Actor-known mythologist and writer Devdutt Pattanaik says unlike fiction or history, mythology is a pluralistic truth with many interpretations, all of which needs to be respected. Pointing to the example of belief by various communities to different versions of the same myth, Pattanaik who was speaking at a literary meet organised by the Bengal Chamber and Sister Nivedita University, stressed that mythology and history should not be confused.
“Fiction is nobody’s truth, but fact is everybody’s truth. Myth is somebody’s truth. I have a truth, you have a truth, she has a truth, all of us have a truth,” Pattanaik said on Friday evening.
Apparently referring to debates about mythological events including the birthplaces of figures like Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman, he said “I have to respect the truth, that is myth. People ask where Lord Hanuman was born. (As per belief) He was born in different places. And in every such place, there is a temple.”
“If there are ten birthplaces of Hanuman, we should appreciate that fact from the pluralistic point of view. We should all enjoy and celebrate that, (the existence) of many truths. Your truth is my truth. Let’s discover each other’s truth…”, he said.
“Itihas (history) means reporting, but Purana is not reporting….the chroniclers of Purana claimed they recorded events as they saw it unfolding,” he added.
“How do I explain (this difference) to politicians,” he asked commenting that scholars realised that there have been several variations about the Ramayana having been published in different languages as not more than 40 per cent of verses turned up to be common.
Speaking at the same meet, eminent Bengali writer Shirsendu Mukhopadhyay has deplored the tendency of a section of parents and teachers to discourage the learning of child’s mother tongue in elite schools.
He said while global languages like English has been the gateway to world literature, it was important for any child to be also steeped in the rich literary and cultural traditions that his mother tongue could expose him to.
“I am saddened by this trend which is now perceptible among many guardians and teachers, whose children study in elite schools. One should certainly learn more than one language but there is no alternative to expressing your thoughts in your other tongue,” Mukhopadhyay said here Saturday.
“It is not mandatory to forget one language to learn two other languages,” the Sahitya Akademi award recipient said stressing the need for the young to be conversant with the richness of their own literature, in the case of West Bengal with Bengali literature.
Tracing his childhood days, Mukhopadhyay said “I was a voracious reader, having two almirahs filled with books. Not many could inculcate such book-reading habits in those days but that perhaps sowed the seeds in me.”
He recalled an experience in Haridwar a few years back when he gave an interview to a reporter from Hindi media and replied in the Hindi language “despite not having much command over the language … I could sense the reporter was happy and the instant connection was very much apparent.”
“You should always give importance to one’s mother tongue, a fact sadly missed by a section of our parents,” the writer of cult classics like Manabjamin (Human land), Durbin (telescope) and Goynar Baksho (jewel box) said.
Mukhopadhyay regretted there were very few translations of world classics in Bengali now unlike in the past and also called for translations from representative literary works from regional languages like Malayalam, Odia, Marathi and others into Bengali.
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