By Yatamanyu Narain
The theme of mythology versus history flowed on in another session also, with Debroy and Ashwini Sanghi on Day 2 of New Indian Express ThinkEdu conclave.
Debroy commenced the conversation with an example of Ashthavakra Gita in which there was a story of a young sage who went to the court of King Janaka and asked Ashthavakra how he could gain knowledge, emancipation and non-detachment from reality.
“Call it ancient or modern, these are perennial questions that everyone asks even today, ” he said
Sanghi explained that people take history more seriously than myths when it should be the other way round since history is considered to be the pack of lies with fabricated facts.
“Instead of focusing on history, we should rather learn from myths because myth tend to offer multiple perspectives. Dharma and Artha can be seen as Saraswati and Laxmi. That’s the beauty of so called myths, ” he said.
Debroy discussed that there were 18 mahapuranas each consisting of 18,000 shloks and were about four times the size of Mahabharata.
“Puranas are encyclopedias. Most of the knowledge about Dharma comes from puranas. Be it about temple construction or about rituals of funeral, it all can be attributed to different puranas. It is unfortunate and sad that we have dismissed the ancient altogether and instead embracing everything modern, ” he added.
Talking about how one could make ancient texts interesting so the present generation could give impetus to it, Sanghi suggested that the texts should be translated and packaged in such a way that it titillates the imaginations of the younger generation.
“It should be able to entertain as well as convey necessary information. If something doesn’t entertain, it doesn’t motivate anyone to turn the pages. Arthshashtra is a perfect manual for warfare and governance but for newer generations, the old text might not appeal. So I wrote Chanakya’s chant so it could make people curious, ” he said.
Concurring with Sanghi, Debroy stated that the tradition of packaging stories in a way that it appeals their target audience is an age old tradition.
“The same subject matter was packaged in different ways for people with different caliber. For ordinary people, it was in the form of Bhagwad Gita. For those who had advanced wisdom, it was AdiSankracharyastrotam. Dharma is empirical. There is something for everyone, ” he added.
At the end of the session, Sanghi questioned that how can one define truth. Hence, children should be allowed to discover their own truths.
“Hinduism is more of a philosophy than a religion. Since philosophy consists of questions that cannot be answered, religion consists of answers that cannot be questioned, ” said Sanghi.