THE MAHABHARATA WAR IN 2156 BC IS ANCIENT INDIAN HISTORY

By

Anand M. Sharan

Professor, Faculty of Engineering

Memorial University of Newfoundland

St. John's, Newfoundland

Canada A1B 3X5

E-Mail : asharan@engr.mun.ca

 

August 10, 2003

Revision I : January 17, 2004

 

Key Words : Dating Mahabharata War , Dating Kurukshetra War , Astronomical Dating

 

1. INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE SURVEY

To be a part of history, the evidences have to be there. Until now, the Mahabharata War could not be included as a part of Ancient Indian History because of lack of evidences. Many famous astronomers like Aryabhatt ( 476-550 AD ), Varahmihira ( circa 560 AD ) etc made serious efforts to date the Mahabharata . There have been many researchers attempting to solve this problem in the last 100 years that their names have not even been compiled properly. Many claimed that it , the descriptions in the text , had inconsistencies, and that it , the Mahabharata , was a mere fiction.

The actual reason was that - to verify the astronomical data , and come up with a definite date, was a very complex mathematical problem . The calculating abilities of the Indian astrologers / astronomers were very limited as compared to the challenge posed by this problem. There have been several Indian astro-physicists who have also tried to solve this problem but all in vain.

The names of some recent researchers are: ( a) Achar, B.N.N. , ( b ) Gupta, M., ( c ) Kalyanaraman, S., ( d ) Balakrishna, S., (e ) Vartak, P. V, ( f ) Patnaik, K.N.S., (g) Saraswat , S. P., and ( h ) Sharma V. N. , ( i ) Sengupta , P.C., (j) Raghavan , K.S. , ( k ) Kochar , R. , ( l ) Iyengar , R.N. to name a few .There are some more relevant references mentioned in the list of references .

 

The objective of this work is to correctly identify the date of the War and to show that no other date is possible . This is carried out by minimizing an objective function whose variables are the errors in the positions of various planets including the node of the moon ( Rahu ) on the day of the Kartik Purnima as mentioned in the Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata . After arriving at this minimum , the planetary positions of each of the days up to the Uttarayana ( the winter solstice day ) are calculated and checked for the matching descriptions of these positions with respect to the descriptions in the Mahabharata . The search time span begins from 500 BC to 4000 BC . This time span ensures that it covers all possible dates of the Mahabharata War . Finally , the date so determined is checked against other archaeological evidences such as the possibility of the presence of iron in India on that date . In this regard, other papers are cited as supporting evidences .

In this way, it is established that this , and only this date, is the date of the Mahabharata War .

This work , in establishing the historicity of the Mahabharata , is similar to the findings ( unearthing ) of the antiquities, a collection of pre - Mycenaean jewels and plates known as Priamís Treasure, by the German archeologist Henrich Schliemann in Turkey in 1870s .

 

2. RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS

The identification of the event in this work was , at first, based on the minimization of the position errors of the heavenly bodies - Sun, Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Rahu ( one of the nodes of the Moon ) on the Kartika Purnima day mentioned in the Bhishma Parva in the " Samkshipta Mahabharata " published by the Geeta Press , Gorakhpur, U. P., India . The descriptions of these planetary position were mentioned by Sage Vyasa who was describing these planetary positions to Dhritarashtra .

None of the researchers mentioned above or any others have come close to the actual descriptions . The errors in their cases are very large.

Many others like Achar, Raghavan etc have used the Jyestha Amavasya ( New Moon ) day only, as the critical day to identify the year of the War . Achar laid special emphasis on the position of Saturn in Rohini around the time of the War . He has approached this problem by searching for those years when Saturn was in Rohini , and there was Jyestha Amavasya The year that he arrived at - did not yield the correct year as will be shown in the results discussed later on. Iyengar, on the other hand , based his search on combination of Solar and Lunar eclipses in the year of the War in any sequence, and followed by another eclipse on the 36th year at Dwarka .

Besides Kartik Purnima, and Jyestha Amavasya , the third critical day is the day of the Winter Solstice ( Uttararayana ) when Bhishma left for the heavenly abode . Before this event , there was Bhishma Panchakam - from the saptami ( seventh day ) to the ekadashi ( eleventh day ) during the waxing phase ( Shukla Paksha ) of the moon . It is also stated very clearly that when Bhishma left his body, one quarter of the Paksha was over, and three quarter was left . One can quite clearly see that this Paksha had to be the waning phase ( Krishna Paksha ) otherwise he could not have carried on with the ekadashi ( the eleventh day ) . The Krishna Paksha started with the full moon ( Purnima ) in the Chandramasa ( Lunar Month ) named Magha ( mentioned in the descriptions ) .

To arrive at the date of the actual War, one has to use the information that Bhishma lay on the bed of arrows for 58 nights ( mentioned explicitly ) . He fell in the War on the 10th day . So, one has to go back 68 days before this Uttarayana to determine the start of the War .

The date of the killing of Duryodhana is determined from the day of arrival of Shree Balarama from a pilgrimage along the Saraswat river . This pilgrimage lasted for 42 days, and the tithis ( lunar days ) for going and coming back from the pilgrimage are mentioned in the descriptions. One has to remember that a tithi is not exactly equal to a day . One has to refer to Raghavan's work or some book on Vedanga Jyotisha to get more information about it .

The second point that the author would like to emphasize is any errors mentioned in the Mahabharata can not be in positions of Sun , Moon , and Rahu because these were too important in every day life of the ancient people in India .

The results that the author has obtained , can be summarized in the following way:

1. There was a Kartik Purnima on Oct, 7/8, 2156 BC which had descriptions of planetary configuration such as ( a ) Rahu was attacking the Sun thereby implying that it was an eclipse season, but not an actual eclipse , ( b ) Mars in Magha , ( c ) Jupiter in Shravana, ( d ) Saturn in Rohini , and ( e ) Venus in Purva Bhadrapadapar . The moon was pale etc There is also a mention in ambiguous terms but in past tense that the Mars had retrograde motion . It is not clear whether it continued to have retrograde motion even on the Kartik Purnima day

The season was described to be very nice, and the rivers were full of water.

2 Shree Balarama leaves for the pilgrimage on Oct. 10 / 11 , 2156 BC

Lord Krishna had told Karna in the Uddyoga Parva that the War should start after the Amavasya ( New Moon ) falling in the Jyeshtha nakshatra ( Oct. 22, 2156 BC )

On Oct. 22, 2156 BC , there was a Solar Eclipse on this Amavasya Day in the Jyestha nakshatra . These eclipses are not explicitly mentioned in the Mahabharata . It merely mentions the position of Rahu . It should be noted that the eclipses explicitly mentioned on the Kartika Purnima evening refer to the eclipses ( Solar and Lunar ) in the past tense i.e. they had taken place earlier than the Kartik Purnima day in 13 days ( tithi ) each Paksha .

( 3 ) The War started on Oct. 31 / Nov.1, 2156 BC

( 4 ) On Nov., 5, 2156 BC, there was a Lunar Eclipse during the War These eclipses were not necessarily visible from Kurukshetra , and that is why they are not explicitly mentioned .

( 5 ) On Nov. 9/10 , 2156 BC - Bhishma falls and lays on the bed of arrows prepared by Arjuna .

( 6 ) On Nov. 17 / 18 , 2156 BC , the War Ends after 18 days.

( 7 ) On Nov. 23/24 , 2156 BC Shree Balarama returns from the pilgrimage , and watches the mace fight between Bhima, and Duryodhana . It should be noted that Duryodhana had fled the battle field and was hiding in a pond, away from the battlefield . The Pandavas had to find him in his hiding .

( 8 ) On Dec. 21 , 2156 BC there was an Amavasya , and the Shukla Paksha for the Bhishma Panchakam started . Bhishma observed the fast on the Shukla Ekadashi , and gave sermons to the Pandava brothers .

( 9 )On Jan 3, 2155 BC - there was the Magha Purnima

( 10 ) Jan 6, 2155 BC - Sun turned northwards ( Uttarayana ) - Bhishma left for the heavenly abode after laying on the bed of arrows for 58 nights.

The results have also been confirmed by a Swiss Software called Swiss Ephemeris .

The calculations were performed using several software written by the author which included the modification of some commercial software . The language used was FORTRAN . The calculations were performed in double precession .

After arriving at the date, the results obtained by other researchers were also looked into, and these are given in Table 1 . In the table , DEV stands for deviation .

TABLE 1: POSITIONS AND ERRORS OF PLANETS

 

SHARAN

ACHAR

IYENGAR

PLANETS

RANGE

MEAN

2156 BC

DEV

3067 BC

DEV

1478 BC

DEV

SUN

207-220

213.5

210.4

3.1

209.5

4

209.5

4

MARS

120-133

126.5

126.4

0.1

278

151.5

234.6

108.1

JUPITER

280-293

286.5

280.2

6.3

2.7

283.8

343

56.5

SATURN

40-53

46.5

10.7

35.8

45.6

0.9

19.8

26.7

MOON

26-40

33

34

1

44

11

29.3

3.7

TOTAL ERROR

     

46.3

 

451.2

 

199

RAHU

   

228.8

 

223.6

 

244.3

 

DEV = DEVIATION FROM THE MEAN.

One can clearly see that the year 2156 BC is the best choice . The position of Saturn which is 10. 7 degrees falls in the Ashwini nakshatra . The positions of Venus ( not shown in the table ) for Sharan, Achar, and Iyengar were : 244 , 256. 8 , and 254.6 degrees respectively where the expected mean value is 326 degrees . In the case of Venus, all the three results are close to each other .

The possibility of minimal errors in the Mahabharata are there due to the long oral traditions but, the positions of the planets have come to us with remarkable accuracy .

The date of 2156 BC is appropriate from three other reasons : ( a ) The existence of iron in the days of the Mahabharata which has been discussed in the reference paper by Sharan , and also ( b ) iron has been one of the objects found by Rao , S. R. when he carried out the archaeological work at Dwaraka . Even Rao thinks that the Mahabharata War should be between 1900 BC to 2200 BC , ( c ) The phenomenon of the precession of the earth's spin axis known to our ancient astronomers has been reported in the literature [ Chakravarty , 1987 ] . This knowledge was possessed by them as far back as 2400 BC when the sun rose in the Kartika nakshatra . This topic has been widely discussed by Indian archaeo - astronomers . The findings of this research reinforces the view that our ancient astronomers had precise knowledge of the movements of the planets in sky .

Another reason is the drying up of the Saraswati river which many believe happened around 1700 BC . The descriptions in the Mahabharata ( Shree Balarama's pilgrimage ) show that this river had not dried up then .

3. CONCLUSIONS:

In the present work , calculations were performed to arrive at the year when the Mahabharata War took place . The year was based on the descriptions of the planetary positions on the Kartik Purnima Day described in the Bhishma Parva . Using these positions as the starting point , the configuration on the Jyestha Amavasya day , and the Uttarayana ( Winter Solstice ) was also checked . The results confirm that the descriptions in the Mahabharata are correct , and do not require re-organization of the shlokas as suggested by many researchers such as Iyengar . Finally , one can confidently conclude that the year was 2156 BC which should go as the date in the Ancient Indian History .

4. ACKNOELEDGEMENTS:

The author is grateful to the Memorial University of Newfoundland for the computing facilities , and his family consisting of wife - Veena, son - Rajat , daughter - Swati, and son- in -law - Punit for their patience and co-operation without which this pious work would not have been possible.

 

5. REFERENCES

Achar, B.N.N. , " Mahabharata as the Sheet_Anchor of Bharatiya Itihasa " http://www.hindunet.org/saraswati/colloquium/narahari01.htm

Balakrishna, S., " Two eclipses in thirteen days prior to Mahabharatha War ", http://www.hindunet.org/saraswati/colloquium/balakrishna01.doc

Chakravarty , A. K. , 1987 , " The Asterisms " , History of Oriental Astronomy IAU Colloquium 91 , Edited by G. Swarup , A. K. Bag , and K. S. Shukla , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge .

Gupta, M., The Date of Mahabharata War Puranic and Astronomical Evidence "http://www.hindunet.org/saraswati/colloquium/mohangupt01.doc

Iyengar , R.N. , " Internal Consistency of Eclipses and Planetary Positions in Mahabharata " , http://www.hindunet.org/saraswati/rniyengar.pdf

 

Kalyanaraman, S ., " Date of Mahabharatha War with Reference to Bhishmashtami ",http://www.hindunet.org/saraswati/colloquium/bhishmashtami.PDF

Kochhar, R., The Vedic People, Orient Longman, (Hyderabad, 1997)

Patnaik, K.N.S., "The Mahabharat Chronology " , http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/mahabharat/mahab_patnaik.html

Raghavan, K. S., The Date of the Mahabharata War, Srirangam Printers, (Srinivasanagar, 1969)

Saraswat , S. P., Mahabharat: An Astronomical Proof from the Bhagavat Puraan http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/mahabharat/mahab_sarasvat.html

Sathe, S., Deshmukh, V., and Joshi, P., Bharatiya Yuddha: Astronomical References, Shri Babasaheb Apte Smarak Samiti, (Pune, 1985).

Sathe, S. Search for the Year of the Bharata War, Navabharati Publications, (Hyderabad, 1983)

Sengupta, P. C., Ancient Indian Chronology, University of Calcutta, (Calcutta, 1947)

Sharma V. N. , Model Configuration in the Mahabharata : An Exercise in Archeo Astronomy ", Vol 9, 0190 _ 9940 , J. of Archaeo Astronomy In Culture , 1986

Sidharth, B. G., The Celestial Key to the Vedas, Inner Traditions, (Rochester, 1999)

Sharan , Anand M. , " The Existence Of Iron In The Vedas, Mahabharata And Ramayana- Back To The Harappan Civilization ", http://www.engr.mun.ca/~asharan/bihar/ironage/IRONAGEINDIA2.htm

Vartak, P. V, The Scientific Dating of the Mahabharat War " , http://www.hindunet.org/hindu_history/ancient/mahabharat/mahab_vartak.html