Validating Traditional date of Mahabharata War - XIX
by Jayasree Saranathan on 17 Feb 2021 0 Comment

Starting date of Mahabharata war: 23rd October 3136 BCE


The day the war started can be deduced from the Gitopadesa date (Margashira Shukla Ekadasi – 22nd October, 3136 BCE). That date must fulfill the astronomy features of the text. The war started on the first day of the solar month of Pushya (Makara) in lunar Pushya Shukla Dwadasi. The day corresponds to 23rd October, 3136 BCE. It was a Thursday with the moon at the last degree of Rohini at sunrise. It was followed by Mrigashirsha continuing on the night of the 1st day of the war. Counting from Mrigashirsha, Shravana started on the night of the 18th day of the war and ended on the 19th day when the Gada Yuddha was fought. Balarama returned from his pilgrimage on that day.


Corroboration of astronomy features for first day of war


Vyasa’s conversation with Dhritarashtra contains 78 nimittas in two chapters of Bhishma Parva on the nature of hints on the astronomy features of the day of the war or just before the war. [Mbh: Ch 6: sections 2 & 3] Vyasa began saying the terrestrial, atmospheric and celestial sightings as follows: [Mbh: 6-2-16]

iha yuddhe maharaja bhavi?yati mahan k?aya?

yathemani nimittani bhayayadyopalak?aye

Translation by Ganguli: “Great will the slaughter be, O monarch, in this battle. I see here also (numerous) omens indicative of terror.”


There is no hint on the exact day (tithi or star) of the conversation between the two, but it must have taken place after Krishna Caturdasi of the lunar Margashira and before Pushya Shukla Dasami (the day before Gitopadesa). It is possible that it took place closer to the day of Gitopadesa, based on the narration by Sanjaya, enabled with Divine Vision.


Addressing the basic question why Vyasa narrated too many nimittas portending destruction, it is but natural to expect the king to seek astrological opinion in the event of a war. Only this conversation is heavily loaded with nimittas that include astronomy observations. The other contexts giving such observations, such as Karna-Krishna conversation and Drona’s narration on the 10th day of the war are also the result of some fear about a calamity. This is in tune with Prasna astrology (horary) for war (Yuddha Prasna) and to decipher the sudden, unusual abnormal events (nimittas).


Vyasa revealed every adverse feature, classified as nimittas of three types (terrestrial, atmospheric and celestial) in addition to the then prevailing planetary combinations. The entire narration can be understood from the perspectives given in Brihad Samhita.


Of the 78 nimittas, 47 were terrestrial observations of which 6 were related to extra-terrestrial collision. Atmospheric features were 12 in number (see Part 13). The remaining 19 pertain to planetary or sightings of stars (10 were directly about the comet-hit, described earlier). Of the remaining 9, 3 were not astronomy positions but scientifically explainable events (Part 14). The remaining 6 are explained here along with an additional feature found in the Gita Press edition.


The sequence of the nimittas in Vyasa’s narration


In the narration of Vyasa, the nimittas that appeared after the comet-hit are stated first. [Mbh: 6-2] The narration starts from the appearance of the Sun at twilight, the abnormal colour of Parigha (halo) around it, the shapes of the clouds (Kabandha, headless trunk appearance) covering the sun and the abnormal animal behavior. In that context he expresses “aho ratram maya dhrishtam” verse (see  Part 12) on how the tithis were getting reduced (kshaya) with the moon appearing without any features and of the colour of fire culminating in the Full Moon in Krittika (in the month of Margashira, implied). Only in that context he expressed Arundhati keeping her husband at her Prish?ha, Saturn afflicting Rohini (referring to the Moon, the planetary lord of Rohini) and the change in the marks on the moon. With this, the 2nd chapter in Bhishma Parva ends covering celestial and atmospheric nimittas.


The description continues in the 3rd chapter starting with the terrestrial nimittas and ending with the fall of the comet on a Pushya day, implying that all these were associated with the comet-hit.

dhumaketur mahaghora? pu?yam akramya ti??hati (6-3-12b)


After this he started narrating the planetary combinations that do not bode well for the king and the people. In between he does talk about the odd events during and following the comet-hit. Let me pick out only the planetary observations to cross check with the date of the first day of the war derived from the astrology simulator.


To judge any event, the locations of three auspicious planets, namely, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury are scrutinized. For a war, Mars’ location is important to note. To fathom the intensity of havoc caused to the public at large, the position of Saturn is noticed. Vyasa dealt with all these. They are explained here in the sequence given by Vyasa.


1] “Mars wheeleth towards Magha and Vrihaspati (Jupiter) towards Sravana” is the translation by Ganguli for the following verse of Vyasa.

maghasv a?garako vakra? srava?e ca b?haspati? (6-3-13b)


On the day of the war, Mars was at the 6th degree in Capricorn and Jupiter in the 2nd degree of Taurus. Jupiter was retrograde, while Mars was not. Therefore ‘Angarako Vakra’ is understood with the other meaning, the ‘bent’ aspect of Mars – on the 8th sign from where it is positioned. From the 6th degree in Capricorn, its 8th aspect falls on Magha in Leo. In the case of Jupiter, its 9th aspect starts from the 2nd degree of Capricorn to the 2nd degree of Aquarius within which Shravana is located. The specific reference to Shravana is because it is lorded by the Moon, which also happens to be the lord of the Prajapati star, Rohini. So this verse is entirely astrological feature that cannot be visualized in astronomy software.


2] “The Sun’s offspring (Sani) approaching towards the constellation Bhaga, afflicteth it,” says Ganguli.

bhagya? nak?atram akramya suryaputre?a pi?yate (6-3-14a)


This also matches with the time of commencement of the war. Saturn was at the 27th degree of Capricorn. From there its 7th aspect starts from the 27th degree of Cancer and ends at the 27th degree of Leo where Purva Phalguni has just begun. The attack (Akrama) or affliction to Bhaga, the deity of Purva Phalguni had started just before the war started. Bhaga is the name of the sun when it scorches everyone alike without giving respite. So the collusion between the father and the son (Sun and Saturn) was expected to give terrible results. This is also an astrological feature that cannot be located in any astronomy simulator.


3] Following Mars and Saturn, Vyasa started narrating the position of Venus. Venus, also known as Shyama graha [see Ch. 4, Varahamihira, Brihat Jataka: II-4] is noted by Vyasa in two locations in two verses.

sukra? pro??hapade purve samaruhya visa? pate

uttare tu parikramya sahita? pratyudik?ate


syamo graha? prajvalita? sa dhuma? saha pavaka?

aindra? tejasvi nak?atra? jye??ham akramya ti??hati (6-3-14b and 15)


Taking up the 2nd verse, it says that Venus was in the company of Mars in Jye?tha. This was so at the time of the comet-hit – and both were seen with red-crest after sunset at that time. The term “Dhuma saha Pavaka” means “with the shining Dhuma”. Dhuma is a reference to Mars, known by its Upagraha by that name as per astrology. This combination (Venus and Mars) is not auspicious.


Before stating this inauspicious position of Venus, Vyasa recalled an earlier time (purve) when Venus was retrograde in the Proshthapada stars. The first line states, ‘earlier the planet Venus ascended from Purva Bhadrapada star’. In the second line it is said, ‘(ascended to) Uttara Bhadrapada star. But it did a turn-around to join that (Purva Bhadrapada) again’ which means Venus had gone back to Purva Bhadrapada by retrogression.


Overall the two verses talk about Venus, which in an earlier time made a turnaround from Uttara Bhadrapada to Purva Bhadrapada, after ascending from the latter, had joined the burning Dhuma Graha (Mars) and afflicted (by occupation) Jye?tha ruled by Indra. Two different locations, each portending something bad was narrated by him, of which the second location was as on the comet-hit date and continued on the first day of the war.


The three stars mentioned here are noted for certain auspicious or cruel nature. Uttara Bhadrapada is auspicious for coronation, kings and permanency. Purva Bhadrapada is suited for deceit, setting fire and imprisonment. [B.V. Raman, “Muhurtha”, pp.23-24] Jye?tha is known as a ‘krura’ (cruel) star. [Yajur Vedanga Jyothisha: V 36] Venus, an auspicious planet for prosperity, if it turns around Uttara Bhadrapada to reach Purva Bhadrapada, foretells imprisonment and troubles for the king. Having done such a turn-around earlier, Venus reached the cruel Jye?tha to join the burning planet, Mars, when terrible events were witnessed on Pushya day - the day Duryodhana ordered his troops to move. This movement of Venus didn’t bode well for the ruling king.


So, these two verses on Venus were mere re-callings of its inauspicious transits in the past, the last of which occurred on the day Duryodhana planned to move his army. Perhaps Vyasa wanted to remind the king of the ominous transits in the past, as the planet continued to remain in Jye?tha, lorded by Indra at the time of war. Of the two verses on Venus, the second one on the position of Venus in Jye?tha at the time of the war is an essential condition to be fulfilled in any software. (After this, Vyasa stated the reverse movement of Dhruva star (Part 14) and the Parusha Graha’s (Saturn’s) affliction (Part 13).


4] The next verse is a reference to the position of Mars at the time of the commencement of the war.     

vakranuvakra? k?tva ca srava?e pavakaprabha?

brahmarasi? samav?tya lohita?go vyavasthita? (6-3-17)


Pavakaprabha? and ‘lohita’ refer to Mars. It went ‘vakranuvakra?- meaning going vakra again and again – which is impossible, and therefore it must refer to retrogression (once) and its cruel aspect (the second time). The verse also gives its location at Brahmarasi, a reference to the star Abhijit. In earlier times, when Abhijit was part of the zodiac, it spread from the last 3 degrees of Sagittarius to the first 10 degree of Capricorn. [See Part 13] At the time of the start of the war, Mars was at the 6th degree of Capricorn where Abhijit was present earlier.


Now coming to ‘vakranuvakra?, the last time Mars was in retrogression it cast its 7th aspect on Shravana in Capricorn from its location in Cancer. It was at the start of Uttarayana in the same year Krodhi. Now towards the end of the year (the year ended with the start of the next Uttarayana), Mars had reached Capricorn and was afflicting Shravana that was next to the star it was transiting. A planet afflicts the previous and the next star from the star of its location. This aspect is recognized as vakra which means cruel. This observation is also astrological.


5] After narrating a series of non-astronomical nimittas following the above verse that included the two planets rising with red crest (Part 14: Venus and Mars at time of comet-hit) and the dim appearance of the Saptarishi stars, Vyasa continued to tell a planetary combination as follows:

sa?vatsarasthayinau ca grahau prajvalitav ubhau

visakhayo? samipasthau b?haspatisanaiscarau (6-3-25)


The two blazing planets, viz., Vrihaspati and Sani, having approached the constellation called Vishakha, have become stationary there for a whole year [Ganguli translation for above verse]. But this verse has two components – one is about the position of two planets at the beginning of Samvatsara and the other is about two planets afflicting Vishakha.


The translation seems faulty considering the word “sa?vatsarasthayinau” referring to Samvatsara, the first year of the Yuga, left out in the translation. Krodhi was the first year then, known as ‘Samvatsara’. Vyasa was referring to the two planets (Jupiter and Saturn) staying in their own houses at the time of the beginning of the Samvatsara (Uttarayana day in Krodhi), Jupiter in its own house of Pisces and Saturn in its own house of Capricorn. Vyasa could recall this since it is a practice to make year-long predictions from the planetary combinations of first day of the year (same as how it is being done now at the time of solar ingress in Aries, the beginning of the year).


At that time, both Jupiter and Saturn were well fortified by occupying their own houses. But alas, two grahas cast their malefic aspect on Vishakha, identified with Lord Kartikeya, the celestial Commander- in-chief. Any affliction to it was keenly watched as an omen indicating success or defeat in a war. One can find this in the list of omens by Rama to Lakshmana before the start of the war with Ravana. [Valmiki Ramayana: 6-4-51]


The two grahas were Saturn casting its 10th aspect on Vishakha and Mars casting its 4th aspect on Vishakha from Cancer. This foretells destruction due to war. This is purely an astrological concept and cannot be simulated in astronomy software.


6] The next verse refers Krittikasu graha –i.e. the sun becoming obscure in Tivro nakshatra (Jye?tha) after the comet-hit (see Part 13). This was followed by a verse on Mercury travelling through all the stars that it traversed earlier, causing great fear:

tri?u purve?u sarve?u nak?atre?u visa? pate

budha? sa?patate ‘bhik??a? janayan sumahad bhayam (6-3-27)


The verse states that Mercury hurriedly (trishu) went through the stars it travelled earlier, by which retrogression is meant. ‘Abhik??a’ means ‘repeated’ and ‘sampata’ means collision. Retrogression of Mercury started on 8th August 3136 BCE in the star Anuradha in Scorpio when the sun was in Libra (Aswayuja month). It crossed the sun on 20th August and ended retrogression quickly on 28th August, four days before the comet-fall. Within 20 days Mercury quickly moved backward from Scorpio to Libra, from Anuradha to Vishakha through which it traveled earlier. This was seen as a bad omen by Vyasa.


This verse also is about the comet-hit time. Following these two (Krittikasu and Mercury), the rest of the version is only about that period when Amawasya appeared in Trayodasi. The overall assessment shows that the comet-hit and the subsequent disturbance all around had caused all round fear.


Four out of six planetary positions (1, 2, 3, 4) given by Vyasa in his conversation match well with the planetary combinations seen on the first day of the war. Of this the 3rd point about Venus had additional information of the retrograde transit of Venus at an earlier time. Point 5 is similar to Pancanga based prediction referring to the position at the beginning of the year (Uttarayana of Samvatsara). Point 6 is about Mercury at the time of the comet-hit. With all these we have corroborated all the planetary nimittas.


There is yet another planetary reference found in Gita Press edition.


7] It says that the sun and the moon together afflicted Rohini.

Rohini pidayatyevamubhau ca shasi bhaskarau (6-3-17)


The moon (Shashi) and the sun (Bhaskara) together afflicted Rohini. This combination is found on the first day of the war. This is an astrological feature seen in horary astrology at the time of an event – here the war (Yuddha Prasna). At the beginning of the war, the Moon was transiting Rohini – Rohini being a star symbolizing the wellbeing of the people, due to ownership by Prajapati. (Even in normal times, the moon’s transit across Rohini – whether it goes north or south or right cross Rohini - is watched to predict the nature of events for the king and his subjects). The other major luminary, the sun, was also casting its quadrant angle on Rohini on the first day of the war.


In horary astrology for instant predictions, a planet’s trinal (5th and 9th house) and quadrant (1st, 4th, 7th and 10th) aspects are observed. Of them the 1st and 4th are 100% strong. They are secretly hostile and unfavorable. [Dr. B.V. Raman, Prasna Tantra (Horary astrology), p.196] The sun was casting unfavorable 4th aspect on Rohini on the 1st day of the war. The sun was at zero degree Capricorn on the first day. Its orb starts from 15 degrees as per horary astrology. Rohini starts from the 11th degree of Taurus by which Rohini comes within the orb of the quadrant aspect of the sun. This is purely astrological and cannot be simulated in any astronomy simulator.


There is another planetary position given on the 17th day of the war. This appears in the version of Sanjaya. I am adding it as the 8th feature here.


8] At the time of fall of Karna, “The planet Jupiter, afflicting the constellation Rohini assumed the hue of the moon or the sun.” [Mbh: 8-8-94]

b?haspati rohi?i? sa?prapi?ya; babhuva candrarkasamanavar?a? (8-68-49)


Karna fell on the 17th day (9th November, 3136 BCE) by which time Jupiter resumed its forward motion in Krittika at Taurus 1° 26’. Rohini starts at Taurus 10°. Jupiter’s orb extends till 9° by which it was able to do “sa?prapi?ya” of Rohini – ‘set out to afflict’. This is also an astrological feature that cannot be simulated in any astronomy software.


All the above corroborating well with the planetary position of the first day of the war, we will now proceed further to locate the planetary features during the course of the war. Our search shows that there were two eclipses during the war.


(To be continued…)


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