Mythology and History
Mythology is an amalgamation of two Greek words mythos and logia. Mythos meaning myth and logia meaning to study. Hence mythology is a study of myths containing stories, fables, etc. which have been passed on through many generations orally and also literary. Greek mythology has various written texts. The Iliad by Homer recording the Trojan war is an impeccable example of mythology in written form.
A myth consists of narratives or stories that play a fundamental role in society. The Mahabharata and the Ramayana are the best examples to understand this. To date Indians refer to the incidents and characters from these two epics in their daily conversations for humor and satire both. Such stories are intrinsic in our lives and help develop indigenous feelings. People enjoy sharing and listening to these fascinating myths involving gods, demigods, and magic.
Besides amusing people mythology helps a great deal in understanding our past. The socio-cultural, political, economic, and religious scenarios of the time when these texts were composed can be understood by doing an in-depth study. By analyzing the Mahabharata historians try to understand various subject matters like patriliny or distribution of father's property or throne among his children, rules and forms of marriage, the authority of dharma, and other Brahmanical texts, etc.
Such important and confusing questions can be answered after understanding mythological texts. This implies that mythology and history are not mutually exclusive. They are intersecting at many echelons. They are like two intersecting sects containing information, facts, theories, stories, etc. But this relation by no means shall be mistaken for them being identical and overlapping.
Historians extensively use mythological texts to supplement historical data. But mythology cannot be perceived on face value. It is not the complete truth. We must realize that these are stories that were made for amusement and to deliver the message of dharma engagingly. By attaching supreme faith in them, we will jeopardize factual information.
There is some evidence to support the reality of these fables to a certain level but no breakthrough discovery and meticulous attempts have been made to establish their concreteness. Till then we can keep enjoying them and look for proofs to verisimilitude them.
© 2020 Kumud Aggarwal