Friday, 17 May 2013


If one were to interpret the Valmiki Ramayana with a modern technological frame of reference, much new information unfolds which reveals why Ramayana is the epic that it is. Rather than accept its popular 'Ramcharitramanas' based interpretation which was written only as recently as 1532 AD and where many new additions were made to the story (for example the 'Laxmanrekha' episode, which does not exist in Valmiki Ramayana), a re-look at Valmiki Ramayana through the present day lens is an eye-opener.

On this page, we limit ourselves to the geography of the area north of India mentioned in the Ramayana. Four 'vanara'* brigades are commissioned to be sent out in four different directions for the search of Sita, the wife of Sri Rama (who ruled India from the city of Ayodhya), after she is abducted by Ravana, the king of the mighty Lanka kingdom. 

At a point in time when it is not yet established where Sita was being held captive, the search party headed from Jambhudwipa (India) towards the North is given a route-map by Sugreev, the 'vanara' leader, which would lead the 'vanaras' right across the mountains of China, the plateau of Mongolia, Lake Baikaal of Siberia and then the path along the Angara River northwards to the Kara Sea of the Arctic Ocean where the search is to end. That the 'vanaras' are instructed to travel right up to the Arctic Ocean is established  by studying the entire route path that Valmiki mentions and especially because of the fact that he describes the 'Northern Lights' or 'Aurora Borealis' of Siberia and the Arctic Ocean.

The search begins and three mountain peaks of the Himalayas are mentioned, the Kala, Sudarshana and the Devasakha. Across these peaks, Sugreev informs the 'vanaras', is a vast expanse of barren plain land, crossing which they shall see Mt. Kailash.

The vast expanse of land are the plains of Tibet, and the location of Mt. Kailash is geographically correct. There are two 'Kailash' peaks in Tibet in today's maps, but a quick search on Google Maps by looking up 'Kailash, Burang, Ngari, China', will pop up the right Mt. Kailash. Those who are familiar with Mt. Kailash will recognize the peak and will be able to identify the grooves which are cut horizontally across (popularly referred to as the 'jata' of Lord Shiva). An oblong reservoir (or the 'yoni') just below the peak, and Lake Mansarover (Mapam Yumco) down at level ground below are also easily identifiable. A look on the zoomed satellite image of the Mt, Kailash at Ngari, Tibet will revel some unique well known features of Mt. Kailash.

Sugreeva then mentions the mansion of Kubera built on Mt. Kailasha constructed by the celestial architect Vishwakarma. Researchers from Russia and 'Ancient Alien Theorists' have already put forth the view that Kailash is no ordinary peak, that it may have been an ancient nuclear energy generation plant, as were many ancient pyramids of the world. Russian scientists have argued that there may have been a complex of about 100 pyramids, used for power generation in the Himalayan mountains. For details on this topic check out related web-sites by clicking here and here

Beyond this point interpreters of Ramayana from the medieval times, an era when the common person  did not have the technological and geographical frame of reference we have today, seem to be at sea in interpreting the information that Rishi Valmiki gives.

Sugreev instructs the 'vanaras' to move ahead. He gives them three more mountain peak landmarks. He mentions Mt. Krauncha with a highly impassable tunnel. Like Shiva is said  to have brought down the Ganges on to earth (plains of India) from the  heavens (Himalayas), his son or his 'junior' Skanda is credited with having chiseled a tunnel through Mt. Krauncha.

One of the best known ancient tunnels in China is the Guolinag Tunnel in the Taihang Mountains. Up until 1972 only an ancient path chiseled through the rocks of this mountain linked the villages in the area to the outside world.

Here are a couple of images of the ancient path of Guolinag, which was improved in 1972, not by the government, but once again by the locals. It took them five years to complete the task.

The Krauncha of Ramayana could be one of the peaks in the Taihang Range which indicates that the ancient tunnel in there may be the one mentioned in Ramayana. 

The path that Valmiki chalks out is clear. From Kailash (in the Himalayas) to Krauncha (in the Taihang Range), he says there are many other mountain peaks - namely the 'treeless' Mt. Kaama and the 'abode of birds',Mt. Maanasa, - that the 'vanaras' will see. Sugreev instructs them to scour these mountains thoroughly for Sita. These are  the mountains of the Qinling Range which falls between the Himalayas and the Taihang Mountains as the 'vanaras' move in the north-east direction from Kailash. (See Map below). The two highest peaks, and therefore most visible, in this chain are the Tuanjie and the Taibai. It is possible that the Ramayana was referring to these two (Kaama and Maanasa).

Then Sugreev mentions another peak called Mt. Mainaaka, which is identified by 'a massive mansion built by demon architect by the name Maya'. Just as the 'Ram-Setu' of Ramayana (also called Adam's Bridge) lies exactly in the spot mentioned in the Ramayana, and the Gympie Pyramid of Queensland (Australia) referred in Ramayana as 'a peak like structure built by the celestial architect Vishwakarma', the 'Mansion of Maya' may also be another pre-historical megalithic structure built by unknown 'celestials', this time in China. The maximum number of ancient pyramids of China, whose existence until recently was completely denied, lie in the Shaanxi Province. The largest one of them, the Xi'an is only 184 Km from the Taibai peak, well on the path of the 'Vanaras' mentioned in the Ramayana. So could the so called Mt. Mainakaa be one of the ancient Pyramids of the Shaanxi province of China? Quite possible. For more details on Pyramids of China, click here.

In the verses that follow, Sugreev mentions the next landmark - he says that after crossing over a vast  province, the 'vanaras' would arrive at a large lake by the name 'Vaikhana". Travelling North of China, crossing the Mongolian province or plateau, one would arrive at the eastern tip of Lake Baikal in Siberia. Many scholars have identified 'Vaikhana' as the 'Baikaal' lake of Siberia. Many facts support why this might be true:

1. What the Ramayana says ahead is that at the other (Western) end of Lake Vaikhana, is a river by the name Shailoda, and if the 'vanaras' were to follow its path northward, across many miles 'they would reach the Northern Ocean'. This is indeed true. Shailoda has been identified as the present day Angara. River 'Angara' flows from the western tip of lake Baikaal and after many miles falls into the Kara Sea of North Arctic Ocean. (Like their ancient names 'Vaikhana' and 'Shailoda' mentioned in the Ramayana, their present names 'Baikal' and 'Angara' too are of Sanskrit origin. Click here for more details).

2. The name Kara itself is interesting. Ancient Indian texts refer to Siberia as Uttara-Kuru. 'Uttara' means 'North', 'Kuru' is the name of the Indian tribe that had traveled north. 'Kara', the name of the Sea into which the Angara River falls, could be a distortion of the ancient Sanskrit name 'Kuru'. But it is possible that the 'Kara' Sea gets its name from the 'Kara' river which falls into it. 'Kara' here therefore may refer to the  Sanskrit 'krishna' 
(कृष्ण) or 'kala' (काल) meaning 'black. The Kara Sea in the North Arctic Ocean should not be confused with 'Back Sea' which is located in eastern Europe and is connected to the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea and to the Atlantic Ocean.

3. Sugreev also advises the 'vanaaras' to cross Lake Baikaal with the help of the 'keechaka' (Bamboo) that grows there. This has reference to the 'Siberian Bamboo Grass' which was used by the locals to cross the lakes and water odies in this region For more on the subject click here.

Siberian bamboo Grass or the 'Keechaka' mentioned in Ramayana

4. Finally, Valmiki mentions the 'Northern Lights' which Sugreev tells the 'vanaras' will become visible as they move northwards from Lake Vaikhana. 
The Siberian Zone in Green where the Northen Lights are visible

In Section 43, Verse 36 of Kishkinda Kand, Valmiki says, "Going beyond that expanse of water, you will come upon a sky, which even when devoid of the stars or the moon or the sun is illuminated by rays, as if there is light emitting from the self-luminous, god-like sages who repose there". Valmiki equates the light of 'Aurora Borealis' to the 'light that emits from sages who have attained 'siddhi'.

Northern Lights, Siberia
The last landmark mentioned in Uttara-Kuru is Mt. Soma. Mt. Soma has to be one of the peaks of the Urals. The highest peak in the Urals is the 'Narodnaya' - which in the local language means 'Mountain of the People'. In Sanskrit too the word has the same meaning- 'nara' means 'people' or 'human' and 'udaya' means 'elevation'.

Many rivers and mountains of Siberia have surprisingly close Sanskrit names, including Mt. Mana-Raga, River Kama, Lake Kulind and many many more.
* 'Vanara' translates as 'monkey' but from the descriptions in Valmiki Ramayana they were 'trained commandos'. The Ramayana describes the 'vanaras' as acclaimed for undertaking impossible deeds, renowned for their confrontation skills, and noteworthy in their manoeuvers. They dwelt in the mountains and were known to travel on earth, on water and fly through the sky.

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