The Ramayana trail in Sri Lanka was touted as the ultimate religious experience: a trail of 52 sites related to the epic including the garden where an abducted Sita was imprisoned, the spot where she went through fire to prove her chastity and even a hillock said to be part of the mountain wrenched out by Hanuman to save Laksman’s life.
But if the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka is to be believed, the Ramayana trail
in Lanka is more a trail of fiction without any historical veracity.
In a recent closed-door meeting of the society, members denounced the trail as a gimmick to attract Indian tourists. In a subsequent letter to the Ministry of Tourism, it was termed a “travesty’’, paving the path for future political complications.
“The Tourist Board has been over the last couple of years marketing Sri Lanka to India as the abode of Ravana of the Hindu mythological epic the Ramayana. This is a total travesty and a future danger for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka as there is no historical evidence whatsoever about Rama and Ravana... I urge you to immediately cancel this foolish and anti national project,’’ the letter said.
“The tourist board has produced some inscriptions, which I think were fabricated and then photographed,’’ a former VC of Ruhuna university and society member said.
“For example, the temple in Sitaeliya (a place in southern Lanka) was a small one in the 1950s. It was where Ravana had apparently kept her. Now, the legend has been manipulated and lot of land has been
acquired (by those running the temple). Legends and words have been manipulated,’’ Dr W.M.K. Wijetunga, who is compiling a book on Sri Lankan history, said.
For professor S Pathmanathan, an ancient history expert in Sri Lanka, it is a battle between history and tradition.
“I do not doubt the historicity of Ram. But the sites have no connection to the epic... One should not mix history and literature,’’ he said.