Incorrect methodologies to determine the time period of the Mahabharata war has led to much confusion.
Nilesh holds BS & MS in Chemical Engineering and Executive MBA. He is interested in Astronomy, Archeology, Geology, Genetics, Quantum Mechanics, Economics, Ancient narratives and Philosophy. He published his first book, ‘When did the Mahabharata War Happen?:The Mystery of Arundhati’ in 2011, his second book, ‘The Historic Rama – Indian Civilization at the end of Pleistocene’ in 2014 and is in the process of completing his third book, ‘Bhishma Nirvana’. Nilesh is also Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Science, Darthmouth, MA, USA.
Prof. Achar writes in his commentary that all the Mahabharata text states is that the war took place sometime during the transition from Dwarpa to Kali Yuga and that this information is not sufficient to determine the exact date of the Mahabharata war, however, this lack of specific information need to not affect traditional celebrations of Gita Jayanti. Achar also insists that any extraneous data such as the beginning of Kaliyuga in 3102 BCE (the so-called Aryabhata tradition) or that Kaliyuga started with the passing away of Krishna in 3102 BCE (the so-called Bhagavata tradition), lead to inconsistencies.
I wholeheartedly agree with the above points of Prof. Achar. He was among the first few individuals to test the existing claims for the year of Mahabharata war using astronomy software and this attempt of his ought to be recognized for what it is worth.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to agree with the claims made by Prof. Achar, in the rest of his commentary. Prof. Achar makes his arguments in a manner that makes it difficult to provide a logical and rational critique of his claims, especially in a language that can be easily understood by the masses.
1. Season when Krishna left on peace mission
Let’s begin by stating his critical claim, made in his commentary.
Prof. Achar asserts the upper limit of 3200 BCE and lower limit of 1800 BCE for the year of Mahabharata war. He relies on the folowing reference of the Mahabharata text.
Udyoga Parva (CE 81:7)
कौमुदे मासि रेवत्यां शरदन्ते हिमागमे |
स्फीतसस्यसुखे काले कल्यः सत्त्ववतां वरः ||७||
Prof. Achar describes this reference as “an absolutely clear reference to seasons when kṛṣṇa sets out for his peace mission”. It is then interesting to note the confusion that is generated in the rest of his commentary.
Prof. Achar’s translation is as follows:
In the month of Kartika, on the day of Revati after the passing away of sharad ṛtu and in the dewy season, and at a time when the earth had an abundance of crops on it that foremost of men of prowess (set forth for Hastinapura).
i) Prof. Achar translates, incorrectly, ‘कौमुदे मासि’ as referring to the ‘lunar month of Kartika’, instead of ‘the month of lotuses’. This is incorrect. However, we will let it pass. This is because we will show that this faulty identification of ‘कौमुदे मासि’ with that of ‘lunar month of Kartika’ is of no consequence in showing the falsity and inconsistency of claims made by Prof. Achar.
ii) Prof. Achar translates ‘शरदन्ते हिमागमे’ as ‘after the passing away of Sharad ritu and in the dewy season’. This means, per Prof. Achar, the season was that of Hemant when Krishna left on a peace mission.
In explaining the implications of this reference, he writes….
Here Vyāsa provides the information for determining the limits for the date of the war which can be done in the following way. kṛṣṇa reaches Hastinapura on kārtika paurṇimā and it is the end of sharad ṛtu. For kārtika paurṇimā, the moon can be anywhere from bharaṇī to rohiṇī.
He then writes…
For it to be in the autumn season (sharad ṛtu) the sun must be near or just beyond Autumnal Equinox (AE).
This would mean, Prof. Achar, changes his position and now wants to assume the timing of Krishna’s visit on peace mission to be during the peak of Sharad season or during the second part of Sharad season! If Prof. Achar wanted (or wants) to stay consistent, he should have selected the position of the sun separated from the point of Autumanal equinox (AE) by more than 2 hours of Right Ascension.
While Prof. Achar claims the timing of Krishna’s visit on peace mission to be ‘after passing away of Sharad season and during the Hemant season’, the actual date accepted by him (originally proposed by Prof. Srinivas Raghavan, as early as 1969) for the day Krishna left on peace mission is 26 September 3067 BCE! And what is wrong with this claim? The day of 26 September 3067 BCE is about 18 days before the day of Autumnal equinox (AE), i.e. during the early part of Sharad season.
It is indeed strange then that Prof. Achar makes the following statement:
Thus kṛṣṇa’s peace mission, involving kārtika paurṇimā at the end of sharad ṛtu, can happen only between 1800 BCE and 3200 BCE. No date much earlier than 3200 BCE (such as 5561 BCE) or much later than 1800 BCE (such as 1478 BCE) is possible as the connection between kārtika paurṇimā and end of sharad ṛtu will be lost. [emphasis mine]
The day of winter solstice was on 13 January in the year 3066 BCE. If we calculate back about 60 days, for the duration of Hemant ritu, we arrive at 13 November 3067 BCE as the beginning of Hemant ritu. If Prof Achar’s claim for the season is correct, then the day for the beginning of Krishna’s visit on peace mission should fall after 13 November 3067 BCE and not 26 September 3067 BCE.
Prof. Achar claims the season when Krishna left on peace mission was that of Hemant ritu. We have shown, without getting into the enormous Mahabharata text evidence that contradicts this claim of Prof. Achar, how the very date proposed by Prof. Srinivas Raghavan (and accepted by Prof. Achar) of 26 September 3067 BCE falls during the first quarter of the Sharad season. There were about 48 additional days into the Sharad season before it would have been over and thus the beginning of Hemant season. Thus, the very claim of Prof. Achar (season of Hemant and timing of Krishna’s peace mission) is falsified by his very claim of 26 September 3067 BCE as the day of Krishna’s visit.
2. Claim (& confusion) of upper and lower limits [3200 BCE – 1800 BCE]
This still leaves us with the additional confusion caused by the claim of Prof. Achar for the upper (3200 BCE) and lower (1800 BCE) limits for the year of Mahabharata war.
We speculate that these claims stem from his confusion of the season of Krishna’s visit on peace mission (Hemant), confusing ‘month of lotuses’ with that of lunar month of Kartika and then again of aligning the lunar month of Kartika with Sharad season (instead of Hemant season).
What Prof. Achar appears to have done, erroneously, is that after claiming lunar month of Kartika to be part of Hemant season, he went to on align it with the point of equinox. The lunar month of Kartika coincided with the Sharad season during ~2500 BCE + /- 2000 years [4500 BCE – 500 BCE].
We can estimate the timing of lunar month of Kartika coinciding with the season of Hemant. In our times, the lunar month of Kartika coincides with the season of Hemant. The timing for the lunar month of Kartika coinciding with the season of Hemant began sometime around 500 BCE and will continue until ~ 3500 CE (i.e. until next 1400+ years in future).
This should leave everyone perplexed as to from where does Prof. Achar derives his upper and lower limits of 3200 BCE and 1800 BCE for the year of Mahabharata War.
3. Eclipse evidence
Eclipses are dime a dozen and while the evidence is indeed useful in eliminating certain claims, it is never decisive to determine the upper and lower limits on the chronology of specific events. Since Prof. Achar’s emphasis is on upper limit of 3200 BCE and lower limit of 1800 BCE for the year of Mahabharata war, the critique of his eclipse arguments is not made, here. Interested readers may read criticism of his eclipse claims by likes of Prof. R N Iyengar or Shri K Chandra Hari.
4. Illogical and non-scientific usage of selective evidence
After the confusion on the ‘season’ and ‘Kartika’ front, Prof. Achar moves on to his planetary evidence. The Mahabharata text has 3 specific descriptions for Saturn, 3 for Jupiter, 6 for Mars, 2 for Venus and 3 for Mercury.
Prof. Achar does not take into account all these planetary references and selectively sites 1 reference for Saturn and 1 reference for Mars. This is illogical and non-scientific in its usage and methodology.
The two references (one for Saturn and one for Mars) quoted by Prof. Achar are as follows:
Udyoga Parva (CE 141:7-8)
प्राजापत्यं हि नक्षत्रं ग्रहस्तीक्ष्णो महाद्युतिः |
शनैश्चरः पीडयति पीडयन्प्राणिनोऽधिकम् ||७||
कृत्वा चाङ्गारको वक्रं ज्येष्ठायां मधुसूदन |
अनुराधां प्रार्थयते मैत्रं संशमयन्निव ||८||
And the translation by Prof. Achar,
“The noxious and much lustrous graha Saturn, which always afflicts people severely, is afflicting the nakshatra presided by prajapati.”
“Mars has performed a retrograde near Antares, oh, madhusudana, and appears to be praying for anuradha ‘s friendship, as if to pacify it.”
Prof. Achar states…
Here vyāsa provides the information for determining the exact date of the war. The planetary configurations are:
i) Saturn near Aldeberan
ii) Retrograde motion of Mars just before reaching Antares
Let’s remind the reader that Prof. Achar has already determined, albeit erroneously, 3200 BCE and 1800 BCE (a time interval of 1400 years) as upper and lower limits, respectively for the year of Mahabharata war, based on ‘absolutely clear reference to season when Krishna left on peace mission’.
However, then he begins a search for the conjunction of Saturn with Aldebaran over a period of 4000 years. In his own words,
A search is made for the years in which there is a conjunction of Saturn with Aldebaran between 3500 BCE and 500 CE. As Saturn takes an average of 29.5 years to go around the sun once, the event also repeats with the same period. There are 137 such conjunctions during the interval of 4000 years specified above.
And what could be his motivation to search for Saturn-Aldebaran conjunction all the way to 500 CE and for the duration of 4000 years? Especially when he is convinced on the duration of 1400 years (3200 BCE-1800 BCE) for the year of Mahabharata war? Only Prof. Achar may able to shed additional light.
Mistakes made by Prof. Achar in his research on chronology of Mahabharata war are quite a few. The selective use of evidence, introduction of ad-hoc hypotheses for rest of Mahabharata descriptions of planets as not planets but rather comets, lack of clear statement for his theory are some of these glaring blunders, to name a few.
A scientific investigation demands objective testing of all evidence, both corroborating and non-corroborating, to the claims of a theory. Prof. Achar does not explain if all the evidence ignored and avoided by him leads to falsification of his claim (originally proposed by Prof. Srinivas Raghavan in 1969) for 3067 BCE as the year of Mahabharata war.
Let's look into that.
i) The claim of 3067 BCE as the year of Mahabharata war is falsified by the astronomy observation of Mahabharata text, par excellence, Arundhati-Vasishtha (AV) observation which assert upper limit of 11091 BCE and lower limit of 4508 BCE for the year of Mahabharata war.
ii) This claim of 3067 BCE is also falsified by chronology evidence (more than 6, 23 or 60+, depending on how detailed evidence is demanded) of Bhishma-nirvana from the Mahabharata text that asserts Bhishma on the bed of arrows for more than 92 days.
iii) This claim of 3067 BCE is also falsified by Bhishma-nirvana chronology as it leads to the upper limit of 8000 BCE and lower limit of 3700 BCE for the year of Mahabharata war.
iv) This claim of 3067 BCE is also falsified by Bhishma-nirvana evidence since when combined with the evidence of phases and positions of the moon through the 18 days of the war leads to upper limit of 7285 BCE and lower limit of 5125 BCE.
v) We have written 10-part series at our blogsite demonstrating how not only the 12 references claimed by Prof. Achar do not lead to 3067 BCE, but also the fact that each of them, individually or cumulatively lead to decisive falsification of 3067 BCE as the year of Mahabharata war.
In fact, the entire astronomy evidence of the Mahabharata text (215+ references) decisively falsify not only 3067 BCE but any year that falls after 4500 BCE for the year of Mahabharata war. There is much that can be written about this claim of 3067 BCE. I have restricted myself to his claims mentioned in this commentary.
The Method of Science
Unfortunately, the problem of 3067 BCE is not limited to selective usage of data by Prof. Achar. Every single known principle of scientific method has been compromised by Prof. Achar in his quest to justify 3067 BCE as the year of Mahabharata war. For example, a list of prominent (yet, not exhaustive) features of scientific method can be created to evaluate multiple claims for the year of Mahabharata war. The table below illustrates this comparison for two claims –3067 BCE by Prof. Achar and 5561 BCE by yours truly.
The evaluation of the claim of 3067 BCE is more problematic. If we compare the outcome of claims (3067 BCE vs. 5561 BCE) against the basic criteria of a successful scientific theory, the results can be tabulated as follows:
Notwithstanding the claims made by Prof. Achar, objective testing of Mahabharata text evidence shows that the only astronomy observation from the Mahabharata text that can be corroborated for the year 3067 BCE is that of ‘Saturn afflicting nakshatra Rohini’. That is all.
When Prof. Srinivas Raghavan made the initial claim (to the best of our knowledge) of 3067 BCE for the year of Mahabharata war, it would have been alright to regard it as a worthy, albeit faulty, attempt in determining the chronology of the Mahabharata war. On the other hand, when likes of Prof. Achar continue to propagate such claims, despite the glaring errors and Mahabharata evidence going against it, we find such a phenomenon perplexing to fathom.
Numerous researchers, both foreign and native, of ancient Indian history, have done much disservice to the chronology research by use of arbitrary, superficial and manipulative methodologies, and it is time we stop this exercise.
Oak, Nilesh (2011) When did the Mahabharata war Happen?: The Mystery of Arundhati. Danphe Inc., USA.
Oak, Nilesh (in press) Bhishma Nirvana. Bhima LLC., USA.