Any explanation for the ‘Fall of Abhijit’ reference of Mahabharata text (chapter 5 of my Mahabharata book) must include the following:
(1) Nakshatra Abhijit went to the forest for ‘tapa’ in order to attain seniority (prestige), in competition with Nakshatra Rohini
(2) Nakshatra Abhijit fell (down) from the sky.
(3) This appears to have created some challenges in the system of ‘Time keeping’ and thus Skandha and Brahma deliberated to resolve the problem.
(4) Skandha and Brahma possibly re-calibrated the ‘Time keeping system’ where nakshatra Dhanishtha attained the status of first nakshatra, which in the past had also been attained by nakshatra Rohini
(5) At the order to Indra (Shakra), Krittka also attained a critical position (went up to the heaven, attained a key position, etc.)
We must recognize that the entire verse is allegorical/metaphorical and thus depending on the theory proposed, the interpretation would indeed change. However, any interpretation which in turn is a consequence of a specific theory must be consistent. (This is trivially true aspect of any empirical and scientific theory).
There are psychological aspects to this reference- metaphorically speaking – such as nakshatra Abhijit did whatever it did was out enviousness towards its elder sister nakshatra Rohini and nakshatra Abhijit wanted to attain similar status as that of nakshatra Rohini.
Specific references to Skandha, Brahma and Indra may carry a significance too, in the context of original astronomy phenomena, which of courses comes to us as a metaphor/allegory.
Beginning with the present, and going backward in antiquity, through a complete cycle of precession of equinoxes, I tested 4 scenarios when nakshatra Dhanishta was at one of the cardinal points (solstices or equinoxes) and then analyzed position of and direction of nakshatra Abhijit in the context of its (Abhijit) movement (towards or away from the point of Celestial North Pole- NCP) and its location relative to NCP.
A plausible (but not the only plausible) context can be understood as follows.
(the term ‘Nakshatra’ is employed, in this discussion, not as any star, but rather specific star as understood in the Indian nakshatra system of 27 or 28 Nakshatras)
(1) ‘Abhijit going to forest to do ‘tapa’ is to be understood as ‘Abhijit going away from ‘celestial equator’ towards the point of NCP. ‘Going to the forest’ is analgous to going away from the path of the Sun, the moon and planets and going closer to the point of NCP and thus become immovable from the sky fits well with the analogy of one doing ‘tapa’.
(2) In celestial coordinates, nakshatra Abhijit moving from Declination of ~40 degrees to ~86 degrees (in the northern hemisphere) can indeed be seen as ‘fall from the sky’ (nakshatram gaganatchyutam).
(3) While some of the ancient Indian books mention ‘Abhijit’ among the list of Nakshatras, including its relative position, other some other omit reference to ‘Abhijit’ from the list of Nakshatras. Inclusion or non-inclusion of ‘Abhijit’ into list of 28 (or 27 in case of non-inclusion) nakshatras might be at the root of the challenge mentioned in this Mahabharata reference. The very number 27 or 28 makes it ample clear the original purpose of the creation of nakshatra system. – namely – Time keeping (i.e. Moon completes one round through the ecliptic in 27.3 days).
(4) Mention of Skandha and Brahma and Indra may refere to their astronomical roles and aid in interpreting the mystery (allegory/metaphor). Skandha = Axis of the Earth, Brahma – Creation principle, Indra – identified with the Sun, among many other things.
(5) Nakshtra Krittka played a key role in solving the challenge of ‘Time keeping ‘ encountered and/or attained a key position, post ‘Time keeping ‘correction suggested/employed and implemented by Skandha/Brahma/Indra.
The fact story occurs in the Mahabharata text and refers to a time period long before Mahabharata, also means this occurred sometime before 5561 BCE.