×
  • 72
  • Share
Home >> Across Cultures  >> On stories we tell
 
Stories

On stories we tell

Animals don’t tell stories. Plants don’t tell stories. Rocks don’t tell stories. They don’t need to. They know who they are in the food chain and the pecking order of their pack, or herd, or hive.

Humans tell stories, because we need to. They tell us who we are in this world by giving the world a structure. Stories transform us into heroes, villains, victims, and martyrs. Without stories, we have no identity; we are just animals with imagination. Neuroscientists and psychologists around the world are finally appreciating the value of storytelling in human lives.

Ancient Indian sages were called rishis, those who saw what others did not see. They had discovered the value of stories a long time ago. The word for story, katha, and epic narrative, ka-avya, is rooted in ka, the first alphabet of Sanskrit, which is also the root of all interrogative words, in Sanskrit, as well as in Hindi today: kab (when), kahan (where), kyon (why), kaun (who). In Veda, Ka is one of the earliest name of God.

Ka-tha and ka-avya means stories and poems that enable humans to answer the questions about their existence and purpose. They are maps of the human mind. Mahabharata and Ramayana were kathas and ka-avyas, composed by Vyasa, the sage who compiled and classified the Vedic mantras into chapters (mandalas), who passed it on to bards or sutas.

Mythology is study of subjective truth revealed through stories; it tells us what people believe to be true and what people believe is indifferent to rationality.


Mythology is study of subjective truth revealed through stories; it tells us what people believe to be true and what people believe is indifferent to rationality. History is the study of objective truth that is revealed by, and restricted to, factual undisputed data. Mythology is more psychological while history is more social.

In Indian thought, mythology has always been valued over history, until the British came along and frowned on this practice. Since the scientific revolution, much value has been placed on history over mythology. But after the World Wars that put an end to European colonialism and imperialism, the world over people are realising that value of subjectivity and its prevalence under the veneer created by rational philosophies and rationalised arguments.

Science and rationality cannot explain colonial and imperial ambitions of Europe. It was fuelled by stories: the belief that European traders and industrialists were ‘saviours’ of the ‘savages’, a belief that is still prevalent amongst missionaries of modern Western thought, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. It is this story that made many Western journalists very angry that the ‘savage’ Indian gets to the planet Mars so effectively and efficiently. Should Indians not tackle poverty and corruption first and leave scientific and technological development to the White saviours, they have argued.

Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.

Comments

Most pop­u­lar in Across Cultures
Most pop­u­lar across Soulveda




SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER


INTERESTED IN
WELLBEING
ACROSS CULTURES
MYSTICISM
CONVERSATIONS
LONG STORY SHORT
HAPPINESS
PILGRIM’S PAGES
SEEKER’S SOLACE
BOOKS