Observational Tests & Rationality of Science

Shri Phadnis has pursued, admirably, the Mahabharata astronomy observation of ‘Moon rising with pointed ends down’ on the 10th day of the War.

His original blog article is here…


This is admirable indeed, because the logical strength of any theory depends on great informative content and the wealth of their consequences has to be unfolded deductively, i.e.  a theory can not be tested except by testing, one by one, some of its more remote consequences; consequences, that is, which cannot immediately be seen upon inspecting it intuitively.

What makes a theory rational or empirical is the fact that we can examine it critically.  And how do we do this?  By attempting it to refutations that includes ‘observational tests’.

Against this background, let’s analyze excellent observational tests provided by Shri Phadnis.

He has proposed a theory where the timing of Mahabharata observation is to be determined based on the ‘tense’ of the verb employed in the Mahabharata text and also the specific scene/location where such observation appears in the Mahabharata text.

My thoughts on Shri Phadnis theory on ‘Timing of Astronomy observations’ are here..


Shri Phadnis asserts that the observation is made by Drona  (as he describes it to Ashwatthama) around the noon, on the 10th day of the War.

Gita Press edition states the verse as follows:

अपसव्यं  ग्रहाश्र्चक्रुरलक्ष्माणं  दिवाकरम
अवाकशिराश्र्च  भगवानुपातिष्ठत चन्द्रमा:
While BORI critical edition states the same with minor variation:
अपसव्यं  ग्रहाश्र्चक्रुरलक्ष्माणं  निशाकरं
अवाकशिराश्र्च  भगवानुदतिष्ठत  चन्द्रमा:
Critical edition has निशाकरं (moon) instead of दिवाकरम (sun).  In any case, we can safely ignore the first line of this observation as far as issue of ‘ phase of the moon is concerned’.
The key words can be translated as follows (additional suggestions are welcome):
अवाक  – downwards, turned downwards, being or situated below, lower than
शिराश्र्च – Head? Ends?
उपातिष्ठत  – be present at, attend
उदतिष्ठत  – rise again, become visible
Although GP translation refers to rising of the moon, both words उपातिष्ठत or उदतिष्ठत can be translated to simply mean that the moon was present or was visible, and as a result, we can see the force of argument Shri Phadnis is making, viz. that the observation of the moon was made around the noon and the observation may refer to actually Krishna/Vadya paksha of the lunar month rather than Shukla paksha of the lunar month.  The latter is claimed by me for the 10th day of Mahabharata War.
The beauty of deductive methodology is this ability to constantly expose one’s theory to criticism via observational tests.  Persistent efforts by Shri Phadnis is a wonderful example of this rational criticism, a tradition that existed in ancient India, however hardly observed in modern discourse on Indian history in general, and Mahabharata history in particular.
It is in the repeated and flexible choice of a new theory that the rationality of science lies.
So, Shri Phadnis, it appears, is proposing that 10th day of the Mahabharata war occurred during the Krishna/Vadya Paksha of the lunar month.
Excellent!  Bravurah!  But that is only the beginning.  Now he or anyone convinced of his position has an onus to come up with a timeline that, at a minimum, has 10th day of the War in Krishna/vadya paksha.  If one accepts such challenge, then we should all be overjoyed that we have another proposal to test, and beauty of deductive logic can be experienced in all its glory when two theories claim to solve the same problem.. namely the timing of Mahabharata War.
I eagerly look forward to alternate proposal (s) for the timing of Mahabharata War.

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