On the accuracy of religious myth

I came across this refreshing defence of myths as stories in an article on mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik’s site. Even an immortal story can use a good defence every now and then.
I have often been asked if the war at Kurukshetra actually took place a few thousand years ago. History is real. Is the Mahabharata a document of facts? Historical? Real? I say: no. No, it is not real. It is not historical.

To call Mahabharata a story based on historical war is to strip it of its magic, its power, its sheer magnificence. To make Mahabharata historical is to confine it to one period of history. If one does that, it holds little relevance in modern times. To be relevant, it cannot be confined to one period in history. It must be a-historical, timeless, free of geographical and historical moorings, independent of space and time. To me, that is what Mahabharata is.

To me Mahabharata is a symbolic narration that reflects the thoughts and feelings, concerns and commentaries of the Indian people over centuries. That is why it is an epic. That is why it is sacred. It continues to enchant and enthrall us just as it enchanted and enthralled audiences a hundred years go. Through the story of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, it discusses the nature of human society.
via The Clothes of Draupadi | Devdutt.

To see people debating over the accuracy of the Ramayan and the Mahabharat is not a problem in itself — it is good sport and keeps us on our toes. But it becomes worrisome when it is assumed that the validity of an entire epic depends on its historical accuracy.

Hinduism, to use a machine phrase, is a religion with plenty of redundancy built in. That is to say that its value as a way of life will not suffer even one bit even if all events in the Ramayan and the Mahabharat are proved to be fantasies. India has survived as a civilisation by focusing on the reality behind these stories, not just the events that demonstrate them.