A reader (of my books and also of ‘Swayabhu’ by Dr. P V Vartak) wrote…
“I read your book and specifically, numerous blog articles on the duration of Bhishma on the bed of arrows. I have also read and reread ‘Swayambhu’ of Dr. Vartak.
While your assertion of Bhishma on the bed of arrows for 98 days is logical and acceptable, I want to bring it to your attention that Dr. Vartak claims that the actual duration of Pandavas spending time on the bank of Ganga (after the war) was only for ~12 days, although Mahabharata text states that the duration was about a month.
If what Dr. Vartak is claiming is true, then indeed the duration of Bhishma (on the bed of arrows) would be reduced to 9 + 12 + X + 56 = 77+ X days (I am using your formula) and not 92+ X days as you claim.
I would like to know your thoughts and clarification.”
(1) First and foremost recognize that claim of Dr. P V Vartak for “Pandava brothers spending ONLY 12 days on the bank of river Ganga, before returning to Hastinapur” goes against his (Vartak) proposed timeline (viz. 5561 BCE as the year of Mahabharata War and 16 October 5561 BCE as the first day of Mahabharata war).
(2) The claim (of Dr. P V Vartak) also conflicts with statement of Mahabharata text which states that Pandava brothers spent one month (or up to a month) on the bank of river Ganga, after the war, before returning to Hastinapur.
(3) Let’s understand plausible motivation of Dr. Vartak in interpreting Mahabharata text reference of ‘a month’ as equal to ’12 days’.
— Dr. Vartak misunderstood (as many others have) the Mahabharata reference of Bhishma on the bed of arrows for 58 nights as referring to Bhishma’s total duration on the bed of arrows. Against this one reference, there are 20+ chronological references that assert a duration of >92 days for Bhishma on the bed of arrows. And while this one reference of 58 nights can be understood in alternate fashion, there is no alternate explanation (other than usual suspects – ‘Interpolation’, ‘Krishna’s statement can not be intepreteed to be as reliable as Bhishma’, ‘convenient ignorance of evidence, ‘superstition’, ‘ambiguity’ etc.) to explain 20+ chronological evidences of Bhishma Nirvana.
— Since I have borrowed 18 day timeline of Mahabharata War (16 October – 2 November 5561 BCE) from Dr. Vartak, it follows that we both (Vartak & Oak) should agree on the day of Bhishma Nirvana. Interestingly we don’t. While I assert that 30/31 January 5560 BCE is the day of Bhishma Nirvana, Dr. Vartak claims 22 December 5561 BCE to be the day of Bhishma Nirvana.
It is not difficult to figure out who is right.
The day of Winter solstice in that year (and thus also the day of Bhishma Nirvana) coincides with 30/31 January 5560 BCE. On the other hand, 22 December 5561 BCE, the day claimed by Dr. Vartak, as the day of Bhishma Nirvana is some ~40 days removed from the day of winter solstice.
–Dr. Vartak offered three plausible interpretations for Mahabharata reference of ‘Pandava brothers spending one month on the bank of river Ganga, after the war, and then prefers the last of the three interpretation by citing Nilakantha (Chaturdhar?) and Manu (Manusmruti) and quotes Manu, “दशाहात शुध्यते विप्रो द्वादशाहेन भूपति:”.
Even if one accepts (for the sake of argument) incorrect interpretation of Dr. Vartak, it does not solve the problem he set out to solve. This is because the day he (Dr. Vartak claims) for Bhishma Nirvana is ~40 days removed from the day of winter solstice.
I do not have original reference of Manusmruti (and the context) that Dr. Vartak quotes (in Swayambhu) so I can not comment on what these 12 days for removing impurity of a king’s passing away refers to.
However I want to close my comments/response by stating a curious reference I came across within the Mahabharata text itself (which further corroborates interpreting ‘one month’ equal to ‘one month’ and not some arbitrary number such as ’12 days’). The details of this newfound reference are below.
अशौच duration for king Pandu
After Pandu died and queen Madri went ‘satee’ with him, the sages brought their ‘remains’ (अस्थी ), along with pandava brothers and Kunti, to Hastinapur.
At this time, sages stated that king Pandu passed away 17 days ago.