Mathomathis would like to present article on Indian Astronomy | Astronomical Dating of Events | 103 by the author Kosla Vepa Published by Indic Studies Foundation, 948 Happy Valley Rd., Pleasanton, Ca 94566, USA. Previous article can be found here (Indian Astronomy | Astronomical Dating of Events | 104) Their website can be located Indicstudies.us. The studies is also conducted by N.S. Rajaram PhD. Author’s in the volume 1 of their research start their discussion on a topic called Why are History and the Chronology Important by Kosla Vepa PhD.


Beginning of kaliyuga and Information from Puranas: According to Sengupta, there are three traditions regarding the date of the Mahabharata war, namely

  • The Aryabhata tradition, according to which Pandavas lived at the beginning of the astronomical Kali age, 3102 BCE;

kaho manavo dha manuyugah skha gatastemanuyugahchnaca |
kalpaderyugapadagaca gurudivasacca bharatapurvam || A.I.5 ||

  • 2449 BCE, based on the saptarshi tradition as allegedly recorded by Varahamihira;
  • The tradition of the Puranas, according to which from the birth of Pariksit to the accession of Mahapadmananda, there was a time interval is one thousand and five hundred years.

Based on the Purana tradition, modern historians who have identified Chandragupta Maurya (who followed the Nanda s) to have lived in 324 BCE, assign a date ~1900 BCE for the war. All these three will be examined for consistency. It is to be reemphasized that the date of 3067 BCE has been derived independent of any of these traditions and is truly based on the internal evidence based on astronomical references found in the epic alone.

Aryabhata Tradition: Aryabhata declares that when he was 23 years old, 3600 years of Kaliyuga had elapsed. This identifies the beginning of Kaliyuga with 3102 BCE. At first sight there appears to be some question about the consistency of the date 3067 BCE for the war with the beginning of Kaliyuga, which is traditionally thought to have started after the war. A large number of scholars who have proposed the date of ~3000 BCE for the war rely on the information regarding the beginning of Kaliyuga in one-way or the other. However, the epic it self does not explicitly give any information about the beginning of Kaliyuga. It is generally accepted that the astronomical beginning of Kaliyuga coincides with 17/18 February, 3102 BCE. The date of the war is then tied to the beginning of Kaliyuga (which according to some authors coincided with

asanmaghasu munayah sasati prthvim yudhistire nrpatau |
sadvika pancadviyutah sakakalah tasyarajnasyat ||BrS

yavat pariksito janma yavat nandabhisecanam |
evam varsa sahasrantu jneyam pancasatottaram

sastyabdanam sastiryada vyatitastrayasca yugapadah |
tryadhika vimsatirabdastadeha mama janmanotitah || A. III. 10||

The end of the war and thus giving the date as 3102 BCE for the war). But there are others who take their clue from the Puranas, according to which Kaliyuga began with the departure of Lord Krishna from this world, an event occurring after 36 years after the war. This results in the proposed date of 3138 BCE for the war. The spread of +/- 1 year on either side of these dates arises from slightly different modes of counting. Of course, the date 3067 BCE is posterior to 3102 BCE. Is there a conflict? Should not the war precede the beginning of Kaliyuga? Not really. All that the epic says is that the war occurred during the transitional interval between Dwapara and Kali yugas, and nowhere it says exactly when the Dvapara ended or Kali began. The antara or the interval between the yugas is quite extensive. According to Vishnu Purana, the sandhya for Dvapara lasts for 200 years and for kali, it is 100 years. Thus there is a period of some 100 years or so, which can be legitimately referred to as sandhya and 3067 BCE falls within this interval of 3102 BCE. In fact, there is some indication that the Kaliyuga had already started by the time of the war. Even Bhagavata Purana acknowledges that although Kaliyuga had already started, because of the presence of Krishna, Kali’s effect had been controlled. The full power of Kali became effective only with the departure of Krishna, according to Kali raja vrttanta. Thus there is no conflict with the war occurring in 3067 BCE and the reckoning of Kaliyuga from 3102 BCE.

etad kaliyugam nama aciradyatpravartate || MB. III.148.37||
The following remark is made when during the gadayuddha, Bhima hits Duryodhana’s thigh, the adharma act being the result of Kali having already entered praptam kaliyugam viddhi pratijnam pandavasyaca || MB IX.59.21||

yada mukundo bhagavanimam mahim jahau svatanva sravaniya satkathah |
tadahareva pratibuddhacetasamabhadrahetuh kaliranvavartata ||BP I.15.36||

yavat sa bhagavan vishnu pasparsemam vasundharam |
tavat prthvim parakrantum samartho nabhavat kalih || bhaga III, a. III ||

The alleged Varahamihira Tradition: Varahamihira states in his Brihatsamhita that the saptarishis were in magha when Yudhisthira was ruling and to get the epoch of saka kala one should add 2526 years to the epoch of Yudhisthira. Historians have assumed that the saka kala or saka nrpati kala refers to the Salivahana saka of 78 CE. Thus arriving at the date -2448 (= 78-2526 ) or 2449 BCE for the Yudhisthira Era, the scholars declare that Varahamihira gives this as the date of the Mahabharata war. Kalhana also assumes that the position of saptarishis has been given by Varahamihira, and makes the same mistake regarding the saka kala in his Rajatarangini. However, he assumes that Kaliyuga began in 3102 BCE, hence declares that Pandavas lived 3102-2449 = 653 years after the start of the Kaliyuga. This has only contributed to the confusion and some Indologists actually declare Kaliyuga as a figment of imagination. Varahamihira simply quotes vrddha Garga’s opinion regarding when Yudhisthira lived and how to get that period from saka kala and this is not Varahamihira’s opinion. Garga by all accounts lived before CE and the word saka kala of Garga cannot refer to Salivahana saka of 78 CE.

The saka kala or saka nrpati kala in Garga’s words refers to the era of the saka king, Cyrus, beginning with 550 BCE. All this has been noted by many scholars, and discussed in great detail by Kota Venkatachelam whose work may be consulted for further details. With the correct identification of saka kala, the date given by Varahamihira is also consistent with the date of the war given here. It may be noted in passing that it was based on the wrong identification of saka kala that Professor Sengupta felt justified in his date of 2449 BCE for the war. Thus the so called Varahamihira tradition and the Rajatarangini tradition of assigning a date of 2449 BCE to the war is based on a mistaken identity for the saka kala, compounded by the mistake in assuming that a mere quotation of vrddha Garga by Varahamihira reflects the latter’s own opinion. The date derived here is consistent with Aryabhata tradition and the correct saka kala beginning in 550 BCE. saptarishis Era and Genealogy list from Purana-s.

The Sapta rsi-cycle is named after the seven sages and is allegorically associated with the Big Dipper, the eastern most star of which is marked by marici followed by vasistha, angirasa, atri, pulastya, pulaha and kratu, respectively, in that order. The seven sages are thought to move through the twenty-seven naksatras along the Ecliptic at the rate of one naksatra per 100 years and to complete one cycle in 2700 years. This forms a convenient cycle for reference, but no astronomical significance for the movement and the association of the stars of the Big Dipper can be ascribed. According to puranas, it is accepted that saptarishis were in magha when Yudhisthira ascended the throne and that the time interval from Pariksit to the accession of the Nanda kings was 1500 years. Between Pariksit and the Nandas, there were three royal dynasties, Brhadratha, Pradyota and sisunaga families. The Nandas were followed by Mauryas, Sungas, Kanvas and Andhras. The saptarishis returned to magha during the reign of the 24th king of the Andhras. It was the 25th king, Gautamiputra /atakarni who performed the Asvamedha yaga and rajasuya yaga. It is simply being recalled that the saptarishis had returned to the position they had occupied during the time when these rituals had been performed earlier at the time of the Pandavas. The reason for this remembrance is that during this interval of 1500 years, there had been a decline of Vedic performances due to the ascendancy of Buddhism especially during the reign of the king Asoka Maurya.

Since 1500 years had passed till the time of Nandas, Asoka Maurya’s time must have been about a hundred years later, i.e., (3100-1500-100=)~ 1500 BCE. The Andhras were followed by the Guptas and the Pramaras. In the accounts given by historians there is a mix up of the Gupta king, Samudra Gupta, who was also known as Asokaditya Priyadarsin and lived around 320 BCE, with Asoka of the Maurya Dynasty, which dynasty had ruled Magadha from 1535 BCE – 1219 BCE.. The celebrated inscriptions of Priyadarsin,–Rock Edicts III and XIII-mention Antiochus and Ptolemy as contemporaries of Priyadarsin, who is Samudra Gupta of the Gupta Dynasty. The Gupta Dynasty ruled Magadha from 328 BCE- 83 BCE and not the Mauryas. This confusion is the reason for assigning the wrong date for the Mahabharata war based on the Puranic genealogy lists. The confusion in the chronology of Bharata is compounded by the historians, who misidentify King Vikramaditya of the Pramara Dynasty, who established the Vikram Era in 57 BCE. When proper identification of Asoka is made, it is seen that all the traditions, namely,

(i) Aryabhata’s Kaliyuga,
(ii) Saptarsi tradition and
(iii) The Puranic tradition are all consistent with the date 3067 BCE for the war.

Internal consistency in the Epic of the Date of 3067 BCE: It is necessary to resolve some misconceptions that have been floating around the various events in the epic such as

(i) The war started on an amavasya day,
(ii) There was a conjunction of sani and Brhaspati near visakha and
(ii) There were retrograde motions of Mars near magha and that of Jupiter near sravana.

It is also necessary to assure the consistency of the chronology for various events as simulated in the year 3067 BCE (which is identical to the chronology given earlier by Raghavan) with those described in the epic. It turns out that this consistency requires an adhimasa in that year and further brings up a question about the actual number of days between the fall of Bhisma and his final departure. According to the simulation, the interval appears to be 48 days (same as the number of days given by Raghavan) where as all scholars proclaim that he spent 58 sleepless nights. All these issues have to be satisfactorily resolved.

The question of adhimasa: The fact that for the months and dates to be consistent, the year 3067 BCE requires an adhimasa, and according to Dr. Mohan Gupta, this is not possible for the year 3067 BCE. However, this objection was based on the use of the methodology based on the current Suryasiddhanta and is not applicable to the date in question. At the time of Mahabharata , the methods followed were based on vedanga jyotisa (pre-Lagadha, in fact), and the method of determining the adhimasa was based on observations and was called the sunassepha method. The author has shown that there was indeed an adhimasa that year just as required.

How many sleepless nights did Bhisma spend?- Following the chronology given by Professor Raghavan, which is identical to the chronology given in this article, then there are only 48 nights after the fall of Bhisma on the tenth day to his final departure after the arrival of winter solstice. Professor Raghavan explains that the count of 58, (which is generally accepted as the number of sleepless nights that Bhisma suffers), includes the ten days during which he led the kaurava army and that he could not sleep because of the stresses involved.

Did the war begin on an amavasya?:- Scholars who insist that the war began on amavasya, base their conclusion on the message sent by Lord Krishna through Karna:

saptamaccapi divasad amavasya bhavisyati
sangramo yujyatam tasyam tamahuh sakradevatamSS// MB(V.140.18)

Some scholars have interpreted this to mean that Krsna declared the war to start on the amavasya day. According to the norms, the war could be declared either by Yudhisthira or by Duryodhana only and not by anybody else. Lord Krishna sends the message to Bhisma and Drona, and not to Duryodhana. Neither Bhisma nor Drona could start the war on their own. It is clear therefore, that this cannot be a declaration of war. The actual declaration of the war is made when Duryodhana sends brahmanas to Yudhisthira. The proper translation of the above sloka is that war rituals or preparations for the war be started on that day and not the war itself. Furthermore, there is the graphic description of the war on the fourteenth day, when the battle continues into the night, breaking all rules; Ghatotkaca is killed and the battle stops only briefly in the wee hours of the morning just as the moon rises. If the war had started on an amavasya, it would be suklapaksa on the fourteenth night and the moon would not rise early in the morning. The supposed conjunction of shani and Brhaspati. This configuration has been considered to be an important planetary configuration by some scholars on the basis of the following:

samvatsara sthayinau ca grahau prajvalitavubhauS
visakhayoh samipasthau brhaspati sanaiscarauSS MB(VI. 3. 25)

This sloka is part of the third segment of the omens predicting the destruction of the two armies described by Vyasa to dhritarashtra. As explained earlier, the sloka previous to this declares

“grahau tamrarunasikhau prajvalitavubhau” MB (VI. 3. 24)

“These two “grahas” with blazing coppery red hair”, which can only refer to comets. Thus this is not a planetary configuration The alleged retrograde motions of Mars and Jupiter

maghasu angarako vakrah sravaneca brhaspatih || (MB IV. 3. 13)

This verse in Bhismaparvan has been interpreted by many a scholar to indicate the retrograde motion of Mars at makha naksatra and that of Jupiter at sravana. In order for the stated retrograde motion of Mars, the Sun has to be near satabhisa and for Jupiter to be retrograde at sravana, the Sun has to be near pusya. Of course, such configurations cannot occur at the same time and hence this verse has been considered a prime example of the inconsistency of astronomical references in the Epic. As explained earlier, this verse is also part of the third segment of omens and this refers to comets, which belong to the families of Mars and Jupiter respectively, and not to planetary positions.