History & Culture

Steeped in mythology

Dr. Nalini Rao  

Recently, Jain University, Bangalore, hosted a talk on the ‘Archaeological Discoveries by Dr. S.R.Rao: Lothal and Dwaraka’ as part of their 'Knowledge Talk' series. The talk was delivered by Dr. Nalini Rao, daughter of the late Dr. S.R. Rao, Professor of World Art at SOKA University and the chairperson of Dr. S.R. Rao Memorial Foundation.

S.R. Rao was a scientist and a former Director of the Archaeological Survey of India. Among his projects, two excavations have received much attention. The first was at Lothal in present-day Gujarat which is considered a port from the Harappan civilisation and the second was at Bet Dwaraka (also in present-day Gujarat) wherein Rao unearthed what he claimed were parts of a submerged city that was built by Krishna from the Mahabharata.

In her talk, Dr. Nalini focussed on highlighting these two discoveries of her father and championing the claims put forward by him.

Saraswathi, the not-so mythic river?

One of the first claims that Dr. Nalini attempted to debunk was the belief that the Saraswathi was a mythical river. “Due to land imagery by NASA and other such surveys, we really know that Saraswathi existed and went down because of tectonic disturbances and gradually dried up. The river joined the Jamuna and hence at Allahabad, it was called the Triveni Sangam, the meeting point of Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswathi. The colonial rulers already knew of the drying bed of Saraswathi and this is mentioned in their accounts,” she said.

She went on to talk about what her father discovered at Lothal. “Excavations found that there was a dockyard, warehouse, some burnt bricks, pottery remains, beads and even gold necklaces. There was some speculation that this was not a dockyard but an irrigation tank. But the presence of water logging systems prove that this was indeed a dockyard, albeit an artificially constructed one,” she explained.

Dr. Nalini even claimed that the initial excavations at Harappa and Mohenjodaro ‘were not scientifically done’ and contrasted it with the one conducted at Lothal. She also alleged that the ‘bearded man’ from the Indus Valley Civilization was not a Mesopotamian man but a ‘Rig Vedic priest’ as the marks on the forehead revealed to Dr. Rao. She went on to allege that there was no war between the Aryans and the Dravidians as some historians argue. “These were indigenous people. There was no fight. The burials prove that there was an existing system of laying the dead. The north Indian man was the earliest man,” she said.

“The Mahabharata happened”

That both S.R.Rao and his daughter come from the school of thought which believes that mythology is indeed history became clear when Dr. Nalini spoke about the excavations at Dwaraka.

“The astrological date for the Mahabharata or the epic period is around 1424 B.C. The archaeological date is sometime between 900 B.C. and 1000 B.C.,” she said. However, she gave no explanation as to how she arrived at those dates for the epic.

“People have been looking for sites from the Ramayana and Mahabharata for a long time. They have found certain sites for Ramayana,” she continued. “When my father was there at the Dwarkadish temple, as the in-charge of the archaeological site, he started cleaning it up. It was then that he started excavating and found that there are more temples beneath the Dwarkadish temple. Then, at Bet Dwarka, he found many remnants of a submerged city which tally with the city built by Krishna. The number of streets, the bastions etc.,- all of these tally with the details mentioned in the Mahabharata,” she explained.

She also added that if more projects of marine archaeology are conducted, more sites from the Mahabharata can be found. “We need more people to undertake marine archaeology along the coast near Gujarat and if that is done, we can prove mythology is indeed history.” When further questioned about the credibility of mythology as a historical source, she spoke of finding a Chandrashila, and a 552 metre wall identical to those that Vyasa’s Mahabharata apparently mentions. “We must accept literary references as historical evidence,” she argued. Even the late S.R. Rao believed that mythology is indeed history. About Dwaraka, he had said that the ‘discovery of the submerged Kusasthali Dwaraka is a historical truth’ and claimed that this was the Dwaraka that Krishna lived in.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 9:52:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/drnalini-rao-and-her-father-the-late-dr-srrao/article7481507.ece

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