Dr. Sonali Gupta -The Anthropological Archaeology of Mahābhārata the Present Past in the W. Himalaya
Dr. Gupta began her lecture by saying that in the lecture she will primarily focus on the idea of Myth and how when we look at it from the given western lens, the translations of the epic is only an interpretation lacking the true perspective. But with the growth of India we had more scholars and researchers who are now looking at the epic from the closer quarters and adding the much needed dimension of Indian-ness and belongingness to the text, heritage and people.
Dr. Gupta then began her presentation by addressing some key questions such as What is a myth? Why is a myth important? How do you scrutinize a myth? She said that these questions are important since the problem of defining a myth always arises. In order to define it she said that there are various definitions of Myth. Some among the few she mentioned are “Myth is primarily concerned with gods and God’s relations with mortals” it is also “a story of a tradition or a legend” it is also defined as “a notion to explain universal, local beings and also involve supernatural beings”. Dr. Gupta explained the origin of the term Myth from the term Mythos which means tale or a story. She then explained that for her a myth is a codifying of something that has happened with a lot of here-say elements. She says that to look at the Mahābhārata it becomes important to look at this here-say elements plays a role as an evidence and these are of utmost importance for the researchers of archaeology.
Moving on further Dr. Gupta then explained two important terms Saga or Legends and Folktales. She then explained to the audience the role of Myth in psychology where she talked about psychologists such as Frued and Jung. Then she spoke about Myth and Society, Myth and Ritual and Myth and Social Character. She also spoke about the role of television and performances of the Mahābhārata which brought it more close to us and thus explained
Dr. Gupta then began to speak about the Painted Grey Ware Culture and mentioned various sites like Raja Karan Ka Tila, Asthipura, Bhor Saidan, Bhagpura and Daulatpura. She then mentioned the archaeology of Hastinapura in order to explain the move from Myth to Reality. Dr. Gupta here mentioned various archaeological sites and remains which proved the reality of the civilizations and the events of the great epic of Mahābhārata.
Dr. Gupta said that the Painted Grey Ware Culture and the Iron age is really important when we talk about the Mahābhārata from an archaeological lens. Here she mentioned various facts and proofs which explains the layers of the relations between the story and the facts one gets from the archaeological excavations. Dr. Gupta then mentioned many stories and livid traditions and cultures from the Himalayas especially the Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Here she mentioned the historical relevance of the Kullu valley, various socio-economic evidences, intangible cultural heritage, ritual plays, creation myths, temples, culture (shamanism), peoples, and so on.
Towards the end of the lecture she mentioned some more archaeological evidence, places, remains and excavations which gave us a deep understanding of the history and story of the Mahābhārata.