Fall of Abhijit – 4 श्लोक & 3 Interpretations (Part 4 of 4)

Vartak Interpretation:

(1) Krittika (DEVI) began competing with Abhijit for seniority and thus went to summer solstice.
(2)Abhijit fell from the sky (went away from its position high up in the sky towards horizon, close to NCP). At this time, Indra told Skandha to consult Brahma regarding adjustment to calendar.
(3)Brahma began – at this time, the calendar with Dhanistha as first nakshatra. Rohini used to be in the first place prior to this.
(4)When Indra said this, Krittika went to the sky/heaven. This nakshatra (Krittka) with Agni as its devata and of the shape of a cart shines.

Other than Dhanistha at summer solstice and Abhjit near NCP (~12000 BCE), Dr. Vartak considers timing of the above descriptions to be that of ~22000 BCE.

Pros (Vartak interpretation)

Abhjit becoming North Pole star (~12000 BCE) and Dhanistha = first nakshatra implying beginning of the year (at least one of the many beginnings) from the point of summer solstice was inferred, for the first time and thus established the antiquity of astronomy observations in India.

Cons (Vartak interpretation)

While the most valuable part of Vartak interpretation is that of Abhijit becoming pole star, he is forced to (due to his interpretation) explain the timing of most of this Mahabharata reference as that of ~22000 BCE, i.e. 8000-10000 years prior to Abhijit becoming Pole Star. Vartak is also assuming two beginnings for the year coexisting. Now this by itself is not a problem, however, no such description is alluded to in the Mahabharata references under consideration. In addition, the crisis described in this Mahabharata reference simply does not exist in the interpretation of Dr. Vartak.

Oak Interpretation

(1) Dhanistha (DEVI) began competing with Abhjit for seniority and thus went to summer solstice.
(2)Abhijit fell from the sky (went away from its position high up in the sky towards horizon, close to NCP).
Indra asked Skandha to consult Brahma in order to do required adjustment to the calendar.
(3)At that time (as a result) Brahma assigned first rank to nakshatra Dhanistha (for it being at the point of summer solstice). Rohini used to be in the first position prior to this.
(4)When Indra said this, Krittika went to the 3rd part of heaven. This nakshatra (Krittika) with Agni as its devata and of the shape of a cart shines.

Pros (Oak interpretation)

Abhijit running to become North Pole star (to earn seniority) while Dhanistha (nakshatra next to Abhijit) competed with Abhijit and went to summer solstice (and attained seniority as it was given the first rank!). Abhijit falling from the sky to become North Pole star and Dhanistha coinciding with the point of summer solstice explains their competition and also establishes the timing of this event: 15000 BCE -12000 BCE. (It appears that Dhanistha won!.. Dhanistha reached point of summer solstice around 14602 BCE, 2000+ years before 12048 BCE, when Abhijit reached closest to the point of North celestial Pole. Of course at the timing of Dhanistha coinciding with the point of summer solstice, nakshatra Abhijit was far away from the celestial equator and close enough to the point of NCP to merit its removal from nakshatra list. Krittika going to 3rd part of the heaven was explained by their rising due east at the time of correction (14900 BCE).

Cons (Oak interpretation)

Could not provide explanation for why Rohini was in the first place before Dhanistha. Yes, it is true that it establishes ‘arrow of time’ but frankly that is not necessary as the direction for the movement of the precession of equinoxes is clear. Besides, there are many other nakshatras (Krittika, Bharani, Ashwini, Revati, P and U Bhadrapada, Shatabhishaj – between Rohini and Dhanistha).
While rising of Krittika at true east is creative, it still remains speculative in the absence of meaning of ‘Tridivam’ and also in the absence of additional explanation in the original Mahabharata reference itself.

Phadnis Interpretation:

(3)Brahma assigned first rank to nakshatra Dhanistha (for it being at the point of summer solstice). Rohini used to be in the first position prior to this.

(1)Anuradha or Vishakha (DEVI) began competing with Abhijit for seniority and thus went to summer solstice.

(2)Abhijit fell from the sky (Abhijit moved away from the point of NCP and thus approached the horizon)

At this time, Indra told Skandha to consult Brahma in order to do required adjustment to the calendar.

(4)When Indra said this, Krittika went to the winter solstice and year began from this point. In other words, Krittka were assigned the first rank. This nakshatra (Krittka) with Agni as its devata and of the shape of a cart shines.

Pros (Phadnis interpretation)

That there is equally consistent (equal to movement of Abhijit from its position closest to celestial equator to that of NCP) interpretation for the ‘Fall of Abhijit’ by considering Abhijit’s movement away from the point of NCP is the most interesting/fascinating . This proposal of Shri Phadnis thus offers a choice to select between two alternate explanations.

After this, the path must be traded with caution.

Krittika at Winter solstice around ~9000 BCE and Dhanistha at Fall equinox around the same time (~8500 BCE) have merit, especially in the context of Mahabharata time (5561 BCE). Dr. Vartak states that Vyasa has used ‘Krittika based calendar system’ in Mahabharata. I do not know what specific references Dr. Vartak had in his mind in asserting this, however, if true, its relevance in the context of interpretation of Shri Phadnis goes up. There is also enough allusions (albeit indirect.. hence allusions) in Mahabharata text for ‘fall equinox’ as the time for the beginning of the year (at least one of the many beginnings of the year) and Dhanistha as first nakshatra because it coincided with the point of Fall equinox (~8500 BCE) may be of relevance.

Cons (Phadnis interpretation)

Identification of DEVI with Anuradha or Vishakha is speculative and based on more speculative interpretation of Prof. Iyengar.

The problem of why Rohini was in the first place, before Dhanistha was assigned the first place (problem not clearly solved by either Dr. Vartak or Shri Oak) still persists. In addition while competition of Abhijit with DEVI= Dhanistha per Shri Oak does offer consistency…Abhjit and Dhanistha being in the adjacent vicinity; no such logic can be applied to for Abhijit-Anuradha competing pair. If the whole phenomenon is thus moved to ~9000 BCE, one may understand the need for correction to the calendar; however, mention of Abhijit becomes irrelevant. In addition, why this should be a big deal and crisis (implied in the verses) is not clear when the explanation is assumed to be for the time period of ~9000 BCE.

Limitations of each interpretation (per understanding of Shri Oak)

Vartak conjecture for the timing of this event – Krittika competing with Abhijit, falling of Abhijit (he states this as beginning of its falls from the highest position reached at meridian, towards NCP) as that of ~22000 BCE takes away the ‘crisis’ implied in this Mahabharata reference.
Then he is forced to jump to Dhanistha at summer solstice and thus ~14500 BCE. This creates inconsistency in his explanation.
Speculation for two beginnings for the year (Dhanistha at spring equinox and Rohini at summer solstice) ~ 22500 BCE and 20000 BCE is inconsistent, as this does not explain why they were given first places simultaneously, especially when their coinciding with cardinal points was separated by 2500+ years. It would have made more sense, per this logic, for comparison of Dhanistha with Ashwini since they coincided with spring equinox and summer solstice, respectively, about the same time (~20000 BCE).
Krittika going to heaven (last verse of Mahabharata text) remains unexplained.

Oak explanation is weak and weaker in explaining Krittika going to heaven (3rd heaven) and Rohini attaining first position, in antiquity, before Dhanistha. While recognition of Krittika attaining due east position during 14900 BCE is impressive, the explicit corroboration for such explanation is missing in the original Mahabharata text. If Rohini attaining first place before Dhanistha is due to the same phenomenon (i.e. their coinciding with the point of summer solstice), then question arises as to why other middle nakshatras were not mentioned (since they would have coincided with point of summer solstice after Rohini and before Dhanistha).

Phadnis explanation of ~9000 BCE as the timing for the explanation of this Mahabharata reference makes the crisis of nakshatra assignment (especially due to fall of Abhijit) redundant. After all, movement of Abhijit, away from NCP, should pose no problem to calendar adjustment where 27 nakshatras along the ecliptic is the key. Why Anuradha is imagined as competing with Abhijit remains unexplained (unlike Abhijit- Dhanistha of Oak) and very identification of Anuradha with DEVI is based on erroneous inference of Prof. Iyengar. The massive change for the beginning of year from the point of summer solstice to the point of winter solstice (as claimed by Shri Phadnis) is nowhere mentioned.

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3 thoughts on “Fall of Abhijit – 4 श्लोक & 3 Interpretations (Part 4 of 4)

  1. ‘Brahma assigned first rank to nakshatra Dhanistha (for it being at the point of summer solstice).’
    The sequence in you have said this makes it appear as if, I am saying that Brahma did this as a result of Indra’s request for action. I have never said so. I have repeatedly made it clear that Bhrahma had earlier made this system which Indra found now out of order as Summer Solstice had shifted quite away from Dhanishtha.. I have pointed out the use of words ‘तदा’ and ‘परिनिर्मितः’ (past tense) by Indra.

  2. Ok. Thanks. I will edit it. Of course, IMHO, that creates a problem for the interpretation… but I will talk about that later… So this is how (see below) I am going to edit it. Let me know if this makes sense..

    Phadnis Interpretation:

    Brahma assigned first rank to nakshatra Dhanistha (for it being at the point of summer solstice). Rohini used to be in the first position prior to this.

    Anuradha or Vishakha (DEVI) began competing with Abhijit for seniority and thus went to summer solstice.

    Abhijit fell from the sky (Abhijit moved away from the point of NCP and thus approached the horizon)

    At this time, Indra told Skandha to consult Brahma in order to do required adjustment to the calendar.

    When Indra said this, Krittika went to the winter solstice and year began from this point. In other words, Krittka were assigned the first rank. This nakshatra (Krittka) with Agni as its devata and of the shape of a cart shines.

  3. I will repeat is short, my interpretation of this reference to remove any doubts.
    First three shlokas describe what Indra told Skanda and the fourth states the outcome.
    What Indra is telling Skanda is
    1. Nakshatra ‘Devi’ is competing with Abhijit and has gone to ‘tapastaptum (btw, not tapastaptam) vanam’ –My interpretation – Devi is Younger sister of Rohini so should be Krittika. If Jyeshtha was also called Rohini as claimed by Iyengar (Jyeshtha Rohini and Kanishtha Rohini?) then Anuradha can be alternative younger sister. Gone to ‘tapastaptum vanam’ can mean gone to ‘summer solstice’ as suggested by Dr. Vartak. But there is a problem. Summer Solstice will take 20000 years to move from Dhanishtha to Krittika. From Dhanishtha it could move to Anuradha in 6000 years. (Both figures approximate). So Anuradha appears a better candidate for the name ‘Devi’
    2. Nakshatra has fallen from sky. – My interpretation – Since all 27 Nakshatras remain permanently in their position, this must refer to Abhijit. Why Abhijit was at all so far counted along with 27 nakshatras? Because when Nakshatra system was set up, Abhijit was pretty close to CNP and meridian lines could be imagined by observers from Abhijit down to equator (or Ecliptic) dividing the firmament into reference segments of each nakshatra. But after some thousands of years, Abhijit had moved far away from CNP and does not serve that purpose any more. It also now dips below the horizon every night.(or has fallen from sky)
    3. Skanda, I am confused. Brahma had earlier created the ‘system’ with Dhanishtha as first nakshatra. Rohini was also first one. So discuss with Bhrahma. — My interpretation – Brahma in the beginning created the ‘system’ with Dhanishtha as first Nakshatara which must have been done when one cardinal point was at Dhanishtha.- most likely, summer solstice ‘ in 14500 BCE. Rohini was also first one’ could mean preferred cardinal point was changed by some authority, from Summer Solstice to winter solstice which had moved to Rohini. So Indra asks Skanda to discuss with Brahma what should be done about (a) first nakshatra (It cant be Dhanishtha now, should it be Rohini at winter solstice?) and (b) Abhijit. (It has fallen from sky and has no relevance now)
    4 In the fourth shloka, nothing specific is stated about Brahma’s decision but what happened most probably was that, winter solstice became the preferred cardinal point which had however shifted further to Krittika so Krittika (and not Rohini) got first position. Abhijit was dropped. There being no other prominent star near CNP, no one could take its place. Krittikas were happy as they got first place (went to heaven and shine brightly)
    Timing of Indra-Skanda dialogue would appear to be 9500 BCE approx. when winter solstice was near Rohini or somewhat later, say 9000BCE, when it had shifted to Krittika.
    After another few thousand years winter solstice has shifted away from Krittika. Now we count Ashvini as first Nakshatra. I wonder on whose authority and why. There is no cardinal point at Ashvini at present as far as I know.

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