Relation and Relevance of Myth in the Modern Time

The Sun of modern era has lightened the fields of science and technology and now it is on its zenith. Each day showers new inventions and materialistic pleasures into the well of   life; still man is not free from dissatisfaction in life. The stress, insecurity, social, economic and spiritual haphazard are the biggest burning issues in front of mankind of 21st century. The journey of mankind from cave to cafe has been explored and nurtured by Arts, which is the only ray for the solutions of all these problems. Literature, as being a unique art, plays a vital role in the formation of an ideal modern and civilised society, with primary aim to give aesthetic pleasure to its readers. Though we are living in Modern and Post – Modern period of time, with its peculiar qualities, we have not forgotten the glorious past of ours. Literature has tool like Myth to reveal realities of life, life experiences, morals, ethics, rituals, crafts, knowledge, wisdom, rules, loopholes and culture of concern society. For the science of medicine, it has been said that, it grew out of black magic. The horned witch doctor was the forerunner of our physicians and surgeons. In the same way art, religion and philosophy have origin in myths or mythology. The relation of mankind with Myth is as old as mankind. This world is full of diversities, difference in cultures, religions, geographical areas and societies then also each culture has their own myths. The common thread myth is connected with cultures of whole world. Man is curious by nature and seeks causes of effects. To us moderns, science has been able to give satisfactory explanations for the immediate cause of phenomena, although the ultimate cause, to be sure, remains an enigma even to the most erudite. For the solution purpose literary figures are always attracted toward myths. Enlightenment, all told, has not kept pace with scientific progress, and modern man retains most of the traits and tendencies of his primitive ancestor. As humanity grew, the collection of stories about spirits, good and bad, were enriched by legends of heroes who fought for the tribe and vanquished their enemies, and of sages who, by invention or legislation, advanced the cause of the tribe. These legends increased in number and variety and, in course of time, passed into mythology. Myths may include features of sagas, legends, and folktales. What makes one of these tales a myth is its serious purpose and its importance to the culture. Experts usually define a myth as a story that has compelling drama and deals with basic elements and assumptions of a culture. Myths explain, for example, how the world began; how humans and animals came into being; how certain customs, gestures, or forms of human activity originated; and how the divine and human worlds interact. Many myths take place at a time before the world, as human beings know it came into being. Because myth making often involves gods, other supernatural beings, and processes beyond human understanding, some scholars have viewed it as a dimension of religion.

The word is derived from Greek word ‘mythos’ and Latin word ‘mythus’. It means any traditional or supernatural story. It is a term having complex meaning. According to M. H. Abrams, “in classical Greek, “mythos” signified any story or plot, whether true or invented”. Myth has a great significance in modern – post-modern literature and major genres of literature are developing with its help. Myth bridges two generations and passes virtues, morals, ethics, traditions, explanation of social and religious rituals and through all these, bridges one generation to another. Myth enables to continue the knowledge tradition in Indian culture as our national literature is as vast as ocean, modern poets and writers do not need to go outside for row material. Part of imagination in myth helps to put subject matter in light manner and so myth itself or any literary work containing myth becomes entertaining.

Modern Gujarati playwrights, poets, novelists and short- story writers have vividly used myths in their works. For example, Chinu Modi has utilised myths of Mahabharat, Indian Traditional and Folk stories in his dramas like, Bhashmasur, Jalaka, Kalparivartan, Naishadhrai, Ashvamedh etc. In the same way established poet, dramatist, Sitanshu Yashashchandra and Satish Vyas have painted myths in beautiful manner. Giants of Gujarati literature, Kanaiyalal Munasi and Harindra Dave have proved the relation and relevance of Myth in present era. For example, Madhav Kyay Nathi Madhuvanma by Harindra Dave delicately speaks of one ancient myth and still it is fresh in the era of technology and sciences. Chandrakant Baxi, one of the most literate and intellectual writer of Gujarati literature has found relevance of myth after a great research in history and literary ocean wrote, Jatakkatha. Ela Aarab Mehta’s ‘Radha’, ‘Ahalya’, Pinakin Dave’s ‘Vishvajit’, Jayant Gadit’s ‘Karna’, ‘Shikhandi’, Kanaiyalal Munashi’s ‘Krushnavatar’ etc. are the enough examples to prove the title.

In the same way we find hundreds of masterpieces in Indian Writing in English, which have taken myth as a major or supportive theme. Dramatists like Asif Karimbhoy, Mahesh Dattani, Girish Karnad have made mythological characters alive in our time, with new interpretations and references. For example plays of Karnad like, “Yayati”, “Hayavadan”, “Naga – Mandal”, “Fire and the Rain”, “Bali: the Sacrifice” and “Tale Danda” bridges two generations. It peeps into the myths for the solutions of today’s problems. The mythical Dimensions have been checked in these plays. Girish Karnad and Chinu Modi have used religious and traditional myths and tried to revive them for the betterment of new generations. The modern writers have found the relevance of myth in modern era and come out with new interpretations and found myth as a remedy.

Literature of any language cannot be understood and appreciated without knowledge of mythology. English literature is no exception in this. The reference and context lies in various ancient and popular myths of various cultures. For example, Byron calls Rome “the Niobe of nations,” or says of Venice, “She looks a Sea-Cybele fresh from ocean,” he calls up to the mind of one familiar with our subject, illustrations more vivid and striking than the pencil could furnish, but which are lost to the reader ignorant of mythology. Celebrated poet, Milton abounds in similar allusions, the short poem “Comus” contains more than thirty such and the ode “On the Morning of the Nativity” half as many. Through “Paradise Lost” they are scattered abundantly. This is one reason why Milton is limited to the elite class of readers. The citations, taken from various Gujarati, Indian English and British poets, dramatists and authors, will show how general has been the practice of borrowing illustrations from mythology.

Today, myth need not be a blatant tale of some fictitious character belonging to fictitious past; however, it can be a memory of the past, told in a fictitious way. A myth is a legend of natural up growth embodying the conviction of people as to their gods or other divine personages, their own origin and early history and the heroes connected with it, the origin of the world, etc. (corresponding to Hindu story as given in Purana.) It is the record of the experience of multitudes and generations of people. The myth expresses a general truth, acceptable to all. Myth is a story of legend handed down from olden times containing the early ballads of a race, especially explanation of natural events, such as seasons. To describe the sun as the Sun God driving the chariot driven by seven horses and clouds his pathway is a myth. To say that the Moon-God come down to earth in the form of a cock with Lord Indra to seduce Ahalya, the wife of Saint Gautam is a myth. Therefore, myth is a literary form, which contains a secondary meaning deeper than is evident from its surface.

Myths are deep rooted in the psyche of the whole society and they are created to serve some function or to explain the mysterious natural phenomenon. The divine myths explaining the natural divine powers are the reflections of human thoughts and superstitions. Myths were the symbolic presentation of primitive man’s instinct that his work-a-way world was interpenetrated with a super-rational or extra-rational activity. They were fabulous fictions, which revealed psychic facts. Modern anthology sees all religion, art springing, and growing from this primitive root of symbolic transformation. By his symbol-making instinct man’s knowledge and experience of outer and inner world were projected into direct sensuous embodiment, giving them life and outline and meaning.

The most extreme of the rationalist interpreters was to be Max Muller who suggested that myth was a disease of language, an abnormality of the human mind caused by an inability to express abstract ideas except by metaphor.

After studying numerous works of established writers and poets as well of critics, one can definitely claim that Max Muller has given a biased view on myth. The argument of Muller does not have any logic. Actually myth helps humankind to find out the solutions of their problems through life experiences and wisdom included in it. Myth provides logic behind rituals, social systems, customs and traditions. It is a brief history of any particular culture presented in artistic way. Myths may include features of sagas, legends, and folktales. What makes one of these tales a myth is its serious purpose and its importance to the culture. Experts usually define a myth as a story that has compelling drama and deals with basic elements and assumptions of a culture. Myths explain, for example, how the world began; how humans and animals came into being; how certain customs, gestures, or forms of human activity originated; and how the divine and human worlds interact. Many myths take place at a time before the world, as human beings know it came into being. Because myth making often involves gods, other supernatural beings, and processes beyond human understanding, some scholars have viewed it as a dimension of religion.

Myth has always had a very significant position in human psychology and society from its beginnings as primitive religious narrative to its recent adaptation as an aid in the exploration of the unconscious mind. The term Myth has often suffered from a wrong connotation. In general, discourse it stands for something false, fictitious and far removed from reality and history. However, the psychoanalytical approaches to criticism have made it possible to evaluate the concept of myth afresh. Some of the owl critics argue about the authenticity of myth. But the logical view is that, if one does not find authenticity than also if myth is teaching or sharing some valuables than there should not be any problem to accept.

Modern critics and research scholars can go into the virgin part of myth, that is, symbolic interpretation of it. Myth might be telling some universal truth or life experience through symbols and imaginative characters, so reader can digest it in a light manner.

Thus, this article wants to add a drop of serious thinking in the vast ocean of myth. It has relation and relevance in modern time and the examples have been discussed above to prove this argument right. Still some more research is needed in this area with a broader perspective.


References:

  1. Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch’s Mythology Project Gutenberg eBook, 10th Edition.
  2. Cotterell, Arthur. Encyclopaedia of World Mythology(ed.), London: Colour Library Direct Ltd., 1999
  3. Parekh, Dhvanil. Natakman Myth Parshva Publication, Ahmadabad, India. 1stEd. 2007
  4. Vaja,Iros. Myths in Girish Karnad’s Plays Paradise Publishers, Jaipur, India. 1st2010

Arjun G. Dave, Research Scholar, Dept. of English & CLS, Saurashtra University, Rajkot. 360005 Contact no. – 9723476251 E Mail – arjundave34529@gmail.com 

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