Two sources of error: ‘Translation?’ and/or ‘Calculations?’

A reader wrote…

“I am reading back and forth between Shri Oak and Shri Phadnis with great interest, at both blogs. I am not a Sanskrit scholar so I am not in a position to decide which translation is correct. Unfortunately, astronomy is also not my forte and thus am confused about arguments on both sides, about translations but also about astronomy calculations of Luni-solar year.

Is the disagreement only with translation or only with mathematical calculations, or both? Thank you.”

 My Response…

This is what I wrote back to this reader…

Keeping aside ‘Sanskrit translation issue’ for a min, Shri Phadnis should have no issue in recognizing the simple mathematical error in his calculations.

(1) Recognize the error in Lunar and solar calendar (in a given year) is also small..only 10.88 days (average) per year, i.e. less than 1 day per month.

(2) Taking two extra months DONOT fix the error (even by small margin),i.e. the act DOES NOT increase the average days per month. This is because all his (Shri Phadnis method or his interpretation of Bhishma method) is doing is continuing counting of time using lunar months for next two months (as was done for previous 58). This means the error due to gap between solar and lunar year, will continue to INCREASE.

(3) Thus proposition of 58 lunar months followed by 2 lunar months is essentially following PURE LUNAR calendar in perpetuity. This would be similar to current Islamic Calendar.

(4) In short 58+2 (all of them lunar months) was a NO GO from day ONE.

(5) Once Shri Phadnis and I are on the same page regarding above 4 points, I suspect that Shri Phadnis might suggest taking 2 lunar months, CONSECUTIVELY, after 60 lunar months (instead of 58). When (and if) that happens, I will demonstrate the problem of such a procedure in its inability to synchronize (even approximately) Luni-solar calendar.

And while I did not write to this reader about ‘translation’, here is my position.

I will readily admit that my knowledge of ‘Sanskrit’ is meager, although it is also true that I insist on myself translating ancient Indian Sanskrit references first, before looking at other translations and/or seeking help from those who are knowledgeable about Sanskrit.

On numerous occasions I have sought help of Shri Phadnis (and others)  with translation and he has readily provided the help and/or his input (including critique/criticism of my translation).

It is also true that on multiple occasions, my translation has deviated from those of others (e.g. Gita press translation, translation by Dr. P V Vartak, Shri Phadnis and others).  I specifically state that that is the case when that happens and state my rationale in no unclear terms.  Some of these rationale include, but not limited to:

  1. The existing or mainstream translation,either straightforward or per rules of grammar, simply won’t be factually possible in an astronomy sense (e.g. if the timing of a specific instant (e.g. Rama Janma) is given as Chaitra Shukla 9 and another shlok describing same instant mentions position of the moon far removed from the area of nakshatras Ardra through Magha).
  2. Multiple renderings of the same shlok may be available from various manuscripts and one specific rendering corroborates my theory/proposal meaningfully while other renderings do not do so (e.g. multiple renderings related to either ‘occurrences of 2 eclipses’ or ‘occurrences of 2 Amawasya’ within a span of 13 days, at the time of Mahabharata war)
  3. -Multiple interpretations of an identical shlok ,as is the case currently under question, ( i.e. that of correct, grammatical and/or mathematical, interpretation of Bhishma’s statement on Adhika masa).  In this case, my position is that assuming translation of Shri Phadnis is correct (based on his argument of Sanskrit grammar) and my borrowing of another existing translation (via other Mahabharata researchers) is wrong, I would go ahead with that translation which also passes the test for the inference that is being (or to be) drawn from that reference.  On this count, my selection is based on priority of ‘Pratyaksha pramana’ (empirical validation/confirmation) over ‘grammar rules’.  This is consistent with various methods of corroboration/validation/confirmation/falsification, such as
  • Pratyaksha Pramana i.e. Direct perception … It is the ultimate Pramana.
  • Shabda Pramana or the Shastras
  • Anumana i.e. logical inference by other proven facts
  • Upamana i.e. by comparison and analogy
  • Arthapatti i.e. Postulation, derivation from circumstances
  • Anupalabdhi i.e. Negative proof

This is also because while argument of translation, transliteration, transcription, transmission or even interpolation could be invoked in doubting the accuracy of the existing/preserved text against intended or original text (assumed), this can not be said of empirical experience (granted our senses are imperfect and thus prone to error…but then we are already deep into the subject of ‘rationality without foundations’, so I will stop).

And for this very reason, I also insist on preserving such ‘disagreements’ for posterity so that future researchers will not only benefit from such research (multiple interpretations and disagreements) but also may able to progress further.



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