There have always been the questions regarding the two most popular epics of Sanatan Dharma, on grounds of reality. Should they be considered mythology, or history, and most importantly how should they be taught to the coming generation? This will be our quest today. On our quest to seek the truth behind the epics, we must remember that we shall consider only peer-reviewed evidences and data findings. Firm belief, faith and mass delusion are not evidences.
We must note an important point that both the epics are older than all Puranas, including the Vishnu Purana, which implies that the idea of Rama and Krishna being the 7th and 8th reincarnations of Vishnu respectively came later on. To look for evidence of epics that contain instances like a person watching the entire Kurukshetra War, while being only a head (Barbarika), and Krishna covering the sun with his Chakra, and Ravana having ten heads, and elixir in his navel, and several other illogical supernatural elements is nothing short of insanity. So why are we doing it?
These epics were sung by people, passed on for many generations, centuries before written down. This was the reason for their survival to modern times while most work in Sanskrit before 6th Century BCE perished. If we do believe that Valmiki and Vedvyas wrote the verses, he knew the only way to make it survive the test of time, is to make people sing it. People have always sung praises in song about great kings, and associated mythical stories with them, for example, Chandragupta Vikramaditya.
Therefore what we read today, could perhaps be, a completely modified unintended version of the original story that could have happened. People have always made great leaders equivalent to gods. People like to worship. They want to worship. From Rajnikant to PM Narendra Modi, we can see it even today. Maybe Rama and Krishna could very well be great human beings, brilliant strategists and administrators. Since we know that Valmiki Ramayan and Mahabharat have been compiled and recompiled over generations, the original events changed into a fantasy medieval war epic. All it needs more, is perhaps a dragon.
We must begin by defining mythology and history. Mythology is a collection of myths—a collection of wildly accepted false ideas. History is the study of past events, with evidences. To have the two epics considered as history, as true past events, we need evidence. First we should know the history of the historical studies in India.
History started being taught when the British opened schools, before which, we had history taught in Vedic Hindu schools, which taught the epics as history but not the Vedas or the Puranas which were clearly taught as religious books. When the British historians and archeologists came to India, like Major General John Malcolm, Captain Grant Duff, Lt. R.F. Burton etc, they saw our history through Christian lenses, overlooking key evidences to suggest their claim. They wanted to do what they did in their colonies of America and Africa—deleted the existing culture, language, knowledge, history and mythology, and replaced it with theirs. They succeeded in their aim, for what we have been studying as history, is wrong, according to recent archeological and genetic proofs.
To justify my allegations on the British, I hereby provide evidence of their intended wish, at the hands of the famous Indologist Max Muller, who, in a letter dated 16th December, 1868 to the Secretary of State of India, Duke of Argyll, wrote: “India has been conquered before, but India must be and can be conquered again and that second conquest should be a conquest by education.”  Max Muller has been honoured to be an extraordinary philosopher. He was also an examiner for the Indian Civil Service examination back then. Teaching of falsified history made his ‘second conquest’ successful.
 ‘The Life and Letter of F. Max Muller, edited by Mrs. Max Muller, 1902.
Several of the British historians claimed that there was nothing of significance in India before the invasion of Alexander the great who brought civilization with them. With the excavations of Harappa Mohenjodaro into the picture, an urban civilization with a drainage system, homes with bedrooms and kitchens, public baths, and the evidence of worship of Lord Shiva came into being, demolishing all that the Christian historians claimed. They named it the Indus Valley Civilization and very later put it in the same time period as the Sumerian Mesopotamian Civilization, as they had to fit in a damaging hypothesis of Aryan Invasion into the narrative. This was eventually classified as one of the five “First Civilizations” of the world, which was unwillingly dated 5 thousand years ago. That’s 3 thousand years before the birth of Christ, which messed up their entire Biblical chronology. The worst thing was, the Christians firmly held the idea that the world was 6000 years old. It was a popular notion, which started when a peculiar priest calculated the age using the data from the Bible. Now, establishing another culture, that too developed and urban, with planned cities, with a religion of its own at 3000 BCE, didn’t sit well with most historians, but post science-historians could not challenge the evidences.
As evidence of Hindu religion into play, we had irrefutable evidence in the form of several seals of Indian gods, including Lord Shiva excavated from Mohenjodaro. To devalue the Indian history, the British scholars brought into account, a superficial hypothesis of a supposed invasion by Central Asian Indo-European nomadic tribes who brought down the Indus Valley Civilization and pushed back the Dravidians to the South—the Aryan Invasion. This hypothesis was backed by little proof: Max Muller was a staunch Christian, who had faith in the Biblical chronology, according to which the flood was placed somewhere around 2300 BCE , which puts Exodus somewhere around 1450 BCE. This made it very difficult to get the Aryans to India before 1500 BCE. So he predicted an invasion around 1300 to 100 BCE, which turned out to be laughably wrong, as we have archeological evidences of most rulers since 700 BCE, including Chandragupta Maurya.
He claimed that the Vedas could have been written 200 years before Buddha but that also turns out to be a purposeful overlook at the contradicting evidences, such as the Sanskrit of that era mismatches to the Vedas, the society depicted in the Vedas also mismatches, as the caste system had become rigid, according to birth, and not by profession by then.  We know this because Maurya was not Kshatriya and was not supposed to be a king.
So, it means Vedas had been written much before, and to let the narrative of Aryan Invasion in play, they had to reluctantly put Indus Valley at 3 thousand BC.
The claim of Aryan Invasion being carried out through horses and chariots, with iron spears, which the Indus Valley lacked is also debunked with the recent excavations showed spokes in a chariot wheel. Also, chariots are suitable for flat lands, not for crossing deserts, mountains and river which the claimed nomadic invaders would have to go through. Indian thinkers including Lokmanya Tilak, Sri Aurobindo, Dayanand Saraswati rejected this European theory.
THERE NEVER WAS AN ARYAN INVASION!
 History has been taught to us just as our colonial masters wanted, far from truth. Both CBSE and ICSE educational boards toe this British era concept which has the flimsiest evidence and a lot of contradictions as stated above, and are very reluctant to see otherwise. The Indus Valley Civilization is actually 8000-9000 years old, as recent excavations at Bhirrana and radiocarbon (C14) dating has shown. It contradicts several other evidences and works of historians which put Indus valley 5000 years ago. The study was published in Nature’s Scientific Journals in 2016, which provided evidence of climate change (lack of monsoon and possible drying of the river Saraswati), as the reason for the end of Indus Valley, and the migration of people westward to Northern and Central India.  Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), New Delhi conducted a vast genetically study which was published in the Journal of Genetics, which showed that the Kashmiri Pandits and Kashmiri Muslims are of very similar genetic makeup, which was astonishingly similar to the Dravidians, indicating there never was an Aryan Invasion in a Dravidian land. 
 “Gods, Sages and Kings: Vedic Secrets of Ancient Civilization” by Professor David Frawley
We know that the people in Indus Valley possibly didn’t speak or write in Sanskrit and that the Indus Valley flourished 8000 years ago, there is sufficient time for Sanskrit to have been originally developed right here, in this land, and then the writing of the Vedas which followed with the writing of the epics, and then the Puranas. Since we have established that Indus Valley happened 8000 years ago (which was purposely downgraded, with evidences overlooked by the Christian historians to fit their narrative), we can now look at the probable dates provided in the epics as well as the archeological evidences. However, the astrological dates provided in the epics cannot be taken as sufficient evidence for their existence.
Still, I will point out the astronomical data provided. To adjust in the British History of India, and the Later Vedic Age period claimed by them which was started around 900 BCE, Mahabharata and Ramayana were supposedly written around 800 BCE, 200 years before Ashoka, which is taught in schools right now (which is what I studied in ICSE 6th Grade). Since the British deemed the entirety of the epics fictional, the idea of checking astronomical accuracy in a fictional book to find out when the story is set, seems ridiculous. But when in fact done correctly, in the era of modern technology, accurate astronomical programs like Planetarium have become available and it is possible to construct the sky map of any day and time in the past. This has given birth to an entire science, called Archaeoastronomy, which is used by many historians and archeologists worldwide to get a sharper range of years of historical events. Ramesh Panchwagh, has done a beautiful astronomical work in providing the exact solar year and day according to the Gregorian calendar. His article on the reason based, atheism promoting site, Patheos is very popular and even had Prof. Vartak change his stance. 
The date, which he puts, is 3126 BCE, that is 5143 years ago, and the date of the state of the war is November 6th. Even the minor mentions of astronomical events unfolding during the death of Bhishma is astonishingly correct. Prof. P. V. Vartak, however had given the year as 5156 BCE, 2 thousand years before Ramesh Panchwagh’s provided dates. The arrival of Kalyug, was said to be when seven celestial bodies aligned, which is also surprisingly correct and falls around 3100 BCE. This date clashes with the British acceptance of Indian History because according to them, during 3126 BCE, the non Sanskrit speaking Indus Valley Civilization here.
Since all of astronomical event cannot be coincidentally written correct, this would logically mean:
1. The writer(s) had the skills and abilities of astronomy to the extent of predicting two eclipses, dates and time correctly 2000 years into the past, considering that the fictional Mahabharata was written just 3000 years ago as British historians claim. This is just outright ridiculous.
2. Or, the Mahabharata and Ramayana were written down very soon after the actual astronomical happenings mentioned in the epics, as predicting the movement of celestial bodies a few years into the past is probable, but that would also mean that astrology was sufficiently developed that far back (5000 years ago), so was Sanskrit as well as the Vedas will have to have been written much before that, and even the Varna System had also become rigid, unlike the Early Vedic Civilization. This idea is also quite far fetched.
Since the current understanding of Harappa Mohenjodaro is of an urban well developed civilization around 8000 years ago (much before the age of Earth in Biblical mythology), we could establish a date of a story of Later Vedic age society set 3000 years after it. However, correct set of dates and correct set of location names cannot be considered as evidences. Every now and then a little evidence is found, and a new explanation ensues, but unless sufficient evidence is available, one can never be certain of the happenings mentioned in the epics were true to words or not.
One interesting concept that comes into mind during this discussion is the absolute correctness of location names mentioned in both the epics. Let us, for a moment consider the British version of history, stating the “fictional” epics were written around 2800 years ago. It would either mean that:
1. Whoever the writers were, they knew India like the back of their hand.
2. Or were least travelers.
3. Or people generally knew that much well about places when the epics were being written. This is highly unlikely.
The story of exile of Ram in Ramayana provided with so many exact names of smaller kingdoms who otherwise would never be heard elsewhere. More than thirty-four sites in India have yielded enough archaeological evidence to be identified as ancient sites described in the Mahabharata. Copper and iron utensils, seals with pictures, gold & silver ornaments, terracotta figurines and painted grey ware pottery have been found in these sites. Scientific dating of these found artifacts corresponds to the non-aryan-invasion model of Indian history. Many of the places that Ram travels through is mostly forest, Many of these location names matched correctly with Jain and Buddhist texts that survived from the 6th century BCE, owing to which the historians inferred that the epics could have been written a couple of centuries prior. This tells us that there was extraordinary communication between the kingdoms, and people knew about places as South as Lanka, to as far north as Dronagiri Mountains. The Congress led Uttarakhand government even established a search team with an initial budget of 25 crore rupees to look for Sanjeevani herb in the mountains back in August 2016. 
Now, we know that the astronomical events of 3 thousand BCE have been correctly mentioned and that the location names have been correctly mentioned, we need to find archeological data to support the idea of the epics happening, like we have the Ashoka Pillars built by King Ashoka, which stands 2600 years after him. Here, it is the lost city of Dwarka.
Dwarka was an ancient city on the coast of Gujarat overlooking the Gulf of Khambhat, and has been regularly mentioned in various ancient books. However, in modern times, a city of such description could nowhere be found (there is a different one), until recently. National Institute of Ocean Technology was conducting a study on paleo River channels in Gulf of Khambhat, when they discovered unusual square and rectangular features in sea bed through Sonar. In 2001, Murli Manohar Joshi, the then Human Resource and Technology Development minister, announced that an ancient city ruins off the coast of Gujarat was found. Joshi said in the announcement that the ancient city, 20m off the present coast, consists of intersecting roads, houses and rectangular St tuft including a public bath. He represented the found settlement to outdate Harappan civilization, and provides the date to be around 7500 BC, which greatly coincide with the date estimated of the fresh excavations in Haryana.  The acoustic Sonar revealed a 40×40 m structure with steps leading down to a tank, and a 97 m by 24 m citadel. 
But, it was not the first time we had found something there. Architectural Survey of India had conducted excavations in 1963 and 1979 and found pottery shards very dissimilar to that of Harappa, providing an argument against the ruins to be a part of the existing Harappa civilization. There have been various controversies regarding the manner in which this research was conducted, and how it was not peer reviewed. A piece of wood excavated from the site was carbon dated to be 7500 BCE, which even though a very flimsy evidence to support the age of the city, it still remains a valuable artifact. 
 www.frontline.in/navigation/… (Frontline is corelated with The Hindu)
Underwater archeology is expensive. The artifacts have been dated from 3000 years to 9000 years ago, which is such a wide range that nothing conclusive could be said about the lost city of Dwarka. However, the excavations have mysteriously stopped. It could be for a numerous reasons, including the funds starved ASI not interested in finding out sites related to Hindu beliefs as many a times the conclusions are as such that might shaken the belief system of many, or it might even enforce the belief system. Selfish interests of the following UPA government who would never want an enforced Hindutva belief, could perhaps be the reason why the entire project was mysteriously shut down. Maybe Dwarka could have had some evidence that Krishna ruled there, these many years ago, as a great administrator, nothing more, whose songs we sing today after millennials.
The evidences of Ramayana and Mahabharata happening are flimsy, however the stories being inspired by more realistic gritty reality cannot be ruled out. The description of everything, from 5000 year old astronomical events to locations, in the verses, is so accurate, that cannot seem to be fiction. A war between cousins for the throne of Hastinapur, with the kings of various Indian kingdoms aligning on either sides, about which people chanted verses for centuries effort finally being written down and compiled, cannot be ruled out, just for the sake of it containing supernatural and religious elements.
So what should the forthcoming generation be taught? Ramayana and Mahabharata as theology, or history?
My money would be, to make it a part of history, just like 6th Grade ICSE books have, as a representation of the society of that time period, but sadly we don’t know the exact time period either, and it is sure that it’s not just 2900 years ago, which is where the ICSE textbooks become contradictory, to accommodate the Aryan Invasion hypothesis.
Beyond theology and history, both of these epics are respected globally for providing beautiful philosophy and morality, with complex characters. When in moral doubt, the Bhagavad Gita, answers to many, setting them on the path of good karma.