A very good friend of mine asked if it could be possible to find some reality in Ramayana by explaining the existence of Vanaras as neanderthals? I have the following response.
Paleolithic period, or Old Stone Age, is the earliest period of human development and the longest phase of mankind’s history. It is approximately coextensive with the Pleistocene geologic epoch, beginning about 2 million years ago and ending in various places between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago, when it was succeeded by the Mesolithic period. Human evolution studies have established that the Neanderthal (Homo Neanderthalensis) or Neandertal was a species of the Homo Genus that inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia starting about 230,000 ago, during the middle Paleolithic period. Modern humans (Homo Sapiens Sapiens (HSS)) came into existence only after that. Further, any of the species among Homo Genus arrived in the Indian subcontinent not before 100,000 years ago. Clearly, the age of Treta Yuga (1.7 million years ago), when Rama is supposed to have reigned, belongs to mythology and so would be the other characters and events in the Ramayana. But then, refuting Ramayana raises some doubts, viz,
- Rama was not a HSS. Why then, in Ramayana, is he any different than Vanaras then or even Dasharatha who was not an Avatara? I had to bring Dasharatha, for some theist could claim that Rama was an Avatara and ‘Gods’ can appear in any Avatara they wish to. Even the thought of Rama being an Ape sends chills down the spines of ‘the believers’, does it not? 😉
- Valmiki fucked up the chronology very badly! Why should one believe his to be history, and not a story, then?
- Let us, for the sake of argument, we believe 2 is true, i.e., Valmiki fucked up with the dates. Which concludes that Rama and Vanaras coincided in their existence and Rama was a modern human. Well then, there is the following big problem! Even the concept of society (a civilization) came just a few thousand years ago, much later than the evolution of HSS and after the neanderthals ceased to exist, let alone the concept of a kingdom which is known to come even later.
Moreover, there are several incidents in Ramayana that do not stand scientific inquiry, e.g., two independent scientific agencies, namely the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Space Applications Centre (SAC) of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), and individual geologists have conducted detailed studies on the geological formations associated with Ram Sethu (or Adam’s bridge) and all have established conclusively that Ram Sethu is not a man-made (or a monkey-made) structure.
Of course, one can easily conclude that evolutionary theory is wrong, claiming that Ramayana is correct. But let me ask: On what grounds can one prove it to be wrong? A hyperbole (although a masterpiece of Indian literature) like Ramayana? Yes? Then let me ask, “On what basis is Ramayana correct?” Is it not often the case that a story turns into a hyperbole if it is told over and over, from one generation to the next? It does! You can perform an experiment in this regard: Line up of 10 of your friends. Tell the one standing at one end the following statement, “AG is a skeptic. He doesn’t believe in sacred texts,” and ask him to tell it privately in his/her ear to the person next, and so on. The last person to listen to the statement would tell you something entirely uncorrelated, so much that the meaning, words and even the context would be entirely different! And we are talking of Treta Yuga when there was no concept of ‘written manuscripts’ (Scientifically, the art and science of writing was discovered in ancient civilizations that are no more than ten thousand years old).
I agree that the Geological and Palaeolithic studies may have many flaws, and I, myself, do not completely agree with their conclusions. But they are the ones that one can believe to any extent, until something that explains everything and does not have flaws comes along. Those studies, at least, stand the reason to some extent, quite considerable for that matter, rather than something that doesn’t stand reason at all, e.g., Ramayana!
The only problem I have with Ramayana is that people take it on the face value of what it says. They never try to learn what, as a story of morals (although, I doubt even that), it teaches.