Validating Traditional date of Mahabharata War - XXII
by Jayasree Saranathan on 26 Feb 2021 0 Comment

Duryodhana was killed on the evening of Pushya Amawasya that coincided with a solar eclipse in Shravana. Magha adhika masa started the next day. Vaisampayana says,

“Having offered oblations, of water unto all their friends and kinsmen, the sons of Pandu, and Vidura, and Dhritarashtra, and all the Bharata ladies, continued to dwell there (on the banks of Bhagirathi). The high-souled sons of Pandu desired to pass the period of mourning, which extended for a month, outside the Kuru city.” [Mbh: 12-1-2]


This one month was of the entire duration of the adhika masa. The Pandava clan spent the entire Adhika Masa near the sacred waters doing the prescribed oblations for the dead. Coronation cannot be done in Adhika masa.


The text says upon the completion of a month, the sages including Narada, Vyasa, Kanva and others visited Yudhisthira. This must have been on Shukla Pratipat of Nija Magha. Yudhisthira remained inconsolable despite the advice by the sages. At last after Krishna’s counsel to seek the advice of Bhishma, Yudhisthira agreed to return to the city and take up the crown.


The text immediately jumps into the description of the Pandavas entering the city and Yudhisthira getting crowned. [Mbh: 12-40] This must have been on Shukla Dwitiya, a day auspicious for coronation. [Dr. B.V. Raman, “Muhurtha”, p. 135] The rising lagna at the fixed sign of Taurus with Jupiter located there, and the moon in Uttara Bhadrapada and the sun in the 10th seem ideal for the coronation around 11 a.m. on that day. The week day happened to be a Thursday and the date 11th December, 3136 BCE. The celebration of ‘Jaya’ must have started then with the learned expressing “svasty ucur jayam”. [Mbh: 12-40-18]


Immediately following the coronation, Yudhisthira performed Shraddha rites for the sake of his own sons and others killed in the war and made huge donations as part of those rites. [Mbh: 12–42] This once again is proof for the Adhika masa just following the war. The Upapandavas were killed on the night of the 19th day following the fall of Duryodhana by which time the Adhika masa had started.** Only death related Shraddha rites can be done in Adhika masa and the other rites including charity must be done in the Nija masa. That they were performed only after a month is a proof for the Adhika masa running in the one-month period when the Pandavas were staying near the Bhagirathi River.

[**Immediately after the end of Amawasya or the solar eclipse, the new month starts. By the evening of the 19th day, the solar eclipse was already over and so the next month /Pratipat tithi started by the evening of the 19th day]


The text continues to state that on the next morning after the coronation, Krishna went into a trance while Bhishma was praising him from the arrow bed. This was followed by Krishna taking them all to Kurukshetra where Bhishma was lying. This was on Magha Shukla Tritiya.


From the date of coronation of Yudhisthira let us move back to Bhishma lying on the arrow bed. For how many days he was on the arrow bed is now a matter of debate among researchers. Let us do a systematic analysis of the verses to know the number of days he waited for his exit.


Three verses on Bhishma’s waiting period


Bhishma’s waiting period is a crucial input for arriving at the date of Mahabharata war. Mahabharata text had three verses spoken by three important persons on the duration of the waiting period of Bhishma. Contextual analysis of these verses reveals the number of days besides something more than what meets the eye. The revelation gained through these verses helps us in validating the date of Mahabharata derived earlier.


1] Krishna assigned 56 days for Bhishma


After installing Yudhisthira on the throne, Krishna suddenly went into meditation, invoked by Bhishma from the arrow bed. [Mbh: 12-45- 20, 12-46-11] Immediately he started off along with the Pandavas and a huge entourage of army and reached the battle field where Bhishma was lying. There Krishna made the following statement


pañca sata? ?a? ca kurupravira; se?a? dinana? tava jivitasya

tata? subhai? karmaphalodayais tva?; same?yase bhi?ma vimucya deham (12-51-14)

[Ganguli’s translation: “Six and fifty days, O foremost one of Kuru’s race, still remain for thee to live! Casting off thy body, thou shalt then, O Bhishma, obtain the blessed reward of thy acts”]


This is interpreted by many to mean that Bhishma was left with 56 days to cast off his body. A word for word meaning of this verse shows this is flawed. There is no issue with the first part “pañca sata? ?a? ca kurupravira” – “fifty six days, O foremost one of Kuru’s race.” The remaining part starting from “se?a? dinana? tava jivitasya” does not mean that he was left with 56 days. It says – tava jivitasya se?a? dinana? - in the remaining days of your life, increase your karmaphala.


se?a? = remaining, balance (masculine, accusative, stem: se?a)

dinana? = in the days (masculine, genetiv plural, stem: dina)

tava = yours

jivitasya = life’s, of the duration of life (masculine genitive singular past passive participle stem: jivita)

tata? = of it (SB 10.83.23) masculine ablative plural stem: tad

subhai? = of the auspicious (BG 12.17) (masculine, instrumentative, plural, stem: subha)

karmaphalodayais = karmaphala udayais

karmaphala = the fruit of actions

udayais = going up, arising (masculine, instrumentative, plural, stem: udaya)

tva? = your (2nd person pronoun, accusative)

same?yase = same?yanti = will all come (SB 10.70.42), will enter simultaneously (SB 12.2.24)

bhi?ma = Bhishma

vimucya = being delivered from (BG 18.51-53)

deham = body (masculine, accusative, singular)


Overall meaning:

“The foremost of the Kuru’s race, fifty six days; in the remaining days of your life, the auspicious karma-phala of it (is going to) arise simultaneously while being delivered from your body”


What is this auspicious karmaphala that is going to arise then, that Krishna was referring to? It was what he was going to get by imparting his knowledge to the Pandavas in those remaining days. So there is no reference to 56 as the number of ‘remaining days’.


Contextual analysis: On reaching the place where Bhishma was lying, Krishna asked Bhishma to remove Yudhisthira’s grief over the great slaughter of his kinsmen, by giving him knowledge. Overwhelmed by this request by Krishna, Bhishma started to praise him in his various cosmic forms and confided that he saw his Divya Rupa (Vishvarupa) [Mbh: 12-51- 5 to 8] – a reference to the Cosmic Form of Krishna seen by Arjuna during Gitopadesa. Then Bhishma offered surrender (prapannaya bhakti) unto Krishna. [Mbh: 12-51-9]


Krishna accepted Bhishma’s devotion (para bhakti) and conceded that he did show his Divya Rupa to Bhishma. [Mbh: 12-51-10] This conveys that in addition to Arjuna and Sanjaya, Bhishma also had seen the Vishvarupa of Krishna and heard Krishna’s words. And the words that Krishna spoke in his Cosmic form contained the following information


mayaivaite nihata? purvam eva; nimittamatra? bhava savyasacin

dro?a? ca bhi?ma? ca jayadratha? ca; kar?a? tathanyan api yodhaviran

maya hata?s tva? jahi ma vyathi??ha; yudhyasva jetasi ra?e sapatnan (6-33- 33b & 34)

[Ganguli’s translation: “By me have all these been already slain. Be only (my) instrument. O thou that can’st draw the bow with (even) the left hand. Drona and Bhishma, and Jayadratha, and Karna, and also other heroic warriors, (already) slain by me, do thou slay”]


To relieve Arjuna from the vexatious predicament of killing elders, teachers and relatives, Krishna in Cosmic form assured Arjuna that he killed Bhishma, Drona, Jayadratha and Karna! So technically and in God’s (Krishna) account, Bhishma was killed on the day before the war began – the day Krishna imparted Bhagavad Gita – on Pushya Shukla Ekadasi when the sun was in Margashira. Since Krishna, the Cosmic Being had killed Bhishma even before the war started, Arjuna need not think that he was going to kill Bhishma; he was going to kill him and others who were already killed by Krishna. Arjuna could remain only as a weapon in Krishna’s hands. These words of Krishna must have been heard by Bhishma when he saw the Vishvarupa of Krishna.


Krishna acknowledged Bhishma’s version of seeing the Vishvarupa, by saying that he did show his Cosmic Form to him. It was then Krishna asked Bhishma to increase his karma-phala in the remaining days of the 56 days by imparting his knowledge to the Pandava brothers to dispel their grief. Coming in the context of the talk of Krishna’s Cosmic Form revealed to Bhishma, the entire duration was 56 days from the day Bhishma was killed by Krishna to when he imparted Gita – i.e. from the first day of the war and not from the 10th day of war when Bhishma chose to lie down on the bed of arrows.


2] Yudhisthira found very ‘few days remaining’ for Bhishma


Just a few days after the above talk by Krishna, Yudhisthira told Bhishma that only few days are now remaining for the day of winter solstice (and thus for Bhishma Nirvana):


se?am alpa? dinana? te dak?i?ayana bhaskare

av?tte bhagavaty arke gantasi parama? gatim (12-291-4)

[Ganguli: “Thou hast very few days to live. When the Sun turns from the southern path for entering into the northern, thou shalt attain to thy high end”]


‘Alpa?’ is the main word here, conveying the meaning, little (SB 3.30.15), small (SB 10.66.7), meagre (SB 1.1.10), insufficient (SB 10.53.23) etc.


Contextual analysis: Yudhisthira kept asking many questions to Bhishma and Bhishma was replying him patiently in spite of the pain and discomfiture he was experiencing. At one stage, Yudhisthira felt bad for troubling him and said that since only very few days (alpam sesham) were left for Bhishma to attain the higher realms, and with none else to clarify his questions, he had been asking Bhishma those questions.


How many days could be meant by “se?am alpa? dinana?”? Let me analyze this later and continue now with the third reference on the number of days of the waiting period.


3] Bhishma declared that he waited for ‘58 nights’


On the day of Uttarayana in the month of Magha the Pandavas and others returned to Kurukshetra to see off Bhishma leaving for higher realms. At that time Bhishma told them that he waited for 58 nights. This number having been stated by the very person who endured the suffering, no researcher can afford to dismiss this and arrive at a number different from this. Bhishma’s version is as follows:


a??a pañcasata? ratrya? sayanasyadya me gata?

sare?u nisitagre?u yatha var?asata? tatha (13-153-27)

[Ganguli: “I have been lying on my bed here for eight and fifty nights. Stretched on these sharp-pointed arrows I have felt this period to be as long as if it was a century”]


a??a pañcasata? = eight and fifty (fifty eight)

ratrya? = night (feminine, nominative,  plural, stem: ratri)

Sayanasya = sleeping, lying down (SB 1.3.2) (masculine, genitive, singular, stem: sayana).

Adya = now

me = to me (deictic, dative, genetiv, singular stem: asmad)

gata? = expired (Monier-Williams, Sir M. (1988)) (masculine, nominative, plural, past passive participle, stem: gata)

sare?u: the arrows (SB 11.30.20) (masculine, locative, plural, stem: sara)

nisita = sharpened

agre?u: tip (masculine, locative, plural, stem: agra)

yatha = according as, in order that, as if

var?asata? = 100 years

tatha – in that manner, so, thus


Overall meaning:

“Fifty eight nights of sleeping expired now; to me as if 100 years on the sharpened arrows”


Bhishma spent 58 nights, but the arrows made him feel like 100 years. There can be a combined reading or a separate reading, in which case it would mean that he spent 58 nights on the battlefield, but his time on the arrow bed made it like 100 years. This split up is because he started lying on the arrow bed only from the 10th day of the war whereas he had been spending his nights in the Kuru camp in the battlefield from before the Gitopadesa day when he overheard Krishna’s counsel to Arjuna.


The number of days is almost close to Krishna’s number of 56 days counted from the beginning of the war. There are two solid references, one from Krishna and another from Bhishma – both having mentioned the numbers in the presence of Vyasa, the author of Mahabharata. So there is no way to assume that there is discrepancy between the two versions – that Bhishma meant 58 days while Krishna, 56 days. If there is any discrepancy, Vyasa could have cleared the air, but that he didn’t specify anything goes to prove that both numbers referred to the same duration, perhaps counted in different time units, say in tithi or nakshatra or solar risings. So my first attempt for clarification is to reconstruct the 58 days in the reverse order from Shuddha Magha Shukla Ashtami.


(To be continued…)



User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top