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The dating of the Mahabharata war, traditionally related to the advent of Kali Yuga has long been a topic of intense controversy in academic circles though, for innumerable centuries, as the author of the book under review recalls, there was no dispute in India about the chronology which situated the onset of the Kali Yuga in 3101 before the Common Era and the great battle amongst the royal heirs of Kuru thirty-five years earlier. It was only in the period of European colonisation that the historical validity of astronomically based records was disputed and dismissed on the basis of ‘rationalist’ considerations stemming mainly from western Biblical notions about the age of the world and the antiquity of human civilisation.
European cultural prejudices, which were usually equated with scientific notions, ruled out the existence of advanced and complex societies thousands of years before the life of Jesus Christ when the earth had barely been created or was still sparsely populated by primitive cave dwellers according to the conventional theory of prehistory. Indian epics were relegated to the category of mythological literature and folklore. Thousands of matching epigraphic records such as land deeds and grants going all the way back to the early years of Kali Yuga and citing the names of monarchs featured in the epics were deemed to be apocryphal forgeries by British officials and, following the adoption of western standards of ‘serious scholarship’ many researchers either rejected the historical validity of the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other Indic chronicles such as the Puranas or adopted tentative and often fanciful alternative chronologies proposed by colonial indologists, thereby espousing the prevalent view that Hindu civilisation did not know of scientific history and was grounded in religious traditions and symbolic tales.
Several contemporary specialists have shown this colonially influenced perspective to be biased and outdated. Jayasree Saranathan, who belongs to a long line of South Indian Shastris in Indic astrology and Sanskrit literature, has written a monumental thesis to defend and rehabilitate the traditional chronology and the historic accuracy of the Mahabharata, the ancient world’s largest epic and a real encyclopedia of the Indian civilisation of the ‘heroic age’ that she boldly describes as the Pre-Harappan period. Some years ago, her conclusions would have been dismissed out of hand by ‘orthodox’ Indologists because of the lack of archaeological evidence for such an advanced and complex material culture anywhere on earth five thousand years ago. However, the tide is turning and just as ‘homo sapiens’ is now acknowledged to be far older than hitherto assumed, indices are multiplying for civilisations which flourished long before the conventional ‘origins’ of writing, agriculture and urban life in West Asia. We are looking at the entire Holocene period (that is the last ten to twelve thousand years) as an era of thriving human development and activity, probably on all continents. In that much wider and older context the events narrated in a more or less poetic form in the Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas, Brahmanas, Kathas and numerous other texts now appear to be quite plausible, even to those who dispute their factual accuracy.
Affirming that Vyasa, the author of ‘Jaya’ in its original form (or forms) was an eye witness to the events he narrates, Jayasree Saranathan’s research establishes three principal contentions as the pillars for her conclusions:
One, it is impossible to calculate dates for the events described in the Mahabharata through the astronomical simulations provided by computerised systems because of the non-concordance of the zodiacal-sidereal vedic astronomy with ‘western’ astronomy which relies on the tropical zodiac. For instance, modern simulators don’t take into account the ayanamsa adjustment of distances between the beginning of the sidereal year (Zero Aries) and the equinoctial Sun’s position. The passage from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 in Europe further complicates calculations. Saranathan is able to confirm the locations of the planets and constellations described of the epic at the time when the happenings which preceded the war and the battle itself, prefaced by the hallowed dialogue of the Bhagavad Gita, took place. According to her computation the discourse of Sri Krsna to Arjuna was delivered on the date corresponding in our calendar to October 22, 3136 and the battle began on the following day.
Two, she has found various proofs of a major cataclysm which affected the earth and the moon in or around the year 3136 BCE and is described at length in the Mahabharata from a date that Saranathan equates with September 2, 3136 BCE. It appears that a meteor entered the solar system, broke into pieces and disrupted the orbit of both our planet and its satellite before showering the two astral bodies with meteorites while causing many of the nimittas (catastrophic omens reported by Vyasa). The cosmic intruder has now returned and was detected in 2020 as Comet Atlas by NASA which tracked its elliptic trajectory denoting its passage some five thousand years ago when it created major climatic and geological disruptions for which scientific evidence exists.
Three, Saranathan vindicates the date of the passing away of Sri Krsna thirty-five years after the war, in ‘our’ year 3101. On the following day, January 23 of the year there was a conjunction of all planets (except Rahu) in sidereal Aries (once in 432 000 years) and the current Kali Mahayuga began. She explains the rapid submersion of Dwaraka, Krsna’s insular or peninsular capital one week later by an offshore seism in an area well known for its faultlines between the continental plates. She points out the traditional location of Dwaraka as an islet to the southwest of Prabhasa (Somnath) and Girnar, pointing out the numerous seismic presages and manifestations recorded in Vyasa’s text and related scriptures. In the light of her analysis, Dwaraka and other coastal zones of Saurashtra sunk under the sea not as a result of a tsunami but through a collapse of the seafloor from which the island of Dwaraka had emerged only a few decades earlier according to the epic’s own account.
The epilogue of the book reflects on the fate of the survivors of the Mahabharata war and of Dwaraka’s disappearance and it establishes a convincing link between the reports given by Vyasa and his disciples and the archaeology of the so-called Harappa-Saraswati civilisation.
The Mahabharata says that the Vrishnis from Krsna’s kingdom ‘reached the land of the five rivers’. In the author’s view the Harappan cities of Punjab, Rajasthan, Sindh and Baluchistan grew in size at the end of the 4th millennium BCE when they received many uprooted Bharatiyas who settled in them or built new towns under the rule of their traditional monarchs. Saranathan notices the emblems or ‘totems’ of various chiefs belonging to or affiliated with the Kauravas on the steatite seals of the Indus-Saraswati cities. She muses whether those defeated peoples took to trade, agriculture and craftmanship after losing their warrior status and she links the absence of the horse from Harappan seals to the fact that none of the kings involved in the battle featured that animal on his banner despite the fact that horses were widely used at the time. Was there a ritual or cultural ban on depicting that quadruped so essential in warfare? The mystery remains among many others but Saranathan has produced a convincing case for taking the traditional chronologies of India seriously despite inconsistencies such as those with puranic dynastic nomenclatures computing about a thousand years between the start of Kali Yuga and the advent of the Nanda rulers believed to be contemporaries of Alexander’s invasion. Hydrologists will point out that the Saraswati was drying out in the middle of the second millennium BCE when Balarama went on his yatra and found the river disappearing in the desert, which is not consistent with the state of that stream fifteen hundred years earlier. Much work remains to be done to reconcile the pieces of that immense puzzle but the book Mahabharata 3136 BCE is a tour of force. Its extensive astronomical and calendric calculations may discourage non-specialists but its detective-like investigation and correlation of many kinds of data deserves careful consideration.
There are two typos at the end of para 5 and beginning of para 6. The date is 3136 as given in the title and not 3036. Apologies for the oversight.
Am yet to finish reading the book. Yet from the review am getting clues on the area which I might have to go through again. Very good review on the whole.
The Vyasa nimittas in Mahabharata are real observations. Nobody, even today, is able to fantasize a wide range of unusual events, both on the Earth surface as in the sky, which will follow a meteor crossing in the straosphere, and then followed by the meteor impact thereafter.
The dating of meteor events is easy, and can be done with good accuracy: The meteor produces radioactive compounds, such as 10Be, 14C, 15N and 27Cl, which can be dated exactly out of polar ice bore cores. The 10Be, on top of it, enables the fixing the date of a meteor event to within 4 years, the powdery 10Be settles from the stratosphere to the Earth’s surface within 4 years.
There are even mor meteor impact indicators: The inevitable drop of global temperatures, which lasted in this case 36 years from 3,136 BC to 3,100 BC, visible in GISP2 Holocene time series, further the content of Ti and Fe in sediments and especially in ancient peat, out of which the age may be determined by good 14C analysis of the carbon materials.
Any other “dating expert”, deviating from the book, and proposing a different event year other than 3,136 BC, has to come up with data for his own meteor impact before the Kurukshetra war. The Vyasa nimittas are the best proof of the correct date for the 3,136 BC event. Last not least, the meteor fraction streaming over 13 days left the highest 10Be/14C peak amount for several 1000 years in both polar ice caps, another indication of a prolonged meteor event of the date set in this successful historical and astronomical analysis
Dear Côme Carpentier de Gourdon,
There is no doubt that The Kali yuga started in 3102 BCE, and according to the tradition, the Mahabharata war took place 36 years and a few months before 3102 BCE. Jayasree Saranathan)has falsely claimed that the Mahabharata war took place 35 years before 3102 BCE. The Mahabharata clearly says that there were one unusual eclipse pair, a couple of months before the Mahabharata war. And two Saros cycles later (one Saros cycle being equal to 18 years and 11 days and a few hours and two such Saros cycles will be equal to 36 years, 22 days and a few hours) there was similar eclipse pair, occurredjust before Lord Krishna passed away in 3102 BCE and the Kali yuga started. Dr. Jayasree is ignorant of this basic fundamental time cycle called the Saros cycle and he is flouting the traditional facts. I havetold her time and again about the Saros cycle and she with her bad intention, wants to fool the Indians. There are many other astronomical facts Vedavyasa, the writer of Mahabharata, had given, but because of her ignorance, she culs male use of these valuable data. This is for your kind information, that you are thoroughly misled by Dr. Jayasree’s mistaken ideas and claims.
Dear Senil Kumar, there are a whole list of nimittas, which nobody is able to invent and which alltogether demonstrate a meteor flight over N-India, crashing then into Nepal, North of Katmandu before the Ma. war.. If you propose an other date, then you need to invent your own meteor impact, which we clearly can reject with meteor impact data from the Holocene. You objection is a diffence of only 2 years: 3102 plus 36 = 3138 BC,
whereas Dr. Jayasree calculated 3101 plus 35 = 3136 BC. Better look into google to see what dating the war has, with differences of more than 1,000end of years. Those should be thrown out. You “know better” by only a meagre 2 years difference.
And concerning your eclipse argument: Due to the meteor impact, the Earth orbit, Sun and Moon positions were affected and changed, which is a standard effect of meteor impacts on Earth, see the rapid temperature drops after impacts. Then your insisting on regular eclipses does not take into account that the Earth orbit got inclined by the impact out of the regular ecliptic plane. Therefore, your ideas of Saros cycles and eclipse pairs may have their merit otherwise, but due to the meteor impact the Vedic calendar, eclipse pair, Saros cycles depend on Earth STAYING within the ecliptic plane. Any small changes in the Earth’s flight alter all Sun-Moon eclipses and you Saros cycles.
For this reason, the meteor impact affecting the Earth’s trajectory, then you theoretical 3,138 BC date must be wrong. As also stated in the Mahab. that “intercalary days” had to be inserted and solstice was changed. This all changes the dates of your Saros cycles, they cannot be constant in times of Earth orbital movements out of the ecliptic.
This is all explained in the book, but there are always poeple who continue to repeat their old stuff and refusing to learn from facts.
I became convinced of the general antiquity of Indian Civilization after pursuing a different line of research that allowed me to conclude that the Vedic system was of indigenous origin and that Harappan and Vedic civilizations were contiguous. Michel Danino’s book came out confirming a lot of what I was supposing from various cultural analogies. Correcting the disjunction between the Vedic thought system and India pre-hiistory, and getting rid of the Invasion theory was a huge shift enabling serious research to proceed. My analysis was based on archaeological confirmation of a fundamental pattern attributed to nature in Vedana and lived by these civilizations. But then it became clear that this mathematical pattern in the very causality of nature (which agreed with my synthesis of relational biology in category theory) would also have been applied to cycles in time and the character of civilization epochs – i.e. the Yugas. There a problem arose because of differing accounts of what they are and how they work, even differences as to whether the Yugas cycle or oscillate back and forth. Thus, what follows a Kaliyuga could be a Satyayuga if it is a cycle (as the relational theory od cyclical causality would require) or a return to Dvaparayuga reversing the progression as is claimed by some. The group I was studying with (Sathya Sai Baba and his University) presented it as a cycle, which made mathematical sense in regard to the perennial philosophy of four causes and is in agreement with research into how natural systems work in general. That raises another issue, however, which is their length. Traditional statements of their length have varied a lot. In one video I have not verified the claim was that the length of the yugas changed with different calendar conventions from as little as 5 years to the astronomically long periods claimed by most Hindu traditions today. But for me the question is not how long they are as an unexplained fixed number, but if they are a natural phenomenon in how all systems work generally, from cosmological to civilizational, and perhaps even personal. If so, they would follow a four cause pattern just like Vedic causality and relational theory, which is an infinite nesting of cycles within cycles. Thus they might apply as a general pattern of punctuated change at any scale depending on the system it is applied to. We know about Milankovich cycles in the solar system that drive climate change from physical laws and about Kondratiev cycles that would apply more to cognitive systems and are very Yuga-like. So I suspect that the Yugas are a general systems phenomenon. The same kind of four context cycle has been documented in ecology (Holling and Gunderson ‘s Panarchy in the cycling of ecosystems). Following that reasoning I traced a “mini-Yuga” like four quadrant pattern in human history. The four eras are quite clear in the history of civilization and follow the traditionally reported pattern of decreasing length with the shortest being Kaliyuga. If it is a system-generated cyclical pattern as I suspect, even the ratio of their length would have a clear explanation in regard to the pace of system change. Faster pace implies shorter duration to exhaust the thinking in a given yuga. There is nothing against the tradition that this is a divine pattern, especially in the spirit of the Veda which sees no difference between natural forces and divine cause. It is not that the divine dictates events but that divinity makes the karmic (cyclical) rules for how events govern our experience and vice versa. So, the Kaliyuga said to have started in 3136 can itself be composed of an embedded Yuga-like cycle which can be seen in human history since about then. The relatively peaceful and slower paced Vedic/harappan civilization which still followed a holistic model, was dispersed by dualistic traditions from the Northwest (Sumeria) as the Sarasvati became seasonal and eventually went undergrkund, a d as the region became buried by the Thar desert with the major cultural impact from 1900BC to 600BC. I think it was then that the Vedas, which were ancient oral tradition. were committed to writing as an inadequate but necessary form of
preservation as the priests embodying each only a piece of that knowledge had to disperse to other regions across India and elsewhere. Writing preserves only syntax, not meaning (semantics), so it was to accompany trained Vedic Priests and gurus so they could have the larger context along with their own special embodiment. If this thinking about embedded Yuga cycles is correct, our mini Kali-like Yuga, perhaps embedded in the larger KaliYuga described by the book as starting around 5000 years ago, would be the modern era of the supposed “enlightenment” – the era of modern to postmodern science today. The four quadrant mini cycle would be mini-Treta as holism lost its symmetry of self-sustainability and Greek/Roman civilization turned instead to worship of human powers under a separate god (the heroic myths), that being lost and falling into the Dvaparayuga-like middle and dark ages essentially believing we are at the mercy of the world and can rely only on chaos, conflict, and dark arts. Salvation seemed to come with the intellect in the next age of enlightment, which is Kali-like because it is a double edged sword, creating as many problems as it solves. It is fast paced and burs itself out quickly, which is what we are seeing. Next in the cycle is another Sathyyuga, but each transition is accompanied by trauma as the old system dissolves. The question, I think, is not if this will come but how – with total destruction and return to primitive existence or consciously by learning how to balance knowledge with devotion to truth.
Mr. John Kineman,
The 3rd chapter of the book reviewed here contains answers to your doubts and questions on Yugas. Available in kindle version here https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09LS1WZ4X
For quick reading I suggest the following from my blog:
The probable time period of the development of the Yuga concept – the Maha yugas measured by Planetary movements, Dharma Yugas measured by the scale of Dharma and the 5-year Yuga: https://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.com/2021/03/yuga-computation-took-place-only-after.html
Sandhya, Sandhyamsa and the entry of Kali in Dharma Yuga scale: https://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.com/2021/03/sandhya-sandhyamsa-and-entry-of-kali-in.html
Arrival of Indian monsoon, a marker for the Dharma Yuga: https://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.com/2021/03/arrival-of-indian-monsoon-signaled.html