How to detect a plausible interpolation? Part – 3 of 5

I began writing this series a while ago and never found time to complete it.

Previous two parts of this series can be read here…

In this part, I want to address interpolations of two specific kinds.

Interpolation: Type -1

Few illustrations may make this intuitive.

(1) If someone asks me, today, where (and NOT WHEN! 🙂 ) did the Mahabharata War took place, I may respond by stating that “100 KM north of New Delhi”. What I am doing is stating historical location of the Mahabharata War (somewhere between now dried up rivers – Sarasvati and Drushtavati) in the context of well known place (New Delhi) today. However, if such a reference gets embedded in a book, few hundred years down the road, posterity may think of my statement as invalid, of course wrongly, by stating that city of ‘New Delhi’ did not exist at the time of Mahabharata War.

(2) Other examples of the above phenomena include places such as: Panchavati of Rama/Sita/Laxman on the bank of river Godavari = contemporary city of Nashik in Maharashtra, Kishkindha of Vali/Sugriva = Hampi/Bellary in Karnataka, Ravana’s Lanka = City of Candy in Sri Lanka, and so on….

(3) Of course the phenomenon is not limited to place names. Such interpolations can enter even in astronomy references. For example, I mentioned in part 1 of this series ( how modern Zodiac of Cancer (Karka) is referred to in the context of Rama-Janma. What one can assert is that the original references of Rama being born on Punarvasu/Pushya nakshatra did exist and at later stage, someone transcribing Ramayana, decided to include mention of Zodiac Cancer (Karka) as ‘Karka lagna’ by combining the fact (assumed or factual) that the timing of Rama-Janma was that of noon, and knowing well that moon of Shukla 8/9 was in Pushya. (Area of nakshatra Pushya is synonymous with the area of zodiac Cancer (Karka)

(4) We have evidence of similar interpolations as (3) occurring in commentaries of Mahabharata. For example, either Nilakantha Chaturdhar (17th Century) or someone else refers to positions of Jupiter (Bruhaspati) and Saturn (Shani) being near Zodiac Libra (Tula) based on the original Mahabharata text references of these two planets (Jupiter and Saturn) being mentioned near nakshatra Vishakha. Those knowledgeable about nakshatras and zodiacs know that region of nakshatra Vishakha is synonymous with that of zodiac Libra (Tula).

(5) One Shlok in Mahabharata, considered interpolated by many, that refers to ‘the day of Bhishma Nirvana as that of Magha Shukla Ashtami and that moon was near nakshatra Rohini’ is attributed by some to Mahabharata commentator of 17th Century – Nilakantha Chaturdhar.

This last illustration provides us a good point to move on to second kind of interpolation I want to describe in this part.

Interpolation: Type 2

Anytime a textual reference provides information (in the form of plausible evidence) that denotes the ‘same thing’ in more than one way, one should SUSPECT interpolation. Please note the word ‘SUSPECT’. I am nowhere stating that such an occurrence is a guarantee of it being an interpolation. Rather that is been my experience based on 20+ years of ancient Indian history research.

Again, few illustrations would make the point clear.

(1) Bhishma Nirvana: On the day of Bhishma Nirvana, Bhishma states that , “It appears to be the lunar month of Magha and 1/3 of the month is over (Various other interpretations are possible such as (a) 1/3 of Paksha is over (b) 1/3 of Paksha is remaining (c) 1/3 of the month is remaining and so on).  Not only additional verses were written (attributed by some to Nilakantha Chaturdhar) that overtly specify a day, e.g. Magha Shukla/Shuddha Ashtami, however, that is not the end of it.  The same interpolated verse goes on to state that the moon was in nakshatra Rohini.  In a technical language, this is similar to ‘zero degree of freedom’ (and frankly some more info).  This is because once ‘Maghas Shukla/Shuddha Ashtami’ is stated, there is no need to mention that the moon was near nakshatra Rohini, since these are not too independent things… What is more, the original verse (not considered interpolated) might have experienced the brunt of this ‘interpolation’ tendencies.  No wonder, we also come across alternate reading such  as ‘Masoyam samanu praptau, masa Pushya Yudhishthira’.

(2) Tirthayatra of Balarama – After mentioning nakshatras that bind the Tirthayatra of Balarama, the verse from Shalya parva of Mahabharata goes on to state total duration of 42 days. The problem of excessive information  and resulting zero degrees of freedom repeats itself.  Anything bound between Nakshatras Pushya and Shravana, will have time interval of ~ 42 days.

(3) Bharata Savitri:  This could be termed as the very first attempt at determining the timing of Mahabharata War.  These verses state with unwarranted (unwarranted because the claims are not backed by any evidence and rather it is easy to show that 200+ astronomy observations from the Mahabharata text falsifies each and every claim of Bharata Savitri) assurance its own timeline for the 18 days of the Mahabharata War.  Again, specific days of the war with corresponding lunar tithi are mentioned, however, with characteristic lack of supporting data.  Numerous Mahabharata researchers, with only few rare exceptions, have continued in this undignified and irrational tradition into our times.

(4) Astronomy descriptions of Rama Janma:  Once Chaitra Shuddha Navami is mentioned, there is no need to iterate nakshatra (Punarvasu/Pushya) or once the timing of Rama birth is mentioned, there is no need to mention ‘Karkata lagna’..

To be continued….


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