THE recent story of NASA discovering a “mysterious 1.75 million year ancient bridge” is now clearly exposed as a deliberate fraud by Hindu fundamentalists. It was initially propagated by Vaishnava News Network an ISKON web site and was promptly hailed as a scientific proof of Ramayana by Hindutva internet sites. Not much notice would have been taken of such claims, which are after all periodic in the Hindutva sites, if PTI and television channels had not picked up the story. Finally, the fraud was exposed: NASA clarified that its pictures were neither mysterious nor new. These pictures, taken from space borne cameras of the 30 kms long sandbanks, have been around for more than six years and most certainly NASA did not certify them as man-made.
Before we examine this case of the Hanuman Bridge of Ramayana and the NASA pictures, we need to delve into the mindset of the Hindu fundamentalists who are currently attempting to use science in their claims of scriptural correctness. This mindset believes that there is a deep-seated “western” conspiracy to deny Hindus the rightful place as the most ancient civilisation. The "proof" of this conspiracy is that there are a few “western” men – David Frawley (initiated name Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) and Michel Cremo (initiated name Drutakarma Dasa) -- who are themselves saying that there is a “western” conspiracy to deny Hindus their rightful place. Interestingly, in the eyes of Hindu fundamentalists, who are puffed up with pride of their ancient past, no Indian really counts. Only the white man, proclaiming the antiquity of Hindu civilisation is to be taken seriously. All Indians who do not agree with such white men, are followers of Marx and Macauly and are part of this “western” and leftist conspiracy.
The Ramayana controversy has all these elements. Old NASA photographs that have been put in the public domain recently were used for this deliberate fraud. The so-called Hanuman Bridge are sandbanks that extend from the island of Manaar, near the NW coast of Sri Lanka to the island of Rameswaram. Some of these are dry and no part of it has depth greater than 3 or 4 feet at high water, except for three navigational channels. Some of these efforts for deepening and widening channels were begun as long back as 1838. That NASA’s pictures should show underwater sand bars connecting Sri Lanka and India is therefore not surprising: that such structures exist is known from geologists to the humble fisher folk of the area. We do not need NASA to tell us what is visible to the naked eye.
NASA has debunked that it had identified the structure as man-made. It is difficult for a space agency from kilometres out in space taking photographs to identify a structure as man-made. As if this absurdity is not enough, the original news report also talked about NASA not only declaring the structure as man-made but also precisely dating this to be 1.75 million years of age. And to cap it all, NASA was even supposed to have declared human habitation in Sri Lanka to date approximately to this time. All of this from outer space! In the eyes of Hindu fundamentalists, NASA scientists must seem really super human: they can do from outer space what their own archaeologists such as B B Lal cannot do on the ground.
FOR THE EXERCISE
The need for such fraudulent exercise comes from the Hindu fundamentalists need to manufacture evidence for the Ramayana. Like all fundamentalists, they are not happy unless the epic is proved to be true in every detail. If Rama was in the treta yuga, this must then be an event that took place 1.2 to 2.4 million years back the supposed age of this yuga. We give below the supposed age of the various yugas as per the scriptures.
1. Sat Yuga – 1,728,000 years
2.Treta Yuga – 1,296,000 years
3. Dwapara Yuga - 864,000 years
4. Kali Yuga - 432,000 years
The problem with the age of the yugas is that it then suggests that human beings were around from Sat Yuga and therefore for millions of years. Yet the fossil record is very clear. The Homo sapiens have been around for about 150,000 to 180,000 years. Homo erectus emigrated out of Africa about 750,000 years back and even the hand axe had not been discovered 1.7 million years ago, the supposed time of occurrence of Ramayana.
The need of fundamentalists all over the world is similar: all of them find evolution supported by the fossil record runs counter to what is written in the scriptures. In the case of the Christian fundamentalists, the age of all living beings cannot be older than 6,000 years and of course God created the first man and woman. The Muslim fundamentalists also support the Adam and Eve myth and therefore deny evolution. The Hindu fundamentalist dates are different from that of the other fundamentalists: They consider humankind to be around for at least 3-4 million years. All of them therefore share the need to demolish the scientific evidence of the fossil records and human evolution.
The creationists in the USA have been trying for the last hundred years to stop the teaching of evolution in schools. Failing this, their attempt has been to give equal time to creationism as another theory on par with the theory of evolution. The battle between Christian fundamentalist creationism and scientists in the USA has been a long drawn out one. The famous Scopes monkey trial in early 20th century where a biology teacher was charged with blasphemy for teaching evolution is by no means over. Kansas and Ohio, amongst others, have been trying to get another “theory” called “Intelligent Design” (God as the Intelligent Designer) as a counter to the theory of evolution.
It is the same debate that is now reaching India. Just as the fundamentalists there tried to get various parts of scriptures enter the schools, the fundamentalists here have attacked the school curriculum. The Ramayana epic and its historicity is obviously a major issue. After the Ramjanmabhoomi “movement”, it is necessary to focus Ramayana as more than just an epic, which may or may not have historical basis. The method here is also similar: the Ramajanmabhoomi – as per the VHP – is a matter of faith and not of proof. Similarly, the chronology of Ramayana must also be a matter of faith. If science is an obstacle to such claims, then science must be demolished. And if it can be done using science itself, then so much the better.
It is this method that Michael Cremo uses to try and establish that Hindu scriptures are fully accurate in their chronology. This comes up against the current fossil and record of human evolution. There is not only the fossil record, but also the record of human development: their tools. All this has to be dismissed, for Hindu fundamentalists to push back the date of human evolution and for the Christians to push it up. Interestingly, both have borrowed extensively from each other in their attempted demolition of science. For example, Dr Dennis Bonnette at the University of Niagra, authored a creationist book titled "Origin of the Human Species": the paleo-anthropology chapter was based on and drawn from "Forbidden Archaeology" of Michael Cremo.
Who is Michael Cremo, who is the most likely originator of the current NASA hoax? He is a member of the Bhaktivedanta Institute that has been set up by ISKON. His objective is to fuse religion (Hindu religion) and science to produce a new type of consciousness. However, if we read his writings, it is clear that his use of science is pre-determined. He already knows what he has set out to prove and only looks for “evidence”, however outrageous it may be, to prove his case. Thus, oddly shaped stones found in any gravel bed become ancient stone tools. Argon and radio carbon dating is attacked: the list is tiresome and long. With this method we can prove that humans came from outer space – remember von Deniken and Chariot of the Gods – or any other conclusion we want to come to. Once we know what we have to prove, we can always find the “evidence”. And if such evidence is not available, a willing Rajaram will be quite happy to manufacture one. After all a small matter of missing horses was not going to stop the Rajaram (his collaborator and co-author is David Frawley) and his ilk from discovering one in Harappan seals and claiming the Harappan civilisation as Vedic!
Interestingly enough, the American converts to Hinduism are immediately considered exalted. Frawley, who by his own admission is close to VHP and has met with the senior RSS leaders gets all the RSS luminaries in attendance when he visits and “lectures” here. For the information of the readers, David Frawley runs an Institute called American Institute of Vedic Studies and provides astrological consultations and runs correspondence courses on astrology. Similarly, Michael Cremo is equally exalted. He has met with Murli Manohar Joshi to discuss the Drwarka marine archaeology attempt to date an alleged sunken ancient city off the Gujarat coast. This is in spite of having no expertise in archaeology of any variety.
The scientific community in India is not aware of the kind of attack that the Hindu fundamentalists are planning on the entire educational system. The current changes in the NCERT textbooks are only symptomatic of this mindset. The aim here is to subvert the method of science and substitute instead with belief in myth and prejudice. It is this mindset that proclaimed that sun revolved around the earth and punished Galileo. It is the same mindset that suggests that the scriptures must be correct and science wrong if human beings as we know them today have arisen only 150,000 -180,000 years back. And it is the same belief in scriptures that leads a Giriraj Kishore to claim that the life of a cow is much more important than the life of five dalits. And unless the scientists are willing to join the fight against this distortion of education, and knowledge we are likely to lose the battle for a better future.