A reader critiques, Author responds – Part 1

Shri Phadnis sent me summary of his critique of my book and I have posted it ‘as is’ on my blog, here.

https://nileshoak.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/critique-of-my-book-by-shri-prabhakar-phadnis/

I have responded to much of his critique through numerous blog articles. However, after reading his summary, I felt the need to respond (even for the second time) to some of his critique.

In this part, I want to summarize the debate, discuss three distinct interpretations, points of disagreements as they related to ‘Fall of Abhijit’.

Problem of Translation vs. Interpretation

Shri Phadnis finds problems with my translation and also interpretation of ‘Fall of Abhijit’ reference from the Mahabharata text.

Thus, I wondered, what is understood to be the correct translation by Shri Phadnis!

Fortunately, he states, per his understanding, correct translation.

He writes…

“I have said above that the translation of the 4 shlokas by Shri. Oak is wrong, I give the correct translation according to me.
1. अभिजित्स्पर्धमाना तु रोहिण्याः कन्यसी स्वसा इच्छती ज्येष्ठतां देवी तपस्तप्तं वनं गता.
Dr. Vartak has translated this correctly. I would say, ‘Daughter like (younger) sister of Rohini, i. e. DEVI, contesting with Abhijit for seniority has gone to water heated by hot season.’
Tapas also means hot season and that is appropriate here instead of penance. Vana = water is very rarely used but fits nicely here.
2. तत्र मूढोस्मि भद्रं ते नक्षत्रं गगनाच्च्युतम् कालंत्विमं परं स्कंद ब्रह्मणासह चिन्तय
‘Here I am confused, bless you, (also) Nakshatra has fallen (or moved) from sky. Skanda, please think of this time (event) along with Brahma (discuss with him)’

3. धनिष्ठादिस्तदा कालो ब्रह्मणा परिनिर्मितः रोहिण्याद्यः अभवत्पूर्वम् एवम् संख्या समाभवत्
‘Bhrahma had then created time beginning from Dhanishtha. Earlier, beginning from Rohini also happened. This is the available information.’
(I am not able to give any meaning other than what Dr. Vartak has given for the phrase – एवम् संख्या समाभवत् – It appears appropriate)
4. एवमुक्ते तु शक्रेण त्रिदिवं कृत्तिकागताः नक्षत्रं शकटाकारं भाति तद्वन्हिदैवतम्
‘On Shakra (Indra) saying this, Krittikas came to heaven (आगताः) The nakshatra having Agni as devata and of chariot shape shines.’
It would be necessary to check how the last word in first line is written in the original text. कृत्तिका गताः (two words) does not make sense. Is it a single word कृत्तिकागताः ? I have read it as कृत्तिकाः आगताः with sandhi and therefore preferred ‘came’ rather than ‘went’ used by Dr. Vartak.”

I accepted translation of Dr. Vartak then (2009-2011 CE) when I wrote my book and published it (When did the Mahabharata War happen?: The Mystery of Arundhati)

I accept reproduced (and possibly corrected) translation of Shri Phadnis.

At this point any reader of this blog article would be wondering as to where is the point of contention!

I suggest, it would be useful to understand the background before getting into the points of disagreements.

The Background

Shri Phadnis had summarized my rationale for including this reference of Mahabharata text, from Vana-Parva, in my book.

He writes…

“At one stage of my discussions with Shri. Oak on this subject he had said that his main purpose of elaborating on this topic was to show that there was a long tradition of visual astronomy in India stretching far back of Mahabharat time. I would say that the quotation fulfills that purpose admirably.”

I will add that my objective was to include, test and employ every single instance of astronomy observation from Mahabharata text in determining (corroborating but also falsifying or identifying as non-corroborating) the timing of Mahabharata war.

Since this astronomy reference (Fall of Abhijit) was part of Mahabharata text, I included it.  Since it was not directly related to observations of the Mahabharata war, I wrote about it at the beginning of the book (chapter 5) before discussing specific astronomy observations, related to Mahabharata war, beginning with chapter 6 (Epoch of Arundhati).

Shri Phadnis sets the context of disagreements as follows,

“After explaining the Astronomical concepts etc. Shri. Oak has written a whole chapter on Abhijit (Vega) with reference to a small quotation from Mahabharat before going on to write about Arundhati.

I found several things wrong about what he has written and had exchange of e-mails with him.

The subject is interesting and Shri. Oak’s comparison of the event with Roger Bacon writing to Pope asking for a calendar correction is novel and appropriate.”

He noticed an error, also noticed by many others including myself after the publication of my book, and brought it to my attention.

He writes…

“Shri. Oak also talks about Abhijit moving towards and away from the ecliptic, which is of course meaningless. What he obviously means is moving towards or away from the Equator. When I pointed this out, he admitted the error, very gracefully. But the paragraphs where this occurs need rewriting.”

I refer to this error and comment of Shri Phadnis in this blog article, here

https://nileshoak.wordpress.com/2015/02/13/two-of-many-errata-from-the-mahabharata-book/

The Problem of Translation

Shri Phadnis, repeatedly, claims that I have done wrong translation of this Mahabharata reference.

Let me clarify that I had, at no point, translated or even attempted a translation of this Mahabharata reference.  I had borrowed, wholesale, translation of Dr. P V Vartak,  for this Mahabharata reference.

Where comes the question of my doing a wrong translation!

The Problem of Interpretation

For the sake of brevity, I will jump to latest interpretations by Vartak, Oak and Phadnis.

I would assert (Shri Phadnis may tell us otherwise) that all researchers (Vartak, Oak, Phadnis) would agree with the translation of ‘Fall of Abhijit’ reference as follows:

( I have reproduced and re-stated the translation. It will be used in understanding multiple interpretations – 3 of them – due to these 3 researchers).

Verse -1

Devi, younger sister of Rohini, contesting with Abhijit for seniority, has gone to water heated by hot season.

[Whoever this ‘Devi’ is; we know that she is considered younger sister of Rohini (nakshatra Rohini) and that she (Devi) was contesting with Abhijit (nakshatra Abhijit) for seniority, and has gone (now) to the point of summer solstice.]

Verse -2

‘Here I am confused, bless you, (also) Nakshatra has fallen (or moved) from sky. Skanda, please think of this time (event) along with Brahma (discuss with him)’

[ (Shakra/Indra is saying to Skandha) – Here (now) I am confused, bless you,  (also) nakshatra (Abhjit) has fallen (moved) from the sky.  Skandha!, please think of this time (event) along with Brahma (discuss with him)’]

Verse – 3

‘Bhrahma had then created time beginning from Dhanishtha. Earlier, beginning from Rohini also happened. This is the available information.’

[(After discussing with Skandha) Brahma, at that time, created time (calendar) beginning from (nakshatra) Dhanistha.  Earlier (prior to this, or at one point) beginning (of calendar) from (nakshatra) Rohini was also in vogue.  This is the available information.]

Verse – 4

‘On Shakra (Indra) saying this, Krittikas came to heaven (आगताः) The nakshatra having Agni as devata and of chariot shape shines.’

[When Shakra/Indra said this, (nakshatra) Krittika came (went) to heaven (Tri-divam)]

Of course, I have provided analysis with strengths and weaknesses of each interpretation (Vartak, Oak, Phadnis) a while ago and I provide the links here for the benefit of those who are following this debate,

https://nileshoak.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/fall-of-abhijit-4-%e0%a4%b6%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%b2%e0%a5%8b%e0%a4%95-3-interpretations-part-1-of-3/

https://nileshoak.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/fall-of-abhijit-4-%e0%a4%b6%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%b2%e0%a5%8b%e0%a4%95-3-interpretations-part-2-of-3/

https://nileshoak.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/fall-of-abhijit-4-%e0%a4%b6%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%b2%e0%a5%8b%e0%a4%95-3-interpretations-part-3-of-4/

https://nileshoak.wordpress.com/2015/07/21/fall-of-abhijit-4-%e0%a4%b6%e0%a5%8d%e0%a4%b2%e0%a5%8b%e0%a4%95-3-interpretations-part-4-of-4/

These 4 blog articles have, unfortunately, not ended the confusion. This is no fault of anyone.  Thus, I thought of creating  a summary table such as this…

Updated Table – 2

Fall of Abhijit – details Interpretation and/or corrboration (Yes/No)
Verse – 1   Vartak Oak Phadnis
1 Devi = younger sister of nakshatra Rohini Yes Yes Yes
2 Devi = ? Krittika Dhanishtha Anuradha
3 Rationale of Devi competing with nakshatra Abhijit for ‘seniority’ No Yes No
4 Devi goint to Vana (water) heated by hot season = Point of summer solstice at (or approaching) nakshatra Devi Yes Yes Yes
5 Devi went to the point of summer solstice 21895 BCE 14602 BCE 9134 BCE
Verse – 2  
1 Shakra tells Skandha that ‘nakshatra’ has fallen(moved) from the sky Yes Yes Yes
2 nakshatra’ = Abhijit Yes Yes Yes
3 When ? ~13000 BCE 14602 BCE 6000 BCE
4 Timing of Indra’s appeal to Skandha for ‘Calendar’ reform ~13000 BCE 14602 BCE 6000 BCE
Verse – 3
1 Brahma created calendar beginnning with nakshtra Dhanishtha at this time (same time as instances described in verses 1 & 2) No Yes No
2 If not at this time, then when? 21000 BCE Not Applicable ~14500 BCE
3 Earlier to this (earlier to this instance of Brahma creating calendar that began with Dhanishtha) calendar began with nakshatra Rohini Yes Yes Not explained
4 The time when Rohini was at the beginning of Calendar 22530 BCE 22530 BCE Not explained
Verse – 4
1 When Shakra (Indra) said this, Krittika went to heaven Not explained Krittika rising in the True East direction Krittka at Winter solstice
2 Timing of Krittka going to heaven Not explained 14963 BCE 8946 BCE

Table -1

Fall of Abhijit – details Interpretation and/or corrboration (Yes/No)
Verse – 1   Vartak Oak Phadnis
1 Devi = younger sister of nakshatra Rohini Yes Yes Yes
2 Devi = ? Krittika Dhanishtha Anuradha
3 Rationale of Devi competing with nakshatra Abhijit for ‘seniority’ No Yes No
4 Devi went to the point of summer solstice 21895 BCE 14602 BCE 9134 BCE
Verse – 2        
1 Shakra tells Skandha that ‘nakshatra’ has fallen(moved) from the sky Yes Yes Yes
2 nakshatra’ = Abhijit Yes Yes Yes
3 When ? ~13000 BCE 14602 BCE 7000 BCE
4 Timing of Indra’s appeal to Skandha for ‘Calendar’ reform ~13000 BCE 14502 BCE 7000 BCE
Verse – 3        
1 Brahma created calendar beginnning with nakshtra Dhanishtha at this time No Yes No
2 If not at this time, then when? 21000 BCE 14602 BCE ~14500 BCE
3 Earlier to this change (at this time of change, or at some point in the past) calendar began with nakshatra Rohini Yes Yes Yes
4 The time when Rohini was at the beginning of Calendar 22530 BCE 22530 BCE Not explained
Verse – 4        
1 When Shakra (Indra) said this, Krittika went to heaven Not explained Krittika rising in the True East direction Krittka at Winter solstice
2 Timing of Krittka going to heaven Not explained 14963 BCE 8946 BCE

 

In next part of this series, I will describe the significance of competition between Dhanishtha & Abhijit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “A reader critiques, Author responds – Part 1

  1. What is your justification to call Dhanishtha as younger syster of Rohini? and also to be called Devi? Why do you claim that Bhrahma created time ‘after discussing with Skanda? In fact the first three shlokas are what Indra said to Skanda, because the fourth shloka begins with the words ‘एवमुक्ते तु शक्रेण’ . So Indra says to Skanda that Brahma HAD (Earlier) CREATED time frame starting from Dhanishtha. (तदा कालो ब्रह्मणा परिनिर्मितः -Note past tense). We have to take what is written as it is written there is no scope for ‘Interpretation’. I suggest you get the four shlokas translated from someone whom you trust as one having good knowledge of Sanscrit. though I am fairly sure of my translation.

    • Three separate issues

      (1) What makes me consider Dhanistha as younger sister of Rohini?

      Among all 27 (or 28) nakshatras, Rohini is considered the prominent nakshatra (many repetitive stories of moon only visiting Rohini and all others getting upset, etc. stories in Mahabharata and also other Puranas). And in that sense, any other nakshatra can be considered ‘younger sister’ of Rohini.

      I thought choice of Dhanistha leads to most consistent and meaningful explanation. That is all.

      (since Devi is not clearly defined, hence the very confusion….Vartak (Krittka), Oak (Dhanishtha), Phadnis (Anuradha).

      (2) Why do I claim “Brahma created time ONLY after discussing with Skandha”?

      I claim only because previous translators and interpreters (e.g. Vartak) had said so. I am ok with not referring to that claim and nothing changes for me.

      (3) I have no issues with translation. I have no new translation of mine to claim. The past tense you state in Brahma creating calendar with Dhanistha as the first place is correct, but that is because Markendaya is reiterating the dialogue between Skandha and Shakra to Yudhishthir.

      My emphasis is on interpretation. For your interpretation, I considered your definition of ‘Fall of Abhijit’ as novel because at least, in principle, now we have at least one alternate definition of the fall.

      However, rest of your interpretation , e.g. Devi = Anuradha or Vishakha, and then change of Calendar (which apparently began from the pt. of summer solstice – 22500 BCE through ~9000 BCE, per your interpretation) suddenly from pt of winter solstice is NOT at all corroborated or even hinted at among the 4 shlokas.

      On the other hand Devi going to summer solstice is clear, you accept Dhanistha as summer solstice (as referring to verse 3), For the very same reason, reference to Rohini in first place is also due to it being at summer solstice (and you accept it).

      If so, new calendar could have simply began from Anuradha (which was at summer solstice ..in ~9000 BCE). But we find no mention of Anuradha. And while Krittika was at winter solstice about the same time, we find no mention of this shift from summer to winter solstice as starting point..any where in these 4 shlokas.

      • Further elaboration of what I want to say about ‘Past tense’ in ‘Dhanistha reference’

        Epics and Puranas have two types of narrations…

        (there could be many types.. I am only focusing on two kinds as they are relevant here)

        Let’ say…Janmejay and Vaishampayan are discussing. Janmejay is asking questions and Vaishmapayan is responding.

        (1) One type of narration has Vaishampayan recalling past facts and telling him in his words.

        e.g. then Bhishma told Drona, and then Drona responded as followed. etc.

        (2) Second type of narration where Vaishampayna starts recalling the story but then in the epic (e.g. Mahabharata), we have first person accounts .e.g. Bhishma Uvacha, and Drona uvach..etc. as if they are first person account. When this latter style is chosen, for most part, these characters are talking in the tense appropriate for their conversation…e.g. present tense if they are discussing present events etc.

        Now back to ‘Fall of Abhijit’ reference

        Markandeya is narrating various things of the past to Yudhishthir. Markanedya is talking about Skandha and story of why 6 Krittka were considered his mothers and such.. in this context.

        Markandeya first recalls words of Skandha, in his own words..

        Skandha Uvacha (to Krittikas) (Vana Parva 230:6)

        “You are my mothers and I am your son. Please tell me if there is anything else you want me to do”

        Markandeya resumes his narration..

        Markendeya Uvacha (Vana Parva 230:7)

        “Rajan (O Yudhishthir) , after this Skandha saw (noticed) that Shakra was eager to say something and thus asked Shakra, “Tell me, what is it?”. upon this Shakra said…”

        Vanaparva 230:8

        (Important to realize that the following sentence is by Shakra to Skandha…but Markandeya is narrating this to Yudhishthir)

        “Devi, younger sister of Rohini, out of competition towards Abhijit, went to water heated by hot season”

        Vanaparva 230:9

        Markandeya telling Yudhishthir about samvad between Shakra and Skandha…

        ” I am confused (I being Shakra), bless you (you = Skandha). The nakshatra (Abhijit) has fallen from the sky. Skanda, please think of this time (event) along with Brahma (discuss with him)”

        Vanaparva 230:10

        Markendeya continues his narration to Yudhishthir…

        (per my interpretation.. from this verse onwards.. it is Markendeya who is telling this to Yudhishthir…and not Shakra to Skandha).

        Thus , (my interpretation)…

        Markendeya tells Yudhishthir…

        “At that time (time of Shakra-Skandha samvad) Brahma created calendar beginning Dhanistha as first nakshtra. Prior to this Rohini had also been in this ‘First nakshtra’ position. Such is the available information.”

        Vanaparva 230:11

        Markendeya continued to Yudhishthir,

        “When Shakra had said this to Skandha, Krittka went to heaven”

        In effect Markendaya is narrating the past incident to Yudhishthir (during Pandava years in Vanavas)

        Vana 230:7

        Markendaya refers to samvad between Shakra and Skandha .

        Vana 230: 8

        Markendeya recalls words of Shakra to Skandha

        Vana 230:9

        Markendya recalls words of Shakra to Skandha

        Vana 230:10

        Markandeya tells Yudhishthir that at that time (time of Shakra Skandha samvad and thereafter…presumably after Skandha-Brahma consultation) Brahma assigned Dhanistha as first nakshtra and that Rohini had been in that first position , prior to Dhanistha attaining ‘first position”

        Vana 230:11

        Markendeya continues his narration to Yudhishhtir and tells Yudhisthhir, that after this utterance of Shakra, Krittika went to heaven.
        —-

        Shri Phadnis may object why I am NOT considering Vana 230:10 as direct words of Shakra.

        My reponse…

        This is because, If these are considered words of Shakra, ….the meaning of

        ‘AT THAT TIME’

        or

        ‘THEN’

        (in the past” when Dhanisthta became #1, )

        What exactly Shakra means by ‘AT THAT TIME!!!!!” OR ‘tHEN!!!’

        remains UNANSWERED.

        Not only this…

        but reference to Dhanistha becoming # 1 becomes superfluous.

        What is the point of Shakra referring to Skandha of an event of ~ 14500 BCE that has, per Phadnis interpretation, nothing to do with…..

        (1) Fall of Abhijit (~ 7000-6000 BCE)
        (2) Anuradha becoming First Nakshatra ( ~9000 BCE)
        (3) Krittika at winter solstice (~9000 BCE)

        – Never mind Anuradha is not mentioned (even indirectly)
        – Never mind no direct or indirect mention of first nakshatra designation shifting from summer solstice to winter solstice.
        -Fall of abhijit in 6000-7000 BCE interpretation has its own problems (I will elaborate on this some other time, using very definition of Meridian position of Shri Phadnis.)
        – Shakra talking of events of ~9000 BCE through 6000 BCE in first two verses (vana 230:8-9),and then suddenly jumping to instance of 14500 BCE (Vana 230:10) does not makes sense.
        -What is the relevance of bringing in Dhanistha at summer solstice (in 14500 BCE) when Anuradha (per Phadnis interpretation is at summer solstice in ~9000 BCE)
        – Each nakshtra would attain this status of first Nakshatra, about every 1000 years. So what is the rationale for bringing up subject of Dhanistha being #1 (in 14500 BCE), if that has nothing to do with some other dramatic event (e.g. Falling of Abhijit, per Oak interpretation of ~ 14500 BCE)? …especially if it (Dhanistha) has no context whatsoever for remaining 3 verses (230:8-9 and 11).
        -While presumed connection between next action of Skandha to talk to Brahma is alluded to in Vana 230:9 and that is why Markandeya refers to action of Brahma in the very next verse (vana 230:10), Shri Phadnis denies it (based on past tense usage).


        That is precisely the reason I reiterate, that I have neither attempted to translate any of these verses.

        I have made every effort to provide consistent interpretation.

        I also acknowledge my debt to Shri Phadnis, that due to his detailed and scientific interest in this reference that led me to my improvised interpretation from ‘Devi= Abhijit’ to ‘Devi= Dhanishtha’.

  2. I think I am not convinced with the translation of ‘एवम् संख्या समाभवत्’. I feel it has to do something with number/count (संख्या) of the nakshatras which became even (समा + अभवत्) in the past. Not sure how to fit this into the current interpretations.

    • It may. But in the absence of meaningful alternate explanation, we are stuck for now. What I thought (at one point) it might have meant is… ” thus the calendar was adjusted properly”…not the word to word meaning.. but rather intended meaning.

      If you can add your thoughts on our (Oak and Phadnis) interpretations, that would be valuable, i.e. alternate interpretations.

      Nilesh

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