From time immemorial, India has been the land of numinous and unsolved mysteries. Mysteries which are diffcult to explain leaving huge question marks in our minds.

Indian texts like the Vedas, Mahabharata, and Ramayana are loaded with fanciful tales of divine beings, their forces, and epic battles between them, which are claimed to have taken place long ago. Their adventures are generally perceived to be mythological sagas that are taken as allegories. These texts mention extremely powerful Gods who fought off evil forces with superhuman abilities, flying craft s, and weapons resembling those of modern ti mes. Hence, can we be certain that all these enigmatic sagas were allegoric or did they occur in reality?

Vimana Technology

The word “Vimana” which can literally be translated to “traversing” has various meanings ranging from its use to describe a temple or palace to mythological flying craft s in various ancient Sanskrit Texts. Mentions of these flying machines are run-of-the-mill in ancient Indian Sanskrit texts. The Vimana has been described in ancient texts as craft s of various types. Some were land and seafaring vehicles, while others flew sometimes all the way to the moon or further.

• Time Travel Technology

Just as Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar makes reference to a “Miller Planet” (An ocean planet orbiting extremely close to a black hole), on which 9 hours are approximate to 63 Earth years (Due to close proximity to the Black Hole), the Mahabharata also has made a reference to a similar concept in one of its many stories about King Kakudmi of Kusasthali (ancient name of Dwarka, Gujarat), who along with his daughter Revati , travels to heaven to meet the Creator, Brahma, to seek advice for a suitable groom. When he returns to Earth, he’s surprised to learn that many ages have passed, as just a few seconds in Brahamalok was described equivalent to thousands of years on Earth. A concept similar to Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity, explaining that ti me runs differently on different planes of existence.

Nuclear Technology

The “Drona Parva”, which was the seventh book of the Mahabharata consists of one of the weirdest and unexplainable stories which describe the crisis of war. Although this theme wasn’t unusual, since the central story of the epic itself was based on a battle between two sets of cousins, the book gives us some descriptions, which are similar to the aftermath of a nuclear war. The book mentions explosions so powerful, that leave animals screeching in agony, metal armour melting onto the bodies of the troops, pregnant women losing their babies, as well as a scarlet cloud in the sky which resembled flames of a fire, all of which sound like descriptions of nuclear war and its fallout. A theory was also formulated, suggesting that the Harappan Civilizati on may have been destroyed by such a nuclear event. There have been finds in Mohenjodaro of skeletons of a family holding hands and appear to be flattened as if they had died of a sudden occurrence. Some unverified accounts also say that some radioactive ash was also found initially when the site was excavated. However, the veracity of these accounts can’t be examined since there isn’t any evidence to support them.

Whether these stories of advance technologies in ancient Indian texts are a reflecti on of the past or just allegories, they surely do evoke a great amount of inquisitiveness.

Feature Image Credits: Ancient History Lists

Abhinandan Kaul

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The story of Draupadi ended years ago, or did it? Here is an insight into the inner turmoil faced by her. The story of Draupadi, to Draupadis.

One of the contemporary, and not very appealing facts is that we can still relate to Draupadi, a woman who was ‘ahead of her times’ centuries ago is still considered the same, and mind you, it is 2019, you can do the math.

There is not just a single Draupadi, but several Draupadis, right where you are sitting, if you hover your eyes around the room.

An introductory lecture on Draupadi is a hard nut to crack but one can furnish in a nut-shell. Draupadi, the daughter of King Drupad, born out of fire, the courtroom is an account everyone knows.

In Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s “The Palace of Illusions”, turn pages to the marriage of Draupadi which draws light on the created illusion of swayamvar. What if one tells you that Banerjee waves a creation which lets you know that the swayamvar was not a swayamvar but a marriage of convenience? The forbidden fruit of right to choice is what most of us don’t savour.

The marriage of Draupadi to all the Pandavas is another source of wrinkles on one’s forehead. Kunti – a woman, mother of Draupadi’s husbands, making a turbulent decision which alters her life henceforth. In epics, daily soaps, secret domestic tales it is very common?

The infamous vastraharan (de-clothing) of Draupadi is a question on inner conscience. Dragged to a court while menstruating, barred of her clothes- such was the plight of Draupadi. All done for a cause that doesn’t even qualify to be a cause- the game of dice, the inflaming addiction, the addiction of power. And a quick update- these so-called causes source upon many Draupadis, the worst part- future seems to be as monotonous as the past and the present.

While one may defend- “well someone’s (you know the name) superior powers did save her from the plight. But here is an eye-opener- the ‘someone’ was absent from the picture, Draupadi’s self- strength led to the incessant, never-ending cloth. Many Draupadis fight, fight for themselves, yet lie in the shackles of silence.

Here is a situation – a woman deprived of her fundamental rights, outraged in a room full of ‘honourable entities’, with no help from all the four sides of the walls, stands alone – isn’t this a contemporary fact? This episode exists, repeats and continues.

Draupadi was always a pawn in a game of chess- born for the cause of revenge, married for the sake of political alliance and finally reduced into a stake at the game of dice.

Irawati Karve through her work- “Yuganta” gives us an insight into the inner psychology of Draupadi through incidents. After the game of dice, when Dhritrashtra intervened as the indecency had gone too far and feared terrible consequences, grants Draupadi three wishes wherein she saves the Pandavas of the impending doom. “… but Draupadi has re-established peace. Like a boat, she has saved the Pandavas when they were about to drown in a sea of disgrace. The taunt that they had been saved by a woman infuriated Bhima.”

How many times has the society stitched the lips of women, tied their hands and reduced them to speechlessness? Draupadi’s power affected egos, Draupadis still exist, their power affects ego.

Draupadi was unapologetically herself. Karve tells us more about Draupadi when her brother visits her in the forest (during the period of exile) she says, “I have neither husbands, nor a brother, nor a father. If I had, do you think they would have stood for my being insulted like this?”

In the 21st Century sitting in our living rooms, it is a shame that we can relate to the problems of Draupadi, it is time to address these problems and not relate to these.

Feature Image Credits: Focuz Studios

Priyanshi Banerjee

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Many would argue that our gender-equality oriented culture is prominently an on-going matter. It is very off-setting for the youth who openly recognise themselves as LGBTQ, and difficult for the people of the past generations to accept this culture on micro and macro levels. Sexual morality has varied greatly over time and between cultures. A society’s sexual norms and standards of sexual conduct can be linked to religious beliefs, or social and environmental conditions, or all of these. In his book, Devdutt Pattanaik, along with editor Jerry Johnsons and others have introduced the animating principles of the major karmic faiths (based on the beliefs of rebirth) related to sexuality. The karmic faiths Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Hinduism share many common roots. The holy scriptures of these religions contain stories, ideas, and narratives of different sexual orientations and gender identities. Sexual orientation and gender identity are two different concepts, as are sex and gender. On one hand, it is biological and on the other it is societal. Sexual orientation is the romantic indulgence towards other people and can range from heterosexuality to homosexuality etc. Gender identity is one’s sense of self as a woman, man, or transgender, and may be different from one’s biological sex. Through the introduction of the modern doctrine of secularism and keeping away organised faith from politics, economics, and identity, there have been escalating instances of societal problems like queer-phobia, which is the explicit and implicit hostility towards LGBTQ people. Hinduism reveals a greater comfort with transgender stories, like describing Lord Vishnu turning into a beautiful damsel Mohini, and Lord Shiva becoming a half- woman. Over time, the traditions and beliefs of the people changed and things turned hostile for the queer. Their exclusion and isolation- socially, economically, and politically- became the new tradition dear to different communities, religions, or nations. However, the overarching and fundamental wisdom common to these faiths make ample room to accommodate the queer with innovative ideas. These karmic faiths describe that our body, our personality, and our sexuality are outcomes of the karmic burden and they are therefore natural. While the third gender is acknowledged in India, homosexual unions are criminalised. This can be traced back to the conservative Christian and Islamic frameworks where there are notes of homoerotic love, like that between David and Jonathan, and it was described as “unnatural sex”. As you read through the book you will realise that the fundamental principle of equality is not a feature of karmic faiths, rather there is a celebration of diversity. They articulate the strains of beliefs that affirm the dignity of queer expressions and encourage a sense of identity that is authentic and liberated from social and illusionary constructions.   Feature Image Credits: Radhika Boruah for DU Beat Radhika Boruah [email protected]]]>

Mythology is a subjective truth. Every culture imagines life in a certain way.”- Devdutt Pattanaik

Mythology has always fascinated me. Indian art and culture has ever since been rich, but more and more people have  now started indulging into our myths. My quest to learn more of mythology led me to interview Devdutt Pattanaik, a medical doctor by education, a leadership consultant by profession and a mythologist by passion. He has authored books like My Gita, the Leadership Sutra, Myth=Mithya and many more. Here are the snippets from the interview:

  1. A doctor by education, but a mythologist by passion: so, when and how did this journey start?

It was just a hobby for weekends. But gradually my ideas  turned into strong views. This led to articles  eventually becoming lectures, and when it became financially viable in 2008, this became a full-time vocation. It was all organic. It was just hard work, maximum utilisation of opportunities, and a neat stroke of luck.

  1. It takes a lot of effort to travel to different places of India collecting myths and stories; so how does this entire process work?

Most myths are in fact available on the internet, and before that in libraries. Tonnes of people have already researched on them but they write only for academics, not for common people. Or, their knowledge is restricted to a narrow field of study. I broadened the base and made it accessible for common people.

  1. Have you considered visiting places in Southeast Asia like Cambodia, to find different versions of our Hindu myths? Angkor Wat has many stories, so does Sri Lanka. 

One had to do that in the 19th century, but not anymore. As I said, much information has already been gathered but is badly structured and presented,  hence, not many understand the patterns. For example, Hinduism is present in Southeast  Asia but you do not sense “bhakti”, or the essential power of devotional music, as the flow of ideas to the these regions was restricted before 1000 AD.

  1. Presenting our myths in their foreign versions world be interesting, so why haven’t we tried that?

We may not like these versions. The Hanuman of Southeast Asia is not celibate or devotional. He is a wild and funny rake. You don’t feel the underlying principles of the Upanishads, which means Agama or the Puranas are not amalgamated with Nigama or the Vedas, as they are in India. So they are very yet very different.

  1. In your book Shikhandi, you talk about the queer. How do you think the yesteryear’s myths can influence the present day Indian society?

In the past, people followed whatever was convenient . If you left India during those times  and crossed the sea, you lost your caste and religion. Which means the migrants couldn’t call themselves Hindus. But, we don’t follow these old codes, do we? Likewise, in past, women were considered inferior to men, incapable of achieving spiritual wisdom. We don’t believe that anymore. In the past, we believed there were three genders: male, female and queer. But this idea faded away in British times. And now is being seen as a Western import.


Feature Image credits: Devdutt.in

Radhika Boruah

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In Greek, idein means ‘to see’ and to eidenai means ‘to know.’ Mythology is a collection of tales that explain the past; these may have a basis in fact but are also embroidered to explain the present. History is an attempt to uncover and create a factual account of the past. The word ‘myth’ itself comes from the Greek ‘mythos,’ which originally meant ‘speech’ or ‘discourse,’ but which later came to mean ‘fable’ or ‘legend.’ Myths in the present world are defined as a story of forgotten or vague origin, basically religious or supernatural in nature, which seek to explain or rationalize one or more aspects of the world or society. Some myths describe actual historical events but have been embellished and refashioned by various storytellers over time, making it impossible to tell what happened. In this last aspect, myths have a legendary and historical nature. This is a classic myth: to give the moral that you must persevere in the face of adversity.

There are several epics which point to many events of past. And then there are the Holy Books which incorporates teachings in metaphors which evidently are referred to as mythological encounters. Here are a few instrumental ways for distinguishing between Mythology and History:

  1. Human History– When we say history in an academic sense, it is referred to as Human history, the documentation of Human civilisation. It does not cover the history of deities like Indra, Zeus, etc. and demons like Ravana, etc. Epics contain both Human history along with the history of both deities and demons. People don’t accept the history of deities and demons as the natural evolution of civilisation. Those are considered as a part of the mythology.
  2. Earthly events– History documents social, political, economic, cultural events or protocols present in past civilisations on earth, and does not cover the supra-cosmic events occurred in heaven or hell. Whereas, the Indian epics contain past events occurred on earth as well as from heaven and hell. Those are considered as mythology because it does not fit into normal human perception.
  3. Teachings– The purpose of history is to document the past events without any interpretation. For example, King Ashoka killed all in Kalinga, converted to Buddhism, and spread Buddhism throughout the world. However, history does not extend to incorporate Buddha’s teaching, because teaching is an interpretation to be covered in another stream of knowledge.
  4. Consistency– In any stream of knowledge, consistency is a challenge. Historical events are studied keeping the sequence of events, possibly with a period. Also, information should be consistent across all authors or books, so rational mind considers those as mythology.
  5. Miracles– History covers incidents. It does not cover accidental miraculous events. People do not accept these because there is no such scientific explanation of these events. We need to remove all supernatural events, characters from these two books, to be considered as history.
  6. Authenticity– Any stream of knowledge must be authentic, including History. For example, the existence of Buddha is known from various stone images, and writings present on stone. Writings from stones, discoveries from various monuments, the study of metals, soils give clues about the past.

It is in this backdrop that the struggle to place mythological creations on a par with history or objective truth is best understood, for any concession to the imaginary nature of mythology relegates it to an inferior status.


‘Pegasus in ancient art,’ Pegasus is an ancient horse-like creature that could fly. But we find its records from stone carvings which are accounted in history.
‘Pegasus in ancient art,’ Pegasus is an ancient horse-like creature that could fly. But we find its records from stone carvings which are accounted in history.


Image credits: sabrangindia.com


Radhika Boruah

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