Prof. R N Iyengar & ‘AV Observation’

A reader asked, I presume, referring to my blog article here,,

“Why Prof. R N Iyengar would find it difficult to comprehend AV observation (of Mahabharata) and its implications for the timing of Mahabharata War?”

My Response…

We can not presume to know how mind of someone else works.  All I can say is that Prof. R N Iyengar considered AV observation important enough, at least at some point in time, to the extent he wrote a research paper in ‘peer reviewed journal’ on this phenomenon.

Thus, he wrote in Indian Journal of History of Science, 41,1 (2006) 1-13


The other observations are about U.Major and Pole Star. In Bhishma Parvan, it is said,

Arundhatītathāpyeşa vasistahprsthathahkrtah||

Dhruvahprajvalito ghoram apasavyam pravartate|| (Bhī.p. 2.31,3.17)

Arundhathas gone ahead of (her husband) Vasistha.

Dhruva, the pole star blazing and fierce, is moving anti-clockwise.

Vasistha is star Mizar, of second magnitude, in the constellation of U.Major. It is presently known that this is made up of four constituent stars, but this fact is not discernable without the help of instruments. Vasistha has a companion star Arundhatī(Alcor) of fourth magnitude. Again, as per modern astronomy Alcor goes round Mizar with a very long period. Hence, the above statement in MB is a naked eye observation of the sky in a poetic language. The remarkable fact is that the composer of the above verse knew about the motion of Alcor with respect to its companion star Mizar. Dhruva the Pole Star is supposedly fixed and unmovable. Thus, this statement has not been taken seriously by some people as an astronomical observation. However, the phenomenon of precession would show that Dhruva is also subject to a slow motion.

Notice, Prof. R N Iyengar, not unlike Dr. Koenraad Elst or Shri Shrikant Talageri, considers AV observation as a ‘poetic expression’ rather than a factual statement of the phenomenon at the time of Mahabharata War.

Of course, even worse, Prof. R N Iyengar  correctly translated but then mis-interpreted ‘Arundhati gone ahead of Vasishtha’ to mean ‘Arundhati going around Vasistha’.

Rest of his interpretation journey is downhill from which he never recovered.  He went on to combine one line of AV observation with another and completely unrelated line of Mahabharata reference from another chapter to make some sense of it.

I would encourage interested readers to read his paper in the original.

Against this background, following communication between another reader of my book and Prof. R N Iyengar might answer our reader’s question, above, as to what might have prevented Prof. R N Iyengar in comprehending the straightforward meaning of AV observation and its glaring implications for the timing of Mahabharata War.

Readers may find it useful to know that Prof. R N Iyengar has proposed 1478 BCE as the year of Mahbharata war, which clearly falls outside the plausible time interval (Epoch of Arundhati) for the Mahabharata war based on outcome of AV observation.

Another reader wrote to Prof. R N Iyengar about my book. I had also written to Prof. R N Iyengar about my book and also sent him a PDF copy of the book and he kindly acknowledged the receipt of it.

Following communication(s) took place in early 2013 CE.

Prof. R N Iyengar responded to (another) reader as follows:

I am aware of this work (referring to ‘When did the Mahabharata War Happen?: The Mystery of Arundhati’.

There is nothing that is specially reliable in this work as far as MB dating is concerned.

Ancient observations as recorded in our printed texts were transmitted through oral traditions. Hence one has to first take the most reliable among them for analysis and dating. Ignoring eclipses and planet positions which are more reliable is unscientific. Hence there is a fundamental credibility deficit in depending only on one statement of a poorly visible star position of Arundhati ignoring several other constraints. (emphasis mine)

Obviously, Prof. R N Iyengar has mis-represented my work  by stating that my work ‘ignored several other constraints’ and that my work ‘also ignored eclipses and planet positions’.

The truth is otherwise.

My work remains the only work, to this day, that takes into account every single instance of astronomy references (eclipses, multiple positions of planets and sun and comets, multiple phases and positions of the moon, Tithis, nakshatras, descriptions of the seasons, references to Yuga-descriptions and such, more than 200+ specific observations of Mahabharata text).

I responded to (another) reader and Prof. R N Iyengar as follows:

As RN Iyengar has stated, he is aware of my work. I sent him PDF copy of my work some 18 months ago. Not sure if you are aware of his other works (check scribd).
He has done great work in many areas of Indian history and it is of high quality (unlike the works of  Prof. BNN Achar).
RN Iyengar’s statement regarding ‘AV observation’ as ‘unreliable’ is misleading and incorrect. Also when he talks of ‘more reliable’ observations, he is incurring the same inductive error that began with Francis Bacon.
We don’t know what is reliable and what is more reliable etc. until we test them.  In addition, he seemed to suggest that as if I did not look into planetary and eclipse observations. As you are aware, that is incorrect.  I have analyzed and tested every single astronomy observation from MBH text.. they amount to ~ 215.
In any case, in the long run, what matters is what is testable and independently testable and AV observation has passed that test with flying colors.
Peter Lynch said this about the performance of stock market… “in the short run it is a opinion poll, in the long run it is a weighing machine.”  This is also true of a scientific research.
If you are in touch with RN Iynegar, request him to send his papers (on Indian History). Altenately you may check them out on  I think he has retired from IISC, but remains active with research on Indian History.
Nilesh Oak

Prof. R N Iyengar did not respond to my communication (email) above.


2 thoughts on “Prof. R N Iyengar & ‘AV Observation’

  1. I am surprised that Prof. Iyengar takes such a negative view. He seems to suggest that Vasishtha and Arundhati are a binary pair and so goes around each other. Is that really so? I remember reading that the suggestion has been rejected. Vyasa has definitely NOT said that they go around each other or Arundhati goes around Vasishtha.

    • You may read further about them below in Wikipedia link. Even scientific investigation becomes political when people worry about being ‘wrong’. He has proposed 1478 BCE on extremely flimsy ground and has stuck to it for years.

      I am not sure how familiar you are with his works. He is detailed in his research, has been instrumental in identifying numerous astronomy references from ancient Indian literature, and thus has contributed to Indian history research.

      Fortunately, scientific claim is to be determined by ‘subject independent testing’ and not by some individual either comprehending or endorsing the claim.

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