The reasons for learning mythology are very simple
- Establish a broad good vs evil construct with reference to the culture
- Create role models and ideals to emulate- from the devotion of an Ekalavya to the loyal friendship of a Karna, to the raw courage of Abhimanyu to the faith of Prahalada…
- Explain how curious human’s early scientific thinking may have sought to explain that which had power to affect their lives – the sun, the rain , the wind – both in its benevolent times and in nature’s fury.
- Establish faith in a higher power to derive strength in times of despair.
(An old blog here )
- ‘Amma Tell Me’ Series by Bhakti Mathur – Age 5 and under
- Chinmaya Mission series
- Amar Chitra Katha (The original and the best) – Age 6+
- Sudha Murthy’s The Serpent’s Revenge and other Unusual Tales from the Mahabharata and the 3 fabulous books in the series – Ages 8+
- The Mahabharatha – A Child’s View by Samhita Arni
- The Gita by Roopa Pai for almost a “practical” Gita – the essence is absolutely undiluted , but is narrated with logical and practical takeaways and a wonderful touch of humour – Ages 10+ (including adults)
Today there is host of historical fiction available that twists and contorts the original tales so much that one will be left completely befuddled, forgetting the original purpose of the tale itself!!! (hence no mention of Devdutt Patnaik in the recos 🙂
Here comes the trouble part. How do you tell a story that transfers the essence that you want , is not biased, is inclusive and stays in tune with the times?
So the #GreyMatterQ matter in our tales…
Character and Pointofview
…When you talk of Sita, do you narrate her part as a woman who needed a man to rescue her? Or do you remember the same story begins at a point that as a child she could lift the mighty Pinaka, the very bow that was her challenge to her suitor (choice of husband). Then again Ram tries to tell her to stay back as a pretty princess cannot bear the hardships of the jungle, again she exercises her choices and insists on going with him.
…When you talk of Ekalavya , do you cheer his determination and devotion or do you point out how privilege can be misused? If Drona was a great teacher and Arjuna truly the best, why did he have to secure his position by eliminating possible competition? If they spotted a talented warrior, would it not have be beneficial to have befriended him like Duryodhan befriended Karna? Sharing privilege can only bring strength and shared success.
Race and Color
…When you talk of asuras being depicted as black and Devas as fair- do you talk of them as a better race or do you take the time to point out the symbolism of light of knowledge. Darkness is the dearth of the light, means ignorant. Note that both asuras and devas had the same father , Maharishi Kashyap and their pursuits lead them in different paths.
…Can we move the focus now to the art and words we use then that have now made these images synchronous with physical colour and race -who said a rakshasa/ asura is dark complexioned.
Yet in our art, movies and serials we will have a father Hiranyakashyapu depicted in dark skin and his own son Prahalad in fair skin!!! Ravana will be dark but Vibhishana will be fair skinned. If Durga and Kali can both wreck havoc and wage war why is Kali potrayed in black and Durga in light skin? Krishna himself is supposed to be black (shyam), the dark being the infinite and formless universe, yet we choose to replace it with a more “acceptable” blue that mimics the same concept of blue sky.
…Caste was meant to be “cast” as per one’s own abilities and true nature, which got misinterpreted in time, to benefit the corrupt. See how Vidur who is actually not royal blood, has no issue with education and becoming learned in his time, but there is an issue when Karna comes in the next decade. Yet, inspite of Karna having falsely told his Guru of his birth caste, the guru identifies him as a Kshatriya simply because of his courage. Action not birth caste…
Motive and Goals
…When you talk Gods and boons that seem to be bestowed and then slayed , do you wonder why the boon was given in the first place? Are we able to connect it to the fact that with great effort we can climb up the tallest ladder, but if the destination/ intention is wrong , even the after all the effort, it will be fruitless in the end. A way to emphasise the means and the end both matter.
…Do you debate about the difficult choices made- When Vibhishana chose to desert his brother for what he thought was right , but Kumbakarna stood and fought in spite of advising his brother against it? Was Karna right in continuing to fight the war when he could have been accepted as the oldest pandava?
There is indeed no bad or good people , there are choices and their consequences that are to be borne.
Indian Gods and their tales are as colourful and diverse as the Greek ones that our tweens may adore in the brilliant Rick Riordan books .The stark difference is the inclusion and the representation that shines through.
Whether you think it is mythology or our itihaas , let us try to narrate a story that matches the direction where we want to go. Let us be empower ourselves with the most important takeaways from these tales – the ability to pause and reflect on the motive, choices ,action and consequence.