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A Mahabharata reference to Sidereal system

Saturday, 19 September 2009 - Sreenadh OG

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Many argue that there is no reference to Signs in MBh, Yanjnavalkya Smriti etc. But the
truth is that not only inherent references to Signs, but also details astrological expositions
are present in them.
The surfers cannot find the pearls, but only the divers, ready to dive deep and search
patiently. But it is the surfers who make a lot of noise and entertain the public. Those
surfers are like the sarcastic journalists, or a radio jockey who shines in lime light for a
small amount of time, but remains unimportant in the long run, or like the daily news
paper which gets importance for a single day, and then goes into the trash can. This writeup is not for the surfers but for the potential divers – a sample pearl, uncovered to stir-up
you enthusiasm to search for the pearls in the sea of knowledge and information provided
by MBh – a marvel in literary history.
The quote discussed here is very simple, but is a telescope towards the astronomical and
astrological understanding of MBh period. Let me quote –
Parvani dwigunam danam, Rito dasagunam bhavet
Ayane vishuve chaiva shadaseeti mukheshu cha
Chandrasuryoparage cha dattam akshayam uchyate
(Mahabharata – Vanaparva ch. 200-124,125)
[The donation given on (the day of) join of months is twice auspicious (than the donation
given in normal days); donation given on (the day of) beginning of (any of the six)
seasons 10 times auspicious; donation given on (the day of) starting of Uttarayana or

Madhava etc are sidereal solar months). Tula. Ritu Sankrama.e. Vishuva Sankrama.Dakshinayana or on Vishuvam day (Equinox day – the day on which Sun is over equatorial line and the day and night are equal) or on Shad-Asiti-Mukha (days of 6 major Sankrantis of the sun while traveling through Signs – i. Which months – solar. So most possibly here the reference is to the day on which the luni-solar month changes. i. Let us note that the . The most popular month reckoning system prevalent during Mahabharata period was Chaitra.  ‘Parva’ is the day of join of months. Further it is also well known that the months like Madhu. Simha. lunar or lunisolar? Please note that all the 6 items mentioned in the above quote are related to the Sun itself. Shad-Asiti-Mukha Sankrama and Grahana (movement of shadows access Sun or Moon). So the statement Parva should refer to Solar or luni solar months. Mithuna. (Since luni solar year is adjusted with the sidereal solar year with the inclusion of an extra month – we can see that the above itself points to the existence of both sidereal solar year and sidereal solar months. Let us first tabulate the statements given in the above quote. the donations given on the first day of the following are more and more auspicious. entry into Mesha. The donation given on the beginning day of 1 2 3 4 5 6 Parva Ritu Ayana Vishuva Shad-Asiti-Mukha Chndrasuryoparaga 2 times auspicious 10 times auspicious enormously auspicious enormously auspicious enormously auspicious enormously auspicious Let us understand these words better.e. Ayana Sankrama. As per the above quote. Vaisakha etc luni solar months. and not to lunar months. Dhanu and Kumbha) or on the day of (solar or lunar) eclipse are enormously auspicious] The whole quote is about Sankrantis (Exit/Entices) or Sankramas such as Parva Sankrama.

As per the ancient advice – an act should be done considering time (kala). then he is either both simply illogical and ignorant or purposefully intendeds to distort facts. It is due to this lack of difficulty in calculating Parva – it is said that selecting proper Parva is only twice auspicious. If someone is not logical enough and demands extra proof for all these. than compared to the donation given on a normal day for which no muhurta consideration is done. a Muhurta found by considering more time divisions. . Vaisakaha etc o Sidereal solar year and sidereal solar months such as Madhu. environment (dasa) and people involved (patra). king ruled. Thus selecting the ‘Parva’ day for donation is said to be twice auspicious because it is a better Muhurta. the selection of an auspicious moment for giving donation. For determining the quality of time – Muhurta considerations are always useful. When a historian tells us that he got a coin with a chariot emblem. metallurgy existed. A better muhurta. kingdom existed. then there is no need to search for extra evidence for a logical person to come to know that horses where tamed. travel and communication between moderately distant places was not a difficulty and so on. Thus a reference to Parva indicates knowledge about – o Year and Months o Lunar and Solar year and about Luni-solar months such as Chaitra.e. and even difficult to calculate time divisions – is more auspicious.e. wars happened. Madhava etc o Muhurta system o Well developed philosophical foundation that is well in tune with normal social life o Knowledge of Astronomy that was well in tune with astrology and much more. i. since the next full moon day (Pournamanta system) or no moon day (Amanta system) will indicate the Parva day. Calculating Parva day is not that difficult. wheels already in use.whole quote is on Muhurta selection – i.

the reference to Ritu points to Tropical solar year and months – definitely tropical solar year and tropical solar months must have been in use during MBh period (even though we don’t know much about the month names they ascribed to the tropical solar months they used). Here it points to the beginning day of any of the 6 seasons. Then once he understands the concept under consideration. ‘Ritu’ means season. Continuously observing and achieving the ability to observe and calculate the first . Varsh (rainy season). For example the date is March 21 does not mean that it is spring season throughout the world (as some seems to believe). Here the word Ayana points to selecting the first day of Uttarayana or Dakshinayana as the auspicious Muhurta for donation. He should also know that the Ritus (seasons) not only depends on the movement of Sun through the ecliptic but also the Rekhamsa (longitude) and Akshamsa (latitude) of the place under consideration. There are two Ayanas – Uttarayana (half year starting from winter solstice) and Dakshinayana (half year starting from Summer solstice). Calculating the beginning day of a Ritu (2 solar months approx) is more difficult. one should know Ayana (half solar years starting from solstices) and then decide whether what we speak about is equal division or unequal division of seasons. But still the general understanding of Ritu is simple and is mathematical division of Solar year in to 6 equal parts and naming it. First day of Uttarayana is the shortest day for those who live in Northern hemisphere (longest day for those who live in Southern hemisphere) and the first day of Dakshinayana is the longest day for those who live in Northern hemisphere (shortest day for those who live in Southern hemisphere).  ‘Ayana’ means half year starting from one of the solstices. If the first point refers to Luni-solar movements. Sarat (autumn) and Hemanta (winter). For this. Vasanta (spring). he should calculate the first day of the Ritu for all the 6 seasons – such as Sisira (deep winter). Greeshma (hot season). but still it demands much effort than locating the beginning day of a luni-solar month and that is the very reason for the sage stating that finding out the first day of the Ritu (and thus improving the quality of selected Muhurta) is 10 time more auspicious. In short Ayana points to the 180 degree movement of Sun from one solstice to the other.

 ‘Vishuva’ means equinox. The movement of something can be observed only using a fixed frame of reference. Ayana means movement – movement not only of Sun through the ecliptic. points to the clear understanding about the use and existence of both sidereal zodiac as well as tropical zodiac. On both these dates the day and night would be equal. May be this could be one of the first reference to equinoxes present in ancient . This is the very reason for stating that selecting the proper muhurta as correct as the Vishu day is enormously auspicious (just like the Ayana day). Understanding about first point of Uttarayana (winter solstice) and first point of Dakshinayana (summer solstice). but also the movement of cardinal points through ecliptic path – i. Vrishabha etc) and tropical of Uttarayana or Dakshinayana is worthy intellectual ability that should be appreciated. As we all know the fixed frame of reference that was in use from the ancient past was the fixed sidereal zodiac – i.e. since it indicates that your knowledge and understanding is very good and you have considered numerous inherent condition to choose proper Muhurta for the act (here the act of donation). As we all know the equinox takes around 25800 years approx to complete a circle through the ecliptic. Calculating. knowledge about solstices. Since the cardinal points (solstices and equinoxes) are mentioned and also the year beginning from cardinal points are mentioned it is well evident that the moving Tropical zodiac was also well known. The word Ayana itself points to the existence of a Tropical as well Sidereal zodiacs. also indicate the knowledge about both the equinoxes (vernal and autumnal equinoxes – the dates on which day and night are equal). But due to ‘precession of equinoxes’ this dates will change in due course. precession of equinoxes and the moving wheel of time – is invaluable. Any reference to Ayana.e. equinoxes. Therefore selecting the first day of Ayana as muhurta for donation becomes enormously auspicious. Thus knowledge about Ayana – i. locating and observing the Vishu day (date of equal day and night) is equally difficult as finding the Ayana days (longest and shortest days). the Nakshatra Chakra.e. of sidereal year (with months such as Mesha. The vernal equinox is on March 21 and the autumnal equinox is on Sep 22 now a days. There are two equinoxes – vernal equinox and autumnal equinox. the precession of equinoxes.

mukha means ‘face’.e. Ayana. since the quality of that time is uncertain. Here the reference is to Sidereal solar year.  Shahd-Asiti-Mukha means Sun’s entry into alternate sidereal months. Certainly eclipse calculation is not an easy thing to do. Mithuna (Gemini). asiti means ‘Sun’. Simha (Leo). Any reference to equinox in ancient literature along with the reference to Nakshatra chakra and Rasi chakra and the movement of cardinal points through Nakshatra chakra (sidereal zodiac) could also mean that both Nakshatra chakra and Rasi chakra was well in use (apart from the numerous lunar. Lunar and Solar eclipse. since the result for the said period is uncertain. and this is the very reason for stating that this muhurta is enormously auspicious. Thus this word introduces the concept of Sidereal solar months. So is the period of the shadows (Rahu and Ketu) over Sun or Moon. This much understanding about the nature and quality of time and this much care in selecting the auspicious muhurta should be appreciated. As mentioned . Ritu. This is the very reason for suggesting that such times are good for good deeds such as giving donation (or prayer) – so that if the results indicated by such periods are bad then they should get diminished. Shahd-Asiti-Mukha are uncertain periods and the results provided by them uncertain since they fall on the border of two certain divisions done for result derivation purpose. Kumbha (Aquarius). How? Shad means ‘six’. solar and lunisolar month and year systems in use).literature. All Sankrantis (Exit-Entry periods) are fearful. It is the effort to diminish the bad results (if any) of the uncertain periods that is reflected in suggesting ‘acts such as giving donation’ in such uncertain times.  Chndrasuryoparaga means Chandra-Surya-Uparaga – i. Dhanu (Sagittarius). Vishuva. Shad-Asiti-Mukha points to the Sankranti (exit/entry – exist from previous sign and entry in to the new sign) of Sun to various sidereal solar months/signs such as – Mesha (Aries). All the transit period mentioned above – such as Parva. sidereal zodiac) points to the clear understanding of precession of equinox during MBh period. Shad-Asiti-Mukaha means Sun’s entry into six important transit points (that derived by dividing the solar year in to six)). This quote and the reference to different Ayana starting points (with reference to Nakshtra chakra – i.e. Tula (Libra).

The donation given on – Day of join of months 2 times auspicious (than the donation given in normal days) Day of beginning of seasons 10 times auspicious Day of beginning sun’s northern or enormously auspicious southern course of travel Day of Equinox Enormously auspicious Day of Sun’s entry into alternate sidereal Enormously auspicious months Day of Eclipse Enormously auspicious This much for now Note: The following quote of Yajnavalkya Smriti also speaks about Surya Sankrama (Entry of Sun into solar sidereal signs such as Mesha. Vrishabha etc) and thus points to the existence of signs such as Mesha during the period of Yajnavalkya smriti. exactly locating such uncertain changeover periods demands great knowledge and understanding. It is said that to arrive at the exact eclipse position more than 200 calculation steps are required (as per the ancient calculation methods) – and definitely if one is good at locating these uncertain moments effectively then that muhurta is certainly enormously proper/auspicious for acts such as donation (but inauspicious for any non-divine or household act due to there inherent uncertainty regarding result indication) So let us tabulate what that sloka says and understand it better in our improved knowledge background.earlier. Amavasyashtaka vrishtiH krishnapaksho ayanadwayam Dravyam brahmana sampattir vishuvat suryasankramaH (Yajnavalkya Smriti) .

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