Events recorded in the ancient Indian epic of Mahabharata have been considered by the western established opinion as the product of fantasy. According to the ancient Indian tradition the epic reports part of Indian history. Fortunately the epic is full of descriptions of astronomical phenomena. It is clear that ancient Indians used them as reference to describe timelines.
Research has identified astronomical events in the texts such as eclipses and planetary positions which could provide useful clues. Using computer software which allows the visualisation of astronomical phenomena at any time in the past, researchers have proved that the claimed astronomical events did actually happen in the sequence described in the Mahabharata. It is highly unlikely that reciters of the Mahabharata changed information regarding astronomical phenomena.However it is likely that parts of the text were put in the wrong order but such cases have been taken into consideration by the research undertaken by R.Y. Inyegar (1).
The reasoning behind the study is that by validating that the astronomical phenomena actually happened through scientific data one would be bale to safely infer that the Mahabharata epic is based on real events. A reliable degree of consistency on the observations would qualify the epic as a reliable account of the history of ancient India.
R.Y Inyegar (1), attempted to identify if astronomical events described in the epic are compatible or not by analysing five different versions of the original epic. The researcher analysed verses describing celestial phenomena, such as “Moon and Sun were eclipsed in the same month at thirteen days interval”. The research focused on analysing astronomical data between 500 and 3000 BC.
Much of the analysis focused on the description of three solar eclipses that were identified as most reliable. With these three solar eclipses in mind the researcher went on to identify the lunar eclipses which preceded or followed within a fortnight with Saturn near Rohini (name of a star in ancient Indian astronomy; corresponding to what is known as “Aldebaran” in the western world).
Research in to astronomical data of 2500 years produced eight possible sequences of the three eclipses as being compatible with the statements in the Mahabharata. Combining these outcomes with the analysis of text before the war described in the epic it was possible to reach the conclusion that the combination of astronomical events described and contextual statements are consistent with a period between 1493 and 1443 B.C. Moreover, the study estimated that the war described in the Mahabharata took place in 1478 B.C. The reliability of this study is also supported by the an older study by Sharma (2) which placed the date of the Mahabharata war at a close date; 1493 B.C.
Reliable astronomical software has allowed us to prove that what we in the west consider as myth is an actual account of ancient history. A similar study was conducted in Greece which proved that the Odyssey is not fiction after all.
In a future article we will outline physical evidence that proves the historical value of the Mahabharata.
- R.Y. Iyengar, Internal Consistency of Eclipses and Planetary Positions in Mahabharata. Indian Journal of History and Science, 38.2, 2003, pp 77-115.
- V.N. Sharma, Model of Planetary Configurations in Mahabharata. Journal of Archeo-astronomy, 1986, , 9.1-4, University of Maryland.