. – KV Roopesh Kumar
What is the view of the filmmaker on Kashmiri Pandits? Has he got courage to make a documentary on why they have been displaced form their own land and still living like a refugee? And who was responsible for that?
Of course, he forgets who commenced the Godhara carnage. Is it Modi or the community he is supporting? I am not a BJP support nor an RSS supporter. The documentary should be bias free. – Jignesh
The documentary is clearly made to get famous in a short period – make a controversial film on PM Narendra Modi. It is very, very bad that the filmmaker takes the mind in one direction. You have no idea who lost their lives in the train.
If a Hindu dies, it is not communal, but if a Muslim dies due to some reason or other, it is communal. Please change your mind by taking yoga classes in the Himalayas and then a holy bath in the Ganga. – K Bulley Mishra
Hijra and hijr
Thank you for your article on the terminology of the third gender, but I was expecting more (“As Rajya Sabha passes transgender rights bill, here is a quick guide to third gender terminology”). There are local slangs that are conventional and derogatory but hardly considered that. For example, dhakka or gandu. Even hijra as a term comes from the word 'hijr', which means separation in Urdu. So hijra as a community remains forever separated from their origin and one can imagine the permanent state of exile that they suffer, at least through the name if not in reality. In reality, the clear demarcation between us and them couldn't be more profound. – Anab Naiyer
I read the article about how India’s monuments have become racist with interest and just wanted to point out that you do not have to be a citizen of India, but a resident in India (“India’s national monuments have become tributes to a shameful racism”). I am a European citizen but have never faced an issue at Indian monuments or museums when showing my pan card and requesting the Indian rate (but yes, the assumption is that I should pay the foreign rate unless I prove I live here).
It is true that 'foreign' vs 'Indian' is judged on the colour of skin, but I would say this is a much more pressing issue when it comes to treatment at private Indian hospitals – especially in metros like Mumbai. In many private hospitals, such as Hinduja in Mahim, holding a non-Indian passport means you pay a minimum of 25% 'surcharge' even if you are an Indian resident, pay your taxes here, have an Indian salary and a pan card. The judgment of who is Indian appears fairly based on skin colour. – Lina Sonne
When I was visiting Paris, all the museums and art galleries has free entry for my sister while I had to pay. The reason was because she is an EU resident and under 26.
Differential pricing based on citizenship, age or student status is practiced across the globe. However, the difference between Paris and India was the manner of execution. It was not your skin colour but the ID card you carried that determined the price. I guess implementing the same would be difficult in India. But if they are checking IDs and issuing tickets then it’s not racist, just ethnocentric. – Sachi Poudyal
The article reminds me of one incident where I, along with five other relatives, had to bear the ignorance of ticket collectors at the Taj Mahal. Being from the North East, it may be puzzling for them to see us getting local tickets considering similar appearances of East Asian countries also frequenting the Taj Mahal. The least the tourism authority should do is make an identity card mandatory and sensitising about the diversity that constitutes India. – Lalboy Chongloi
A similar discrimination exists in many hospitals in India. Hospitals like Lilavati and Kokilaben Ambani in Mumbai both charge "foreigners" a surcharge of 20-25%. Even foreigners like myself with PIO status, married to an Indian and paying local taxes for many years are charged the excess.
It is interesting to note that if you "look" Indian, for example if you are a British Indian with a British passport, you would not be charged the excess. It is therefore a racist "tax" from hospitals greedy to make extra money. While I have no issue with "health tourists" being charged more for services, it is an unfair discrimination for those of us who live and work in India, and are fully integrated into society in all other respects. – Heather Gupta
How would charging foreigners more be racism? You want the general public to pay more for the Taj Mahal or show it to foreigners at peanut price? A more effective mechanism means more expenditure. Some Indians may be asked to take foreign category tickets. They can show their identity cards. – Srinivasa Rao Bodlapati
Ajaz Ashraf's op-ed piece was especially impressive – and accurate. I had the honour of staying with friends and fans throughout my first stay in 2013, not only in Delhi but from the capital region to Kerala, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Indians are some of the most gracious people I've ever known. My visits to sites like Qutub Minar and Humayun's Tomb gave me an awareness that while the ASI charges foreigners a significantly higher rate, my hosts refused to consider these fees in that way. Perhaps those from other countries who stay in hotels think nothing of the difference in entrance fees for some reason. Perhaps they don't understand the thought behind the fee structure or even that they don't think about it at all. But what about immigrants to India who marry Indians? What about those whose lives are steeped in Indian culture? My hosts wouldn't even allow me to try to pay my entrance fees. It was absolutely rejected. As a result, I felt insulted by the increased rate at the gate and my awareness that my fee was higher because I wasn't Indian. – Michelle Young
Slavery and celebrities
The article about the Kalyan Saree staffers fighting for their right to sit reminds me of hundreds of our youth working in call centres doing mind numbing, soul- crushing, repetitive and deeply unfulfilling jobs (“Study in contrast: Aishwarya reclining in luxury and Kalyan female staffers fighting for right to sit”). They call it “9 to 5”, but it’s never 9 to 5. A free lunch break is a misnomer. In fact, many of them in order to keep their jobs don’t take lunch breaks at all. Then there’s 'overtime' and the books never seem to get the overtime right, and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place.
Reading about Padmini, Maya Devi and four other women's battle against the management for better working conditions is symptomatic of the fact that such vulnerable women even today undergo a kind of 'saree slavery'. In fact, the capitalist system has ensured that slavery was never abolished, it is now only extended to include all the colors. – Shishir Chand
There are some serious issues in India which are more crucial to the country and its residents. Perhaps focus on those real issues. Don't use Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as a scapegoat. She is a star, but she is a mother first. I am sure these are not her sentiments. – Mala Rampershad
I consider Salman Rushdie to be a reactionary, right-wing fool (“Salman Rushdie slams fellow writers for boycotting ceremony to honour 'Charlie Hebdo'”).There is no one who is going to pay any attention to what he says. These writers are doing the right thing in boycotting the PEN American Gala honouring Charlie Hebdo. That magazine is racist, Islamophobic and reactionary. It should be condemned, not honored. It is only Rushdie who would condemn the boycott. Charlie Hebdo reaped what it sowed and got what it deserved. – Stan Squires
My congratulations to the Team of Scroll for winning the Red Ink Award. Do keep it up! – Ravindra Torne
Eating with hands
The article about Indian Americans not eating with the hands has some delectable writing – I really enjoyed it and liberally shared it too (“Why have Indian-Americans lost the art of eating with their hands?”). – Amit Sheth
I loved this article. The world should follow eating with the hands, after all a billion people can't be wrong. It's biological to be eating of your own hands. Trust your own body parts than some metal cutlery. – Karmesh
Golden Temple, world heritage,
Harmandir Sahib should be a World Heritage Site (“Why Sikhs don't want the Golden Temple to be declared a World Heritage Site”). This way we have an International body also looking after the safe keeping of the Golden Temple. It will still be run by the Sikhs and nothing will change. However, now we will have the UNESCO overlooking that, there is no destruction or change to the original structure and that is what Sikhs want. – Kulvinder Jit Kaur
The Ford connection
A brilliant article by Mridula Chari on the Ford Foundation’s contribution to the Indian government (“'Anti-national' Ford Foundation has contributed at least $6 million to Indian government schemes since 2010”).
You can perhaps mention that the Ford Foundation is not related to the Ford Motor Company. I have had a lot of nasty emails from otherwise well-meaning individuals (also right-wingers, unapologetically so) saying that the company which I work for (Ford Motor Company) is anti-India and has evil American intentions of breaking India.
Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I frown, but many a time, I am left searching for the right answers. On the funnier side, there are people who still believe that Harrison Ford is the grandson of Henry Ford. A lot does lie in the name. – Ram Kumar
The government should promote hand-woven products more, because of several reasons (“'Each hand-woven product tells a story': Why we must fight changes in the Handloom Act”).
It looks more fashionable than the powerloom. It can generate employment for the weavers from the villages. It can generate women empowerment. This can be the best step in favour of women. It is more authentic and traditional. As your article says that each serves its own purpose, and it's the hand-woven product that attracts the foreign tourists more towards the sarees, wrap ups, kurtis, etc.
There will be more skilled labours. The state government shop in Palkhi market in Delhi is the best example of how you can encourage these hand-woven products. The foreign tourists and the local customers both enjoy buying them. It is good for the economy and is the future of India. There are many Indian brands which promote hand-woven product and hand printed fabrics which encourage our culture and traditions. – Mamta Kapoor
The Umbrella Man
The Umbrella Man is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever read (“‘The Umbrella Man’: Siddhartha Gigoo is the Asia winner of the Commonwealth Short Story prize”). Congratulations to Siddhartha Gigoo, he has enthused me for creative writing all over again. – Pamella Laird
Lessons for teachers
Though there are stray incidents of a relationship between teacher and student, in the vast population they can be taken as the trend in our society, wherein the youth is growing in India and who are adopting western modernity in our growing economy (“Tamil Nadu has novel advice for female teachers to prevent love affairs with students”).
In this, the main contributor is the media and the visuals aided by the internet where anything and everything is available at the click of the mouse. In bringing up the children, parents and teachers at the primary level play an important role in shaping up their morals.
Just a dress code cannot avoid such relationships taking place between teachers and students. Stray incidents should be treated on individual merit. – MN Raja
Lawyers and ethics
It's bad enough that the existing lawyers in the previous governments have been giving lawyers a bad name, but Vrinda Gopinath's assertions about lawyer-journalists as opposed to journalist-politicians are unhelpful at best (“Journalists or lawyers? Who makes better politicians and why”).
It is untrue that lawyers do not usually have ethics guiding their decisions and are only limited by the legal framework in which they operat. The Bar Council strictly requires ethical lawyering and ethics are an important part of every lawyer’s education and practice. The right to a fair hearing in itself has incredibly strong ethical foundations and suffers from belittlement at Gopinath's hand.
Lawyers do have a moral quotient as well and this is not limited to the strong moral force of the laws they work with (Gopinath seems to suggest that our laws lack any significant moral aspect). Every law has its theoretical and normative environment which every lawyer must know to operate competently, such as when the justification for a law is pointed to when applying it. – Lalit Panda
I couldn't help myself from thanking you for writing the article about Jamalpur jazz (“Jamalpur jazz: The forgotten story of a Filipino swing musician in 1930s Bihar”). It was a very interesting read. I have a close association with Munger and I have been immersing myself in reading its history.
Thanks once again. Please keep up the good work. – Prerna Singh
What a wonderful, detailed, and well researched piece. I lived and worked in the Philippines in the 1980s and am a great fan of their musicians. – Prabhu Ghate