Despite the sharp criticism from various quarters for claiming that the arrows of Arjuna in the epic Mahabharata had atomic power, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar Wednesday refused to budge from his stand and asked his critics to delve into Indian history and culture.
Dhankhar said he sincerely believed that India was the world leader 4000 years ago, the time which is believed to be portrayed in the epic.
He has been castigated by academicians for his comments and joins a long list of politicians who have in recent years given bizarre interpretations linking mythology to science.
"Sir try to read Indian history, Indian culture. I can join issues with anyone. It is so easy to say it is unscientific. We have given to the world which the world never had. I believe in my speech, I believe in my background of science. Our country has a rich culture which is over 4000/5000 years old," he told reporters at the sidelines of a programme here on Wednesday.
Dhankhar said he respects the views of his critics but has the right to disagree. "Some people may take Lord Ram to be a mythological figure, but I don't".
Speaking at the 45th Eastern India Science Fair and 19th Science and Engineering Fair, Dhankhar had on Tuesday claimed that flying objects existed during the time of Ramayana.
"It is said that the plane was invented in 1910 or 1911. But if we delve into our scriptures, we will see in the Ramayana that we had the 'uran khatola' (aircraft)," he said.
"Sanjaya narrated the entire war of Mahabharata (to the Dhritarashtra) not from the TV. The arrows of Arjuna in Mahabharata had atomic power in it," Dhankhar said, asserting that the world can no longer afford to ignore India.
In the Mahabharata, Sanjaya had narrated the fierce war fought between the Kauravas and the Pandavas at Kurukshetra to Dhritarashtra, the blind Kaurava King, though he was away from the battlefield.
Dhankhar, who has been in the news for frequent face offs with the Mamata Banerjee government ever since he assumed office in July last year, joins politicians such as Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma in giving odd interpretations to mythology.
While Deb had claimed that the internet existed during the time of Mahabharata, Sharma had suggested that Sita in the Ramayana was a test tube baby.
Recently, Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi was trolled online for sharing a doctored video that claimed "NASA recorded sound of sun -- Sun chants Om".
Dhankhar's comment drew sharp reactions from both the ruling TMC and opposition CPI(M) which termed it as "insane and laughable".
"Such comments are not only insane but also laughable.
According to the Constitution there are both fundamental rights and fundamental duties. One of our fundamental duties is to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. So the comments by a person holding constitutional office is against the Constitution," TMC leader and MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said.
Senior CPI(M) leader Tanmoy Bhattacharya said BJP is trying to take the country "back to the middle ages".
"They want to take back the country to the middle ages. This statement is not an isolated one, but a calculated move towards that objective," he added.
Indologist Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri when asked said governors appointed by the BJP-led government at the Centre behave "as if they are know-alls".
"They fail to understand one thing - that great writers have very strong powers of imagination," Bhaduri said.
Scientist Sandip Chakraborty said such comments only hurt scientific progress in India at the global forum.
"The ancient writers described all these things based on their imagination. It is true that India had made a lot of progress during the ancient period, but such comments only damage the progress made by our scientific community (in modern times)," he said.
Nuclear physicist and Padma Bhusan awardee Bikash Sinha said he is afraid that such statements can have a negative impact on the society.