What’s in a name? – Confusion of Jyeshtha Amawasya

Shri Phadnis has made many contradictory and confusing statements claiming it as my (Nilesh Oak) position regarding the position of the sun/moon and thus Jyestha Amawasya..

Here are few illustrations..

“On 17th day, Jupiter was still in Shravan only. Shri. Oak says, at the end of the day, it was on western horizon. If first day was Jyeshtha Amavasya, Sun on that day was in Jyeshtha. In 17 days it would move to Purvashadha. So when sun set on 17th day, Jupiter, in Shravan , 2 nakshatra behind, would be close to western horizon . Rohini, 9 nakshatras behind, wont be on eastern horizon but about 45 degrees above. Reference 12 says that Jupiter afflicted Rohini and became same colour (bright) as Sun and Moon. The relative positions of Jupiter and Rohini do not justify the claim that Jupiter was afflicting Rohini. In case of Saturn, it was ‘somewhere in the Eastern sky’ when Rohini was setting. On the other hand, Jupiter was setting and Rohini was ‘somewhere in the eastern sky’.”

or consider this…

It seems Shri. Oak is treating the Amavasya prior to 16th Oct., one on 17th Sept, as The Jyeshthaa Amavasya, referred by Krishna in his dialogue with Karna. (Optionally or firmly?). (This gives him the one month he feels needed for war preparations.)”


“Ref. 59 Translation — Each of those heroes, standing by the side of Yudhishthira’s car, looked resplendent like the constellation Punarvasu by the side of the moon.

The same problem as for Ref. 57. Which Amavasya? If one after the Jyeshthaa one, then no corroboration! Again I treat it as just an Upama and don’t read anything more in it.

It is to be noted that Shri. Oak accepts that moon between Vishakhas (Ref. 57) can just be an Upama, as he knows that it is not ‘dwi-shakhas’ but only Vishakha!”


“Ref. 64. The lunar eclipse, if it took place, on 13th day after the solar eclipse had occurred well before the war started as Vyasa mentions it prior to war. On 17th day of war, it was an old story! It is just an Upama although a good one.

I have dealt with the various references which are strictly not astronomical like those from Karna-Krishna dialogue or from Vyasa-Dhritarashtra dialogue. All these are just Upamas. Some match some don’t. Makes no difference really.

Important point is that war started one month after Jyeshthaa Amavasya if you want an Amavasya. In any case it started after the so called second lunar eclipse, on 13th day after the solar one, since Vyasa, before war, has referred to it as an event already taken place. So all checking done by Shri. Oak taking Jyeshthaa Amavasya as first day, needs to be revised!”

My Response…

What is causing the confusion?

(1) Number of these confusions would simply vanish if one moves away from loosely using the term ‘Jyesththa Amawasya’ and focus on specific day (per specific calendar) and even more critical, in term of specific positions (provided in units of Right Ascension – RA).

(2)This also reemphasizes the rationale for sticking to one single calendar – such as Julian Calendar – as reference calendar while discussing timing of ancient historical events.

(3) Anyone desiring to critique my theory/proposal, and specifically evidence/corroboration for 18 days of the war, should stick to 16 October 5561 BCE (Julian calendar) as the first day of War.  Of course, those critiquing it can question the very day – 16 October 5561 BCE – as the first day of War – but once they are through that part of criticism, they have to provide rest of the criticism for 18 days of the war against this timeline, and not some arbitrarily imagined timeline of their own, even for the same year, i.e. 5561 BCE.

(4) While critiquing without providing an alternate solution is an acceptable method of criticism, a person providing critique may not comprehend the complexity of corroborating enormous evidence (in this case  – astronomy evidence) for a given proposal.  Precisely for this reason, a critique should provide criticism of at least two (supposedly) best candidates (theories/proposals) so that readers (and critique himself/herself) can recognize the efficacy of each proposal.

(5) In scientific investigation but also in scientific/rational criticism, one should take only one (or max two) problems, or evidence/observation at a time.  Anything more leads to all kinds of errors – consistency, tautology, contradictions, confusion, etc.

What’s in a name? : Purnima & Amawasya

Naming of ‘Purnima’ is based on vicinity of a specific nakshatra near the point of full moon (as long as that nakshatra is also employed in naming of a lunar month).  Thus, we have Ashwin Purnima and Kartika Purnima, but not Revati, Bharani or Rohini Purnimas.

Naming of ‘Amawasya’ is bit more trickier.  They can be (and are named) in two ways.  First of these two wasy is similar to naming of Purnima, i.e. after nakshtra in the vicinity of the point of Amawaysa (sun and moon together),  The second way is to designate the Amwasya as referring to the lunar month..e.g. Kartika Amawasya or Ashwin Amawasya.  The method of designation (beginning and ending) of lunar months can add further complication (Purnamanta vs.  Amanta reckoning of lunar months) to the naming of this Amawasya.

Naming of Amawasya is been done, at times, in ancient Indian epics, by referring to Nakshatra-Devata (of a specific nakshatra).  Thus in fact when Shri Phadnis or I are referring to ‘Jyeshtha Amawasya’, the actual reference in Mahabharata text refers to ‘Shakra Amawasya’.  The transition from ‘Shakra’ to ‘Jyeshtha’ is assumed due to the fact that ‘Shakra (Indra)’ is nakhatra – devata of nakshatra Jyeshtha.

We are not done yet.

Add to all the nuances discussed so far, periodic insertion of Adhika masa (intercalary month) and, albeit rare, elimination of a lunar month – Kshaya masa (elapsed month).  We will not discuss the issues due to these in this blog article for brevity.

We are not done yet.

Now, let’s recognize the complexity of the irregular and (somewhat) unpredictable motion of the moon.  (We will not discuss here the causes of it).  What this means is what one may call say ‘Shravan Purnima’ or ‘Jyeshtha Amawasya’ do not occur at the precise same point in the sky (although they must occur in the same area of the sky).

An illustration may help us comprehend the issue.

e.g. We had ‘Shravan Purnima’ only few days ago (30 August 2015). Let’s note down the positions of the full moon and nearby nakshatras for this day (in RA – Right Ascesion units)

P. Bhadrapada – 23 hr 5 min

Full Moon – 22 hr 29 min

Shatabhishaj – 22 hr 6 min

Dhanistha – 20 hr 40 min

Shravan – 19 hr 51 min

Since our condition states that only that nkshatra can be used in naming of a Purnima, which is also used in naming of a lunar month, we can either name it as ‘Bhadrapada Purnima’ or ‘Shravan Purnima’.

Indian ‘Panchag makers’ designated this as ‘Shravana Purnima’ , although point of full moon is nearer to nakshatra P Bhadrapada in comparison to nakshatra Shravana.

What does all this means for the ‘Jyeshtha Amawasya’ of Mahabharata War time?

Let us go back to two consecutive Amawasya, around the point of nakshatra Jyeshtha, in year 5561 BCE

Amawasya -1  (16 September 5561 BCE)

Jyeshtha – 9 hr 47 min

Sun/moon – 9 hr 5 min

Anuradha – 9 hr 23 min

Vishakha – 8 hr 42 min

Amawasya – 2  (16 October 5561 BCE)

Jyeshtha – 9 hr 47 min

Sun/moon – 11 hr 2 min

Mula  – 10 hr 29 min

P. Ashadha – 11 hr 11 min

If we recall our naming convention, then Amawasya – 1 can be either named as ‘Vishakha’ or ‘Jyeshtha’ Amawasya while Amawasya – 2 can be either named as ‘Jyestha’ or ‘Ashadha’ Amawasya

[both these designation for Amawasya are based on vicinity of nakshatra near the point of Amawasya , i.e. sun/moon together.  This is not to be confused with naming of Amawasya after the lunar month in which it occurs]


when Shri Phadnis wonders….

It seems Shri. Oak is treating the Amavasya prior to 16th Oct., one on 17th Sept, as The Jyeshthaa Amavasya, referred by Krishna in his dialogue with Karna. (Optionally or firmly?).”

The answer depends on what problem one is trying to solve.

If one wants to solve the problem (s)  of

(1) Duration of Balarama Tirthyatra of 42 days


(2) Sufficient time for mobilization of army (of both sides), construction of trenches, tents and other war preparations,

and I had set out to solve just that….

Against this background, there was neither a confusion (of optional vs. firm) in my mind, then, nor it is now.

I treated Amawasya – 1 (16 September 5561 BCE) as indeed the ‘Jyeshtha Amawasya’. and 16 October 5561 BCE (not the day of Jyestha Amawasya’) as the first day of Mahabharata War.

Now one may (possibly) question that choice.  However the onus is on that person to explain alternate choice (not limited to year 5561 BCE) and show how such a choice also solves the two problems stated above, without losing the successes of Oak theory/proposal, and without creating additional problems – falsification(s) or issues of consistency, contradictions, tautology and such.

Any takers?


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