New Delhi, Feb 7 (IANS) In times when Lord Ram has ceased to be just God, author Devdutt Pattanaik, who has to his credit around 50 books on mythology stresses that for him, he symbolizes the eternal soul and someone who believes in taking everyone along.
“It cannot get more inclusive than Him. Let us not forget that he is the Maryada Purshottam. For him, dharma is paramount. As a king, he always follows the path of righteousness, no matter what the consequences,” the author says.
Talk to him about the fact that in these highly polarised times, when anyone talking about mythology and the richness of Indian culture can be branded right-wing, Patnaik tells IANS, “Honestly, Right thinks I am Left, and vice versa. What needs to be understood is that we do not need such binaries in a country like India. After all, Shiva is on the right and Shakti sits on the left. They have to be together. This divide is foolish. The king must take everyone together. Left means goddess, right is god. The sad part is that some people try to contain me in political ideologies without even reading my books or listening to lectures. Anyways, everyone is free to brand me anything — just buy my books.”
Even as the cloud of homogeneity looms supreme when it comes to mythology and culture, Pattanaik opines that whoever claims to have arrived at the ‘truth’ is lying.
“We all are trying to get to the ‘truth’. It will always be an eternal journey. Hindu religion has multiple layers, and everyone interprets its different facets in his/her way — which lends richness. I have always said, it is not important to seek out the original as everything is interpretation,” says the author who was at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF)-2024 to talk about his latest book ‘Bahubali: 63 Insights Into Jainism’ (HarperCollins India).
Pattanaik feels that there is an intense focus on Hindu mythology and little interest in understanding others like Jainism and Buddhism.
In recent times, when several historians have pointed out the tendency to paint mythology as history, the writer, a doctor by education, says, “Well, what can you do if someone is determined not to be convinced? History is about the past while mythology lives in the past, present and future. History is about events, and mythologies are about ideas. While the former deals with facts, the latter is about conviction. And the medium is interesting stories… But again, not much can be done when some people just cannot differentiate no matter how much you guide them. And I also believe that no society can exist without myths.”
Pattanaik believes that religion is important to make us feel secure. “Humans are essentially an insecure lot, and religion tends to give them a certain strength. It is important to remember in this context that even atheists have a religion — in the form of ideology, for example, the Marxists. The key point is that religion must make you shant, it is not supposed to have a dopamine effect.”
For someone who has also been involved with television and OTT, he feels that most channels are just looking for TRPs.
“So many times, they ask me for more ‘drama’. But then I know what Valmiki has written, how do I bring in elements that result in more eyeballs? Well, they aim to please Laxmi while I seek Saraswati,” he concludes.