Studying Epics as Archives

T.C.A. Achintya
Department of History, Delhi University, Delhi, Email:

Vol. 1, No. 2, 2016 I Full Text PDF

Received July 01, 2016; Revised October 19, 2016; Accepted October 21, 2016; Published October 23, 2016


Epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata have been the focus of historical and literary research for many decades. Academic discourse however has tended to focus more on the physical evidence and the historicity of the literature. My paper outlines a slightly different method of analysis. The paper argues that looking at this Literature as a form of archive or a quasi-archive, and analysing the material contained within as it is, or by comparing across versions and variants, without attempting to get bogged down by questions of historicity of the specific events might open up interesting avenues of Historical Research. While this paper broadly looks at three methods of analysis, namely: locating historical narratives, comparing variations in the study cultures, and analysing differences within the text, it also encourages us to examine the vast body of Epic Literature through other approaches of textual and literary interpretation for the purposes of Historical Research.

Keywords: Archives, Epics, Historiography, Literature, Mahabharata, Ramayana.