Sukanya Agashe’s attempt to definitively locate Lanka and to establish a physical geography for the Sanskrit Ramayana covers an astonishing amount of ground, literally and metaphorically. Her documentary research is meticulous and wide ranging, her physical journeys and empirical investigations equally so. As a result, Romila Thapar can say in her blurb to the book, ‘Sukanya Agashe’s approach introduces new ideas into the debate and some of her suggestions are valuable in moving the debate forward and making us think afresh.’
To my mind, there are two debates here: one about the actual physical locations, for example, is Valmiki’s Lanka the geographical island of Ceylon or is it a mountain surrounded by water in a region on the mainland, in a place that we now call Jharkhand? Is Kishkindha the area that surrounds modern-day Hampi or is it a place further north? For some reason, these questions have engaged scholars for centuries in much the same way that hundreds of thousands of grey cells have been spent locating the battlefields of Homer’s epics.