Validating Traditional date of Mahabharata War-II
by Jayasree Saranathan on 01 Jan 2021 3 Comments

Calendar is the basis for time computing. We have to first decipher the calendar used by the people of the Mahabharata period. Mahabharata does give a decipherable calendar that was in vogue at that time. Once we are able to decode it, many inputs on time mentioned here and there in Mahabharata do fall in place. The major evidence for the type of calendar is found in the version of Bhishma when he justified the completion of the exile period of the Pandavas.


The Pandavas were expected to complete 13 years in exile. But a few days before that period ended, their identity became known. The gap is only a few days and not more, is known from two verses, one by Karna and another by Draupadi.


The near completion of the exile period was conveyed by Karna, when on hearing the blare of the conch of Arjuna, as Vrihannala in the company of Uttara he stated that Vibhatsu (Arjuna) was engaged in the last eight and five years (13 years) in severe austerities to strike him in combat. [Mbh: 4-43-6] The number of days left can be gauged from the reply of Draupadi to Sudeshna, queen of Virata, when asked by her to leave the country upon the death of Kichaka. Draupadi pleaded to bear with her for just thirteen days after which she would leave. [Mbh: 4-23-27] This implies that the exile period was going to get over in the next thirteen days.


Within this thirteen day period, emboldened by the absence of Kichaka, the Trigartas started attacking the Matsya country aided by the Kauravas. The Kauravas were pursued by Arjuna in the guise of Vrihannala whose identity was recognized by the Kauravas by the sound of his conch. Thinking that Arjuna was spotted by them before the end of the exile, they asked Bhishma for clarification. Bhishma’s reply helps us to identify the calendar in vogue at that time.


Deciphering the extra days in exile spent by the Pandavas


Bhishma said there was an excess of 5 months and 12 days in the 13 years spent by Pandavas in exile. [Mbh: 4-47-1 to 5] This was calculated on the basis of the 5-Year Yuga system in which for every 2 and half solar years, one lunar month gets increased. To quote the exact words of Bhishma,

“The wheel of time revolves with its divisions, viz., with Kalas and Kasthas and Muhurtas and days and fortnights and months and constellations and planets and seasons and years. In consequence of their fractional excesses and the deviations of also of the heavenly bodies, there is an increase of two months in every five years. It seems to me that calculating this wise, there would be an excess of five months and twelve nights in thirteen years. Everything, therefore, that the sons of Pandu had promised, hath been exactly fulfilled by them. Knowing this to be certain, Vibhatsu hath made his appearance.” [Ganguli’s translation, Mbh: 4-52]


From Vedanga Jyothisha it is known that this is about the 5-year Yuga system in which two lunar months increase (Adhika masa) every five years. In ten years 4 months increase and in the next 3 years, 1 month and some days increase. Overall there will be an addition of 5 months and some days. The days are given as “dvadasa ca k?apa?” in which k?apa? is variously interpreted while the number of days are known as twelve. [Mbh: 4-47, verses 3-4] When we apply the aphorisms found in Vedanga Jyothisha for the 5-year Yuga, we are able to decode Bhishma’s calculation.


No. of solar days in a year = 366 [Y-VJ: 28]

In 5 years (Yuga) = 366 x 5 = 1830

In 13 years = 366 x 13 = 4758

No of lunar days in 5 years (Yuga) = 1830 + 62 = 1892

In 13 years = 4919 days (d), 6 muhurta (m)


The lunar days far exceeded the solar days. Subtracting the solar days from the lunar days we get the excess days spent by the Pandavas in exile.


Lunar days – Solar days = (4919 d + 6 m) – 4758 d= 161 d + 6 m

Converted into months and muhurtas = (161 d + 6 m) / 30 = 5 months, 11 days, 6 muhurtas


This exactly matches with Bhishma’s version of extra 5 months and “dvadasa ca k?apa?”, referring to less than 12 days as per the above calculation. Among the many meanings of ‘Kshapa’, ‘night’ was suggested by some. With the calculation coming to more than 11 days but less than 12 days, by having only 6 Muhurtas on the 12th day, Bhishma meant the other meaning, i.e. “diminishing” for Kshapa. This establishes that the Pandavas spent an additional 5 months and less than 12 days in exile. Within the last 13 days (as per Draupadi’s reply to Sudeshna), Arjuna revealed his identity.


Bhishma’s calculation shows it was the 5-year Yuga in use at that time. The earliest reference to this Yuga appears in the 1st Mandala of the Rig Veda on the sage, Dirghatamas. It is stated that the sage grew old (or perished) in the 10th Yuga. [RV: 1-158-6] This is a reference to the 10th Yuga in his life that works out to the five year period between 45th to 50th years of his life. This sage lived before Ramayana period as known from the existence of a country by name Anga, ruled by Romapada in Ramayana. Anga got its name from a person Anga who was fathered by Dirghatamas. [Vishnu Purana: 4-18] This is to show that this Yuga system was in vogue in Bhartavarsha from before Ramayana times. Decipherment of the date of both the Itihasas must comply with the rules of this Yuga system.


Let us begin that decipherment to know the exact years within the exile period when the five Adhika months had occurred. The sequence must be known, because of the crucial derivation from Mahabharata that Bhishma, who seemed to be an authority on calculation of time, failed to judge the arrival of Uttarayana and was forced to wait for more than a month in what seems to be a case of Adhika masa! So our next step is to find out whether the extended stay was due to an Adhika masa at that time as a natural sequence or by other causes.



 Validating Traditional date of Mahabharata War-III

In the 5-year Yuga concept, the year began on the day of Uttarayana, or the day after the sun turned north. This date is not the exact date of the sun turning to north in all the years of the 5 year Yuga. This is deduced from Lagadha’s Vedanga Jyothisha giving the basic concepts of the 5-year Yuga. The basic concepts are,

(1)   The first year started on the day of the conjunction of the sun and moon. [In Lagadha’s time, this conjunction occurred on Magha Amawasya [in Sravistha, R-VJ: 5-6  and Y-VJ: 6-7] which means the lunar Phalguna month started the next day, though the solar month continued to be Tapas (Aquarius)]

(2) This conjunction repeated on the 6th year, i.e. after 5 years. By this it is known that the exact date of the Sun turning towards the North was taken as the time of the 1st year. The day (the star) the moon joined this Sun marked the 1st day of the first year of the Yuga.


(3)  In the next four years, the same conjunction is not possible on the same star or tithi due to the faster movement of the moon. As a result the star-tithi positions were derived in such a way that they match once again in the 6th year, i.e. the 1st year of the next Yuga.


(4) Within the 5-year period, there are 60 solar months (12x5) but 62 lunar months. The extra two lunar months are the Adhika Masa-s.


The repetition of the conjunction of the sun and moon on the 6th year (1st year of the Yuga) implies that the sun was at its true position of the winter solstice (Uttarayana) only in the 1st year. In the other four years, the sun could not be at the true Uttarayana degree; nor was the conjunction of the sun and moon possible in those four years at the true Uttarayana degree.


This revelation is important in deciphering the dates of the events of Mahabharata. Since Bhishma was said to have waited for the sun to turn northward, it is necessary to know in which year he left the world. If the expected Uttarayana day was in a year other than the 1st year, then the true position of the sun at Uttarayana (seen in astronomy simulators) would not yield the correct date of Uttarayana at that time.


In this backdrop, two inputs from Vayu Purana must also be remembered. According to Vayu Purana no date has sanctity unless it is connected with the sun and the moon. In this context Vayu Purana refers to Mesha (Aries) and Tula (Libra) as equinox months but identifies the date of equinox only by the position of the sun and the moon in opposition in specific pada of the star. [Vayu Purana: 1-50-195 to 198]


(This should be an eye-opener for those who are pushing the idea that the Tropical winter solstice on 22nd December must be treated as Uttarayana day for current times. Without being touched by the Sun and the moon the day has no sanctity. Makara Sankaranti, now treated as Uttarayana, has certain such cosmic connections besides other features which are outside the purview of this series; hence not discussed here).


The second input from Vayu Purana relates to the names of the five years of the Yuga, viz., Samvatsara, Parivatsara, Idvatsara, Anuvatsara and Vatsara. [Vayu Purana: 1-50-183] The point to be noted is that the names Samvatsara and Vatsara are commonly used to refer to the year. If in a context any of these two names appear we must take a re-look at the verse to judge whether this is used to refer to the 1st and the 5th year respectively.


Applying these concepts to Mahabharata, it is found that Bhishma’s version on the upcoming Uttarayana did not match with the first point on the conjunction of the sun and the moon. He expected Uttarayana to start on Shukla Ashtami in the month of Magha when the moon was in Rohini which could happen in any year other than the 1st year of the 5-year Yuga!


This takes us to the task of identifying the first year of the 5-year Yuga closer to Krodhi (the year of the war) when the sun and moon were together in the month of Magha. On checking the combination in jhora astrology simulator for Surya Siddhanta ayanamsa of close to zero ayanamsa of the Mahabharata times, there are twin surprises in Krodhi!

(1) The Adhika masa occurred in Caitra in Krodhi (3137 BCE).

(2) And in Krodhi, Uttarayana started at the conjunction of the Sun and Moon in the star Uttarashadha, which means Krodhi was the 1st year of the 5-year Yuga at that time.


Let us first take up the Adhika Masa in Krodhi. We have Adhika Caitra in Shobhana (Shobhakrit, the year preceding Krodhi). The previous month was Adhika Masa in the year Krodhi, but the simulator recognizes it with the previous year, i.e. Shobhana, as it is based on the current practice of change of year with the arrival of Caitra. Remember that Uttarayana marked the year beginning in the 5-year Yuga. As such, the year Krodhi started from Magha, a month before Caitra (written as the year Shobhana in the simulator).


The next month was Nija Caitra which the simulator recognizes in the year Krodhi (3136 BCE). When we trace the beginning of Uttarayana in Krodhi, the date turns out to be 24th October, 3137 BCE. Interestingly the day shows the conjunction of the sun and moon at the exact beginning of Capricorn where the 2nd pada of Uttarashadha begins. This conjunction can happen only in the 1st year of the Yuga!


The 1st year of the 5-year Yuga in Mahabharata times started on the first day of the month of Magha (Shukla Pratipat) when the sun and moon were together in Uttarashadha. The previous day of Amawasya in the month of Pushya was the day the conjunction started, signaling the beginning of Uttarayana. This matches exactly with the zero degree ayanamsa at that time. Only then the winter solstice could start at the junction of Sagittarius and Capricorn with the Sun just having entered Capricorn. The Pandavas returned in this year that happened to be the 1st year of the 5-year Yuga, i.e. Samvatsara year. The war was fought in this year.


The major revelation from this is:

The equinox was forward moving during Mahabharata times. From Magha Shukla Pratipat in Mahabharata, the Uttarayana shifted forward to Magha Amawasya in Lagadha’s time. This proves that the idea of continuous ‘precession’ of the equinoxes is erroneous.


Constructing the Mahabharata calendar from the first year of the Yuga


The relationship between the tithi and nakshatra of the Uttarayana day is a standard one in the 5-year Yuga, as known from Lagadha’s Vedanga Jyothisha. [Rig Jyothisha 8&9, Yajur Jyothisha 9&10] There are 6 synodic months and 6 tithis in an ayana (1 Yuga = 62 synodic months = 10 ayanas).


So every 7th tithi starting from the 1st ayana of the 1st year (that began in Uttarayana) would give the starting tithi of the subsequent ayana. Similarly every 19th star starting from the star of the first day of Uttarayana (1st ayana) in the 1st year would be the star of the first day of the subsequent ayana.


Using this formula we can construct the tithi-nakshatra of the first day of all the 10 ayanas in the 5 years of Mahabharata times. Let me first derive the 5-year Yuga that started on Uttarashadha of Magha in Krodhi.


The Yuga, the 1st year and the Uttarayana of the first year started with the conjunction of the sun and moon in Uttarashadha. The Uttarayana date did not start on the same day every year, though the sun turned northward in the same star. A researcher in Mahabharata must bear in mind this anomaly in the calendar in vogue at that time. No modern simulator can detect this anomaly, since this Yuga system is not incorporated in any simulator. 


The 1st year was Krodhi, the year when the Pandavas ended their exile and the war was fought. At the end of the war, Bhishma waited for the Uttarayana, for his exit from the earth. That was the 2nd year of the Yuga, called Vishvavasu.


As per the above, Uttarayana must have started on Shukla Trayodasi in Magha, in the 2nd year of the Yuga when Bhishma was waiting to leave. So Bhishma must have told that he was waiting for Magha Shukla Trayodasi to leave the earth as that was the day of Uttarayana originally. But Bhishma stated that Uttarayana was going to start on Magha Shukla Ashtami!


Why did Bhishma, an expert in calculating Time, determine Uttarayana time 4 tithis earlier than the normal course? How did this discrepancy happen?


(To be continued…)




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