Origin of the Myth: Beginning of Kaliyuga = 3102 BCE
In 1905 CE, Lokamanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote eight editorial in his Marathi newspaper – Kesari. The occasion was the publication of ‘ Mahabharata – A criticism’ by Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya.
C V Vaidya had claimed occurrence of Mahabharata War around 3102 BCE, again based on assumption for the beginning of Kaliyuga with 3102 BCE.
And where does this assumption come from?
No one knows for sure, however, Tilak made numerous points to show that it cannot be simply taken as 3102 BCE, at least not unless additional corroborative evidence is found. We have found none to this day.
(1). While many claim existence of so called “Yudhishthir Shaka’, no evidence whatsoever exist. Tilak refers to exacavation/identification of 2-3 stone inscriptions from pre Shalivahan Shaka (that is been assumed to have began 78 years after CE). These inscriptions do not mention Yudhishthir Shaka. Of course this is no proof for non-existence of ‘Yudhisthir Shaka’. The limited point is that there is no evidence so far for ‘Yudhishthir Shaka’.
(2). Tilak put forward his views (and we have every reason to agree with this, until we come across evidence that contradicts his thesis) that no serious historian or astronomer of India thought about the exact timing for the beginning of Kaliyuga before ‘Shalivahan’ or ‘Vikram’ shaka (reference systems of time calculations.. similar to beginning of Julian Calendar, or beginning of Calender in the context of birth of Jesus Christ in the western world.
(3). calendars based on Buddha or Mahavir (e.g. their birth timing, assumed or otherwise) were prevalent when above mentioned ‘Shaka’ calculations began.
(4). It appears that sage/astronomer Garga (there were many ‘Garga’ through ancient India and we are here referring to one who was around about 2000 years ago. It appears that Garga made an assumption (reasonable one) that significant event before Buddha was that of Pandavas and thus of the beginning of Kaliyuga. However Garga had to solve the problem of the timing of the beginning of Kaliyuga.
(5). One of the calendar systems that existed in Garga’s time was that of ‘Saptarshi Calendar’ which was assumed to be repeated every 2700 years…as ‘Saptarshi’ were assumed to stay in one nakshatra (total nakshatras being 27) for 100 years.
(6). Of course we know (now) that ‘Saptarshi’ do not have relative motion with respect to nakshatras of the ecliptic. It appears that Garga did not recognize this fact.
(7) As a result, he began with the reference of (Vishnu Purana/Bhagavat Purana) ‘Saptarshi’ being in nakshatra ‘Magha’ during the time of Pandavas/Yudhishthi. Garga noticed that ‘Saptarshi’ were still in Magha (recall that ‘Saptrashi’ do not have motion with respect to nakshatras). Thus Garga assumed that ‘Saptarshi’ have completed one round of 2700 years since the time of Pandavas; and thus stated that one should add shaka years (elapsed) to 2526 to get to the timing of Pandavas (and thus Mahabharata). Tilak had shown (elsewhere) that Garga was indeed after ‘Shaka’ rules, based on references to these ‘Shaka’ rules within the works of sage Garga.
(8) One can easily infer from (7) that 2700-2526 = 174 is then the the Shaka year (Shalivahan Shaka 174) is then the time of Garga.
(9). Recall the fact that ‘Saptarshi’ truly have no motion with respect to Nakshatas. Natually, astronomers soon after the time of Garge realized ‘error’ in calculations of Garga (related to beginning of Kaliyuga and thus Mahabharata).
(10). Indian astronomers, post Garga, did not necessarily recognized the non-existence of ‘Saptarshi’ motion, but it appears that only Garga gave a serious thought in speculating/conjecturing the beginning of Kaliyuga (although on a faulty logic of Saptrshi cycle).
(11). In effect, Indian astronomers, post Garga, observed ‘Saptarshi’ in nakshatra Magha. The next Indian astronomer, post Garga, and one documented in Indian history, was Aryabhatta. It appears Aryabhatta attempted to estimate the timing of the beginning of Kaliyuga (and thus Mahabharata).
(12). Aryabhatta made the following assumptions:
(a) Ayan-amsha (Nirayana position of spring equinox = 0 Right Ascension) equal to zero in his time.
(b) Ayana –amsha (Nirayana position of spring equinox) were at zero at the time of beginning of Kaliyuga (We have no idea how or based on what reference, Aryabhatta made this assumption). Could it be possible that he made this assumption on erroneous interpretation of same ‘Saptarshi in Magha’ references, which was, AGAIN, the case during the time of Aryabhatta (since Saptarshi don’t have motion anyway, with respect to nakshatras)?
(c ) He interpreted a statement of Surya-Siddhanta (again, I don’t know the specific verse of Surya-siddhanta which states this, however, I have asked able researchers, conversant with Surya-Siddhanta, to find this out for me) that one complete round of ‘Ayan-amsha’ takes 3600 years.
(13). Thus beginning with his time, i.e. Shalivahan Shaka 421 CE (this is bit of circular logic, but I will not elaborate, only to keep moving the discussion), Aryabhatta calculated 3600 -421 = 3179 (before Shaka), which is same as 3101/3102 BCE.
(14). Tilak points out that usage of (and claims for existence of ) ‘Yudhishthir-Shaka’ itself is contradictory, since usage of ‘Shaka’ as referring to a calendar began only with ‘Shaka’ rulers, who ruled long after the time of Yudhishthir/Mahabharata.
(15). Pandit Kalhana, who wrote history of Kashmir, generated more fun (!) by simply trying to validate both views (Garga and Arybhatta). Pandit Kalhana proposed that time of Yudhishthir (and thus of Mahabharata) was not at the beginning of Kaliyuga but rather 653 years after Kaliyuga began!!!
(16) And how did Pandit Kalhana reach such a bizarre conclusion? Simple.
3179 (Aryabhatta – beginning of Kaliyuga based on Ayan-Amsha completing one cycle in 3600 Years?) – 2526 (Garga – timing of Saptarshi in Magha??) = 653 years after Kaliyuga.
All the fun!
I want readers to recognize that some 50% of total proposed dates (>60 out of 130) for the timing of Mahabharata War fall in this 2500 – 3000 BCE range. And almost all (if not all) researchers decided to search in this region, based on 3102 BCE ( 3179 before Shaka) as the ASSUMED beginning of Kaliyuga.
Fun is not over yet……
To be continued….