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Thoughts on the Date of the Mahabharata War

Achar’s Response to Oak’s commentary (part II)

This is the second and final part of my response to Oak’s comments on my Date of the Mahabharata
war. In this part I will address the list of 27 “astronomical observations” that Mr. Oak presents in his book
and claims that only his theory can explain all of these. I will present a few star maps generated by the
software Cybersky 5 and compare the star map data and the claims of Mr. Oak. The readers can form
their own conclusions.
Mr. Oak had responded to the first part of my write up with an exposition on the art of referring to a
dictionary and a primer on Calendrics. While it was amusing to read his exposition, I prefer to stick with
Monnier William’s dictionary and translate Kaumudi masa as Kartika masa. As far as Calendrics go, I
will stick to the well-known rate of precession of the equinoxes of a day in about 71 years, instead of the
one given by Oak (of a day in about 128 years). Furthermore, the precession is backwards and into the
past and not into the future as per Mr Oak
It is amusing to see how many traditional astronomical conceptions Mr Oak throws out at every step.
A case in point is the expertise of Mr Oak in Calendrics illustrated by the following table in his work:

Table 2. Equinoxes, Solstices, seasons and Lunar months.

Lunar Months/Sampat/Ayana Bindu Year 5561 Seasons Seasons/Equinoxes/Solstice
s
Jyeshtha-Ashadha- Shravan 4 April – 3 June Vasanta
Shravana-Bhadrapada - (extra 3 June-4 August Grishma
Bhadrapada)Ashwin
(Extra Bhadra) Ashwin- Kartika-Adhik 4 August-3 October Varsha
Kartika
Adhik Kartika-Margashirhsa-Pausha 3 October – 2 December Sharad
Pausha-Magha-Phalguna 2 December -30 January Hemanta
Phalguna-Chaitra-Vaishakha 30 January- 4 April Shishir
Vasanta Sampat 3 May 5561 BCE Spring Equinox
Dakshinayan Bindu 4 August 5561 BCE Summer Solstice
Sharad Sampat 31 October 5561 BCE Fall Equinox
Uttarayan Bindu 30 January 5560 BCE Winter Sostice

Mr. Oak has two adhika masas , Adhika Bhadrapada and Adhika Kartika,in 5561 BCE and thus there are
14 lunar months in one year. His adhika masa follows the nija masa! i.e., the first month is the nija (true)
masa and the following is the adhika masa which also bears the same name. It is not clear how Mr. Oak
determined his adhika masas. Surely the rules of modern Surya Siddhanta would not be applicable so far
back in time. I may be excused for rejecting his exposition on Calendrics.
Mr. Oak gives a list of 27 astronomical observations culled from the epic and grouped them into
seven groups and claims that his theory is the only one that can explain all of these. Such listings are not
new nor unique and have been available since the times of Dihshit, Kane , Vaidya and others. Such a
listing is indiscriminate in the sense no attention is paid to the context in which these events are referred
to. They are mostly astrological in the sense of omens. The apparent inconsistencies and contradictions
have been presented in the form of tables by Sengupta, and Sharma for example. The words of the shlokas
have to be interpreted carefully. But Oak takes the words such as graha literally most of the time, but
interprets the referred to event according to his own fancy.
“A picture is better than a thousand words” proclaims Mr. Oak, but he is very stingy in providing
star maps. We shall examine these 27‘astronomical observations’ and Oak’s interpretations with the help
of star maps generated by using the Planetarium software, Cybersky 5. These include a star map for the
first day of the war according to Mr. Oak (16 October 5561 BCE) , and a couple of maps to exhibit the
paths of some prominent planets.
Figure 1 shows the star map at Delhi for 16/17th Oct 5561 BCE, the first day of the war, as per
Oak.

Figure 1. Starmap for Oct 16 5561 BCE, for Delhi

It is an Amavasya as Oak says, the Sun and the Moon are together at Mula/purvashadha nakshatra.
Saturn is near Hasta, Mercury is near purvashadha/uttarashadha, Jupiter is near uttarashadha/shravana,
Mars and Venus are near Dhanishtha, These planetary positions are also described in words by Oak.
We shall examine the astronomical references quoted by Oak and see how well they are
reproduced/satisfied in 5561 BCE. Furthermore, as some planets are said to have executed retrograde
motion, we will examine the paths of these planets starting from a date one year earlier, in 5562 BCE.
Astronomical references have been grouped by Oak and enumerated continuously as follows:
I Position of Saturn:
(1) Saturn (along with Jupiter) near Vishakha for a year
(2) Saturn near Uttara pahalguni
(3) Saturn afflicts Rohini.
From the starmap, it is seen that Saturn is near Hasta, and it is too obvious that Saturn is nowhere near
any of the three nakshatras, Vishakha, uttaraphalguni,or Rohini. How does Oak claim that his theory
accounts for these positions of Saturn? He does this by assertion and by interpreting ‘near’(samipasthau)
and ‘afflicts’(pidita) in his own way.
Oak says that he examined the positions of Jupiter and Saturn for the whole of the previous year
and found that Jupiter stayed in the region of mula-uttarashadha and Saturn in the region of
uttaraphalgini. These are indicated in figure2 and figure3, where the path followed in the previous year
culminating in the current position of Jupiter and Saturn respectively.
Figure 2. Retrograde motion of Jupiter in 5562 BCE,superposed on the starmap of figure 1.The
retrograde loop is in the region of mula-uttarashadha.

Figure 3. Retrograde motion of Saturn in 5562 BCE superposed on the starmap of figure 1 The
retrograde loop is in the region of Uttara phalguni.

These regions lie more than 45 degrees away from Vishakha on either side. Oak asserts that this
satisfies the Mahabharata declaration “samipasthau” and is satisfied that the two planets stay “near
Vishakha” for a year. .Note that “Near” is generally interpreted as a separation of 10 degrees or less. Thus
neither Saturn nor Jupitert stay near Vishakha. But they are almost equidistant on either side of Vishakha.
Oak is satisfied that Saturn and Jupiter are ‘Vishakhayoh samipasthau’ “near to the Vishakhas. His
assertion is not acceptable. Hence, this violates configuration (1).
While Saturn was near uttaraphalguni the previous year, currently it is near Hasta nearing Chitra
It is about 30 degrees from uttaraphalguni and nowhere near it. The present position of Saturn violates
configuration (2).
Regarding ‘Shani afflicting Rohini’, Oak has his own explanation. The actual reference is:
ाजाप यं िह न ं ह ती णो महा ुितः
शनै रः पीडयित पीडय ािणनॊऽिधकम् ।MB(V.141.7)
According to Varahamihira, (Brihat Samhita, XV.31-33), a nakshatra is said to be afflicted (pidita)
when it is
(a) tenanted by the Sun or Saturn
(b) spoilt by Mars by either cutting through or by retrograde motion
(c) when it is involved in an eclipse
(d) when it is struck by a meteor
(e) when it is manifestly crushed by the moon
(f) when something unnatural happens to it.
When a nakshatra is thus afflicted all the people and things coming under its jurisdiction will be
harmed.
In 5561 BCE, Saturn is near Uttara phalguni and Hasta and nowhere near Rohini. So Rohini cannot
be said to be afflicted by Saturn. As is clear from the star map, none of the six conditions (a)-(f) are
satisfied for Rohini on 16th Oct 5561 BCE. Therefore there is no affliction of Rohini.
But, Oak claims that ‘affliction’ refers to a totally different event. Oak offers an explanation, all his
own , and has no basis what so ever. Oak explains that “when Rohini is setting on the western horizon
Saturn is the only other planet in the eastern part of the sky. This observation is then described as Saturn
afflicting Rohini” The total absurdity of his idea can be seen by examining the eastern view of the sky at
the time of the setting of Rohini. The relative position of Saturn and Rohini practically remains the same
for nearly a year, so Saturn is seen at essentially the same relative separation in the eastern sky at the time
Rohini sets in the west. However, the time at which Rohini sets changes every day by about four minutes.
Hence as time goes on different planets come into view in the eastern sky, and sometimes Sun is also in
that part and Saturn cannot be seen at all. For example on 30th Sept/1st Oct 5561 BCE, (Which is Kartika
Paurnima, according to Oak), Rohini sets at 5:55 am and Saturn is clearly seen on the eastern sky just as
Oak says. However, on 10 Sept 5561 BCE, the day Karna and Krishna ride together, Rohini sets at 7:17
am. Mercury and Saturn are both in the eastern part of the sky. However, the Sun is also up and neither of
the planets can be seen. Are both Mercury and Saturn afflicting Rohini? Or, neither can afflict it as they
cannot be seen? That is the day when Karna is describing the planetary positions to Krishna. Karna does
not say that Mercury is afflicting Rohini. Furthermore, during the course of the year, while Saturn stays
practically in the same position between Uttara phalguni and Hasta, many other planets pass through the
eastern part of the sky when Rohini is setting, but they are not said to afflict Rohini. Oak’s interpretation
is absurd.
Thus none of the astronomical references to Saturn(1), (2), or (3) are satisfied in 5561 BCE.

II. References to Jupiter
(4) Jupiter near Vishakha(along with Saturn) for a year
(5) Jupiter goes ‘vakra’ near Shravana
(6) Jupiter afflicts Rohini
Number (4) reference is the same as (1) for Saturn. As already shown in figure 2, Jupiter stayed near
Mula/purvashadha for nearly a year with a separation of more than 45 degrees from Vishakha. Only the
assertion by Oak can make it ‘near’ Vishakha.
Regarding reference (5), Jupiter was retrograde near purvashadha from about 15 March 5561 BCE to
about 23 June 5561 BCE but it was near Purvashadha. Jupiter does go retrograde near Shravana, but that
is in the future! Jupiter is retrograde from about April 5560 BCE, to August 5560 BCE, long after the war
is over and Bhishma has attained his nirvana. This is also recorded by Oak in his figure 8 and Table 9, but
nowhere does he mention explicitly that this is after the fact and has no relevance to the war. Still he
claims it as one of the achievements of his theory that Jupiter was retrograde near shravana.
Oak’s interpretation of ‘vakra’ motion as the oblique crossing of the ecliptic is not supported by any book
on astronomy either. The path of Jupiter is inclined with respect to the ecliptic by about 1.35 degrees.
These two great circles intersect on the celestial sphere at the same angle. Hence Jupiter when crossing
over the ecliptic always appears ‘obliquely’ crossing it.
Thus the astronomical references to Jupiter, (4) (5) and (6) are not satisfied in 5561 BCE.
III. References to Mars
(7) Mars goes ‘vakra’ near Magha
(8) Mars goes ‘vakra’ near Jyeshtha/anuradha
(9) Mars traveling in ‘apasavya’ direction by becoming steady between chitra and swati while
shining brightly with fearful and cruel appearance.
(10) Mars afflicts chitra
(11) Mars heading straight to shravana/Abhijit region
Mars is retrograde between 11Feb 5561 BCE to about 1 April 5561 BCE near svati. So it can satisfy
reference (9), (10) and (11). References (7) and (8) are not satisfied.
Oak’s explanation of Vakra motion is absurd. The retrograde motion is an apparent motion which
arises because of relative motion between Earth and Mars and is apparent when Mars is in opposition.
Mars orbit and Ecliptic are two great circles on the celestial sphere and intersect at two points. Mars
crossing the ecliptic arises near these points and is independent of the “opposition” (for apparent
retrograde motion) which depends on the motion of Earth.
Thus two references to Mars (7) and (8) are not satisfied.
IV. References to Mercury
(12) Mercury traveling through all the nakshatras
(13) Mercury rising tryak on the seventeenth day of war
The path of Mercury from June to December 5561 BCE is shown in the figure 4

Figure 4. Path of Mercury superposed on star map of 16 Oct 5561 BCE
Mercury has a retrograde motion near Hasta/ chitra in August but seems to travel through other
naksharas. This satisfies configuration (12)
When it comes to configuration (13), on the seventeenth day of the war, Mercury would not be seen
rising at all, as it is an evening star. The Sun would be up before Mercury rises. An evening star would
become visible after the Sun sets, and continue its westward motion to finally set. It can in no way
described as “rising obliquely” in the west. Oak’s explanation is awkward at best. So configuration (13)
will not be satisfied in 5561 BCE.

V. References to Venus
(14) Venus (Bhrigusoonu) Mercury(Shashijen) and Mars(Dharaputra) seen in the western part
of the sky at the end of the war
(15) Venus making a parikrama while turning north near purvabhadra
All four planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter are seen as evening stars throughout the war. So
configuration (14) is satisfied.
Venus is seen near Purvabhadra in January 5561 BCE, with no obvious peculiar behavior. So
configuration (15) is not satisfied. Oak agrees with this.
VI References to
(16) Sweta (Budha) settled near Chitra
Mercury exhibits retrograde motion near chitra in July and August 5561 BCE
(17) ‘Shyama’ (or Sweta) shining brightly and settled near Jyeshtha
(18) Tivra planet and or nakshatra in the vicinity of Krittika
(19) Great Comet settled near pushya
The configurations (16)-(19) call for discussion of comets, we refer to Achar’s Book for a detailed
discussion. Oak interprets Tivra as Pluto
VI. Seven planets
(20) Seen along with moon the evening of 14th day of war
(21) Seen near Sun first day of the war
(22) Seen going away from the Sun 17th day of war
The observations at the time of Mahabharata war are all naked eye observations. Oak says so
explicitly. Only five planets,Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were visible to the naked eye.
Proclaimed ‘Observation of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto’ cannot be entertained. On the first day of the
war, at the time of sunset, Sun and Moon are close together, Mercury,Venus, Mars and Jupiter are in
the western sky, being evening stars, Saturn is quite far near Hasta, below the Horizon.
On the evening of 14th day, the moon is on the eastern Horizon, Sun and Mercury, Venus Mars and
Jupiter are all near the western Horizon, except Saturn. This is what Oak terms as attacking moon.
He further says that this makes a strong case for the knowledge of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.
VII. Eclipses etc.
(23) The Sun and the Moon together afflicts Rohini on the first day of the war
(24) Moon’s mark was covered and Rahu was approaching the Sun
(25) The full moon of Kartika was devoid of effulgence The moon appeared coppery red and
so did the rest of the sky
(26) Two eclipses (solar and lunar) within an interval of 13 days
(27) Up to 3 eclipses (2 Lunar and one Solar, based on reference to 14th day of Krishna
paksha.
Oak explains “afflicting’ Rohini in terms of planets visible in the eastern sky as Rohini sets in the west. It
has already been pointed out that ‘afflicting’ has a specific significance and has been explained by
Varahamihira. Varahamihira’s explanation contradicts Oak’s explanation of reference (23)
Regarding reference (24), Oak’s explanation is that ‘Moon with mark covered’ refers to the time and
phase of the moon close to the Amavasya day. Oak tries to explain Observations (25)-(27) as eclipses on
30th Sept 5561BCE, 15th Oct 5561 BCE (at Mula) and 30th Oct 5561 BCE(at ardra).
There are several problems with these eclipses in comparison with what is described in the epic. As per
Oak’s date, there is no eclipse on Kartika pornima, no solar eclipse at Jyeshtha; furthermore, the solar
eclipse is on the first day of war followed by a lunar eclipse. According to the epic, Vyasa talks to
Dhritarashtra on the eve of the war, about the two eclipses that have already taken place before the war
starts. So the eclipse events in Oak’s theory are at variance with those in the the epic.

We have verified all the 27 events that Oak lists against star maps (Cybersky) for the dates given by Oak.
The star maps themselves agree with what oak describes in words based on Voyager simulations.
However, as discussed above, most of the astronomical events in the list are at variance with the star map
data. Still Oak asserts that his theory accounts for all the astronomical observations ; he has invented his
own definitions of ‘nearness’ ‘affliction’, and ‘vakra’ motion. He asserts that Uranus, Neptune and Pluto
were known at that time and posits a calendar year with two adhika masas, with the leading month being
the true or nija masa, with the adhika masa following it. He has fourteen lunar months in his year.

As had already been stated in our first post, Oak’s Arundhati-Vasishtha theory as forming the basis of
dating the Mahabharata war is untenable for
(i)that event as described by Oak does not qualify as an Omen.
(ii)Kaumudi masa refers to Kartika month and not Oak’s ‘month of lotuses’
(iii)The sequence of eclipses which occur around Krishna’s Peace mission (Lunar eclipse on Kartika
paurnima->Krishna Karna Ride->Solar eclipse on Jyeshtha nakshatra)are not reproduced by Oak
(iv)war did not start on Jyeshtha amavasya
The actual sequence of events according to the epic is
Krishna’s departure (Revati)->Full Moon(Kartika, Lunar eclipse)-> Krishna-Karna
ride(Uttaraphalguni)->Amavasya (at Jyeshtha, solar eclipse)-> war (does not begin on an amavasya).
Krishna and Karna ride together after Kartika paurnima.
But in Oak’s case, they ride together before Kartika paurnima.
Now we have shown that practically all of the other astronomical observations (1)-(27), listed by Oak
himself, are at variance with the data of the star maps(Cybersky-5) in 5561 BCE. It is interesting to note
that almost identical verbal descriptions of data by Voyager simulations are given by Oak. Yet, he claims
agreement of Voyager simulations with the observations (1)-(27)
Readers can rate scientifically the validity of Oak’s theory using his own criteria.
Acknowledgements: The star maps were produced using the software Cybersky 5(www.cybersky.com)