Christopher C. Doyle is an author who transports the reader into a fascinating world where ancient secrets buried in legends blend with science and history to create a gripping story. His debut novel The Mahabharata Secret was released on 21 October 2013 by Om Books.
Here is the full text (Edited version) of his TEDx Talk titled “Unanswered – Mysteries from the Mahabharata” at TEDxYouth@NMS conference.
So I’ve been called a “tail spinner,” a “wordsmith,” in the promotions for this TED talk, but I’m not spinning any tails today.
I’m going to be presenting before you facts based in science and history, and I’m going to leave you to take a call for yourselves on what this all means.
We all know this gentleman as Alexander the Great. Everyone is familiar with him. But did you know that there is absolutely no archaeological evidence to prove that Alexander the Great existed? That’s not in history books.
Everything we know about this man comes from the writings by three historians who lived between 150 and 400 years after Alexander died: Strabo, Arrian and Plutarch.
But Alexander is not mythology; he is history.
So, I’m going to explore some unanswered questions from the Mahabharata which I’ve been researching now for about 12 years. And I’m not going to give you answers, but I’m going to give you some thoughts which I hope will challenge you to be curious about what could be and what is.
DID THE MAHABHARATA ACTUALLY HAPPEN?
Here’s the first question: Did the Mahabharata actually happen? The events in the Mahabharata which is not just the Kurukshetra war – that’s just 8,800 shlokas (verses) out of the one lakh shlokas in the Mahabharata – but did all the events described there, did it happen? It’s a very common question.
The fantastic weapons we hear about in the Mahabharata, did they actually exist? And if they did, how did these people, over 5,000 years ago, have that kind of science and technology?
And then, the question that led me on my journey, as a fiction writer: Are there scientific explanations for some of the things we read about in the Mahabharata?
This is a big one which I’m actually currently researching: Were there giants in the time of the Mahabharata? We hear about the Devas and the Asuras and the Rakshasas, these enormous beings of gigantic stature .Were they real?
Let’s explore this, but I’m going to start by taking you on a tour of the world. We’re going to talk about some unexplained mysteries from across the world and then come back to the Mahabharata.
And I’m going to start with Egypt. The Great Pyramid is one of the most famous monuments in the world. It is 457 feet high as it stands today, the equivalent size of a 45-storey building. We are told by history books that it was built in about 2550 BC by a pharaoh called Khufu, as a tomb for himself.
Now when the Great Pyramid was built, it was locked. And this is its original entrance which was only discovered maybe about 50 or 60 years ago. It was concealed, hidden away by the wall of rock which you can see is scattered around the entrance today.
So, no one could enter the pyramid after it was built. It was closed and sealed.
In 800 AD, the governor of Cairo, a gentleman called Mohammed Al Mamum, he decided he wanted to go inside. Why? Because he believed if a pharaoh was great enough to build a 45-storey tomb for himself, he must have a lot of treasures inside.
So, Al Mamun and his men tunneled into the Great Pyramid using what is today called “the robbers entrance.” Tourists enter the Great Pyramid today using this entrance.
But to his great shock and disappointment, when they reached inside, they found absolutely nothing. The walls were bare, no inscriptions. Unlike all the Egyptians tombs he would discover, there were no inscriptions on the walls. There was no mummy and there was no treasure. He must have been a very sad man.
Now, this — the lower hole is the robbers’ entrance; the upper one is the original entrance; so you can see what I’m talking about, a close-up of these.
What is also very interesting about the Great Pyramid is the maze of passages and tunnels inside. And you can see that if this was built as a tomb, they’d have had a one heck of a time carrying the Pharaoh’s body up these passages because none of them are on a straight line. They are all at crazy angles.
Let’s look at some of the angles. Look at the Grand Gallery. Now this has a ramp today which you can see at the base of the photograph. This ramp enables us to climb it, but when it was explored about 150 years ago, there was no ramp, and you can see how difficult it is to walk by yourself, forget about carrying a corpse with you.
Most of these tunnels I’ve showed you, the network of tunnels, most of them are about 2.5 to 3 feet in height, like this one over here, and this one over here, which means you have to crawl on your hands and knees to get through them – not a great job if you’re carrying a Pharaoh’s mummy around.
So the question really is: why? Why was this 45-storey building built 5,000 years ago locked away with all these passages, three chambers, and interestingly, tunnels from the King’s Chamber that opened up to the sky, like this? This is where it opens up in the north face of the pyramid.
And from the Queen’s Chamber, there are two tunnels which were explored about 15 years ago. And this is a National Geographic capture where you can see the tunnels are blocked. So why build them? Unanswered.
There are lots of speculation, but I’m not into speculation today.
The Sphinx is another great — it’s a fabulous mystery. So we are told that the Sphinx was built by the Pharaoh Khafre who was Khufu’s son, and therefore built about 2500 BC. And for a very long time, this was accepted history.
You can see how big the Sphinx is by looking at the size of the human beings next to it. This is just the shoulder, the neck and the head of the Sphinx. It’s an enormous structure.
Here’s another shot which shows you the size of the Sphinx. Now, in the 1990s, a professor of geology at Boston University, Dr Robert Schoch, came along in the scene and asked the Egyptologists a very interesting question. He said, “How do you know that the Sphinx was built in 2500 BC?”