From being called the “disease of language” (Max Müller) to being referred to as “Myth=Mithya” (Devdutt Pattanaik), mythology has always been a very misunderstood term.
The word mythology is derived from Greek “mythos”, which has a range of meanings from “word,” through “saying” and “story,” to “fiction”. It is said that it originally meant “speech” or “discourse” but later its meaning became more synonymous with “fable” or “legend”.
Today the definition of mythology which is accepted almost everywhere (Wikipedia, Oxford dictionary, Britannica) has 2 aspects which are as follows:
2) a body or collection of myths
Now let’s de-construct the meaning of the term ‘myth’.
The problem is the ambiguous definition and understanding of this term. Just like mythology, myth too has 2 ‘schools of thought’ attached to its meaning. These are:
1) a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature
2) any invented story, idea, or concept; an imaginary or fictitious thing or person; an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution
Because of these misconceptions the general perception about myth and mythology is the second definition of both of these i.e. myths are ‘imaginary’, ‘have no reality associated with them’, mythologies are ‘mere stories with no rationale and logic behind’ so on and so forth.
Of course the stories and legends we hear or read today are very different from the ‘original’ texts. Still the way forward is not completely discarding such things, but to get the ‘facts’ as correct as possible and analyse them with no haste.
Another aspect associated with mythologies( which we will closely get entangled with in the future) is its close association with religion. This relation is beautifully put into words by one of the leading mythologists of his time, Joseph Campbell in his often repeated quote which is as follows:
“Mythology may, in a real sense, be defined as other people’s religion. And religion may, in a sense, be understood as popular misunderstanding of mythology. ”
The objective of this endeavour of ours is to first put together enough ‘existing’ content about mythology on one platform and as we grow and touch more and more aspects along the way become an eco-system where healthy discussions and analysis of various dimensions of mythologies takes place. We are progressing in this direction by first covering Hindu mythology (is this usage correct? More on this in our later posts).
To conclude this post let’s go through the philosophy on which our mission is based and which is beautifully captured in the Bhagavad Gita.
Karmany evadhikaras te
–you have the power to act only
ma phalesu kadachana
–you do not have the power to influence the result
–therefore you must act without the anticipation of the result
ma te sango ‘stv akarmani
–without succumbing to inaction…
P.S – Next post onwards we unravel the legends behind the ‘Festival of Light’