Validating Traditional date of Mahabharata War - XVII
by Jayasree Saranathan on 11 Feb 2021 0 Comment

Validating the first and the last day of Balarama’s pilgrimage


There is confusion on when Balarama left for the Tirtha yatra. This arises from the verse on Balarama leaving for the pilgrimage on Maitri star (Anuradha) after meeting Krishna at Upaplavya. [Mbh: 9-34-12]

tirthayatra? haladhara? sarasvatya? mahayasa?

maitre nak?atrayoge sma sahita? sarvayadavai?


Later, on the day he came back to witness the Gada Yuddha at the end of the war, he told that he finished 42 days of pilgrimage having started it on a Pushya day, and ending it on a Shravana day.[ Mbh: 9-33-5]

catvari?sad ahany adya dve ca me ni?s?tasya vai

pu?ye?a sa?prayato 'smi srava?e punaragata?

(Translation by Ganguli): “Two and forty days have passed since I left home. I had set out under the constellation Pushya and have come back under Sravana.”


This statement having come from Balarama, it becomes the primary evidence for the dates and the duration of his pilgrimage. It means somewhere in between he had resumed the pilgrimage on Anuradha star. The confusion is solved when we read the sequence of events narrated by Vaisampayana to king Janamejaya in Shalya Parva who wanted to know the events pertaining to Balarama before he reached the war field to witness the Gada Yuddha.


The narration starts stating that the Pandavas took their position at Upaplavya. Krishna went on a peace mission to Hastinapur but returned unsuccessfully. He told the Pandavas to start on Pushya day for the war. [Mbh: 9-34-9]

na kurvanti vaco mahya? kurava? kalacodita?

nirgacchadhva? pa??aveya? pu?ye?a sahita maya

(Ganguli’s translation) “Urged by Fate, the Kauravas are for disregarding my words! Come, ye sons of Pandu, with me (to the field of battle), setting out under the constellation Pushya!”


When Krishna said this, the Pushya nakshatra of Kartika month was already over. He was at Hastinapur on Kartika Pushya when the comet fell. Then he started to Upaplavya on Uttara Phalguni. So he could have meant the next Pushya nakshatra of the next month, i.e. Margashira. The date corresponds to 29th September 3136 BCE.


After this, while the troops were being mustered, Balarama addressed Krishna saying that they must render assistance to the Kauravas but Krishna ignored it. Balarama was infuriated by this reply and left for the pilgrimage in Anuradha star. The Bhoja chief (Kritavarman) joined (asraya) Duryodhana while Yuyudhana sided with the Pandavas. These two must have accompanied Balarama until then. Now they had taken a position, with Balarama preferring to keep himself away.


The next verse says, “After the heroic son of Rohini had set out under the constellation Pushya, the slayer of Madhu, placing the Pandavas in his van, proceeded against the Kurus” (Ganguli’s translation)

rauhi?eye gate sure pu?ye?a madhusudana?

pa??aveyan purask?tya yayav abhimukha? kurun” [Mbh: 9-34-14]


Certainly Balarama could not have started in Margashirsha Pushya 18 days after he was supposed to have left for the pilgrimage on Anuradha. It must have been Kartika Pushya. We have to relate the above verse with Balarama’s own version of starting the pilgrimage on Pushya. There is no conflict on the star of the day he started. It was Pushya only.


In verse 9, Krishna commanded the Pandavas to start on Pushya day. In verse 13, it is again said they started after Balarama started in Pushya. Both did not start on the same Pushya day, but on the Pushya day of different months. This clears the confusion over Balarama’s Tirtha Yatra.


The subsequent verses talk about the elaborate arrangements and festivities at the time of Balarama leaving for the pilgrimage. Definitely this description is not about the time after Balarama left on the day of Anuradha, for the atmosphere was very tense then with the war clouds looming large and Balarama himself in agitated mood.


But this narration coming after the reference to Balarama starting on Pushya, it is obvious that Vaisampayana was narrating the gleeful events right from the time Balarama commenced his pilgrimage from Prabhas [present day Somnath Patan, Veraval, Gujarat] on Kartika Pushya. The narration continues with all the places visited by him until the day he came to know about Duryodhana’s fall and the Gada Yuddha slated to take place.


Here a brief digression to know why there is repetition of Pushya in Mahabharata events. Mahabharata people had an obsession with Pushya. Never had they mentioned the upcoming Kali Yuga by that name, but only as Pushya Yuga. While describing the Yuga classification to king Dhritarashtra just before the war began, Sanjaya said, “k?ta? treta dvapara? ca pu?ya? ca kuruvardhana,” by replacing Kali with Pushya, having the meaning nourishment and enhancement. [Mbh: 6-11-3] They wished to see Pushti and not Kali and always chose to make the best use of the Pushya day.


Drupada’s emissary was sent on a Pushya day. Balarama started on Pushya, so too the Pandavas. Balarama started his pilgrimage on Kartika Pushya§ - on the day Krishna was at Hastinapur on peace mission. After he had started, the comet fell, causing many unfortunate side effects which were regarded as bad nimittas. Balarama noticed the changing phase of the moon and the advancement of Amawasya – the day meant for ancestral oblations. The changed phase of the waning moon must have troubled him and caused him to rush to Krishna, who was by then back to Upaplavya.

[§ “Of all the 28 constellations (that include Abhijit), the pride of place appears to have been given to Pushya, the 8th star”, says Dr B.V. Raman, in “Muhurtha (Electoral Astrology), p. 24. Pushya neutralizes all defects and is preferred for any activity (except marriage) including travel]


The visit to Upaplavya perhaps had a twin purpose, of knowing the outcome of Krishna’s peace mission and also to discuss the bizarre sightings. The fact that he left on Anuradha day reveals that he along with Krishna and others had come to a collective conclusion on the observance of Amawasya the previous day, i.e. Vishakha! After Amawasya, he promptly resumed the pilgrimage the next day, i.e. in the star of Anuradha. By then he had already completed 10 days of pilgrimage.


There is a marked difference in the talks of Balarama at Upaplavya. He conceded that a great slaughter was going to happen, perhaps after seeing the bad nimittas in the aftermath of the comet-hit. [Mbh: 5-154-23 to 26]


Compared to this he sounded partial in his earlier talks. The first talk was after the marriage of Abhimanyu when he openly derided Yudhisthira. [Mbh: 5-2]


The next talk was when Duryodhana met him at Dwaraka after seeking Krishna’s help. Balarama confided that he contradicted Krishna for the sake of Duryodhana. However he assured him that he would not side with anyone and advised him to fight in accordance with the rules of propriety. [Mbh: 5-7-23 to 27]


He made up his mind not to fight at that time itself and conveyed his stance. That decision was not made at Upaplavya though he did tell Krishna that they must help the Kauravas. Therefore it is not correct to say that the decision to go on pilgrimage was decided by Balarama at Upaplavya after declaring his intention not to participate in the war, as told by some researchers.


Balarama’s pilgrimage started on the day the comet fell. He must have started in the morning and the comet impact occurred in the evening.


First day of Balarama’s pilgrimage: Sun in Scorpio, lunar Kartika month, waning Pancami at sunrise, Pushya star and Tuesday (2nd September, 3136 BCE)


Last day of Balarama’s pilgrimage: Sun in Capricorn, lunar Pushya month, Amawasya, Sravana star, Monday (10th November 3136 BCE)


Counting the above dates from 2nd September to 10th November in the modern calendar, the days far exceed 42 days mentioned by Balarama. But the counting was done by Balarama in terms of stars only!

From Kartika Pushya to Margashira Punarvasu (one round of stars) = 27 stars

From Margashira Pushya to the next Sravana (falling in Pushya month) = 15 stars

Total number of star days = 27 + 15 = 42 star days!


This serves as an eye-opener to modern researchers who count the stars in days much like how they count the tithis (e.g. Trayodasi Amawasya) as days. The foremost requisite in historical research such as the dating of the Itihasa is that we must put aside our present-mindedness but look at the past in the way the people of the past had lived through it.


Vyasa had been meticulous in recording the events. Balarama not only mentioned the duration of his pilgrimage but also stated the stars at the beginning and the end of the pilgrimage, thereby giving us clarity on how to account for the duration. Counting from Kartika Pushya, the 42nd day falls on Shravana in Pushya month – offering a valuable input that the war ended in Pushya month!


The next major revelation is that the month of Magha started on the 43rd day, i.e., on the day after the Gada Yuddha, because Amawasya was running on the 42nd day. Two inferences are drawn from this:

(1) The war started in Pushya month

(2) The month of Magha that started on the next day was not the month of Uttarayana given that Bhishma didn’t lay down his life in that month but had to prolong his wait. This is proof that this month of Magha was an Adhika Masa. It could not have been a Kshaya masa for the reason there was no Adhika masa prior to that and the closest adhika masa was in Caitra, far earlier in that year. In normal times, the adhika masa cannot occur in Magha, but Mahabharata war occurred at the most abnormal time ever faced by mankind with a month missing out cosmically due to the comet-hit!


In our discussion sequencing the events we are still in Margashira month – the Pandavas having moved their troops under Krishna’s advice on Margashira Pushya – the same star in which Balarama started his pilgrimage in the previous month. Let us further see the events of Margashira.


(To be continued…)


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