Scholars speak out against 'Ramayana Trail'

Scholars in Sri Lanka voiced their criticism of the country’s tourism campaign to promote a ‘Ramayana Trail’, aimed at Hindu pilgrims to visit sites in Sri Lanka associated with the Ramayana epic. The Ramayana is an Indian epic about the life of Rama and whose influence in traditional Southeast Asian art forms endure to today. Archaeologists and historians both question the authenticity of the sites on the “Ramayana Trail” and the melding of legend with fact.

Timely Masterpiece
photo credit: lensbug.chandru

‘Ramayana trail’ draws heavy flak
Asian Tribune, 20 November 2009

Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA)’s promotion of the ‘Ramayana trail’ package came in for heavy criticism at a Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka (RASSL) meeting at Colombo recently.

The issue was whether it was advisable to promote a fiction for the sake of marketing Sri Lanka. The participants at the meeting did not rule out possible negative consequences of this promotional campaign in the long term.

In 2008 the Sri Lanka Government appointed a sub-committee to work out a Buddhist Pilgrim Travel Trail programme covering the SAARC region. The objective was to promote two-way pilgrim traffic – between Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries.

However during the same year the SLTDA came up with the idea of wooing Indian Hindus to visit what they believe are sacred sites associated with the Rama-Seetha legend. Last month the Tourism Ministry introduced the ‘Ramayana trail’ tourism package covering sites associated with the epic poem Ramayana.

To the intelligent observer the Tourism Authorities moving from the Buddhist Travel Trail programme to the Ramayana Trail seems to be a case of descending from the sublime to the ridiculous in relation to hard archaeological facts.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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