Friday, December 28, 2012

Dating Mahabharata - Two Eclipses in Thirteen Days

by Dr. S. Balakrishna
Abstract
Mahabharata war is considered by many to be a historical event. The epic states that a singularly ominous pair of eclipses occurred in  - Thirteen days - some time before the war. Using modern astronomical software, our article shows that a number of Thirteen day eclipse pairs were visible in Kurukshethra. Article suggests some candidate dates for Mahabharatawar. 

Introduction
Mahabharata WarMahabharata is a great epic, and is one of the pillars of present day Hinduism. The Mahabharatastory and its moral ethos have had profound influence on millions over many generations.Mahabharata war is said to have occurred before the transition ofDwapara Yuga to Kali Yuga. Dating the Mahabharata war and start of Kaliyuga has been elusive and going on for many centuries.

Aryabhata, is a famous early astronomer with contributions to science, whose estimate of p, and the time of moon revolution around the earth are so accurate, that his works are being extensively researched. Aryabhata(476-550 AD) stated that Kaliyuga started 3600 years before, when he was 23 years old, making the start as 3102 BC [Aryabhateeya ref-1]). It would date Mahabharata war to around circa 3130-3140 BCJ.

Surya Siddhanta [Ref 2], a document evolved from roughly same period, states that sun was 54 degrees away from vernal equinox when Kaliyuga started on a new moon day, corresponding to February 17/18, 3102 BCJ, at Ujjain (75deg47minE 23deg 15min N).
Varaha Mihira (circa 560 AD), another famous astronomer, stated that 2526 years before start of Saka count (either Shalivahana saka starting in 79 AD orVikrama Saka starting in 57 BC) [Brihat Samhita Ref-3].

When Saptarishis (ursa major) was near Magha
 Yudhistira was king 2526 years before Sakatime

Presently, traditional Sanatana Dharma followers consider that Kaliyuga started at 3102 BCJ, when Sri Krishna passed away, and that Mahabharata war occurred in 3138 BCJ. Millennium year 2000 AD is Kali 5102.

Like Homer's Iliad, another epic poetry from Greece, different scholars have expressed opinions varying between the story of Mahabharata being either total fiction or true record of historical facts. It took efforts by Schliemann and others to show physical archeological evidence of existence of Troy in present day Turkey, and Homer's poems having historical relevance.

Bharata has been continuously and relatively densely lived in for thousands of years and in Northern Bharata the archeological evidence is difficult to come by because of many 100's of generations of people living in same area. Hence, it is usual to look for Puranic and Vedic(written and oral recitation) astronomical evidence to substantiate the time periods. As is true of all such documents like bible stories, Scandinavian, Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian and other documented local folklore, the historical truths are likely to be anywhere between absolute truth to vivid imagination. An objective analysis can help in determining the likelihood of folklore being a historical fact or not. 


Mahabharata
Mahabharata epic story was written by, Vedavyaasa (or Krishna Dwaipaayana) after theMahabharata war. Vyaasa is also credited with codifying the existing branches of Vedas. It is perhaps the longest poem of its kind of such antiquity. The presently known oldest version ofMahabharata, based on its style, grammar and other features was probably written down before the Gupta period. This Mahabharata text does not refer to any Zodiac's or Raashis (a western concept probably accommodated in to Jyotishya some time during 300BC to 200AD). The linguistic style of the oldest version of Mahabharata clearly cannot be the basis for determining if and when the events of Mahabharata occurred. It probably may have been rewritten/re-rendered many times as the mode of transference was by oral traditions as in the case of Vedic chandasprosody. The known oldest version has nearly 90,000 to 100,000 poems dominantly with 32 syllables Anushtup chandas, in 18 chapters called Parva's [ref-4 and 5].
The Bhishma Parva and Udyoga Parva(specific chapters of Mahabharata) provide considerable astronomical/astrological descriptions and omens as the Mahabharatawar was approaching. It describes a period of draught, with many planetary positions. Then there is this clear reference to pair of eclipses occurring on 13th day as shown below.

Fourteenth day, Fifteenth day and in past sixteenth day, but I have never known the Amavasya(New Moon day) to occur on the thirteenth day. Lunar eclipse followed by solar eclipse on thirteenth day is in a single lunar month etc...

This reference to Thirteen day eclipse pair appears to be a unique astronomical observation. 


Mahabharata
 text also refers to retrograde motions of planets prior to war and provides their location with reference to 27/28 Vedic star locations. Mahabharata Drona Parva also refers toJayadhratha's killing during a dark episode on 13th day of the war, which some consider as another short solar eclipse.

This document is basically concerned with analysis of all eclipses visible at Kurukshethra(Location where Mahabharata war took place, north of New Delhi, Longitude 76 deg 49 min East, Latitude 29 deg 59 Min North) from 3300 BC to about Buddha-Mahavira-Parshvanaathatime of about 700BC. Analysis of the time between successive eclipses, specifically time between end of one and beginning of other has been made, with a view to look at astronomical feasibility of back-to-back eclipses in 13 days, using modern astronomical computer software.

Another major issue of how did observers of the period define and determine period between eclipses when no clocks existed, has been addressed.


Eclipses
Lunar eclipse occurs when Earth's shadow falls on the Moon. There are about 150 lunar eclipses per century. Lunar eclipses can occur only at full moon, and can be either total or partial. Further they can be umbral and or penumbral. Total lunar eclipses can last up to 2 hours, while partial lunar eclipses can last up to 4 hours. Any observer on dark face of earth can see when lunar eclipse when it occurs. During period 3500BC to 700 BC, nearly 4350 lunar eclipses have probably occurred. A good fraction of these would have been visible inKurukshethra [ref-6].

Solar Eclipse occurs when Moon's shadow falls on earth observer. About 240 solar eclipses occur every century. During period 3500BC to 700 BC, nearly 6960 Solar Eclipses have occurred. Solar can occur only at new moon. Solar eclipses may be total or annular. Total solar eclipses can last up to about 8 minutes, and partial solar eclipses can last up to 115minutes. The shadow of moon has a limited size of few thousand miles falling on nearly 8000-mile diameter earth. Hence, solar eclipses can be seen only in a limited range of longitude-latitude where the shadow falls. Elsewhere, even though sun is visible, eclipse will not be seen.

Eclipse evaluating computational software and its validation in present context
Astronomical calculations have been greatly improved since past 30 years, particularly with considerable amount of trajectory work conducted in Moon and other scientific projects. High accuracy computer models and software have been developed. These are validated against databases from US Naval Observatory's Interactive computer Ephemeris, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. One such code is LodeStar Pro copy righted by Wayne C Annala in 1994 [Ref- 7]. The Lodestar Pro was checked for historical eclipses of 1000-2500 BC from clay tablet records of Mesopotamia area presently available with British Museum. Wayne Mitchell has analyzed this data [Ref-8]. Lodestar Pro provided excellent match with ref-8.


Eclipses at Kurukshethra
During the period of our interest, 3500BC to 700 BC, nearly 4350 Lunar Eclipses and 6960 solar eclipses have occurred on earth. Of these nearly 673 solar and lunar eclipses occurred in pairs of time gap of about nominal 15 days corresponding to roughly half lunar month. We need to search amongst these 673 for eclipse pairs visible in Kurukshethra, which occurred in 'Thirteen' days.

A very detailed scan of all the visible lunar and solar eclipses for every year from 3300BC to 700 BC was made on the Lodestar software for Kurukshethra location. These are tabulated and plotted. Maximum eclipse time gap (end of one eclipse and beginning of next eclipse for naked eye observers) was found to be about 379 hours while the minimum was about 332 hours. A plot of time gap between back-to-back eclipses versus eclipse pair number is shown below. (This time corresponds to maximum to maximum - not end of one to beginning of next as in the future table).
The plot shows that during the period 3300BC to 700 BC, (Julian year corresponds to zero at 4712 BC- an imaginary date- Our range corresponds to 1412 Julian year to 4012 Julian Year) nearly 672 pairs of eclipses occurred on earth, which in principle may have been visible atKurukshethra. Amongst these, nearly 32 pairs would be occurring for period less than 14 days. Many of these were found to be weak penumbral eclipses of moon, and solar eclipses had such low obscurity as to raise the issue whether any body could see them. Six pairs of 'thirteen day' eclipses could be seen unambiguously.  
Definition of Day and issue of timing determination

It is easy for us, in present time, to precisely analyze the eclipse times based on a 24 hour per day time clock. However many thousand years ago, such a time evaluation would clearly be irrelevant. Hence the count of the day and time had to be based on clear, natural and unambiguous events such as sunset to sunset or sunrise to sun rise. Hence in all the analyses, presented below, the time of relevant sun rise or sun set is indicated such that the eclipse beginning and end can be evaluated with reference to the sun rise or sun set. In modern day definition, the period from sunrise to next sunrise is never 24 hours except on equinox day. On all other days, the time will be either less than 24 hours (when day light time is shrinking) and more than 24 hours (when day light time is increasing). For people of ancient times, sunset-to-sunset or sunrise-to-sunrise would be the logical definition of a day. Using this definition, it is possible to determine whether an eclipse pair occurred in 'Thirteen days'.

Kurukshethra eclipses and some planetary retrograde motions

The table below shows six pairs of eclipses, which can be analyzed further to determine whether Mahabharata war and events could occur then.
Six eclipse pairs visible at Kurukshethra occurring in less than or near 14 days
Events in red not visible due to sun rise (Lunar) or sun set (Solar)
Year BC Eclipse Julian day Initial con Max End Sunrise Sunset end/start date
Year BC
EclipseJulian
Day
Initial
Con
Max
End
Sunrise
Sunset
End/Strt Dt
3129SolarAug 1118:53:4819:48:0420:38:5419:2213d20h20m
3129LunarAug 2516:58:5018:21:3619:44:2119:17
2529SolarJul 1103:50:5304:36:2705:24:3605:1213d20h8m
2529LunarJun 2703:29:5405:13:4506:57:3605:07
2056SolarNov 2516:50:1917:52:2418:48:0217:3813d21h40m
2056LunarDec 0916:27:4718:12:5519:58:0517:32
1853SolarDec 3015:47:2817:00:0218:03:3817:2913d22h14m
1853LunarJan 1316:17:5617:24:1618:30:3717:36
1708SolarMar 2704:55:1405:47:2806:44:1506:3713d20h18m
1708LunarApr 1003:02:3604:46:3606:30:5506:19
1397SolarJul 0419:00:3419:36:5420:11:3419:2113d21h30m
1397LunarJul 1817:41:3819:34:0021:26:3019:23
Location of Kurukshethra 76 deg 49 min East, 29 deg 59 min North
After serious analysis of all the eclipses, six eclipse pairs from 3129 BCJ, 2599 BCJ, 2056 BCJ, 1853 BCJ, 1708 BCJ and 1397 BCJ clearly are the best candidates for Mahabharata war year from 'thirteen day' eclipse pairs view point. There are others that have low obscurity for solar eclipse, or have dominant penumbral lunar eclipse content and hence do not constitute strong candidates for the Mahabharata war.

One typical eclipse pair of the six is illustrated using Lodestar Pro views of the relevant sunset/sunrise periods. The light/day transition is clearly shown in all the eclipse, which would form the only method of determining that the eclipses occurred in less than fourteen days, which has to be called thirteen-day eclipses. Planets Sani (Saturn) and Brihaspati (Jupiter),Shukra (Venus) in retrograde motion are illustrated for period around the eclipse pairs.
Solar-Lunar eclipse pair from Julian year 3129 BC
Fourteen days later at same time
Let us now look at how any observer can study these eclipses and conclude that the pair occurred in 'Thirteen days'. The figures above show the pictures of day/night sky for a pair of Solar-Lunar eclipses, end of lunar eclipse being only 13 days and 20 hours before start of a solar eclipse. On Julian August 11 afternoon, a solar eclipse begins 20 minuets before sunset and it is still on going at sunset. Fourteen days later (On Julian August 25) in the evening at sunset a lunar eclipse is already occurring. It clearly suggests that eclipse started on the 13th day after the previous eclipse! Obviously the end of lunar and start of solar eclipses were less than 14 days period, or occurred in 13 days. This could be concluded without the benefit of modern clocks.

The dates of this eclipse pair are Julian 3129 and Julian month of August. In ancient Bharata, since the full moon occurred on Proshtapada, the month would be considered as Bhadrapada. Normally, this is the monsoon rainy season in North India. However, there are many occasions when monsoon fails. The epic states that draught like conditions existed. Even during normal monsoon the sky is occasionally clear for the eclipses to have been witnessed.

The two planets Jupiter, and Saturn are in motion (vakri) and these do occur during 3129 JBC as illustrated below. Motion of Angaraka or Mars is normal.
Items in red show retrograde or Vakri motion
Graha (Planet)3129BCJMahabharata text
Brihaspati (Jupiter)U.Ashada/ShravanaShravana-Vishakha
Sani (Saturn)RevatiShravana-Vishakha
Angaraka (Mars)U.Ashada/ShravanaMagha
Shukra (Venus)U PhalguniPoorva Phalguni
Ravi (Sun Solar)U PhalguniRohini
The location of the planets at the time of eclipse pair is shown in table above. Clearly, only Brihaspati, and Shukra are the only planets near locations indicated in the Mahabharata text. This date of 3129 BCJ is a serious candidate date for consideration of Mahabharata war. 

Analysis of the Eclipse tables

The first and oldest eclipse pair from 3129 BC is unique. Aryabhata estimated thatKaliyuga started in 3102 BC. So does Surya Siddhanta. These fit the Puranicdescription that Sri Krishna passed away in 3102 BCJ, which is 27 years after the war. Our study confirms that Kaliyuga could have started in 3102 BCJ.

The second date 2559 BCJ is also unique in that Varaha Mihira stated that 2526 before start of SakaYudhishtira was the ruling king. If it Saka was Vikrama it would make Yudhistira as king in 2583 BCJ, which is before Mahabharata War.Yudhistira was also king for a short time before war, before he lost it in a game of dice to Sakuni/Duryodhana. This date is also an excellent candidate forMahabharata war. There is another event that occurs in 2559 BC. While the eclipse pair occurred in lunar month Shravana, there is another short solar eclipse inPushya. On 13th day of Mahabharata war, it is said that Jayadhratha was killed when Sri Krishna covered the sun for a short time just before the sunset. This event could be looked upon as a solar eclipse. A study of year 2559 shows that another solar eclipse did occur in Pushya lunar month (Julian Dec 06, 2559) some 40 days before the winter solstice (Uttara ayana).

The third candidate is eclipse pair from 2056 BCJ. It occurs in Margashira/pushyamonths, the lunar eclipse occurring when moon is between Punarvasu/pushya nakshathra, and would be right in the middle of war. Hence is not a very serious candidate for Mahabharata war.

The fourth candidate is eclipse pair from 1853 BCJ. It occurs in month of Maghavery near the winter solstice or Uttara Ayana. It is not a very good candidate forMahabharata War

The fifth candidate of eclipse pairs occurred in 1708 BCJ. This eclipse pair occurs in month of Phalguna, just after Uttara Ayana and is a bad candidate.

The last candidate of eclipse pair occurs in 1397 in the month of Bhadrapada. It is a reasonably good candidate for Mahabharata war. Again, there was no solar eclipse during the period prior to Uttara Ayana
.

Conclusions
The aim of this work was to analyze the unique statement that Mahabharata war took place when an ominous pair of eclipses occurred in 'Thirteen days'. Initially,Mahabharata texts, contemporarily accepted as most authentic were reviewed and relevant data about Mahabharata and astronomical planetary observations have been presented.

Firstly, a search of all eclipses during the period 3300 BCJ to 700 BCJ visible atKurukshethra, where Mahabharata war took place was made. Amongst nearly 672 possible eclipse pairs, the time from end of one to beginning of next eclipse was found to vary between 13.8 days to 15.8 days. Eighteen naked eye visible eclipse pairs with less than 336 hours (14days) of time gap were found.

The second issue was, what was the definition of a day, and how was the determination that eclipses occurred in 'thirteen days' made, has been addressed. Day was taken to be the time between either successive sunrise or successive sunset. This is particularly important when clocks did not exist. Using this method, it was easy to demonstrate that observers from 3000 to 5000 years ago could identify accurately a 'Thirteen-day' eclipse pair when they occurred.

Six pairs amongst these, found to be good candidates for Mahabharata war, have been illustrated, showing how any observer could conclude that the eclipse pairs occurred in less than 14 days or in 'thirteen days'. The locations of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Sun and Moon, during the eclipses were identified with reference to 27 star locations. The positions of all these planets during the eclipse pair do not totally agree with Mahabharata text, but some do agree.

Finally, it is found that two dates suggested by Indian astronomers Aryabhata, Varaha Mihira are credible dates for Mahabharata war. It would appear that 3129 BCJ is a first candidate for Mahabharata war followed by 2559 BCJ. Four other dates viz., 2056 BCJ, 1853 BCJ, 1708 BCJ and 1397 BCJ are other candidates which qualify as 'Thirteen day' eclipse pairs.

In conclusion, this article has tried to address the basic issue, whether 'Thirteen day' eclipse pairs are astronomically possible. The conclusion is that such eclipse pairs have occurred and observers could easily identify the duration using sunset/sunrise transitions. 3129 BCJ and 2559 BCJ dates appear to be very viable dates forMahabharata war as are a few others. This study provides modern scientific support one critical astronomical statement made in Mahabharata Bhishma Parvathat 'Thirteen day' eclipse pair occurred in Kurukshethra before the Mahabharatawar.


References:

  1. Aryabhateeya by Brahmagupta, S.Shukla,New Delhi, INSA 1976
  2. Surya Siddhanta: Translation of an Ancient Indian Astronomical Text.
    Translation by Bapudeva, Varanasi, 1860.
  3. Varahamihira's Brihat Samhita- M Ramakrishna Bhat, Motilal Banarasidas Publications, 1981
  4. Ramashesha Shastry Bhagavata Mahapurana,
    10th skanda, Upodghata (in Kannada script), 1930
  5. John Smith web page - Mahabharata Text checked by Bhandarakar Oriental Research Institute
  6. Eric Weisstien, World Of Astronomy web page
  7. Wayne Annala, Lodestar Pro Manual, 1994
  8. Wayne Mitchell
       Ancient Astronomical Observations and Near Eastern Chronology
       Journal of Ancient Chronology Forum, Volume3

23-Feb-2002
More by :  Dr. S. Balakrishna
 http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Articles&ArticleID=1052

**************
Further notes...

Dear Scholars,
Here is my feedback on Chapter 7 of the book  "The Mahābhārata War: its Date on the basis of Astronomical References" by  B.N.Narahari Achar

Thanks
RN Iyengar
Centre for Ancient History & Culture
Jain University, Bangalore
----
Feedback:
It is true that mainstream historians have ignored the analysis of sky pictures contained in ancient Sanskrit texts. As Prof.B N Achar (abbr: BNA) implies, this indifference on the part of historians is due to the prevalent concept of the so called Aryans entering the Indian subcontinent from outside around 1500 BCE.  Having said so it should also be pointed out that archaeoastronomy alone cannot be the final deciding factor in fixing ancient dates. It is necessary to demonstrate unambiguous physical correlation between the texts and the artifacts dug out from the geographical locations from where the astronomical observations are stated to have been done. In the well known MB sites the oldest cultural layers can be stretched to c 1500 BCE but nothing older than this date (Lal 1950-52).

With availability of computers anyone can use a variety of planetarium software to print out sky pictures of the past. Familiarity and working knowledge of Astronomy is sufficient to use the software. This is certainly a powerful tool for historians. But this is only a tool and the derived result cannot be treated as primary evidence without further justification. MB under scrutiny here are not astronomical in a modern sense. There is considerable ambiguity in interpreting the basic data that forms the input to the planetarium software. Hence translation of the Sanskrit text and dispassionate presentation of the sky data contained therein are more important even if they turn out to be uncertain. The basic weakness of the present paper lies in the absence of textual criticism to first establish the reliability or otherwise of the data that is used as input to the software. This has led to a series of assumptions which are later asserted as proved or demonstrated. This is glaringly evident when the author assumes, in the bhīsma-parvanof MB, planets to be comet apparitions wherever the text is found to be inconvenient for his thesis. In a serious research on ancient astronomy some assumptions may be necessary as a way forward. But any such study is expected to report sensitivity of the final results to the assumptions made. 

One of his interpretative basis is contained in his claim “…astronomical references in the Bhīsma Parva and the Udyoga Parva……form a very consistent set and in the context of omens as indicating impending calamities, agree closely with the tradition of omens in Atharvaveda and its Pariśistas”. By the latter he means the Atharvaveda-pariśista (AVP) which he quotes in many places without critical analysis, under the assumption that it is more ancient than the epic MB. 

But, AVP contains statements which were possible only in the last centuries of the first millennium BCE. It does not have any chapter or verses known as yuddhalaksanam. The only yuddha or war that AVP knows is chapter 51 named grahayuddham referring to conjunction and circling of planets among themselves. There is also a portent of bidāla-ulūka-yuddha i.e. skirmish between cats and  owls (AVP 64.6.9). The table presented as a comparison between MB and AVP can hardly be taken as  textual analysis. 

Chapter 64 in AVP is titled utpātalaksanam (Character of Anomalies) and has nothing specially to do with wars. The original verse of AVP cited by the author is

arke abhraparighādīnām pariveso arkacandrayoh|
 lāksālohitavarnatvam sarvesām ca vicāranam ||           AVP (64.5.7)

The verse is in no way specific to “predicting war” as claimed by the author. His partial quotations on parivesa are;

snigdhesu parivesesu catursvetesu nārada|
sandhyāyām atra varnesu vrstim tesvabhinirdiśet ||    (AVP 61.1.4)
 prthivyām rājavamśyānām mahad bhayam upasthitam|
lokaksayakaram vidyād yadi devo na varsati ||             (AVP 61.1 16)

The above verses are about clouds and rainfall. The last line above makes it clear that if it does not rain, it creates great fear among the people and the royal families. Verse before and after the above in Chapter 61 of AVP are also about clouds and rainfall. In no way these are relevant for interpreting the astronomy of the Epic.

The third citation from AVP is about eclipses, which again the author quotes partially.

tāmro bhavati śastrāya rūkso bhavati mrtyave|
bahvākāras tu bhūtānām ghoram janayate jvaram ||
dhūmavarno'gnivarno vā grāmesu nagaresu vā|
agnyutpātān grhasthānām karotīha mahāgrahah ||     AVP (53.5.1-2)

A dotted line is shown for the last line of the second verse above, as if the text is missing in the original manuscript of AVP. Actually the text is fully available and it is no portent for a great war among kings but an omen for fire accidents among householders. There is nothing to show any special correspondence between MB and the AVP. It is disappointing to see the author seeking support from AVP a late text which presupposes MB, as it knows itihāsa (AVP 1.15.1; 68.2.62) as available to the society already. What was the itihāsa to which AVP pays obeisance if it was not MB?  Disciples of Vyāsa namely, Jaimini, Vaiśampāyana, Paila were known to AVP (43.4.14-17).  AVPalso pays respects to Pānini by name.  One may argue that like several other texts AVP may contain old and also later information in a layered fashion. But definitely it is not an accented text with mantras and hence cannot claim Vedic authority like the Samhitā and the Brāhmana texts. Even MB is traditionally known to have at least three layers. Hence to argue for the dating of MB with the help of a text that got fixed very late is to put the cart before the horse. The AVP text prescribes a foreign currency, the golden dināra to be given away during religious rites:

tato māndaliko rājā dīnārānām gavām śatam|
pranamya śraddhayā tasmai dadyād uddhara mām iti || (AVP 36.26.3)

Thus it is obvious AVP should be assigned to the last few centuries of the first millennium BCE, prior to c100 CE when Kushans, with dīnāra as their currency, were ruling in the northwestern part of India.

BNA is fond of accusing me as having made ad hoc hypotheses in dating the MB statements. This criticism of BNA refers to the MB dating of 1493-1443 BCE demonstrated by me by reconciling the two conflicting positions of Saturn to be astronomically valid statements separated by fourteen or fifteen years between the gambling episode and the war (Iyengar 2003). For the present feedback, whether I am right or wrong is irrelevant. Anyway, BNA has no qualms in taking śanaiścara as Saturn in one place (MBV.141.7) but as a comet a few verses later in the same book. His main effort is to somehow interpret conflicting statements about planets as referring to comets. He claims “Vyāsa leaves no doubt to the fact that in bhīsmaparvan, the word graha refers to a comet……”  That BNA is writing without evidence will be clear to any one taking the trouble to read the original text. In the bhīsmaparvan the word graha appears some twenty times. Since the word is a generic one, it could be used to refer to comets. But it is not exclusively reserved for comets as claimed. In the bhīsmaparvan (3.29) quoted by BNA, the word refers to Sun and Moon. In (13.40) it refers to Rāhu, the eclipse causer. In (17.2) seven grahas are mentioned, which obviously cannot all be taken to be comets. In (96.35-36) the grahas are said to five in number and affecting Sun and Moon. About the nomenclature of comets, BNA likes to take support from Varāha-mihira. Varāha in the Brhat-samhitā on Ketucāra clearly says he is borrowing his information from Garga, Parāśara, Asita and Devala. So what is the relevance of comets of Brhat-samhitā for the astronomy of MB? It is true that ancient writers describe some groups of comets or meteorites as grahaputrāh (planet-children)Hence sūryaputra might mean a comet in MB instead of Saturn as in later traditions.  But the statement “…he also refers to the comets by the name of the parent planets, i.e., Jupiter to indicate the comet son of Jupiter” is a figment of imagination. The difficulties of BNA are clearly with the position of Jupiter and Saturn said to be near viśākha. The relevant verses are

grahau tāmrārunaśikhau prajvalantāviva sthitau|
saptarsīnām udārānām samavacchādya vai prabhām||
samvatsarasthāyinau ca grahau prajvalitāvubhau |
viśākhayoh samīpasthau brhaspatiśanaiścarau||
The first half-verse which is quoted by BNA, could refer to comet bodies as claimed.  But these were near U. Major in the northern sky as can be understood from the context in second half which the learned author conveniently forgets to quote. His claim of Jupiter and Saturn being names of comets in the second verse above is negated as these two objects are qualified as being year-long stationary near the ecliptic stars viśākha. These two celestial objects brhaspati and śanaiścara are said to be bright and shining. This does not in any way mean Vyāsa intends them to be comets of that name.

 The further specious claim of BNA is that the purported usage of denoting the son by the name of the father “….is quite according to Sanskrit grammar”. If it is so, the author should have supported his claim with justifications from an authoritative text on Sanskrit grammar.  In the absence of such support his statement is just a piece of empty rhetoric. The author adds the phrase “son of” in front of every planet the position of which proves inconvenient to his preconceived chronology. This type of wishful translation is as good as deriding the original composer of the Epic for lack of vocabularySimilar is the author’s dismissal that star Dhruva mentioned to be drifting during the MB war cannot refer to the Polestar. BNA gives no reason for ignoring this astronomical statement. Is it because he knows that α-Draconis was the Polestar during 3200-2400 BCE and its movement as recorded in MB would assign the latter to a date later than 2400 BCE?

BNA assumes that Karna was able to predict a forthcoming solar eclipse. What is the basis for this ad hoc assumption?  Further he takes that this was near star jyesthā which is nowhere mentioned to be so in MB. The argument of BNA that there was a lunar eclipse on kārtika-pūrnimā and a solar eclipse in jyesthā star is an extrapolation in the realm of possibility but not attested by the MB text.  Figure 4 is supposed to represent a solar eclipse on 14th October 3067 BCE. But was this visible in Kuruksetra? Similarly Fig.8  is claimed to represent a lunar eclipse on 29th September of the same year. One has to just believe the author for this assertion. Results obtained from other planetarium software do not support the author’s claim. These and such other issues casting doubts on the results of the author have been raised earlier also (Chandra Hari 2003). But BNA has remained reluctant to subject his results to alternate methods of computations which are openly available to anyone seriously interested in scientific archaeoastronomy.

Any observation will have errors and hence it is necessary to find out how sensitive the final result is to the various assumptions done.  The author claims that his results are consistent with the text. What is meant by consistency? The author does not define this nor state a criterion against which his consistency can be verified.  Textual criticism and the Indian tradition of astronomy about MB statements are irrelevant to the author.  For example, Bhattotpala (9th-10th Cent.) the celebrated commentator on the Brhat-samhitā takes that the eclipse duo mentioned in MB occurred in the thirteenth (intercalary) month; not at thirteen day interval. With difficult planetary positions being ignored whimsically as comets, the principle followed is loud and clear.  Following such a method, of course, any date can be demonstrated for the MB war. Those who crave for modern scientific analysis to show that the traditional Kaliyuga start was in 3102 BCE will initially feel elated, till they realize that it is a pyrrhic victory gained by distorting planets to be comets on the bizarre claim that “denoting the son by the name of the father” is as per Sanskrit grammar. Other than this imaginary interpretation of the author there is no authority for taking Vyāsa’s planets as comets. An offshoot of this is the anticlimax that his result of 3067 BCE for the MB war depends solely on imputing convoluted and spurious meanings to well attested usages of Sanskrit words. Hence the hard work of the author is an example to show that a straight forward reading of the text does not lead to 3067 BCE for the MB war.

 To arrive at the author’s MB war date of 3067 BCE one has to firmly believe that ends justify the means, because several untenable assumptions are necessary as described by the author himself.  It has to be first assumed that Karna was able to predict solar eclipses based on portents. Only one planet namely, Saturn near star rohinī (Aldebaran) sighted by Karna and Krsna in the udyogaparvan has to be taken as ...
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