Validating Traditional date of Mahabharata War-I
by Jayasree Saranathan on 29 Dec 2020 4 Comments

Determining date of Kali Yuga


On this auspicious day of Vaikuntha Ekadasi [December 25] when Vishnu, the Atman, as the Sun in his chariot in Margashira, instructs the self, in the nature of the Moon, having taken refuge at His feet, let Jayam springs up from this upavasa.

naraya?a? namask?tya nara? caiva narottamam

devi? sarasvati? caiva tato jayam udirayet


The date of Mahabharata War is as contentious as the war itself! The date, already embedded within the Itihasa, is lost from sight due to various causes, the important one being our lack of knowledge of the features of the calendar system in vogue ever since Krishna left his mortal coils. The Kali Maha Yuga calendar started since then. Thirty five years before that, the Mahabharata war was fought. This offers the best hint to arrive at the year of the war which can be cross-checked with astronomy references found in the text.


Here comes the next issue of locating the astronomy positions precisely. We are not able to locate the astronomy positions concurring with the date derived from the Kali date and we fail to understand the cause for it. The only external element being the simulator in use, we fail to probe that external element but instead start finding fault with the verses or manipulate the verses of Mahabharata.


These two issues are to be resolved– Kali Yuga date and the precise astronomy positions - before I begin decoding the verses to validate the Traditional date of the war. 


Kali Yuga date basis for deriving date of Mahabharata war


Very often we come across references to Kali Yuga in Mahabharata – mostly in the context of dharma (or adharma) prevailing then. When adharmic fighting technique was used by Bhima to slay Duryodhana, Krishna himself said, “prapta? kaliyuga? viddhi” [Mbh: 9-59-21]


If this is construed as referring to the start of Kali Maha Yuga, then we must justify another verse, pertaining to the entry of Kali in Parikshit’s time. Parikshit needs no external citation, for his name was mentioned by Krishna himself after Aswattama shot his astra to destroy the fetus growing in the womb of Uttara, wife of Abhimanyu, his nephew. Krishna said that the fetus would be saved and the son born would be known as Parikshit and would rule for sixty years. [Mbh: 10-16-14]


Parikshit came to the throne after the Pandavas relinquished the throne which happened soon after Krishna left the world. On the day of exit of Krishna, Kali Maha Yuga started, says the same author Vyasa in Srimad Bhagavatam at two places. [Srimad Bhagavatam: 1-15- 36; 12-2-33]


We have two entries of Kali by now – one at the time of Bhima killing Duryodhana and another after Krishna left this world. And for the third time we see the entry of Kali “kali? pravi??a?” after Parikshit started ruling the country. [Srimad Bhagavatam: 1-16-10] However, Parikshit succeeded in restraining Kali from entering his country but remain in five designated places. [Srimad Bhagavatam: 1-17] So who is this Kali who entered here?


We have to gauge the circumstances and the meaning together. At the time of the war and at Parikshit’s time the Kali’s entry was about Adharma setting in. Whenever Adharma exceeded Dharma, it was said that Kali had entered. Malyavan, the maternal grandfather of Ravana, warned Ravana that, “when adharma swallows dharma, it stimulates Kali yuga” and this dialogue took place in Treta Yuga! [Valmiki Ramayana: 6-35-14] Similarly, we come across a reference to the entry of Kali in Treta Yuga when sage Chyavana, covered inside an anthill due to his continuous penance, started watching the young girl Sukanya without her knowledge. This was told by sage Lomasa in Dwapara Yuga in Mahabharata! [Mbh: 3-121]


So Kali could enter Treta Yuga and Dwapara Yuga but remain muted in Kali Yuga when it had to be active. This shows that we need to do contextual analysis of the Kali verses in Mahabharata to understand whether it is about an increase in Adharma or a reference to the Time scale.


In the Time scale, there are sub divisions and units to measure time. The solar year is the basic unit and 4,32,000 solar years make the duration of this Kali Yuga. The Kali Yuga duration in turn becomes the basic unit of the Catur Maha Yuga. Two times the Kali Yuga duration is Dwapara Yuga; three times the duration is Treta Yuga; four times the duration is Krita Yuga. Thus from Krita to Kali, the time period can be expressed as 4:3:2:1 in which 1 part is equal to 4,32,000 years (duration of Kali Yuga). Basically all Yugas are measured in solar years, or in other words, by the celestial entity. This in turn suggests that only celestial entities mark the beginning and end date of the Yugas. We do come across such reference only when we search the relevant texts, the Jyothisha Siddhantas.


“Gruha samanyam Yugam” says Aryabhatiya, a Tantra Siddhanta. [Aryabhatiya: 3-8] Here Catur Maha Yuga is identified in terms of planets sharing commonality or coming together. Traditionally it is held that all planets except one of the nodes congregated near zero degree Aries when Kali Yuga began. Most scholars are skeptical about this feature; that it is fictitious and not supported by any textual reference, as they are not able to get this congregation at the traditional date of Kali Yuga! However a combined reading of Aryabhatiya and Surya Siddhanta offers an indirect reference to the grouping of planets at the beginning of Aries.


Aryabhatiya does refer to the congregation of all the planets except Rahu at the beginning of Aries when Krita Yuga started on a Wednesday. [Aryabhatiya: 1-3,4] Can this be taken to mean that this congregation repeats at the beginning Kali Yuga, having the basic unit of time of the Catur Maha Yuga (4,32,000)? In the absence of any explicit citation, we have to analyze the existing verses. Going by the Aryabhatiya verse quoted above, the congregation must repeat at the beginning of every Krita Yuga that starts after 10 rounds of the duration of Kali Yuga (4+3+2+1).


A verse from Surya Siddhanta says at the END of Krita Yuga the mean places of all planets except the nodes coincide with each other at the first point of stellar Aries. [Surya Siddhanta: 1-57] This means the planets congregate at Aries at the beginning of Treta Yuga, after crossing 4 parts of Krita Yuga each having the duration of 4,32,000 years. If it is assumed that this congregation occurs for the second time after the previous one happening at the beginning of Krita Yuga, it upsets the very idea of such a congregation for the reason that the subsequent congregation can occur at the middle of Dvapara Yuga (3 parts of Treta + 1 part of Dvapara) and further next at the middle of Krita Yuga (remaining 1 part of Dvapara + 1 part of Kali Yuga + 2 parts of Krita Yuga). This cannot be true going by the mandatory requirement of the congregation at the beginning of Krita Yuga.


This leaves us with only two probable choices for the congregation of planets, either at the beginning of every 4,32,000 years or at the beginning of double that time. If the second choice is taken, there won’t be a congregation at the beginning of Kali Yuga which, being the basic unit of the Yuga, must have some form of identification to mark its beginning. Except planetary movements no other markers are available or cited in any text. Therefore the second choice is ruled out. This leaves us with the first choice which is logically tenable in that it’s the basic unit of the Catur Yuga. Thus, all planets come together at the beginning of Aries once in 4,32,000 years. This means that any specific planetary configuration cannot occur more than once within the period of 4,32,000 years.


Vyasa on noticing the gathering of all planets at the beginning of Aries sensed the arrival of the new Yuga. When he came to know about the exit of Krishna, that was a clinching evidence of the arrival of Kali Yuga. Any derivation of the sky map for the date of Kali Yuga must have all planets (except Rahu, as stated in Aryabhatiya) close to zero degree of Aries.


That date can be derived from astrology simulators using the ayanamsa as zero. [Zero ayanamsa refers to the conjunction of the sidereal and tropical equinox at the beginning of Aswini / Aries. As time goes, the tropical equinox shifts in the backdrop of the stars giving rise to a gap between the tropical equinox and zero degree Aries position, known as ayanamsa].


Eight planets except Rahu congregated at zero degree Aries with most of them at the last one or two degrees of Pisces. The date was 22nd January of 3101 BCE in the Gregorian calendar (including the 0 year). This corresponds to the year Pramathi, Amawasya in Caitra when the sun and moon joined at the beginning of Aries on a Thursday. Traditionally these are the exact Pancanga features at the time of the beginning of Kali Yuga. A new Epoch was born by which the world became different after that.


A near similar congregation occurred on 26th December 2019, when six planets congregated at the sign, Sagittarius. It was followed by a complete change in the life of the people around the world with the advent of the Covid-19 virus.


This shows that this kind of large scale changes are noticed when many planets congregate at a strategic corner accompanied by a solar eclipse. We find this kind of description in Mahabharata, and not the language of the astronomers. All astronomy references of Mahabharata were spelt by associating with some calamity or fear of calamity. When a result is associated with planetary features, it enters the domain of astrology.


Inscriptional evidence for Kali Yuga date


An inscription of Janamejaya, son of Pariskhit, quoted by Kota Venkatachela Paakayaaji [“Chronology of Ancient Hindu History”, Part 1, 1957, pp. 13-17, Indian Antiquary, pp. 383, 334], was issued in the 29th regnal year of king Janamejaya to Lord Sitaram temple on the banks of Tungabhadra River, in today’s Hampi. The Pancanga features were Plavanga year, Amawasya, Monday, and Sahasya month referring to Pushya month. Only the star of the day is not given. These four out of five features of the Pancanga were checked in astrology software. [Jagannatha Hora software, version 7.4] The horoscopy chart generated for these details show that the month was Tapasya (Phalguna). The year exactly matching with the count from the Kali Yuga year (Pramathi), and other Pancanga features concurring exactly, it is deduced that Tapasya was mistakenly written as Sahasya.


In 89 years after the start of Kali Yuga, the ayanamsa had moved by a degree.


Another inscription indicating the Kali date is from Aihole issued in the name of Pulikesin II, but there is a controversy regarding the event mentioned there. The year matches with 3101 BCE, but the event referred to is ‘Bharatadahavaditah’ – interpreted as referring to the time of the war. This is incongruous since the date concurs with that of the Traditional Kali Yuga date, validated by planetary and Pancanga features. There is either a mistake in the letters or in our understanding of the word.

This expression is much like ‘Bharatat Purvam’ used by Aryabhata to indicate the beginning of Kali Yuga, and interpreted by ancient commentators as referring to Bharata (Pandavas) relinquishing the throne. [Aryabhatiya: 1-5] The Bharata renounced everything and cast off their sacred fires too. [Mbh: 17-1-20] Bharata daha avadita could refer to the sacrifice of the Bharata clan after coming to know of Krishna’s demise (when Kali Yuga started). The time of Pulikesin II coming within 150 years of Aryabhata, this kind of reference to the start of Kali Yuga seems to be in wide use. The other way of looking at it is that a powerful and prosperous king like Pulikesin II could have found it difficult to ascribe to the view that Kali was running in his country, much like Parikshit who detested the presence of Kali. Perhaps this made him pick out the alternate marker for the Yuga beginning, the sacrifice of the Bharata (Pandavas) on coming to know of Krishna’s exit.


Deriving date of Mahabharata War from Kali Yuga


Once having established the date of Kali Yuga at 3101 BCE, it is not difficult to derive the date of Mahabharata War. There was a gap of 35 years between the war and the exit of Krishna. On seeing the death of her children and all relatives in the war, Gandhari vented her frustration at Krishna that he (Krishna) after causing the slaughter of his kinsmen would perish in the wilderness in the 36th year. [Mbh: 11-25-41] On the 36th year, a huge carnage did take place wiping out the Krishna-clan.


When the 36th year (after the war) arrived, Yudhisthira noticed many unusual omens, says the first chapter of Mausala Parva. [Mbh: 16-1-1] In the next chapter it is said that a great calamity overtook the Vrishnis in the 36th year. [Mbh: 16-2-2] In the third chapter, Krishna on seeing the inauspicious omens understood that the 36th year had arrived when Gandhari’s curse given out of grief of losing her children was about to happen. [Mbh: 16 -3 –verses 18 & 19]


What is special about the number 36?


The number 36 has a special relevance for the welfare of one’s progeny. A 36-year sacrifice (sattra) was in vogue during Mahabharata times. It is known from Pancavimsa Brahmana that the descendants of Sakti had conducted 36 year sattra. [Pancavimsa Brahmana: 25-7-1] By the mention of Gauriviti as one who did the sattra [Ibid. 25-7-2], Sakti is identified as the father of Parasara whose son was Vyasa. It is further said in the Brahmana text that the one who performs this sattra gets rulership and also ten strong sons. [Ibid. 25-7-3 & 4] Without doubt this sattra must have been popular with the Kauravas, the Pandavas and the Vrishnis.


As biological descendants of Vyasa, the Kuru kings could have performed the sattra. Perhaps the Kauravas could not complete the 36 year long sattra* or else they could have won the war, retained rulership and children. It is doubtful the Pandavas had completed the sattra in view of the exile they had to undertake. Only the Vrishnis had survived the war and were expected to prosper more in the years after the war. The Vrishnis headed by Krishna were very clever in having chosen to support both the warring sides. Whichever side won, the Vrishnis would bring home the advantages of the winner.

[*The Sattra is of 4 parts, with nine nine-versed years, nine fifteen versed years, nine seventeen versed years and nine twenty one versed years, Pancavimsa Brahmana: 25-7-1]


Gandhari’s anger naturally turned towards Krishna who she accused as not having worked enough to avert the slaughter of the Kuru-s. The Kauravas lost their progeny, so did the Pandavas by the time the war ended; only the Vrishnis survived! The Vrishnis were already known for wealth creation and didn’t mind relocating to newer terrains (Dvaraka) to safeguard their wealth, works and resources. [Mb: 2-13] Their clan continued to be intact after the war, unlike the Kuru clan which suffered heavy losses. Gandhari’s anger was such that the new 36 year sattra that was likely to be initiated by the Vrishnis after the war was over should collapse at the penultimate hour, wiping out their progeny and rulership. It is not known if the sattra was done by the Vrishnis, but their end came in the 36th year just before the Sun entered Aries with all the planets gathered around it.


The year started in Uttarayana before that time. The 36th year happening to be Pramathi, we have to count backwards by 35 years, to the year Krodhi! That was the year of the Mahabharata War (3136 BCE in the Gregorian date). Thus we have two dates established without doubt of which the date of Kali Yuga continues to form the basis of time in all Vedic and traditional activities.


Date of Kali Yuga: 22nd January 3101 BCE, year Pramathi, Caitra, Amawasya, Aswini, Thursday, with all planets except Rahu near the beginning of Aries when the tropical vernal equinox coincided with the beginning of sidereal Aries. 


Date of Mahabharata War: 3136 BCE, corresponding to year Krodhi (more later).


In any research on the date of Mahabharata war, the deduced planetary positions must concur with the year Krodhi and corresponding Pancanga details such as tithi, star, karana and month  given in the text of Mahabharata for various events around the time of war.


(To be continued…)



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