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Can Veda-Shakha-Pravachana Rescue Bharata Itihasa?

Bharata Itihasa Violated

Greek Invader Alexander finds no mention in chronicles of Bharata or Iran, neither are any physical evidences like his coins, epigraphs or seals found. Still Europeans chose his excursion in 324BCE as the sheet anchor of Indian history.[i]His Governor Seleukus married his daughter to some Sandrocottus, son of Xandermes of Palibothro according to some Greek writers of 1c. BCE. He was identified with Chandragupta Maurya by William Jones in 18th c. CE. Later, edicts of Priyadarshi were assumed to be of the said Chandragupta’s grandson Ashoka. References to a Pushpamitra/Pushyamitra by Patanjali in Mahabhashya were assumed to be of Pushyamitra Shunga. This text of great reputation also refers to attacks on Saketa, Mathura and Ujjain by some Yavanas. This is taken as the attack of Kushanas in 1c.BCE. The rest of the reconstruction of time-line of all the coins and epigraphs found which confirm many a names in the Puranic chronicles is based upon this. The order of Puranic chronicle is vindicated but the associated periods of dynasties is overruled as preposterous because it does not fit with the averages seen elsewhere. So Puranic account of 2400 years is compressed into 600 years.[ii]

On the other hand, Bharatas, Kurus or Panchalas are laughed off as myths because no conclusive physical evidences of their existence have been discovered. Or painted grey ware potsherds found in some Archaeological excavations datable to ~700BCE are associated with them. No evidence of a big war around this time has been discovered, so Bharata-War is naturally made to look like a fable.

The references to Bharata and Bharata-War by Acharya Aryabhata in 3600th Year or Aihole Inscription of 3735th Year are declared as being based on hearsay and hence unreliable. These authentic references are themselves pushed to 6th c. CE, based upon a 78CE Shaka-Epoch, as if God has decreed this as the only possible starting point. Indian traditions are more to be blamed for such a presumption of Europeans. The almost complete amnesia of our own past epochs is fortunately recoverable because of the practice of preserving important statements of past masters even when we do not understand them. We will show from the debris of Indian astronomical references and chronicles as to how a convincing string of past epochs can be recovered and a complete timeline from Bharata War can be reconstructed in the second part of this article.

Mahabharata and Puranas have been shown to be interpolated hopelessly. It is full of supposedly future references which to a rational mind appear as false-hood. It is true that Kali Yuga genealogies are always portrayed as Kings to come. Tales of heroic feats and supernatural weapons have further caused doubts about the whole testimony as a genuine account of the past. But remember that this genre of literature is successful in its professed objective of teaching good conduct to laymen uninstructed in Vedas. So it shows that using an imaginary dialogue between Suta and Shounaka might have been an acceptable literary style like we see in fiction today. Imagine the difficulty of the bards who are revising an oral Prakrita chronicle. How can the successive generations add notes to a pre-existent core unless they use a fixed point of narrator-listener, determinable by all, including us?

Mahabharata and Purana texts do contain many astronomical observations and astrological omens but it is not easy to assume that they are actual records. They could be mere extrapolations based on the contemporary knowledge of planetary motions and astrological beliefs hence historians are unable to use these texts as reliable evidence of past events.

Texts are expected to be useful in the area of their declared purpose. Puranas have some really vital material in the form of genealogies of dynasties especially after Mahabharata period. They have declared the knowledge of Vamshanucharitam as one of the 5/10 purposes. So these Kali Age genealogies should have been useful. But dogmatic acceptance of epoch of Sandrocottus as Chandragupta Maurya at 300BCE has caused serious conflict over Mahabharata epoch. It has been shown that period between Parikshit and Nanda is 1500 years as per Puranas. Thus Mahabharata should be in ~1900BCE. On the other hand Astronomer’s tradition is unanimous about a Kali Era of ~3102BCE. And Bharatiya scholars are trying to suggest Bharata Epoch to be 36 years before or after this. We note that total years from Bharata to Gupta (known to be in 300CE by other methods) is 4142 years as per Bhagavata Purana list. This is not accommodated by either schools and this suggested that the real solution is actually different.

This gap of ~1800 years for the Sandrocottus/Chandragupta Maurya Epoch of 300BCE and ~700 Years for Kali Era of 3102BCE is insurmountable and has caused modern Bharatiyas to accept dual standards in their approach to history. They study history for school examination purpose as per government text-books and read Puranas at home as part of religious practice.

Government recognised version taught in public schooling system divides Bharata Itihasa in two parts. Happenings before Buddha/Maurya are called ancient history. It is based solely on archaeological data and having no literary connections. It treats each find on purely physical classification as Harappan or PGW or PBW or Neolithic etc. We see material being dated at 4000BCE to 1700BCE as Harappan. The description of this culture is a favorite pastime of fiction writers with the assumption that no literature for this period exists. History of Bharata for them begins with Buddha or Maurya in 400BCE. The monumental oral literature called Veda is graciously accommodated by them in the intervening blank period from 1700BCE to 500BCE. They have weaved a massive fiction of Aryan language group spoken by some R1a1 males coming to Sapta-Sindhu region as Equus caballus horse-back riding nomads and then creating an elaborate Varna system, rituals, Gods and associated superstitions. They are supposed to have imbibed native people and their culture in their absolute control over the whole land of Indian sub-continent. The amnesia about their previous home-land should have been a big issue for this fiction but it seems that they have seen a light in the form of the very Puranas which they otherwise squarely condemned as unreliable source for the Kali Age Dynasties.

On the other side, religious discourse talks of Manvantaras, Yugas and great dynasties of Ikshvaku and Puru in the Vaivasvata Manvantara. They preach these periods of lakhs of years as pious periods called Krita, Treta and Dvapara Yuga, when Vedas were in vogue. The latest part is from the Great Bharata War to the times of Guptas. This part is considered as the degenerate Kali Yuga when everything is inferior and Vedas have been superseded by Puranas. They simply accept that all this Itihasa and Puranas of lakhs of shlokas has been written by Ganesha as dictated by Vyasa and can contain prophesies for the Kali Yuga to come. They do not see any contradiction in the lack of any script in the Early Harappa as compared to Mature Harappa or later Edicts.

Just see how contrasting the modern view with this traditional Hindu view is.

A well-known failure of the modern view is the incomprehensible gap in human activity in Ganga-Yamuna region before 700BCE coupled with overcrowding of historical material from Ashokan inscriptions onwards. This has caused many a physical inscriptions to be treated as poetic extravaganza due to supposed overlap of events[iii].

Failure of the religious side is the inability to associate historical connection with physical evidence. Whatever is found as Harappan finds no suitable event in Kali Yuga from 3102BCE to explain this collapse of Mature Harappa in 2000 BCE. Even the Puranic Chronicle does not fit in this 3102BCE Kali Age as the total years from Parikshit to Gupta is ~4000 Years.

The malady is the denial of History of Bharata from literary concurrence and lack of proper identification of excavated material. The greatest culprit is the dubious identification of Sandrocottus to Chandragupta Maurya and arbitrary assignment of 1200BCE as the epoch of Veda composition. Next issue is the superimposition of a purely Historical Bharata Age onto a purely extrapolated Astronomical Kali Age. Third is the lost memory of previous Epochs called Shaka Nripa Kala and Shakanta Kala. These have been accepted as the revised Shaka also called Shalivahana Shaka of 78CE. This also has caused immense damage to the Chronicle of Post-Bharata Genealogies.

To begin with we must reset the timeline of Bharata Itihasa on some stronger evidence.

Reestablishment of Bharata Itihasa based on positive evidences

Veda-Shakha-Pravachana is sufficient in informing us about its epoch and location. This literature is reliable, elaborate and unambiguous. Rituals are still practiced. It is true that Modern Hindus have practices and principles which are influenced by many new precepts which have assumed Vedas to be irrelevant to degenerate Kali Yuga. Still a perseverant scholar may gather sufficient comprehension of these Veda-Shakhas through Kalpa Sutra, Vyakarana texts, Nirukta, ancient commentaries and rare Shrouta performances. Remember our purpose is Itihasa not rituals. But performable rituals are the portal to realistic picture of past rather than the story part of these texts.

The best thing about these Veda-Shakhas is that they have remained unchanged at least since their last or latest compilation called Pravachana. These Shakha texts are designated by the name of the Vedacharya called Pravachanakara, like Tittiri, Katha, Kalapa. Panini distinguishes three types of texts. One are called Prokta i.e. merely compiled or restated. Veda Shakhas are Prokta Grantha. Second is Upajnyata i.e. knowledge is traditional but methodology of dissemination is a creative offering of the author. For example Vyakarana is a traditional knowledge but a new method of teaching was invented by Panini and thus his text is Upajnya. Third are Krita or created texts. For example, Raghuvamsha of Kalidasa is a poetic creation.

Veda-Shakha division process was initiated by Vyasa Parasharya who was also the original composer of Mahabharata and Puranas. He is also a contemporary of Bharata War by consensus. Thus, if all the Veda-Shakhas show some common references which can be dated by some Scientific Method then we can take this as an independent testimony to Bharata Epoch.

Epoch of Bharata Age from Direct Records 1Pravachana texts can be contrasted with Mahabharata and Puranas. Veda-Shakha-Pravachana purportedly prescribe Rituals which are necessarily humanly performable. Purpose of Puranas are to tell stories of past so that interest is generated in following Vedas. Human life-span in Vedas is ~100, in Puranic stories it could be any scaled up figure. On many an occasion, Vedacharyas use pronouns meaning physical indicators like Here, Now etc. which would mean their actual period. Many a things which are not visible today, but are inferred from scientific studies confirm their authenticity. On the whole their stories are stories and prescriptions are prescriptions. One must distinguish between the two to make a reliable estimate of the past.

We observed that performance of a Vedic Ritual was necessarily humanly possible over then and there. What is still the same is useful for deciding their location. For example they talk of arrival of monsoon by winds blowing from east. It easily confirms their location in Northern Bharata. What is deviant is useful to decide their epoch. For example, their Celestial North Pole has a Shishumara Constellation. This constellation is called Draco by the Greeks. Presently it is not at the North Pole but little away due to a phenomenon called Precession of Axis of Earth. The pole star called Dhruva by Vedacharyas is not the present day Pole star called Polaris but some other star called Thuba by Greek astronomers which was the Pole Star in 4th Millennia confirmed by orientation of Egyptian Pyramids. Sometimes a matter is not readily resolvable, but future studies will hopefully shed more light. For example they talk of Hamsa flying overhead in line formation. Swan no more comes to Indian peninsula. So does Hamsa mean swan or some other bird? Do nostalgic memories of Europeans or Central Asian or Arctic past show up in this mention? Or Hamsa was coming to India in some remote past? We see that archaeological excavations have shown many hitherto unknown words as being referring to now extinct things in this region.

Vedic stories of further ancient people do include superhuman events, just like Itihasa-Puranas e.g. the flood of Manu or Agni leading the way for King Videgha Mathava. Certain stories like moving away of Saptarshis from Kritiika or Moon staying with Rohini or Prajapati going into sky as a Rohit-Mriga being smitten by a Rudra may refer to celestial events. Similarly the story of River Sarasvati that it declined to prop up the Sun and hence became wilted may refer to some geological event. We may wonder about its meaning but it really does not concern us here except the useful indication that River Sarasvati was indeed in a decimated state at the time of Veda-Shakha-Pravachana unlike further past where it might have been flowing all the way to sea from foot-hills.

Same can be said about celestial observations. What they describe as present can be taken as a record of observation which then can be used to ascertain their epoch. This method of archaeo-astronomy is our primary concern here. We will show that precession of axis of earth can be used to date the literary texts if they contain observations of seasons associated with lunar months. This is an independent scientific method of finding the absolute date of a text based only on its internal reference like the radio-carbon dating is a scientific approach to archaeological discoveries. We show some resolved issues in this article.

Some Resolved Issues Giving Us Reliable Base for Timeline of Bharata

Veda-Shakha-Pravachana is basically an oral heritage. These texts are distinguished from all other material by an unbroken tradition of faithful recitation being the only means of transmission. Many strict measures were employed to ensure the preservation of these sizable texts. Every Shakha is preserved by certain dedicated clan/s. Like the biological inheritance this cultural inheritance has also been valued and respected. Care has been taken to insulate these texts from dilation unlike the other texts called Smritis. This ensures that the texts known from the respective Pravachanakaras can be assumed to be unchanged from the original teachings of the said Acharya. Vedangas are almost at par with Vedas because they are almost always confined to explain Vedas. Other Smritis have ostensibly taken up the role of accommodating changing circumstances and hence have been necessarily revised at least till their last recension in Gupta period as per its internal evidence.

We will focus on 3 major finds of ours which help us in arriving at a reliable timeline for Bharata Itihasa based on our critical study of Vedic Rituals along with modern discoveries of paleo-channels, archaeology and astronomy.

First we see that Veda-Shakha-Pravachana has a veritable description of now extinct River Sarasvati. This river flowed perennially from Plaksh Prasravana to Vinashana in the times of Veda-Shakha-Pravachana. The distance from Plaksha to Vinashana is clearly stated as 44 Ashvina. We had proved Ashvina to be ~9.2kms.[iv] Further it is described that Vinashana is 8 Ashvina downstream in west of the confluence with Drishadvati. Remaining 36 Ashvina is the upstream course of Sarasvati from this Confluence up to Plaksha. Drishadvati was at least a seasonal stream in this time. The confluence of Sarasvati and Drishadvati is still clearly visible in Satellite Studies, Ground Observations, Archaeology, Hydrology and traditional sources. This leads to the identification of 1) Vinashana as Harappan Mound at 68GB, vill. Baror, Dist. Ganganagar, Rajasthan 2) Plaksha as Ancient village Phoksa, Dist. Ambala, Haryana 3) Triplaksha as village Topra, Dist. Yamunanagar, Haryana (Note: This is the original location of Topra Ashokan Pillar now situated in Firozashah Kotla, Delhi) 4) Karapachava is the Janapada containing ancient Srughna as the capital identified as vill. Sugh, Dist. Yamunanagar 5) Turghna is Tohana region of Haryana and Patiala of Punjab 6) Khandava is Rohataka-Delhi region 7) Parinat is Ellenabad of Haryana up to confluence of Sarasvati with Drishadvati at vill. Manek-Theri Dist. Hanumangarh, Rajasthan. This river is being singled out against the backdrop of a hoard of glacier fed rivers which must have been in mighty flow even as they are today. So the distinction for this river cannot be its mightiness to say the least. In fact the contrary is indicated by the very text. This river did not reach the sea at least in the memory of Acharyas of Veda-Shakha-Pravachana. Rather its disappearance in the mid-course is being referred to as a matter of fact. No reason is being offered for such an exceptional behaviour compared to other known rivers flowing all the way to the sea. No events or places of crossing this river are mentioned in any texts. Other rivers like Yamuna, Shutudri are associated with such events or places. All this is highly significant for confirming the times and location of Bharatas, Kurus and Panchalas with their Brahmins. Their story is the Ancient History of Bharata. Such a situation of Sarasvati is indicated in 4th Millennia by physical studies. In fact, it can be verified by specific studies of paleo-bed. The consensus of scientists is that Sarasvati dried out in 2000BCE. Thus lower limit for the Veda-Shakhas including Brahmana texts is 2000BCE. This is our first strong indicator that modern Sandrocottus-Chandragupta Maurya Epoch is wrong and ancient literary accounts are more reliable.

Secondly, we analyzed the Harappan Seals and Tablets. Our study has conclusively shown that so called Unicorn Animal is a composite of the now extinct Bos primigenous namadicus and Bharatiya Ashva of 34 Ribs which is not Equus caballus. The so called Cult-object is the Yupa-Chashala-Svaru assembly. Over 1700 Seals and Tablets confirm the Ritual of Ashvamedha as the basis of the Iconography of Harappan especially on Unicorn and Wild-Animal Seals[v].

Third is the discovery of datable material in Vedic Ritual of Samvatsara Satra, Agnyadhana and Chaturmasya. Let us discuss the method of absolute dating of literary texts containing observations of seasons and lunar months based on the scientific understanding of the phenomenon of Precession of axis of earth. This phenomenon is not known to ancients and hence there is no chance of extrapolation in the ancient texts. Precession of axis has been either not known or ignored by even the Mimamsakas. It might have been taken as perturbation to be reset in due course without posing serious threat to injunctions for Rituals by Mimamsakas. But now after a few thousands year later, we can safely conclude that Precession has continued in a systematic way. Veda Shakhas unanimously describe Falguna as the first month of Shishira after Winter Solstice or Uttarayana. New Year by consensus of all the texts is Falguna Pournima with Uttara Falguni. They also describe Krittika as the Nakshatra at the beginning of Vasanta Season around 2 months after Uttarayana. Thus Falguna Pournima or Purvabhadrapada at Winter Solstice can be taken as the upper limit of Veda-Shakha-Pravachana-Kala. Winter Solstice can be safely taken as happening in Falguna Shukla Paksha 10 at the most from a description in Taittiriya Samhita[vi] and almost identical Tandya Brahmana[vii]. WS is at Magha Amavasya by a direct record of observation in Koushitaki Brahmana[viii]. WS is at Magha Krishna Ashtami called Ekashtaka from a direct observation in Jaiminiya Brahmana[ix]. Winter Solstice at Shravishthardham is recorded in Maitrayani Aranyaka[x]. The difficulty of mapping Lunar Tithis to Surya Nakshatra and then to WS is well known to students of astronomy and is explained by scholars working on dating of Mahabharata from the text of Mahabharata.[xi] Magha Shukla Saptami is the record of WS in some portion of Mahabharata text. The New Year is at Magha Shukla Pratipada with additional confirmatory information of Winter Solstice being at Shravishthadi in Vedanga Jyotisha[xii]. From this it is clear that Shishira Arambha or Winter Solstice called Uttarayana was chosen as New Year in Vedic ritualistic manuals. Interestingly, Winter Solstice at Shravishthadi meant Vasantarambha at Ashvini. So Vedanga Jyotisha shifted Nakshatra Chakra to Ashvinyadi. This leads to the confirmation of Veda-Shakha-Pravachana-Epoch as Krittika at Vasantarambha in Vaishakha Pournima. This in turn comes back to Purva Bhadrapada at WS. This fact was missed unfortunately by scholars like Tilak[xiii]. He took Krittika at Vernal Equinox as the Veda-Shakha-Pravachana Epoch. This Vernal Equinox was nowhere to be found in Veda Shakhas by direct evidence. So Tilak devised very ingenuous devices to prove that Vernal Equinox is being used by Vedics. Unfortunately, this arduous studies have misled the Indological studies for the last one hundred years into an abyss. The simple and elegant explanation of Krittika at Vasanta Arambha supported by Ashvini at Vasanta Arambha in Vedanga Jyotisha while Shravishthadi is at Winter Solstice should be a matter of rejoice for Vedophiles. Krittikadi Nakshatrachakra is another unanimous convention of Veda-Shakhas. Further shift of Summer Solstice from Ashleshardha of Vedanga Jyotisha to Punarvasu is clearly recorded by Varahamihira.[xiv] We also observe that Siddhanta Jyotisha accounted for the shift of one-and-half Nakshatra from Vedanga Jyotisha by a shift of New Year from Winter Solstice at Magha Shukla Pratipada to Vernal Equinox at Chaitra Shukla Pratipada. Remember that Vernal Equinox is at about one month after Vasanta Arambha. This was never before made a cardinal point by Vedic traditions. This shift of New Year from WS to VE allowed Siddhanta Jyotisha to keep Nakshatra Chakra as Ashvinyadi but of course now reckoned from Vernal Equinox rather than Vasanta Arambha. Does this leave any doubt about the epoch of Veda-Shakha-Pravachana? I request all the concerned scholars to come forward and verify this.

Remember, this will set aside all the external speculations about the composition of Vedas in 1200BCE along with AITs. Next we may settle the debate of Historical Epoch of Shakas versus Astronomical Epoch called Shaka by later astronomers. We also have to discuss the concept of Kali Yuga. We can show that Krita, Treta, Dvapara and Kali in Vedas are the names of Dice faces numbered 4,3,2 and 1 respectively. Vedas never use these as names of periods of time. Planet observers needed a larger period in which all the celestial bodies can be assumed to be in integral number of rotations and hence coming back to an imaginary initial position. This number should be sufficiently large to accommodate the accurate observed motion of planets so that Eclipses can be predicted. This is called Kalpa by them. That they artificially constructed sub-divisions of this period is clear from the different approach of Aryabhata from other astronomers of his time. Thus we conclude that Kali Age is a medieval construct which could not have been observed by ancients nor could have been used to keep a chronicle of dynasties by Suta-Pouranika. Thus the epoch of Mahabharata used in the Chronicle of Puranas has been mistakenly taken as Kali Age by the medieval Bharatiyas.

We first show the records of observation available in literature which is useful for dating by precession clock. We will assume rate of Precession of Axis as 72 Years/Degree. This is a fair estimate for at least few thousand years and we will remember that this is based on fine observations over past few centuries. The results are summarized in a table below.

The interesting result of the above studies is the relatively long period which is seen in these Veda-Shakhas. If we associate our results with archaeological studies, we see that lower remains of Bhirrana, Kunal, Rakhigarhi are very near the event marking the upper end of the Veda-Shakha-Pravachana. And latest period except a Khila Maitrayani text is seen to be within the Harappan period. This is to be reconciled with what Vedanga and other Smritis tell us about this Shakha-Pravachana.

We have shown above that Krishna Dvaipayana also called Vyasa Parasharya is the pivotal person who started a new tradition of Veda preaching. He classified the homogenous texts and traditions containing Rik-Sama-Yajus Mantras with associated Vidhi-Arthavadas into Hotru-Adhvaryu-Udgatru-Brahma Segregated texts. Some texts are Purana Prokta or old tradition. This is indicated by Panini Sutra.[xv] As a corollary, some texts must be relatively recent with respect to the Sutrakara. These are precisely the texts like Jaiminiya showing ~2360BCE. Thus we can safely conclude that Mahabharata War is already an event of great antiquity when Shakha-Pravachana is ultimately accomplished. We will now use this observation to directly vindicate the Epigraphic Record of Bharata War Epoch in the next article.


[i]           Max Muller “A history of ancient sanskrit literature” Page 242.

[ii]          Kota Venkatachalam, “Plot in Indian Chronology”

[iii]         Dr Ram Mohan Roy “Force-fitting of evidence in the making of Indian History”

[iv]         The Course of River Sarasvati as mentioned in Tandya Brahmanam of Samaveda in the light of other Vedic passages. A paper read at Intl. Confernece on Sarasvati River at Univ. of Lucknow, May 2017.

[v]          Identification of Unicorn and Cult-object. A paper read at Intl. Conference on Ancient History and Culture in Bangalore, June 2018.

[vi]         Taittirya Samhita 7.4.8

[vii]        Tandya Brahmana 5.9

[viii]       Koushitaki Brahmana 19.1.20

[ix]         Jaiminiya Brahmana 2.372;2.373

[x]          Maitrayani Aranyaka 14

[xi]         Nilesh Oak: When did the Mahabharata happen?

[xii]        Vedanga Jyotisha 5,6

[xiii]       Tilak B.G. “Orion, or, Researches into the antiquity of the Vedas”, 1893.

[xiv]       Panchasiddhantika iii.21

[xv]        Panini Sutra iv.3.105

Featured Image: Wondermondo

(This article was published by IndiaFacts in 2018)

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