Sunday, 12 August 2007

Square peg in a round hole

It is rather shameful the way in which ignorant people use half baked knowledge to cook up new ideas that fit their belief. As for myself, my desire to look at various perspectives and verify a claim makes these cooked up stories look like square pegs in round holes but forced to fit in somehow. This particular story of mine swung into action two weeks back when a friend engaged me in a conversation on philosophy. In the process I broached upon exaggerations as was narrated in my blog ‘Chinese Whispers’.

My friend is a staunch believer in ‘Hinduism’ and I respect that for everyone has a right to his or her belief. Children believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, they too have a right to those beliefs, but what got me ballistic is when he said, “Nasa has said Rama’s bridge exists. They have given satellite pictures to prove this”. This is what is called ‘Argumentum ad verecundiam’, a Latin terminology that describes a fallacy in an argument when someone claims an accredited source has certified their claim. (Nasa has since clarified that they never made such a statement).

I know people who believe that the story of Pushpaka Vimana is proof of man’s ability to fly many years before the Wright brothers created an airplane. Yeah right! In the Arabian nights series of stories, there is mention of the flying carpet, Greek mythology has a story of Daedalus and his son Icarus who built artificial wings to fly away, Leonardo Da Vinci had detailed drawings of a helicopter but since all events from his period have been recorded we know for sure that he never built one, H. G Wells talked about travel to the moon much before man thought of going into space, so you see this idea of Puspaka Vimana is not unique. Humans can imagine the impossible and work towards making it a reality but when people quote from ancient literature and claim them as proof it’s ludicrous.

This renewed story of Rama’s bridge was resurrected when the Indian Ministry for Shipping suggested an option of cutting down travel time for ships by making a new canal (The Sethu Samudram project) through Adam’s bridge – a shallow area between India and Srilanka in the Palk straits. That sounds like a very rational idea but you know how the opposition parties in India are; they take the word ‘opposition’ rather literally. So they did what any self respecting bunch of politicians do; oppose anything that the ruling party comes up with irrespective of the merits of their decision. The ‘Sethu Samudram’ project would cut travel time and cost, many folds over for ships traveling to either sides of the Indian peninsula but our opposition parties don’t want anything that does good to the country, they cried foul using a very dirty trick. They touched on the sentiments of the majority. They used Hindu bodies to protest the move as a desecration of Hindu history.

When I learned geography as a young boy and obtained my first atlas in class six, I couldn’t help but notice that there were a series of islands between India and Srilanka called ‘Adam’s bridge’. This was at an age when I was still comprehending all the information I was being bombarded with. I was familiar with the story of the Ramayana. My mother had narrated to me the portion where the monkey army wrote Rama on stones and rocks and hurled them into the sea where they mysteriously floated to form a bridge. I had then wondered if Adam’s bridge could be remnants of Rama’s mythical bridge, but over a period of time reasoning and common sense had over ruled this notion. My friend however is of the category that has probably not looked at the atlas at the right age.

Adma’s bridge is so called because unfortunately it is the westerners who had taken pains to map the globe and when they were presented with two names for this geological phenomenon while mapping Indian shores, they chose the one that was closest to their culture. On the one hand Hindus’s claimed it is ‘Rama’s bridge’ for it was built by Rama’s monkey army and on the other the Muslims claimed Srilanka is the site of the mythical ‘Garden of Eden’ and when Adam was expelled he left Eden using this bridge and hence it is ‘Adam’s bridge’. Neither is true and a name means nothing. A quick look at the world will reveal that this is not an isolated phenomenon.

What we see is called a ‘tombolo’. There are many such examples around the world where Islands are connected to a larger land body by a narrow strip of sand that rises above the sea level. Adam’s bridge or Rama’s bridge is no exception. It has existed for eons. It is believed that the land bridge was intact till a few hundred years ago when tidal activity reduced them to a series of sand banks.

My argument is simple. Scriptures have to be comprehended with a pinch of salt. It cannot be taken as conclusive proof especially since various sources of the same story do not tally – no two versions match. It is but obvious that over the ages the true incident (if it at all occurred) has gone through numerous editions and a lot of spicing up. I am told there are 250 versions of the Ramayana alone. Did Rama really build the bridge or more realistically did the ancient Indian believe that the land bridge between India and Srilanka was miraculous and had to be built by the intervention of the supernatural? Today we live in a world where one can access information very easily. There is no excuse for blind faith. It is one’s duty to verify a claim against the available evidences.


Anonymous said...

Наверное, не все можно проверить. Иногда веришь, даже не видя и не зная.
Не так?

Adithya said...

Это называют слепой верой. Я не могу полагать в явлении, что не может быть проверен. Думайте об этом ... люди только живо в том, каковы удовлетворяет им. Должен быть здравый смысл и рассуждение

Anonymous said...

А если слышишь человека и уже ему веришь?

Adithya said...

Вы должны доверять только тем, кто имеет знание. Если Вы верите в человека, не проверяя его мандат тогда, это столь же хорошо как слушание слепого человека, который описывает, насколько красивый сад.

Macadamia The Nut said...

Gasp! Nasa never made such a statement? :O I need to go drown my shock(?) in some tequila tonight. :))
To me Rama is the biggest *bleep* in the history of Indian mythology anyways. Bleh!
Give me my Ancient Aliens any day.