Secretary, Dravidian Historical Research Center, Chennai
It is fact that, mythologies constitute one of the ingredients of history, but not the only and wholly reliable source of our ancient history. The distinction between mythology and history is a major factor that cannot be ignored in modern historiography.
Mythology is religious or quasi religious, where the heroes are to be accepted and adored as divinities, hence it becomes a matter of faith, with no scope for critical verification of facts. But history as a social science, subjects even source material to rational analysis and scientific examination. Faith cannot blur the vision of historian. Europe, since the era of inquiry and renaissance produced a number of historians. In the modern age, along with regional, national and continental histories, world histories also came be written. Despite the fact that the Europe is predominantly Christian and the historians by faith, their world histories do not adopt the ‘genesis’ in the Old Testament for the early chapters in ancient civilizations, or for pre and pro histories. The liberal and academic mindset of the western world is not offended by the secular and critical approach of eminent historian like Davies, Bury, Will Durand and Toynbee. The Egyptian Osiris, Sumerian Gilgamesh, Hellenic Hercules, Plato’s Poseidon and Europa and Homer’s heroes are not projected today as unquestionable, unalterable and adorable historic facts. We only yearn for such healthy trend in historical studies today in India.
In recent times, we, the historians, notice certain disturbing trends; critical historical analysis or Ramayana and Shivaji who violently prescribed by right wing mobs. The Government failed to protect and promote the contribution on all of guaranteed freedom of expression, ‘spirit of inquiry’ and scientific temperament’. Concurrently vigorous efforts are made to ‘historify’ the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Historians are asked by the chairman of ICHR, to take pride in our past, not in the immediate past but in the remote past or Vedic past and we are advised to relate everything in the present to the Vedic past.
Under these circumstances a review of ‘Periyar’s views of Puranas and Itihasas would be very useful for the historical studies especially those dealing with social history of India. Periyar’s criticisms were focussed on a few facts that he derived through intense and indepth study of the Ithihasas and Puranas. He was an original thinker and honest researcher; His critical conclusions of these mythologies were based on this unhistorical nature, and the obnoxious values that the authors of these mythologies intended to impose on societies and the way in which through these mythologies the masses were abused for social exploitation.