Validating Traditional date of Mahabharata War - XXIV
by Jayasree Saranathan on 03 Mar 2021 0 Comment

The second day of conversation with Bhishma ended with a revelation settling down the controversy on Ganesha as the scribe for Mahabharata


It is important to derive the number of days that Bhishma imparted his knowledge to the Pandavas. Let me analyze the sequence step by step to establish the exact number of days.


It all started on a day (day after the coronation of Yudhisthira) on the arrow bed when Bhishma did a “Vag Yajna” (Yajna by speech) of praising the Cosmic Form of Krishna. Hearing this yajna by his Yogic power, Krishna bestowed upon him the knowledge of the past, present and future. Then Krishna suddenly rose from his seat and ascended his chariot and reached Kurukshetra followed by the Pandavas and others.


Day 1 of the conversation with Bhishma (Magha Shukla Tritiya)


On seeing Krishna, Bhishma started praising him in his Cosmic Form and said that he had seen his Vishvarupa. Krishna did acknowledge that he did show him his Vishvarupa. A question may arise here when did Bhishma see the Vishvarupa – was it at the time of Gitopadesa or on the very same day that Krishna was meeting him on the arrow bed? This question arises because Mahabharata text shows him praising Krishna in Cosmic form before Krishna started off to meet him.


If he had seen the Vishvarupa on that day, then the justification given by me for 56 days (starting from Vishvarupa during Gitopadesa) would become invalid. So this necessitates a clarification.


It is clarified here that Bhishma had only done the “Vag Yajna” on that day by recollecting the Vishvarupa seen by him at the time of Gitopadesa. [Mbh: 12-47-63 “vag yajñenarcito deva? priyata? mejanardana?”] Vyasa says that Bhishma thought of Krishna in mind, word and act and “with a cheerful and strong voice he hymned the praise of the slayer of Madhu”


He has recollected what he had seen at the time of Gitopadesa and praised the Cosmic Form with Vag Yajna. He as the commander of the opponent army could not have expressed his mind at the time of seeing the Vishvarupa – a response that Arjuna was able to do then and there. But later on when he was lying on the arrow bed, he recalled what he saw and expressed it as a hymn of praise of Krishna’s Cosmic Form.


His praise reached Krishna who in turn bestowed him the knowledge. Following this Krishna started off to see him. During the one-to-one conversation with Krishna, Bhishma offered Prapatti (surrender) and Krishna accepted it. In this context Krishna made a mention about 56 days which was explained earlier.


Krishna ordained Bhishma to share his knowledge with the Pandavas in the remaining days. Bhishma willingly obliged, but no sharing of knowledge started on that day. This was on Magha Shuka Tritiya.


The sun was seen to descend in the west and the rishis (Sapta rishi-Ursa Major) were rising up – indicating sunset. [Mbh: 12- 52. V 26 & 27]

tato muhurtad bhagavan sahasra?sur divakara?

dahan vanam ivaikante praticya? pratyad?syata

tato mahar?aya? sarve samutthaya janardanam

Seeing the setting sun, Krishna and others took leave of Bhishma after circumambulating him.


They speeded up in their chariots leading in the front with the foot soldiers coming in the rear - described as the two currents of Narmada River divided by Rikshavat Mountains. The most important feature comes here – that the moon appeared before them!

tata? purastad bhagavan nisakara?; samutthitas tam abhihar?aya?s camum” [Mbh: 12-52-33]



tata? = in that place, there

purastad= purás-tad = forward, before, in front.

nisakara? = night  maker, the moon

samutthita? = appeared (SB 7.8.19-22),  arose (SB 4.14.38)

tam: in this manner ( feminine accusative singular stem: tad)

abhi = to, towards, into, over, upon

har?aya = causing pleasure (SB 6.10.13-14)  (second person singular present causative imperative class parasmaipada vh??)


Overall meaning:

“The moon appeared there before them causing pleasure.”


The 3rd phase moon (already in the western sky) would become visible soon after sunset. This was sighted by the Pandavas and Krishna.


Day 2 of the conversation with Bhishma (Magha Shukla Caturthi)


-        The next morning Krishna and the Pandavas left for Kurukshetra without the accompaniment of the army. Bhishma answered all the questions raised.

-        Even by the end of the day Bhishma was ready to continue the conversation and asked what more they wanted to know.

-        Yudhisthira didn’t want to continue and just said he would ask his doubts the next morning as the sun was about to set then. (“upaiti savitapy asta?” – sun is about to set [Mbh: 12-58- 28b]). So before sunset they wanted to leave for home, heading towards the east. Why this sense of urgency, not found the previous day?

-        When we look for an answer, we get a hint of it in the very next verse. They left and reached the river Drishadvati and bathed in the river.


In Ganguli’s translation, “Having offered oblations of water unto their ancestors and silently recited the sacred mantras and done other auspicious acts, and having performed the evening prayer with due rites, those scorchers of foes entered the city called after the elephant.”


-        If this refers to Sandhyopasana, why is this specifically mentioned only on this day and not on any other day, particularly on the other days they were returning after listening to Bhishma?  Sandhyopasana is done on all days and twice a day.

We do come across the reference to morning oblations in many contexts. For example the very next morning the Pandavas had done their morning oblations (k?tapaurvah?ika kriya?). [Mbh: 12-59-1] So this specific verse needs careful analysis.


The verse runs like this: [Mbh: 12-58-30]

d??ad vati? capy avagahya suvrata?; k?toda karya? k?tajapya ma?gala?

upasya sa?dhya? vidhivat para?tapas; tata? pura? te vivisur gajahvayam



d??ad vati? ca = river Drishatvati (feminine, accusative, i-stem)

apya = being in water (adj. Monier-Williams, Sir M., 1988), coming from water (Monier-Williams, ibid.), connected with water (Monier-Williams, ibid.)

avagahya = bathing (SB 11.17.25)

suvrata? = strict in observing religious vows (Monier-Williams, Sir M. (1988))

k?toda =  having performed

karya = prescribed duties        (SB 10.36.29)

k?tajapya  = k?ta: done, performed (third person singular tense paradigm injunctive class atmanepada vk?)

japai? = japa – muttering prayers (plural instrumental)

ma?galas: happiness, welfare (masculine nominative, accusative,  plural stem: ma?gala)

upasya = to be revered or honoured or worshipped

sa?dhya? = in the twilight

vidhivat = according to prescribed regulations (SB 2.1.16, SB 10.84.47, SB 11.3.52-53)

para?tapa = destroying foes (said of heroes)

tata? = in that place, there

pura? = pura = city (accusative of  pur, Pura)

te= they

vivisur: = to go home to rest (third person, plural tense, paradigm perfect class parasmaipada vvis)

gajahvayam =Hastinapura (SB 10.68.41)


Overall meaning:

“The destroyers of foes (who happened to be) the strict followers of religious vows bathed in the river Drishadvati in the evening twilight, preformed the prescribed religious vows, worshiped with japa for welfare and happiness according to the prescribed rules and went back home to Hastinapur.”


In addition to the usual ‘Kritoda karya’, they did ‘k?tajapya ma?gala? upasya.’ Mangala-Upasana is not part of Sandhyopasana. And this activity getting mentioned specifically on the 2nd day, that happened to be Shukla Caturthi, implies that they did the worship meant to ward off the evil effect of sighting the 4th phase of the moon!


Seeing the 4th phase (Shukla Caturthi moon) is supposed to bring evil to a person. According to an astrological text on religious austerities, the one who happens to see the 4th phase must immediately do a propitiatory worship to ward off the evil. This practice started after Krishna was blamed for the missing Syamantaka gem, which was believed to be the result of Krishna having sighted the 4th phase of the moon. Yudhisthira started this practice which came to be known as Siddhi Vinayaka Vrata in due course. [“Jothida Varushadhi Nool, Tamil, p. 385]


This practice seems to have evolved into the festival of Ganesh Caturthi in Bhadrapada month, the month in all likelihood being the time Krishna watched the 4th phase and subsequently was blamed for the missing gem. This memory had continued until 150 years ago, is known from an entry in the Journal of Literature and Science by British writers describing the Ganesh festival as celebrated in the then Madras Province. The reference to Krishna having sighted the 4th phase of the moon is reproduced from the Journal. [October 1833, J.C. Morris, F.R.S., pp. 17-18] The practice of immersing in water the image of Ganesha worshiped for the event could perhaps be part of the vrat proposed by Yudhisthira. Perhaps initially they conducted the worship only in water on Shukla Caturthi.


The specific mention of “ma?gala? upasya” seems to be a reference to Lord Ganesha, whose form is supposed to be ‘Mangala’. The planet Mars attained the title Mangala after having seen the Mangala form of Ganesha on his wedding with Siddhi (this gave him the name Siddhi Vinayaka), according to Vinayaka Purana. “Mangalarambha” is an epithet of Ganesha – referring to starting any work after worshiping Ganesha.


The Caturthi ‘Ma?galopasana’ done by the returnees including Vyasa in that group seems to settle the controversy over whether Ganesha as a scribe for Vyasa was originally present in the text written by Vyasa. The missing reference to Ganesha as a scribe in the Southern manuscripts of Mahabharata and its appearance only in 37 out of 59 manuscripts resulted in the dropping of the Ganesha reference in the critical edition of Mahabharata.


The Shukla Caturthi performance of the vrat having certain prescribed rules goes to show that some method of worship of Ganesha, the lord of Caturthi tithi, must have been in place at the time of Mahabharata.F There is scope to presume that Vyasa did some form of ‘Ma?galopasana’ for the successful completion of the text of Mahabharata that he included it as well in the text as Ganesha, the scribe. By that he assigned the responsibility of completing the text to Lord Ganesha, which is very much in line with the purport of the Caturthi vrat done even today.

[F Vinayaka was a household deity as early as Ramayana times. Valmiki says Vinayaka is fixated in the houses where Ramayana is heard. VR: 6-128-116]


The variations in Mahabharata between regions (the southern recension in this context) cannot be attributed to interpolations, for the fact that people of the olden times could not be expected to have meddled with the text that they treated as Veda and remembered in Upakarma. On the other hand, in their zeal to preserve the text unadulterated, the Tamil scholars of yore might have dropped the Ganesha reference as a scribe thinking that it was an interpolation. In the Tamil regions Ganesha is basically seen associated with water – drinking, drying and letting off water – and not as a scribe. He is a bestower of knowledge (of Sangam Tamil) and not a scribe. [A famous verse on Lord Ganesha in Tamil penned by Sangam age poetess Avvaiyaar seeks bestowal of knowledge of the three branches of Sangam Age Tamil language]


By cutting short the conversation despite Bhishma’s readiness to talk, and halting at Drishadvati to bath and do the ‘Ma?galopasana’, it is conveyed that the crescent moon of the 4th phase that appeared a little high in the sky the moment darkness set in, could not have escaped from the vision of the returnees. This made them do the propitiatory vows to ward off the evil that was supposed to inflict the viewer. The complete absence of this activity on other days can have no other explanation than this.


The second day ended thus.


(To be continued…)



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