History or Myth? Was: Black Draupadi?

David R. Israel davidi at mail.wizard.net
Fri Aug 22 03:26:22 UTC 1997

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann writes,

> . . . But there is also the other extreme, that of considering the
> Mahabharata (and other epics) as purely mythological, a la Biardeau.
> In the case of the Mbh, the historical-mythical opposition doesn't
> necessarily have to revolve around whether certain events are exact
> historical facts . . . .
> By the way, didn't Schliemann discover Troy because he stubbornly
> took the Iliad as history?

Good points.  Here's a further thought, which I happen to subscribe 
to (althought I would expect many scholars to look at it somewhat 
askance) --

Somewhere (I've long since lost track) in his voluminous writings 
about mysticism &c., the late Manley Palmer Hall proposed that, 
generally speaking (and I'm paraphrasing), nearly all divine 
*figures* in great mythologies have arisen from human historical 
underpinnings -- that is, for every Dionysus, Demeter, Orpheus, Rama, 
Krishna, Siva, Parvathi, or you name it, there was, once, a real 
human tale, now remembered in the transformed manner of myth.

No doubt, this notion -- which might sound to be a rather ludicrous 
proposition to many here -- arises from (and finds support in) areas 
of thought that are far afield from the approach and concerns of 
historians.  Nonetheless, to me it has the ring of a useful insight.

I will in fact admit to feeling comfortable applying this principle 
(in my estimation & view) to familiar figures of Indian mythology: 
that is, I feel privately confident that for every Rama, Krishna, 
Bhairava, Uma, Draupadi, Ganesha, et cetera, et alia, there was 
indeed a human life -- and that some (at least) of the attributes and 
episodes recollected in such figures' tales and myths, are grounded 
in what once (humanly) was.

Such a view is naturally beyond the (direct) circumference (& the 
needful rigors) of the historian's work; -- but this view may have 
uses (or resonances, shadows & valuable harmonics), even so.

   >    david   raphael   israel    <
   >>      washington  d.c.      <<
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