A reader wrote…
A question came up while reading your Mahabharata book. If each Epoch of Arundhati is a wide phase of thousands of years where everyday Arundhati appears walking ahead of Vasistha;
Why would Vyasa tell Dhritarashtra a day before the War that “Arundhati has left her Husband behind”.
I feel that it makes sense only if this was a new phenomenon during that time. If at that time it had already been happening for thousands of years, this particular configuration of Arundhati-Vasistha would be too common and used-to to quote like this. What would be the use of quoting one day, something which was just as is, for thousands of years now? (Since 11091 BCE). Wouldn’t quoting something more dynamic/volatile be useful, something that helps tag the contemporary event/time more uniquely?
Or did this quotation in that particular situation meant to imply a certain horary section of the day … like saying “the Sun has set (its 6 PM).” ?? Of course I might be missing something basic, as my knowledge in Astronomy is poor. If you could clarify on this itching, its not letting me read further peacefully.
What is the problem?
Mahabharata text states that Arundhati is walking ahead of Vasistha, at the time of the Mahabharata War
What makes ‘Arundhati walking ahead of Vasistha’ a problem?
This is a problem (or was thought to be problem) because the positions of Arundhati and Vasistha are essentially unchanged for hundreds and thousands of years. The current configuration is such that Vasistha walks ahead of Arundhati, whereas Mahabharata text states the OPPOSITE.
The Mahabharata researchers dealt with this problem in the following ways:
(1) Many researchers either downplayed this observation or ignored it hoping no one notices.
(2) Two researchers (Vaidya & Kane assumed that this was inserted by later writers)
(3) One researcher (R N Iyengar) combined part of this observation with another Mahabharata observation to come up with arbitrary, and unsatisfactory, explanation
(4) One researcher (P V Vartak) believed in factual nature of this observation, but could not test it to validate
(5) One researcher (N N Oak) showed that this was indeed the case from 11091 BCE through 4508 BCE.
Conclusion: Mahabharata War occurred sometime during the Epoch of Arundhati (11091 BCE – 4508 BCE).
So I solved the problem. In a scientific jargon, it would not have mattered how long this phenomenon was occurring. It would also not matter by how much distance/separation, Arundhati was ahead of Vasistha.
So before we get into additional exploration and explanations, it is important to realize that this discovery is a great breakthrough. It is revolutionary in its implications and various objections people have raised have no implication whatsoever on the ‘scientific’ nature of this discovery.
If Newton had discovered this and if people had put the above questions to him, he would have simply answered, “Hypothesis non Fingo” ( in layperson’s language – I don’t know).
The discoverer is not required to answer these questions. One may claim that these concerns are real and they may be. But these new problems are in fact the result of the revolutionary discovery of ‘Epoch of Arundhati ‘(11091 BCE – 4508 BCE).
One must understand this and then, and only then, one can begin to explore answers to the new questions raised.
Essentially, reader is asking…
(1) If the phenomenon (of Arundhati ahead of Vasistha was occurring since 11091 BCE, what was such a big deal for Vyasa to mention in on 15 October 5561 BCE, one day before the first day of the Mahabharata War?
(2) In effect we are asking why Vyasa mentioned a phenomenon on the eve of the Mahabharata War, which otherwise was occurring for some 6000 years leading to the day of the Mahabharata War.
In ‘The Poverty of Historicism’, Sir Karl Popper asks us to discard the tool of ‘psychology’ in researching any historical narrative. That is not to say that we can not speculate. Rather the point is if one is not careful, one will generate much metaphysical discussion but without any conclusion.
In short, history as documented can tells us something about ‘What’ (question phrased with ‘what’) and by luck, it may tell us something about ‘When’. It does not tell us anything about ‘Why’, but we can always draw inferences on what is being said.
Back to the discussion..
The phenomenon of Arundhati walking ahead of Vasistha was due to change in the position of the point of North Celestial pole as shown in the figure below
The point of North celestial pole was placed in such a way that Arundhati would have appeared to walk ahead of Vasistha anytime during 11091 BCE through 4508 BCE.
Why suddenly it was such a big deal, that it was worth mentioning in 5561 BCE.
The answer is because a big destructive war was going to happen, many were trying their best to stop it. Vyasa was making a last min attempt and in describing evil omens (as a last min effort to see if he could influence Dhritarashtra in any way) he mentions various inauspicious omens. This list includes numerous astronomy observations of that time (30 of them by my count) and among these 30, he mentions this one observation of Arundhati walking ahead of Vasistha.
Is this a unique instance within Mahabharata where Vyasa is making a list of inauspicious omen? Not at all, on the contrary, such lists of evil omens appear anytime a disaster is anticipated. Karna mentions them during his conversation with Krishna, before the War and Vyasa mentions them before and during the dual between Bhima and Duryodhan. These omens included astronomy observations. There are too many instances to mention.
In fact same thing can be said of Ramayana (These are fresh on my mind and thus easy to list)
(1) Scheduled coronation of Rama (When instead he ended up leaving for the forest)
(2) Rama-Khara fight
(3) Ravana taking away Sita from Panchavati
(5) Rama and Vanara army leaving from Kishkindha (in this case, good omens)
Another reason we can speculate is that while Arundhati indeed began walking ahead of Vasistha as early as 11091 BCE, the separation between them was very small and remained so for many hundreds and thousands of years, as shown in the figure below.
As can be seen from the figure, The separation reached its maximum (Arundhati ahead of Vasistha) around the time of Mahabharata War (5561 BCE), in fact sometime before 5561 BCE.
Naked eye resolution is about 1 arc-min. The maximum separation (with Arundhati ahead of Vasistha) between Arundhati and Vasistha were around 500 arc-sec, which is about 8 arc-min.
Thus one can make a case that while Arundhati began walking ahead of Vasistha as early as 11091 BCE, only around the time of the Mahabharata War (5561 BCE) it would have become apparent to someone observing them (Arundhati and Vasistha) with naked eye.