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How fast do monkeys fly - in Ramayana?

How fast do monkeys fly - in Ramayana?

Author: Indo-Asian News Service
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: October 27, 2004
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1075939,00110004.htm

Ten-headed demon king Ravana of the Hindu epic Ramayana actually had one head and the other nine were its reflection on the nine large polished gems that he wore around his neck, an American scholar of Sanskrit has reasoned.

According to Berkeley professor RP Goldman, ancient scholars who delved deep into Hindu mythological texts like the Ramayana, tried to "rationalise" several of the seemingly improbable tales -- like Ravana's 10 heads, or how fast could Hanuman the monkey god have flown to get the sanjivani, or elixir, for Laxmana, or even how long would Kumbhakarna - Ravana's brother - have slept.

In a lecture in New Delhi titled aptly, "How fast do Monkeys Fly? How Long do Demons Sleep?" where he read commentaries on Sanskrit epic poetry, Goldman said ancient scholars like Nagoji Bhatta, Govindaraja, Maheshwara Teertha, Satyateertha and Madhava Yogendra tried to "track down the narrative" and explain through "scientific reasoning" the seeming exaggerations in the works.

Goldman, who is professor of Sanskrit at the University of California at Berkeley, said the Sanskrit scholars, who lived between 1200 and 1800 AD, were not "prepared to swallow anything" and went through the texts carefully.

Reciting extracts of Sanskrit couplets in a singsong manner from the works of these scholars, Goldman explained the meanings and the finer nuances of the language to the audience at India International Centre.

According to him, the commentators have painstakingly chronicled day-to-day events of the Battle of Lanka, the 6th book of the Ramayana. They have done meticulous calculations of the lunar calendar to explain how many hours could have elapsed between the slaying of Kumbhakarna to the vanquishing of Meghnad, or even if the war with Ravana lasted just one night or 'sapta ratras' (seven nights).

One important question that these scholars raised was how long could Hanuman have taken to fly to the Himalayas - to the Mahodaya mountain to fetch the life-giving herb for Lakshmana - from Lanka, where the battle was raging?

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