Punarvasus as Vi-shakhas – Part 1

Shri Phadnis writes…

“Ref. 57- compares Raja Paandya’s fallen head with full moon. This is 16th day of the war. Translation of reference is as follows – ‘That head also, graced with a face bright as the full Moon, having a prominent nose and a pair of large eyes, red as copper with rage, adorned with earrings, falling on the ground, looked resplendent like the Moon himself between two bright constellations.’ Translator mentions two bright constellations, not Vishakha, but the Ref does mentions (Two) Vishakhas.

Shri. Oak finds moon on that night to be at Punarvasu, nowhere near Vishakha. Finding moon between the four stars of Punarvasu, Shri. Oak makes a nice attempt to call these as two branches (Vi-shakhas! unfortunately, not dvi-shakhas!) of Punarvasu. It is ingenious but proves or disproves nothing. Once again it is nothing but just an Upama.

The fallen head has many other distinguishing features and also high colour.. All these are not claimed to have similarities with full moon. It is not what poets call पूर्णोपमा. Proves or disproves nothing.”

My Response…

I will split my response to the above criticism of Shri Phadnis. There is a lot more ground to be covered.

As far as identification of words ‘Vi-Shakhas’ of this Mahabharata reference with nakshatra Punarvasu is concerned, I have stated in no unclear terms what I wanted to say way back in 2011 CE (4 years ago).

I will simply reproduce what I wrote then, from my book.  In second part of this series, I will refer to similar situation I came across during my research on Ramayana (The Historic Rama).

As far as corroboration goes, one may simply state this observation as not corroborated (count a score of negative 1 for lack of corroboration on Corroboration count) and move on.  It neither affects the theory of visual observations nor the proposal of 16 October 5561 BCE as the first day of the War.

I discussed the observation because it is an astronomy observation and any theory based on astronomy for the timing of Mahabharata War is expected to discuss it.

From my book (Error Elimination – Experiment 40)

“All observations are theory laden.  This means one may not even notice them unless one is expecting them, based on predictions of one’s theory.  It also means that the theory determines the interpretation of an observation or the specifics of an observation one should be looking for.

After I stumbled into ‘the full moon near Krittika’ observation50, I ran the simulation for the position of the moon for each day of the War, beginning with the first day (my proposed date), and noted down nakshatras in the vicinity of the moon.  I had these descriptions in the back of my mind as I re-read the Mahabharata text beginning with the first day of War.  The partial outcome of this exploration is summarized under descriptions of the moon and the duration of the fight through eighteen days of the War (Error Elimination – Experiments 35-38).  These observations of the moon point to ‘Amawasya’ as the first day of War.  Observation of ‘full moon in Krittika’ on the 12th day of the War points to ‘Kartika Amawasya’ as the first day of War, per Amanta reckoning (Error Elimination – Experiment 39). 

Pandyaraj, another warrior, was killed on the 16th day of War and the Mahabharata text compares his face with the full moon.  The same observation also mentions that the face of Pandyaraj was looking beautiful, similar to the moon between (two) Vishakhas57

Voyager simulation had shown the Moon to be near ‘Punarvasu’ during the 16th day of War.  I had employed star Pollux as YogaTara for Punarvasu, which is next to another star Castor and I knew that Pollux and Castor together represented ‘two Punarvasus’.  I wondered if Mahabharata author would have referred to Pollux and Castor as two Vishakhas!  Although I could not see the Moon between these two stars (Punarvasus) in Voyager simulation, I was still intrigued by mention of ‘Vishakhas’ in an unexpected place, unexpected because nakshatra Vishakha being at least 9 days away from the position of moon on the 16th day of War. 

I began reading literature on identification of specific stars with nakshatras and found that nakshatra Vishakha is described with two stars and Punarvasu is described sometime with 2 stars and at other times with 4 stars. 

When Punarvasus are described as made up of 4 stars, the nakshatra include two stars on each side of the ecliptic.  The description of the (full) moon between Vishakhas was for the 16th day of War, only 4 days removed from the description of the full moon near Krittika, which convinced me that the description indeed referred to the moon near Punarvasus.  However since nakshatra ‘Vishakha’ also existed (among the list of nakshatras) and was identified with two stars, I did not want to interpret this observation as referring to the full moon near Punarvasus. 

I still want to state my suspicion!  I suspected that observation referred to the full moon between the two branches (Vishakhas) of Punarvasus; one branch to the north of the ecliptic formed by Castor and Pollux and the second branch to the south of the ecliptic formed by Procyon and Gomeisa, four stars of Punarvasus.  The full moon was indeed between these two branches of Punarvasus on the 16th day of War. 

I request readers to bring it to my attention if they come across references within ancient Indian literature referring to two branches (Vishakhas) of Punarvasus.  Numerous simulations of mine confirmed that the Moon would take a minimum of 8 days and as long as 11 days to reach Vishakha and thus I was convinced that above observation could not have referred to Vishakha, however, in the absence of additional evidence, I do not want the reader to accept my claim for this observation as corroborative evidence for my conjecture, at least not until I present next two Mahabharata observations 58, 59.

Moon would be indeed near Vishakha for the year proposed by Raghavan /Achar on the 16th day of the War, however, the day was less than 4 days removed from the day of Amawasya (30% illumination) and thus the observation cannot be corroborated with full moon description of the Mahabharata text.  Theory and proposed date of Raghavan/Achar has been falsified by every single observation (except Saturn near Rohini and comet near Pushya) discussed in this book.  Although Raghavan or Achar have not claimed it, they would have been justified in claiming this observation of ‘moon between Vishakhas’ as corroborating their timeline.  On the other hand, mention of the full moon is problematic for their timeline.”

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