When I was researching on the timing of Ramayana and was stuck in my search for a specific year (for any of the key Ramayana instances – e.g. Rama-Janma, Rama leaving for Vanavas, Ravana-Vadha, etc.) I spent some time reading through other ancient Indian literature, specifically looking for astronomy references.
I collected good number of them (I have already written on Vishnu Purana, Shatapatha Brahmana) and spent some time dating them.
One such document I came across was ‘Maitrayani Upanishad’.
I never heard about it before, although I had read few other Upanishads such as “Isha, Katha, Kena, Mandukya, Chandoyga, etc.).
I wrote the following note but never thought much about it since I did not know much about this Upanishad (Maitri or Maitrayani) and thus kept aside, until today!
I am currently reading Rajiv Malhotra’s ‘Indra’s Net’. I already read ‘Conclusion’ and today reached page 210. So 60 more pages to go!
Rajiv Malhotra mentions ‘Maitrayani Upanishad on page 210 in the context of the word ‘Samadhi’.
However what caught my attention is the description of ‘Maitrayani Upanishad’ as ‘a later Upanishad’.
Whatever is the definition of ‘later Upanishad’, if valid; we can say that numerous Upanishads (those considered early Upanishads) were written before 2000 BCE.
What makes me say that?
Maitrayani Upanishad PraPathak 6:14 states…
Half of it is sacred to Agni: half, to Varuṇa. From the nakshatra Magha to half of Śravishṭhā (Dhanishtha) in the [sun’s southward] course is sacred to Agni. In its northward course, from Sarpa (nakshatra Ashlesha – Devata –Nagas/Sarpah)) to half of Śravishṭhā (Dhanishtha) is sacred to Varuna.
In effect, at the time of the composition (or modification/addition/update.. if applicable/relevant/plausible, etc.) of Maitrayani Upanishad, during Dakshinayan, the sun traveled from Nakshatra Magha to half of nakshatra Dhanishtha (Shravistha) and during Uttarayan, the sun traveled from the other half of Dhanishtha (Shravishta) to nakshatra Ashlesha.
We will perform our simulations by identification of Yogatara as follows:
Magha –Regulus (Alpha Leonis)
Ashlesha –Zeta Hydrae
Shravistha (Dhanishtha) – Sualocin (Alpha Delphini)
The time when the point of summer solstice coincided with nakshatra Magha
The time when the point of summer solstice coincided with nakshatra Ashlesha
The description of Maitrayani Upanishad is closer to scenario-1 (Dakshinayan beginning with nakshatra Magha) than scenario-2.
Naïve Indologist may jump to select either extreme (that might suit his/her preconceived agenda) for the timing of Maitrayani Upanishad (either ~2300 BCE or ~1200 BCE)
Fortunately, in this case, We do have one more reference at our disposal to fine tune this timing.
Astronomy reference of Maitrayani Upanishad also states that the Dakshinayan ended at the point of half –Dhanishstha and that Uttarayan began from that point.
Space of single Nakshtara along the ecliptic is about (360/27 = 13.33 degrees). Since 1 hour of Right Ascension corresponds to 15 degrees, we will take 30 min (or Right Ascension) as approximately corresponding to half of Nakshtara Dhanistha.
The time when the point of winter solstice was 30 min (Right Ascension) –west of Yogatara of Dhanistha (Sualocin):
2075 BCE. (corresponding to Right Ascension of Yogatara-Dhanistha at 17 hrs 30 min)
If one insists on employing more rigor, precision and exactness,
(Eliminating one degree of Right Ascention from each side of nakshtara Dhanishta( 15- 2 = 13 degrees) and thus if we estimate time when Right Ascension of Yogatara-Dhanistha equaled 17 hrs 34 min)
Thus, we can say that either the original composition of Maitrayani Upanishad or its subsequent modification/update/addition took place sometime around 2000 BCE.