Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi was an Indian Marxist historian , mathematician who was ahead of his times based on profound research and systematic fieldwork . His work is thought provoking analysis of the Indian mythology and not a blind inception , he didn’t mind getting his hand dirty in the research (where he compares the lotus example ). In this essay he discuses the societal and monetary situation during forth century B.C , in second essay he discusses the story of Urvasi through which we can point out the evolution of writing of different texts and the attitude and perception of Vedas and other Puranas .The third part is a commerce , trade and religious crossroad .Order now
Myth is a legend, a tale, a saga or a folklore . It could be misconception or a fallacy based belief of the observer of the tradition. Like the modern day masala movies the plot of Indian myths remain unchanged where a woman needed rescuing by a upper caste or class hero and they would end up being married . But the hero glorification is a very common feature of the myths these myths are a reflection of then existing cultural , political , social and economic conditions of the society , this could be one of the reasons they were bound to change as the text proceeded the test of times . Myths are not only part of Indian subcontinent but a lot of ancient societies like Egypt and Greece amongst others. These stories can be existing true stories like that of Achilles (who existed in ancient Greece in the bronze age) and the names of the kingdoms during Mahabharata that are similar to the sixteen Mahajanpada, and are garnished with supernatural elements and of God and Demon to make them more appealing to the general public and to fulfil other religious propagandas for the region or the religion to substantiate sacred forces where these myths belong to. India is a country that is varied in its culture and tradition the current religious nationalism stops people from an unbiased point of view where many distortions are neglected to reinforce the existing belief of the pre dominantly Hindu masses they are like a marsh of statements without any evidence. With the evolving times the gods and and goddesses also evolved from the worship of Titans to the Olympians to Christianity in Greek islands , similarly in Indian context the prayer of Goddess in the hunting gathering times to the prayer of god as a father figure the one who provides with bread doesn’t start before people started as pastorals . The emergence of more complex societies led to the complication in the perception of caste , religion and the concept of God.The inter mix and the movement in class and caste hierarchies sometimes was welcome (like that of Buddhism ) in the mainstream Hinduism. The shift of the primitive gods to more advanced forms like the primordial Siva (Pashupatinath) to the householder Shiva that we know of today , Shiva can also assume various avatars like that of the dancing Natraja to the furious Rudra similarly Zeus in Greek mythology is similar to Jupiter in Roman mythology which is parallel . The abstract nature of the birth and death these characters also make them great like the birth of Saraswati in the Hindu myths and Athena in the Greeks tales have a similar birth from the head of the one of the God in the holy trinity of respective mythologies .
BODY AND ANALYSIS
Bhagwat Gita is a sub text of Mahabharata which is the exchange between Pandava Prince Arjun and his guide and charioteer Krishna the Yadava prince in a war for the righteous called the Dharma Yudhha , the war of the righteous where the family feud takes an ugly turn killing thousands of people .The philosophy helps to decide the discourse of the war , the transformation of Pandava brothers into war heroes and followers of Dharma is shown but what if they would never have returned from Vanvasa and died on the face of nowhere these stories have been embedded so deep that it is difficult to think of an alternate ending.
Geeta according to Gandhi is altruistic and a source of motivation which releases the self doubt in him like it did for Arjuna , for Gandhi it served as a ray of hope even in the darkest of times , for Sri Aurobindo it was like a message for all ages. Bal Ganga Dhar Tilak believed that Geeta was about performance rather than renouncing , Oppenheimer the man regarded as one of the greatest physicist of all times and a chief in the Manhattan project that bombed the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki , he tries to substantiate his actions by quoting Geeta , though Kosambi argues there are not many people who have interpreted Geeta but the leisure class i.e the upper caste Hindu but this stands false as a lot of other people interpret Geeta and quote it (Annie Besant , Warren Hasting , Sunita Williams amongst other accomplished people from nineteenth and twentieth century). Geeta was a text that could be used to justify brahminical or other orthodoxies practices , and same time could be used by liberal to justify their actions with the same text that could be interpreted in different ways , the duality of the text is arresting .
Though Krishna takes pro woman stands some statements remain controversial where he addresses women , Vaishyas and Shudras as a sinful breed , much opposing to the current hierarchal system where the clan Krishna belongs to (Yadava) is considered as a backward one, Krishna also claims to have created the varna system which is one of his pioneering achievements , historian argues that the caste system is rather a recent development though the traces of caste are found in text pre existing the Vedic literature the occupational distribution is present . There has been a revision in the holy text due to innate nature of society which constantly changes and is revised by the Bhrigu clan , they(Puranas) were rewritten to assimilate different clans with change in the forces of the society to give into the Brahminical hegemony , the other classes , castes and women were either mere observers or secondary workforce in the Dharma Yudhha , it was also believed that the use of Sanskrit to present the text was merely for two reasons one was to show their domination over all the other castes and second was to avoid any kind of opposition that could be faced by the Brahmins if common people start to interpret the text . (The Buddhist during the same time unlike their sage Mahavira started using Sanskrit which was a deviation from the basic principle to which their religion adhered to.) Geeta also was used to justify all the wars and mass killing which was necessary for wars during the nascent stages of expansion of an empire or dynasty which had all the practical reasons , Indian history is full of instances where there were killings in the family to defend the throne or to overthrow a existing one (Haryanka Dynasty where there was a trend to kill Father to ascend the throne or Ashoka who killed his ninety nice brothers(myth or not) to ascend the throne .)Krishna in Mahabharata is God who is more practical and embodies human qualities like antagonism but who has been hero worshiped by a cult who is avatar of Vishnu or Narayana who in present context are interchangeably used Geeta uses the Narayana ie the proof that Narayan is a prototype version and existed before Krishna.
Kalidasa is a master storyteller in one of his finest plays Vikramorvasiyam which is a play of a nymph(apsara) who was married to a mortal king Puruvasa , the most soughed after version is where is asked to leave Devlok (heaven) and had to come to earth as a part of the curse and falls in love with a king where she has three conditions , any of them broken she would go back to devlok(Amravati) , they live happily for sixty thousand years but then everything goes downhill for them as the result of which Urvasi has to return back to the heavenly abode . Fascinatingly Urvasi is the only apsara who finds a place in Rigveda , she has also been mentioned in Sathapatha Brahmana .The trend in Kalidasa’s plays are the characters are heavily and royal and usually cursed in some sense and there is triangle that is caused amongst the major characters. The language spoken by men and women of these times is different (even today language like Japanese has different dialect ) as the men spoke Sanskrit and the women spoke the local languages , the stories are often blended to suit their times , but the historical evidences help us to understand the time period they were set in . The major criticism are Brahmins often misquote the texts for their own profits , but the British used the support of these dominant classes to influence the masses and subjugate the population , to which Marx also brilliantly highlights the role of religion and religious heads where he claims that religion is the opium of the masses and so Brahmins are the supplier of this drug and don’t want this to end , the Britishers’ attitude towards the learning of Indian text was not very positive where they argued that Indian text were long and not worth for complete translation Germans remained pioneering in the Indic studies , Keith never gave a thought to the changing societal structures in the different times of evolution of the epic stories that we read today , interpretation remains subjected to opinion and different times see different interpretation of these stories (or what once were facts ). Geldner shows the maximum labour in the interpretation and translation of the text but saw it nothing more than other historical text but he saw similarities between Vedic text and other Sanskrit literature like this one. Sometimes to fulfil the more important objectives the ending are changed to appeal to a larger audience more than often the older versions are tragic and the newer version to appeal a larger audience is more fancy and happy like in older version Urvasi just vanishes but in newer version she comes back from time to time . There can be a change as to how a mythical characters are perceived in different religions like Gandharva in Hinduism are music players in Indra’s court who usually evil and would look out for young virgins on earth , but Buddhist Gandharva is a tradition period between life and death .
Mother goddess has been a shadowy consort from the beginning of time the other half of the main god , we have been always proud of our glorious past but why is the mother figure hazy in this past , her prevalence only comes with a father in the vedas . The time prior to the origin of holy trinity of Hinduism see the devotion to the many Goddesses which had a tribal origin , but these came to an end with the pre disposition of patriarchal hegemony and these names thus lose significance from being to holy to unknown , the ancient trade routes were intersections to the trade routes which show a convergence of commerce and religion in ancient times , historian looks at how these aspects overlap. The main focus is on the cult sites in Maharashtra , the overlapping of Buddhist traditional caves , the text also points out various mother goddesses and their prominence in ancient times from Buddha’s mother Maya to prayer by Shivaji’s mother to a mother goddess is how traditions have made us follow what we know , the recent story of evolution of the goddess to her current form Durga is from the mixing of powers of holy trinity (the birth of Adi Shakti ) reinforces the male dominant structure of the society . Also the borrowing of Mahasoba or Mahishasur from the current avatar of Shiva is also a major conflict who in one myths is consort of Mother Goddess and in another a demon by whose killing she assumes the name Mahishasur Mardini creates variant statements .
The Primitive Roots of Indian political , economical and social thought lies in the philosophy so does its mythical tales , India was intellectually superior from times immemorial though the colonial rule and its Patriarchal society repressed the growth , the ideas which are obsolete or obscene in current context might not be so in the past , though savagery is no answer to any question to anything , the racial , caste and gender based bias was challenged by Kosambi . He takes into account the representation of these subaltern groups , he doesn’t only present facts but also the analysis , his method was not a refreshing perspective for a history reader as amateur as I, history is more than story of the kings but also of his Queen , courtiers and people of the kingdom . His interpretation of Vedic literature is something never seen before like that of Devi and Mahishasur .The analytical vigour of the text is spot on . He points out Marx’s dialectical materialism which is the major reason of Mahabharata , he like a true Marxist rejects religion and still considers it as a major force that shapes the society .Therefore Kosambi’s Myth and Reality is a delightful read.