Indian Epics in School Syllabus – Good or Bad?

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When the news “Government plans to introduce Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagwat Gita in school syllabus??? turned Baader Meinhof for me, I couldn’t help thinking that since when these books went “out of syllabus???.

I am a breed of CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) system and I had classes when we read about Ramayana, Sankshipt Mahabharata and Buddha Charita Manas in more details. Indeed these topics carried scores but the thing that really mattered was how the entire class used to be silent and listen keenly to the amazing stories these “EPICS OF INDIA??? were telling.

Before the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter sagas bloomed into our lives; the feeding of fantasy and magic were stories from Mahabharata; where Abhimanyu could hear Krishna when still in his mother’s womb, of Gandhari with sons from 100 pots which later turned into a puzzle when we read about the “Human Reproduction??? in Standard 10 (full attendance). This puzzling took a surprising turn (at least for me) when the idea of “test tube??? babies came into being.

Surprisingly, the stores were free of moral guidance, and had vastly grey characters.
                 Surprisingly, the stores were free of moral guidance, and had vastly grey characters.

Ramayana and Buddha Charita were no different. Pushpak vimanas and weather proof castles gave flight to both imaginations and ideas of engineering, no matter how absurd they could be. It was a good exercise. As far as the Bhagwat Gita is concerned, our lives were simplified enough to seek answers there.

Before LoTR and GoT, there was Ravana's Pushpaka Vimana
                  Before LoTR and GoT, there was Ravana’s Pushpaka Vimana PC: Dainik Bhaskar

Coming back to the present, there are two types of reactions on this new “Govt. plans???. One belongs to the bunch who are asking to bring Quran, Bible and other religious books on the same shelf and arguing about equality. These are the same bunch of people who talk about national integration but do not talk to their kids in their mother tongue. The other bunch which is posting long comments on the internet; dismissing them all as myths, legends and unrealistic is the same group which wants Shaktimaan in the syllabus while they wear LOTR t-shirts and question J.K Rowling about Hagrid’s patronus over Twitter.

The stories actually made us question right and wrong. To introspect and question our beliefs.
         The stories actually made us question right and wrong. To introspect and question our beliefs.

What does it take to understand that the existence of Mahabharata and Ramayana has nothing to do with any religion and that it is for everyone? The culture of India is one of the oldest and the world has seen many religions come and bloom. It is easier to dismiss the idea of Moses parting the red sea than to “love thy enemy???. People are so engaged to find fact over fiction (or vice versa) or to dismiss it entirely that they are missing the grand share of wisdom offered in these brilliantly composed epics or in any religion’s bible.

A good book is never a waste of time and that’s what they all are – books. And just like the other books one reads, one has the right to agree and disagree with them. It is always about right vs. wrong and the wisdom to tell the difference. So read, question and evolve.

As for the kids, I pity them. There is already so much in their baggage to keep up with the kind of world their mommies and daddies are leaving for them. It would be a really sad, if a generation grows up with grades, but without sensitivity to admire the genius that lie preserved in the pages of history.

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