In this part, let’s explore interpretation of Shri Prabhakar Phadnis for ‘Fall of Abhjit’.
Translation by Dr. Vartak (Shri Phadnis has accepted translation of Dr. Vartak as directionally correct. I am also ok with accepting Dr. Vartak’s translation as directionally correct.)
1. अभिजित्स्पर्धमाना तु रोहिण्याः कन्यसी स्वसा इच्छन्ती ज्येष्ठतां देवी तपस्तप्तं वनं गता.
‘Daughterlike (younger) sister of rohini, DEVI, contesting with abhijit for seniority has gone to water heated by hot season.’
Shri Phadnis recognizes identification of Devi = Krittika (by Vartak) does not make sense. Shri Phadnis suggests alternate identification of DEVI = Anuradha or Vishakha.
(This alternate identification is based on speculation of Prof. R N Iyengar. Prof. Iyengar has interpreted the word ‘ज्येष्ठतां’ as referring to nakshatra ‘Jyeshtha’. While Prof. Iyengar is to be congratulated for acknowledging the existence of ‘Fall of Abhijit’ references of Mahabharata text and also for making an attempt to make sense out of them, he has made a colossal mess in his interpretation and I ask curious readers to read Prof. Iyengar’s interpretation in the original.)
For the sake of argument, let’s explore this DEVI – Anuradha or Vishakha interpretation.
If one assumes this interpretation of DEVI = Anuradha or Vishakha to be correct, then timing proposed by Shri Phadnis, of ~ 9000 BCE does corroborate the reference as the point of summer solstice was around Anuradha around 9000 BCE.
This still does not explain the analogy of Abhijit competing with Anuradha. However, this problem (of understanding metaphor of Abhijit competing with DEVI) also exists with interpretation of Dr. Vartak. Dr. Vartak interpreted DEVI = Krittka.
2. तत्र मूढोस्मि भद्रं ते नक्षत्रं गगनाच्च्युतम् कालंत्विमं परं स्कंद ब्रह्मणासह चिन्तय
‘Here I am confused, bless you, (also) Nakshatra has fallen (or moved) from sky Skanda, please think of this time (event) along with Brahma (discuss with him)’
Shri Phadnis is to be congratulated for suggesting alternate explanation for ‘Fall of Abhijit’. Yes, moving of Abhijit, away from NCP can ‘also’ be considered ‘Fall of Abhijit’ and noticing of this movement around 9000 BCE is sensible.
Unfortunately, the whole thing goes downhill after this point.
The very claim Shri Phadnis is making for the timing and interpretation of ‘Fall of Abhijit’ is for 9000 BCE. However he is now forced to go back to ~14000 BCE. I think this confusion of Shri Phadnis occurs because according to him, inclusion of Abhijit among list of 27 nakshatras happened at this time (~14000- 12000 BCE) when it became a pole star.
Abhijit is never close to the ecliptic, however, the best time for its inclusion among 27 nakshatras would be when it is closest to the celestial equator (i.e in our times or around 22000 BCE). And this is not just speculation. Position of Abhijit among the list of 27 nakshatras (e.g. Taittiriya Brahmana) provides a great corroboration for my conjecture.
This verse states that when ‘fall of Abhijit’ occurred (whatever be the definition of the ‘fall’) that is the time when Indra told Skandha to approach Brhama and discuss the issue.
Shri Phadnis acknowledges that the point of summer solstice was near nakshatra Dhanistha around 14000 BCE (the time of correction of calendar by request of Indra to Skandha/Brahma). Unfortunately this contradicts very claim of Shri Phadnis for ~9000 BCE as the timing for ‘Fall of ABhijit’ and also for ‘correction of Calendar’.
3. धनिष्ठादिस्तदा कालो ब्रह्मणा परिनिर्मितः रोहिण्याद्यः अभवत्पूर्वम् एवम् संख्या समाभवत्
‘Bhrahma had then created time beginning from Dhanishtha. Earlier, beginning from Rohini also happened. This is the available information.’
This is what Shri Phadnis wrote..
“Around 9500 BC therefore, (a)Summer Solstice has moved from Dhanishtha close to Vishakha-Anuradha, (b) Winter Solstice, alternative starting point for year, is near Krittika-Rohini and (c)Abhijit has moved a long way away from CNP! Brahma’s system is in a crisis! Indra sends him an SOS with Skanda. I suggest that the event in the shlokas occurred around 9,500 BC.”
However assigning first rank to nakshatra Dhanishtha, in 9000 BCE, does not make sense, at least not based on its (Dhanistha) coinciding with the point of Summer solstice.
And this specific verse or any of the 4 verses neither mention nakshatra ‘Vishakha’ or ‘Anuradha’ nor offer any clues for dramatic shift in the beginning of year to ‘winter solstice’, as claimed by Shri Phadnis, as opposed to ‘summer solstice’…the tradition that was certainly in place around 14000 BCE – 12000 BCE.
4. एवमुक्ते तु शक्रेण त्रिदिवं कृत्तिकागताः नक्षत्रं शकटाकारं भाति तद्वन्हिदैवतम्
‘ On Shakra (Indra) saying this, Krittikas came to heaven (आगताः) The nakshatra having Agni as devata and of chariot shape shines.’
This is what Shri Phadnis wrote…
“The shlokas dont explicitly state what Brahma decided but apparently, Abhijit was ‘dismissed’, and year start shifted to Winter Solstice so, naturally, Krittikas ‘went to heaven’ and are shining brightly! (Vishakha-Anuradha lost their claim)”.
I agree with Shri Phadnis that the verses (all 4, but especially this one) is confusing.
However, if ‘Abhjit’ was dismissed from list of 27/28 nakshatras (which I agree), then it would be when the position of Abhijit was away from the celestial equator and its movement also..going away from the celestial equator. This is not the case around 9000 BCE.
There is no explicit or even indirect mention of year shifting to winter solstice in the above 4 verses.
Although, IMHO, interpretation of Shri Phadnis has not made any progress in resolving ‘unsolved’ issues per previous (Vartak, Oak, Iyengar) interpretations for ‘Fall of Abhijit; his conjecture for 9000 BCE as a time when either the shift or new addition for beginning of year from the point of winter solstice does have merit, especially because Mahabharata, at times, refers to ‘Krittika based calendar’ (per Vartak). I do not have specific references from Mahabharata where Krittika based calendar is mentioned. I encourage Mahabharata researchers to explore this further.
I will compare, in the next part, theories and interpretations of Vartak, Phadnis and Oak, side by side for ‘Fall of Abhijit’.