Traditional Beliefs: Benefits & Limitations

Benefits

Traditional beliefs can provide a seed assumptions aka starting points as researchers of Indian history explore timeline of ancient India.  They provide a starting point and may allow one to estimate plausible time for the beginning of such tradition, which in turn, may define the timing of a specific historic event.   They also provide a timeline that can be tested against evidence or predictions for the timeline of same events, but arrived at via other methods.


To illustrate:

  • The fact day of Makar Sankranti (14 January – Soon it will be celebrated, frequently on 15 January for next ~70 years or so) originally referred to day of Winter Solstice allows us to estimate the time when the tradition of Makar Sankranti began.
  • Answer : Sometime around 400-700 CE
  • The fact Maha-Shivaratra is celebrated during the lunar month of Magha allows us to estimate the timing when this day Magha would have amounted to a longest night, which in turn allows us to estimate the timing for the beginning of the tradition of ‘Maha-ShivaRatra’.
  • Answer: Take this as homework and post your answers.
  • The fact current Indian calendar assume Nakshatra Ashwini (and Vernal Equinox as the beginning) as the first Nakshatra allows us to estimate the timing for setup/baseline of current Indian Luni-Solar calendars.
  • Answer: This one is too easy. I will still give you a clue – Aryabhatta. Don’t confuse the baseline employed in these calendars though. It is not the same as the time of Aryabhatta but the baseline assumption itself is due to assumption of Aryabhatta for the beginning of Kaliyuga.

Limitations
Traditional beliefs can also get us into big trouble, confuse us in our research, may make us stick to dogmatic assumptions too long, and if we are not alert – force us to make ridiculous inferences or in inductive nightmare.


To illustrate:

  • Tradition celebrates Gita-Jayanti (BhagavadGita) on Margashirsha Shuddha 11 (Ekadashi). This is based on the assumption that Krishna told Bhagvad Gita (first day of Mahabharata War) on the day of Margashirsha Shuddha 11.
  • Trouble: Many researchers began with this seed assumption in defining the first day of Mahabharata War. This is not a bad start. However, such an assumption leads to problems worse than identifying the first day of Mahabharata War.
  • – When one assumes the first day of Mahabhartata War as coinciding with Margashirsha Shuddha 11, all the observations for the positions and phases of the moon from the Mahabharata text contradict any such timeline. Such a timeline contradicts numerous other Chronology and astronomy observations of Mahabharata text (some of them – not all of them- listed below)
  • Tradition celebrates Magha Shuddha 8 (Ashtami) as day of Bhishma Nirvana.
  • Trouble: While many researchers have assumed Magha Shuddha 8= Day of Bhishma Nirvana, not a single researcher has corroborated all related astronomy and chronology observations of Mahabharata text. Even humorous is the fact that man of these observations are claimed critical by these very same researchers.
    Let’s combine the traditional beliefs for the days of Bhishma Nirvana and the first day of Mahabharata War. Bhishma fell down in the battle on the 10th day of the War. Per traditional belief, that would mean on the day of MargashirshaVadya 3. Total duration between Magha Shuddha 8 and Margashirsha Vadya 3 amounts to only about 50 days.
  • Assuming erroneous time duration of 58 days – assumed by all Mahabharata researchers of the past and present (with the exception of yours truly) – the assumption based on one single reference of Mahabharata text and deliberately(or ignorantly) avoiding 21+ distinct astronomy and Chronology observations from various (Bhishma-Drona-Karna-Shalya-Sauptic-Stri-Shanti-Anushasan) parvas of Mahabharata text, we are still left with only 50 days for Bhishma to be on the bed of arrows.
  • The entire tragedy is lost on these researchers. Ignorance is bliss, indeed!
  • Unfortunately, worse is not over yet!
  • Tradition also believes, i.e. celebrates Magha Shuddha 11 (Ekadashi) as the day when Bhishma recited ‘Vishnu-Sahasra-Nama’ to Yudhishthir, while still on the bed of arrows. This directly contradicts with traditional day of Bhishma Nirvana (Magha Shuddha 8). This would be mean Bhishma was not around to recite ‘Vishnu Sahasra-Nama’ on the day of Magha Shuddha 11.
  • What would you do if you were one of these Mahabharata researchers?
  • If you said, you would pretend not to know of this traditional belief of Magha Shuddha 11 as the day of Bhishma reciting ‘Vishnu-Sahasra-Nama’ to Yudhishthir, you would be right!
  • That is what these researchers have done. While enthusiastically lapping for the day of Margashirsha Shuddha 11 (not all of them, but still a mighty bunch) and the day of Magha Shuddha 8 as day of Bhishma-Nirvana, these researchers have kept mum about the traditional belief about the day of Magha Shuddha 11 (Ekadashi).

And we have not yet talked about any observations of Grahas, comets, stars and eclipses,  from the Mahabharata Text.

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4 thoughts on “Traditional Beliefs: Benefits & Limitations

  1. Kedar Desai, I am aware of two different claims for the timing of Arybhatta. Unfortunately, both of them are based on two different interpretations of a shloka from Aryabhatiya and both interpretations are founded on unsustainable logic.

    In any case, what specific subject you want my opinion on?

    • Thanks for replying.I wanted to know the date of Aryabhatta with relation to the date of the mahabharata war. i.e. 5561 BCE.
      Another small request ,there is the Aihole inscription considered for dating the war. Trinshatsu Trisahasreshu Bhaaratdahavaditaha .what does it translate.I don’t think it says anything about the war.What is your opinion.Waiting for reply.

  2. Kedar, I have seen it being translated (and interpreted) by few including P V Vartak. I can not recall in what ways it adds to the research on timing of Mahabharata. In any case, one has to make external assumptions in order to interpret in the context of Mahabharata.

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