Saturn, Jupiter, Sun & Moon afflicting nakshatra Rohini: 5561 BCE

Our reader writes…

“M.B. Ref 12. – Mr. Oak’s translation is wrong. (‘Jupiter began afflicting Rohini, similar to Sun and Moon’ would mean all three were afflicting Rohini, Sun and moon earlier, now Jupiter too! समानवर्णः cannot be translated as ‘similar’) The correct translation of the reference is – ‘Bruhaspati, after afflicting Rohini powerfully (संप्रपीड्य) became of the same colour as Sun and Moon (समानवर्णः, meaning probably bright or white.) Why Jupiter should become bright after afflicting Rohini powerfully is not clear. This reference cannot be linked with the other one about Rohini at Bhishma GP-3-17. The explanation that Jupiter occupied same position on horizon as Sun and Moon on first day and so afflicted Rohini as They did on the first day is irrlevent as समानवर्णः does not mean similar. “

My Response…

I thank our reader for emphasizing ‘समानवर्णः, meaning probably bright or white’. This word (समानवर्ण) appears in critical edition (CE 68:49), while GP edition has slightly modified verse (GP 94:51).

The reference occurs in the Mahabharata text (CE Karna 68:49, GP 94.51)

The alternate reading (GP 94:51) reads…

बृहस्पति: सम्परिवार्य रोहिणी
बभूव चंद्रार्कसमो विशाम्पते

(and GP translation— Jupiter covered/enclosed nakshatra Rohini, and began shining (Jupiter) simliar to the Sun and the Moon.)

While our reader has positively contributed to correct meaning of ‘समानवर्ण’, that was not even the emphasis of my corrboration. The emphasis of my corrboration was rather the timing and position of ‘Sun/moon’ (first day of War and at sunset) and also ‘Jupiter’ (17th day of the War and at sunset) afflicting nakshatra Rohini.

The Background

At least, Bharat-Ratna & Mahamahopadhyaya P V Kane, Dr. P V Vartak and Prof. R N Iyengar have shown awareness of this astronomy reference of Mahabharata text, but have not corrborated it (Vartak did make an attempt) for their proposed timeline.

On the other hand, numerous researchers (this list includes usual suspects – Prof. Narahari Achar, Prof. Shrinivas Raghavan, Prof. Anand Sharan, P V Holay, Mohan Gupta, P C SenGupta, Karandikar, Ketkar, a looooong list) have simply ignored this reference AS IF IT DID NOT EXIST.

The Reference

The Mahabharata references states that ‘Jupiter became bright and began afflicting nakshatra Rohini, simliar to (by becoming bright/white, etc.) like the Sun and the Moon.

Let’s begin with the translation proposed by our reader…

‘The correct translation of the reference is – ‘Bruhaspati, after afflicting Rohini powerfully (संप्रपीड्य) became of the same colour as Sun and Moon (समानवर्णः, meaning probably bright or white.)’

I accept this translation. It is critical to note that my emphasis is and was on the ‘positions’ and ‘timing’ of these ‘graha (Jupiter, Sun/Moon, or Saturn) afflicting nakshatra Rohini.

Jupiter was on the western horizon (immediately after sunset) on the 17th day of the War (1 November 5561 BCE), the timing of this reference, i.e. after Karna was killed in the battlefield. Nakshatra Rohini was on the eastern horizon, at this time and thus, I asserted, that Jupiter on western horizon was afflicting nakshatra Rohini (Rohini was on the eastern horizon).

This completes the corroboration aspect of this observation. I will provide, two additional corroborations, which in turn support the rationale employed by me in corrboration of this obsservation.

Our reader adds,

‘Why Jupiter should become bright after afflicting Rohini powerfully is not clear.’

To answer this question, we should discuss two other Mahabharata references..

(1) Saturn was afflicting Rohini (two instances of this same/simlar reference) (GP Udyoga 143:8 & GP Bhishma 2:32)

(2) The Sun/Moon were afflicting nakshatra Rohini. (GP Bhishma Parva 3:17)

While the timing of ‘Jupiter afflicting nakshatra Rohini’ is clear (in the evening, after the sunset, on the 17th day of War), the timing for ‘Saturn afflicting nakshatra Rohini’ and ‘The Sun/The Moon afflicting nakshatra Rohini’ are not clear.

Since Saturn is a slow moving planet (slowest among those planets that are visible to the naked eye), the timing of it afflicting nakshatra Rohini is not crucial. However, moon moves the fastest and thus determing position/phase of the moon (and thus day of the War) becomes challenging.

I had assumed observation of ‘Sun/moon afflicting nakshatara Rohini’ as the observation on the first day of the War (16 October 5561 BCE) which was the day of Amawasya and thus both Sun/moon were together. Thus I wrote (in my book)…

After sunset, on the 17th day of War, Jupiter was on the western horizon, same position occupied by the Sun and the Moon on the first day of War while afflicting rising Rohini on the opposite (east) horizon. The Sun and the Moon were not together on the 17th day of War and thus I assert that Mahabharata reference of ‘similar to the Sun and the Moon’ is referring to the observation of first day of War, when they were afflicting Rohini.

In effect,

I assumed the timing for ‘Sun/moon afflicting nakshatra Rohini’ to be that of the first day of the War, at the time of sunset.

which leads to similarity (timing – sunset, and position-western horizon) in corrboration of two observations (Sun/moon afflicting Rohini and also, Jupiter afflicting Rohini).

Of course, one may consider alternate scenario and thus alternate timing for ‘Sun/moon afflicting nakshatra Rohini’. For example, on the very 17th day of the War, sun was indeed afflicting Rohini (with Rohini rising on eastern horizon and sun setting on the western horizon) and the moon (near full moon) afflicting nakshtra Rohini, later in the night (position of moon near Punarvasu).

This would not change the corroborative aspect of these observations, however, my existing interpretation is more consistent/straightforward as refernce ‘Sun/moon afflicting nakshatra Rohini’ is a short term refernce involving fast moving planets – e..g Sun and moon).

As a first approximation, I attempted corrboration for fast moving planets (Moon, Sun, Mercury, Venus, Mars) when they were either near relevant nakshtras (relevant as mentioned in the Mahabharata text) and when the timing of their observation was clear (based on Mahabharata text) or for the first day of Mahabhahrata War.

Finally, corrboration for the remaining observation of ‘Saturn afflicting nakshtra Rohini’ is straightforward, i.e. rising saturn (on the eastern horizon) afflcting setting nakshatra Rohini (on the western horizon), just before sunrise!

I never meant the following translation, assumed by our reader….

(‘Jupiter began afflicting Rohini, similar to Sun and Moon’ would mean all three were afflicting Rohini, Sun and moon earlier, now Jupiter too!)

OR

This reference cannot be linked with the other one about Rohini at Bhishma GP-3-17. The explanation that Jupiter occupied same position on horizon as Sun and Moon on first day and so afflicted Rohini as They did on the first day is irrlevent as समानवर्णः does not mean similar.

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