Saturday, September 20, 2014

2.2 How Hindu Mythology

Should any one stumble on this blog by mistake or otherwise, he or she should be made aware what the subject of the posts is. This blog is essentially about literature, and to a lesser extent about art, sculpture, architecture, dance, cinema and theatre. Specifically, it is about how Hindu mythology has evolved in these arenas of communication. Since Hindu mythology is inextricably also linked with theology, devotion and rituals, these will also make an appearance from time to time. However, I am not fully conversant with these issues and they will not be the focus of my blogs.

It is my belief that the evolution of mythology is driven by changes in the social environment of the related community. The creative souls in the community continuously revisit the mythological stories and reinterpret and recast them according to the needs and interests of the society. While there are changes in form and even in certain values, I have found that the core generally remains the same. It is the perfect coexistence of continuity and change. At the same time evolving mythology also drives social change. Sometimes the retelling of stories, by accident or design, not only gives new direction to the future retelling of stories, but also to larger social objectives. In this manner, both driven by and driving social change, the ancient mythology of a community is kept alive, grows and remains relevant.

Future generations can delve into mythology for solutions to their problems. Joseph Campbell said, “The myths and rites were means of putting the mind in accord with the body and the way of life in accord with the way that nature dictates.” [1] But unless the mythology is presented in a manner that interests them, it will not attract new generations and this storehouse of symbolic information will lie idle. For example, hardly anyone today reads the original Ramayana and Mahabharata written by the seers Valmiki and Vyas, because of their verbosity and florid language. But almost all Hindus, and even all Indians, know the content of these great epics, because their stories have been retold in every generation. At one time Amar Chitra Katha in comic strip form enthralled and educated a generation of youngsters. The next generation was introduced to the epics through the mega television serials produced by Ramanand Sagar and B.R. Chopra. Today animated episodes from the epics can be downloaded from You Tube.

Having put the preliminaries out of the way, I aim to start on the retelling of stories.

[1] Campbell, J. The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers. Anchor Books A Division of Random House Inc. (1998). p. 87.

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