True ‘Gyan’ from Bharath Gyan – I

by B.R. Haran

(November 01, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) On 19 January 2008 in New Delhi, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority launched a new concept called ‘Ramayana trail in Lanka’ to promote its ‘Spiritual Tourism’ with famous cricketers Arjuna Ranatunga and Arvinda Desilva as brand ambassadors.

The SLTDA has identified 50 sites relating to the history of Ramayana and decided to promote them through tourism, which would be a part of the strife-torn Island Nation’s pursuit for progress. As the Ramayana Ithihasa connects both India and Sri Lanka and as India makes up to more than 20% of Sri Lanka’s tourist inflow, the SLTDA chose to launch the concept in New Delhi.

The highlight of the function was the candid & clairvoyant like statement from SLTDA’s Director General S Kalaiselvan that, ‘the fifty sites identified in relation to Ramayana are not imaginary, but have existed since times immemorial’. The Sri Lankan tourism department had appointed a research team for the ‘search & identification’ process, which was initiated by T Y Sunderesan of an organisation called ‘Ashoka Vatika’ and only after ascertaining the ‘facts’ relevant to the great Ithihasa, the SLTDA formally announced its promotional plans.

Ashok Kainath, the Head of the research team has said that, their works have actually started four years back and that they could identify more than fifty, in fact 59 sites relating to Ramayana. The sites include, Ravana’s Palaces, Hanuman’s entry point called ‘Nagadeepa’, ‘Donara’ where Rama first attacked Ravana, ‘Yudagannawa’ the main battle ground (now a wild life sanctuary) where ‘strangely’ no vegetation grows except grass. In the jungles on top of the Ramboda hills, a pond believed to have been formed by the tears of Sita has been found. The five places, where the Sanjeevani hills fell from Hanuman’s hand have also been identified. Similarly, the Ashoka Vana, Ravana’s caves and the tunnels and many other sites, over which Temples have been built symbolising the concerned episode of Ramayana have all been spotted and marked for promotion. The SLTDA has decided to restore, renovate and maintain those sites.
It is really great that Sri Lanka, an officially declared Buddhist country has taken so much of pains through its Ministry of Culture, under which the SLTDA operates, to establish its faith on the Ithihasa Ramayana. The Sri Lankan Parliament has the painting of King Vibeeshana, as he is considered by the people as a ‘fair’ king. The organisation ‘Ashoka Vatika’, which has played a prominent role in this project by initiating the search & identification process, has recognised another Chennai based research organisation called ‘Bharath Gyan’ headed by Research Scholars D K Hari and his wife Hema Hari. T Y Sundaresan of Ashok Vatika has introduced them to the SLTDA, which in turn invited them to Sri Lanka for consultation and guidance.

D K Hari and Hema Hari made a ‘multimedia’ presentation on Ramayana trail in Lanka’ to a captive audience of around hundred people comprising Scholars, Buddhist Monks, Hindu Religious Leaders, Intellectuals, Historians, Poets, Journalists, Government Officials and many other elites. The function was organised at Galle Face Hotel in July 2008 and the ‘spellbound’ audience extended the session for more than three hours through the ‘Question & Answer’ session. The delegates were so impressed that the SLTDA decided to take the help of Barathgyan to enhance the promotional activities of the ‘Lankan trail of Ramayana’ concept of spiritual tourism.

Incidentally the official logo of Hotel Galle Face is ‘Dandu Monara Vimana’. That is, Dandu Monara (Flying Peacock) Vimana was used by Ravana to travel in and around Sri Lanka along with Mandothari. According to local legends in Lanka, Ravana was believed to have had many ‘airports’ out of which some five sites have been identified. Apart from Pushpaka Vimana (by which he abducted Sita from the Dandakaranya) and Dandu Monara Vimana, Ravana also had a few other Vimanas and hence the number of airports used by him is justified. The now identified ‘airports’ are plain flat lands amidst hills, a fact, which ascertains the use of Vimana those days, which is corroborated by the book ‘Vaimaanika Saastra by Maharishi Bharadwaj’ written in Sanskrit and then translated in English by Venerable Subbaraya Sastry of Mysore in the 1880s.

Subsequently another congregation was organised for the public last week (October 2008) and again D K Hari and Hema Hari made a presentation on the Lankan trail of Ramayana. To commemorate the event, the Sri Lankan branch of Chinmaya Mission has brought out a beautiful book titled ‘Ramayana in Lanka’ with a few articles of Revered Swamijis of Chinmaya Mission in addition to Barath Gyan’s well-researched essays for more than seventy pages including colourful paintings and photographs. D K Hari and Hema Hari have written these well documented essays at the specific request, and personal support of the President of Chinmaya Mission Sri Lanka S. Mahenthiran. The book gives a detailed picture of all the fifty sites identified by the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority along with different types of proposed tour itineraries.

It is a known fact that Ramayana has been considered as the ‘Ithihasa’ of the Bharathvarsha and the then Bharathvarsha comprised of the present day Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Iran. So, it is quite natural that Sri Lanka also considers Ramayana as its Ithihasa. In Sanskrit ‘Ithihasa’ means ‘It thus happened’ and so Ramayana must be a true history and the same is the case with Mahabaratha.

When the ‘Rama Sethu’ protection Movement was at its peak in India, D K Hari & Hema Hari, through their Bharath Gyan, came out with a brilliantly researched and well-documented presentation on ‘History of Ramayana’, which played a vital role in creating awareness among the people on the historicity of Rama, truth of Ramayana and existence of Rama Sethu, when the very facts were questioned and denied by none other than the Archaeological Suirvey of India, Union Culture Ministry, Union Shipping ministry, Central and State governments. Bharath Gyan, after immense research, has given the complete calendar of the Ramayana events right from the birth of Rama to his coronation including those events, which have happened in Lanka. The compact disc of that lively presentation was released by Spiritual Guru Sri Sri Ravisankar of ‘Art of Living’, who said that unless Ramayana had truly happened, it would not have attained the name ‘Ithihasa’. Correct, ratrional and logical information on the historicity of Bhagwan Rama could be obtained from the website, which Bharath Gyan has dedicated to this world.

D K Hari & Hema Hari ariHarisay, ‘Ramayana as a text is also geographically very correct. Every site on Rama’s route is still identifiable and has continuing traditions in the form of temples or other landmarks to commemorate Rama’s visit. No author could have travelled so far and wide just to concoct a story and even if so, it could not have had such a geographical credibility to become a local folklore across the subcontinent of India and Lanka’.

One cannot help comparing the two totally contradictory stands taken by the Indian and Sri Lankan governments. While the Indian government attempted (even now attempts) to deny the truth of Ramayana, the Sri Lankan government faithfully attempts to establish the truth of Ramayana. While a predominantly ‘Hindu’ country’s government questions the existence of Rama Sethu and other related sites, a predominantly ‘Buddhist’ country identifies and promotes the Ramayana-relevant sites in its territory. It is sad, unfortunate and in a way painful that the Indian government has acted in such a sordid manner insulting the religious sentiments of milions of Hindus worldwide.

D K Hari, who has just returned from Sri Lanka after a memorable and successful visit, has this to say: ‘The Buddhist Scripture ‘Mahavamsa’, which talks about the great lineage of Buddhist kings, has 49 references of Ramayana and the Buddhist Monks are also helping the Sri Lankan government in this project along with the Hindu institution such as Chinmaya Mission. It was indeed great to see all of them working together for the promotion of the Ramayana sites through the concept of ‘spiritual tourism’ and I am sure they would be successful. The book released by Chinmaya Mission has been received very well and the SLTDA has asked me to compile another detailed book, an enlarged version, on Lanka trail of Ramayana, in which we will be looking at the events from the Lanka perspective giving prominence to Ravana and Vibeeshana. After seeing our presentation of ‘date wise’ events of Ramayana, they have decided to present the ‘spiritual tourism’ concept as also a ‘historical tourism’ package. It is indeed a great honour for us and we feel proud for being associated with such a sacred project’.

To be Continued ….
- Sri Lanka Guardian