The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Starry-eyed software chase for epic date

Bangalore, Feb. 14: Efforts to fix the date of the Mahabharata war, the subject of intense debate among historians, have got a new thrust following recent developments in the field of planetarium software.

The software is essentially used in the study of astronomy. It can generate and display on a computer screen stars and other heavenly objects as seen in the sky at any given location on earth and almost at any given point in time.

Now, groups of scholars, including some associated with the Bangalore-based Mythical Society, are trying to use it to study astral events described in the Mahabharata and work out a possible time frame of the events described in the epic.

According to Prasad Namboodiri, a software developer, softwares such as SkyMap Pro, Red Shift and Cybersky have been around for nearly a decade but were not widely accessible. They were used mainly by astrophysicists.

However, the software is more freely accessible now. It has also improved much during the past four years. Earlier versions could digitally recreate skies dating back to about a thousand years. Current versions can go up and down time in a range of 10,000 to 15,000 years.

This has given a fillip to efforts to fix the date of the Mahabharata war. According to B.N. Narahari Achar, professor of physics at the University of Memphis in the US and one of the persons involved in these efforts, there are more than 150 references to astral events in the Mahabharata and some of these are unique. There are references in the epic to eclipse pairs happening within an interval of 13 days, which is not a routine phenomenon by any yardstick.

Many other astral events are also mentioned in the Mahabharata, particularly in the context of a pre-war peace mission by Krishna. The epic says the day of Krishna’s departure to Hastinapur, the capital of the Kauravas, was in the month of Kartika and on the Revathi star. The epic further says Krishna’s arrival in Hastinapur was on the Bharani star of the same month and that peace talks between the Kauravas and Krishna took place till the day of the Pushya star.

While returning after the failure of the peace mission, Krishna has a lengthy conversation with Karna. Krishna says Amavasi would come on the seventh day — from the day of the conversation — and that war rituals could be performed on that day. Karna responds by pointing out that there would be lunar eclipse on the full moon day of the same month.

Astronomers and astrophysicists had tried in the past to locate these eclipses and other astral phenomena mentioned in the epic. However, these efforts did not have the support of modern computers or applications like planetary software, which have made calculations easier and more accurate.

Achar is projecting a date for the Mahabharata on the basis of his calculations. The date is in the year 3067 BC. The calculations using SkyMap Pro have shown three eclipses in a row — a lunar eclipse on September 29 followed by a solar eclipse on October 14 and yet another lunar eclipse on October 28.

Achar told The Telegraph that the eclipses have been found to fit the description in the epic. The Mahabharata refers to certain stars as being closest to the sun and the moon at the time of these eclipses. The digital projection of the eclipses of 3067 BC shows these stars, too.

“The calculations fit not only the references in the Krishna-Karna dialogue before the war but also Krishna’s observation of certain astral events 36 years after the war, the period when the hegemony of the Yadavas ended.”

Achar’s calculations are in agreement with those of mathematician K.S. Raghavan, who published the book, The Date of the Mahabharata War, in 1969.

Raghavan had arrived at this date without the help of computers. But Achar’s calculations negate the projections of astronomers R. Kochar, B.G. Siddharath and P.C. Sengupta, who fixed the date at 955 BC, 1311 BC and 2449 BC, respectively.

These efforts and projections, however, do not find favour with a large number of rational historians and astronomers.

According to K.N. Ganesh, a historian at the Calicut university, the effort to fix the date of the Mahabharata on the basis of select astronomical events is not right since one cannot rationally account for all the astral references in the epic. “The references are disjointed and inconsistent,” he pointed out.

Achar and his associates, like Kalyanaraman, agree that all astral events referred to in the epic have not been studied comprehensively. But they point out that the new software has opened a path for investigation and this should be explored.

Raja Rammanna, one of India’s senior-most astrophysicists, agreed that the potential of the new software should be explored to fix the historicity of the Mahabharata.

Email This Page