BUDDHIST VIHARAS AND EELAM Part 21b
Posted on July 5th, 2024

KAMALIKA PIERIS

The location of Valmiki’s ‘Lanka’ had been keenly discussed by Indian scholars. Indian academics cannot agree on the location of the ‘Lanka’ in the Ramayana. Romila Thapar says the matter has been disputed by Indian scholars for centuries and Lanka remains unidentified. The term Lanka is some Indian languages means island and Sagara means a lake, not an ocean.

Writers have pointed out that the Lanka mentioned in the Ramayana is not Sri Lanka. To start with, Sri Lanka was not known as Lanka in ancient times. It was known as Simhala. Mishra points out that all the Indian chronicles, such as the Puranas, and the writings of Varamihira, all stated that the Simhala Island differed from the island of   Lanka.’

Mahabaratha refers to two distinct islands called Lanka and Simhala. The Virhatsamhita of Varamihira recorded Lanka and Sinhala as two different places. Rajasekera in his play Balaramayana also showed that Simhala was not Lanka. In this play, Ravana addresses a king who comes from Simhala”. Ravana would not have addressed another king in this manner if he, Ravana, had been the king of Simhala.

T. Paramasiva Iyer in his 1940 book Ramayana and Lanka said that Ravana’s Lanka, if there ever was one, was located in Madhya Pradesh near Jabalpur. It is very likely that Ravana’s Lanka, under the name of Trikuta, was the capital of today’s  Kalachari Haihayas,  known as Trikutakas till 900 AD. It is quite probable that in the olden days, the Hiran river , which hugs the Indrana Hill on three sides, spread out as a shallow lake all round the hill.

Archaeologist H.D. Sankalia (1971) said that Chotanagpur (Jharkhand State, India) was the Lanka of Ramayana .    He said that the present day Sri Lanka” cannot be the Ramayana Lanka. Sri Lanka was  known to Indians of the olden days as Simhala or Tamraparni, and not as Lanka. According to Sankalia  Lanka is a Mundari word which means an ‘island’ and people of Sonpur on the Madhya Pradesh-Andhra-Orissa border traditionally regard Sonpur as ‘Pashchim Lanka’ western Lanka). The name Lanka came into use only a thousand years ago. Adams Bridge and Rameshwaram  are not the Setu and Shiva temple of Rama’s era etiher.

Hiralal Shukla’s book ‘Lanka ki khoj’ (1977)   provides information on the places identified. Lanka had been located in various places in India, in Assam,    in Rekanpalli, (between the Godavari and Krishna rivers), near Maheshwar on the Narmada river near Jabalpur,  in Chota Nagpur in the Mahanadi delta , in the Vindhya mountains at Amarakantaka , near Pendra, ( Bilaspur district, Madhya Pradesh) and in the  Godavari delta.    Outside India, Lanka has been located in Lakshadweep, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Sumatra,    Australia (via the Sunda Islands) and the Lingga Island on the equator.

R.L. Gupta ( 1982) says Lanka was an island in Narmada lake, now Bagra hill.  The Ramayana   says that Lanka was located on Trikuti Parvata, close to
Dhawlagiri surrounded by the hundred yojana sea and in an area where Sal
trees grew. Bagra hill, a little west of Pachmarhi Hill, district Hoshangabad, Madhya
Pradesh was known as Dhawlagiri earlier.  Gupta   had also looked at the time Lord Rama took to travel between the places he visited.

D.P. Mishra  (1985) says that the evidence points to the triangular delta of the mouth of the river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. The Godavari has a stretch of alluvial islands, called the Trikuta islands. These are known as the Lankas even today. However, the first meridian of Hindu astronomers is taken to have passed through Ujjain and Lanka. Ujjain is in Madhya Pradesh close to the west coast of India. 

Critics also say that Adams bridge  near Sri Lanka ,cannot be Ram setu since Rama’s bridge is either eleven and a half miles or 450 miles, runs north- south  and ends at a hill. Adams bridge is  30 miles,   runs east-west and does not end in a hill..

T. Paramasiva Iyer, observed that In the Ramayana, Lanka was surrounded by sea, Rama built a bridge which was 100 yojanas long and ran due north and south from the foot of Mahendragiri in the north to Suvelagiri (a hill adjoining Trikuta) on whose slopes Rama marshalled his vanara hosts.

According to Iyer’s calculations, 100 yojanas would either mean eleven and a half miles or 450 miles. The existing bridge is neither. Moreover, there is no hill in Rameshwaram or anywhere near Mandapam. There is no hill in Mannar Island and none in the northern halfof Sri Lanka.Therefore, it is obvious that Sri Lanka has nothing to do with Ravana’s Lanka. Further, If Ravana was dragging Sita, Lanka could not have been as far away as Sri Lanka. It has to be  nearby. If at all,  the  Ram Setu of the Ramayana was more likely located in a small stretch of water in Central India and not in the Palk Strait. 

For India’s geography to match the Ramayana, particularly the ‘hundred yojana sea’, the Ramayana era must have been in the period when there was such a lake near the Vindhya mountains. Fossil finds indicate that there was a big lake or sea in the Narmada valley. The lake has black basalt. Mahendra Parvata was north of the Bagra hill and almost at the edge of the Narmada lake.  However, the phrase “hundred yojana sea”   only meant ‘large ‘ said one analyst. ( continued)

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