The reference to planets and their motion at the start of Mahabharata war pertains to Nimittha (निमित्त ) and the results connected with planetary motions or in other words astrology, and not exactly about the position of those planets as per astronomy. Therefore one must not take the reference to planets at face value.
Some basic features of astrology connected with the planets as mentioned in Mahabharata chapter 5 and 6 are as follows:
1. Saturn's dhrishti (aspect) falls on 3rd, 7th and 10th houses from the sign it is located.
2. Mar's dhrishti falls on 4th, 7th and 8th houses from the sign it is located.
3. Upagrahas that include Dhooma Ketu are observed to make instant predictions particularly of a good or a bad time.
4. The motion of planets with reference to each other in terms of fast and slow moving planets is observed to predict the time when events would be triggered and the intensity of the events.
3rd and 4th are oldest techniques in use in mundane astrology for predicting the outcome of travels and wars. 4th one continues to be in use as an important technique in Prasna astrology.
5. Colour of sun or moon does not pertain to eclipses but are mentioned as omens. Most of the observations on sun and moon are omens which can be checked with Brihad samhita.
For example, in
शवेतलॊहित पर्यन्ताः कृष्ण गरीवाः स विद्युतः
तरिवर्णाः परिघाः संधौ भानुम आवारयन्त्य उत
(śvetalohita paryantāḥ kṛṣṇa grīvāḥ sa vidyutaḥ
trivarṇāḥ parighāḥ saṃdhau bhānum āvārayanty uta)
the mention of Parigha with three colours around the sun pertains to a bad omen. Parigha is the halo around the sun. According to Brihad Samhita 30-25, if Parigha appears white, the reigning prince would suffer; if it appears blood coloured, his army would revolt and if it appears in the colour of gold, the army would gain strength. Thus three colours are mentioned with reference to Parigha as an omen for prediction. The above verse mentions three colours of Parigha as white (bad), lohita (bad) and black - golden is good, but black as an opposite of the lustre of gold, is bad omen.
The verse continues to tell about the omen related to the Moon which has been mis-interpreted by many as lunar eclipse in Kritthika. Verses 22 and 23 say,
22 जवलितार्केन्दु नक्षत्रं निर्विशेष दिनक्षपम
अहॊरात्रं मया दृष्टं तत कषयाय भविष्यति
23 अलक्ष्यः परभया हीनः पौर्णमासीं च कार्त्तिकीम
चन्द्रॊ ऽभूद अग्निवर्णश च समवर्णे नभस्तले
( 22 jvalitārkendu nakṣatraṃ nirviśeṣa dinakṣapam
ahorātraṃ mayā dṛṣṭaṃ tat kṣayāya bhaviṣyati
23 alakṣyaḥ prabhayā hīnaḥ paurṇamāsīṃ ca kārttikīm
candro 'bhūd agnivarṇaś ca samavarṇe nabhastale)
This refers to the days moon was transiting Kritthika (sun's star) and Rohini (Moon's star). So this refers to Karthikai Paurnami which was a famous occasion connected with festive time in Prabhasa kshetra (Somnath) in Mahabharata times. There was kshahya thithi in ahorathram, in the stars of Sun and Moon. The Paurnami on Kritthika was of poor brightness. Moon was red in colour.
Here there is no reference to Eclipse. But the thithi was kshaya meaning that Kritthika and Paurnami were not there at sunrise on the day. Before next sunrise, paurnami and kritthika were over. That means within the day and night (ahorathra) Kritthika and Paurnami were over - without seeing a sun rise. Such a thithi (here Paurnami) is kshaya. A kshaya thithi has no lustre and not useful for homa. (The reduction of thithis can thus be seen in the previous paksha (to the start of Mahabharata war) itself. The trend continues in the next paksha which saw 2 reductions resulting in Amavsaya on the day when Trayodhashi must be running. We will see the details in the course of this mail)
The agni varna of Moon is an omen which can be checked in Brihad samhita 34 -9. If sun and moon should appear red, the chief ruler would die. According to Garga, if the reddish appearance lasts for a single day, the chief ruler would die and if for 7 days, the country would perish.
As if to prove that this observation of red colour of the moon is an omen, the next verses says exactly the prediction related to this omen. It says
24 सवप्स्यन्ति निहता वीरा भूमिम आवृत्य पार्थिवाः
राजानॊ राजपुत्राश च शूराः परिघबाहवः
( 24 svapsyanti nihatā vīrā bhūmim āvṛtya pārthivāḥ
rājāno rājaputrāś ca śūrāḥ parighabāhavaḥ)
Thus we see the narration of omens continuously in the verses related to Parigha and colour of the sun and the moon. There is absolutely no reference to Karthikai Paurnami getting eclipsed. From the next verse onwards the omens related to terrestrial observation are narrated.
6. Outer planets namely Mars, Jupiter and Saturn would be in retrogression from the 5th to 9th signs (rashi) from the sign where Sun is located.
7. Each star has 13-20 degree span.
8. Each star has 4 padas of 3-20 degree span each.
Tracing the sequence of references to planets etc., of astrology,
the first information comes in Udyoga parva in the dialogue between Krishna and Karna. (5-140)
18 saptamāc cāpi divasād amāvāsyā bhaviṣyati
saṃgrāmaṃ yojayet tatra tāṃ hy āhuḥ śakra devatām
18 सप्तमाच चापि दिवसाद अमावास्या भविष्यति
संग्रामं यॊजयेत तत्र तां हय आहुः शक्र देवताम
On the day of Amavasya, in the star ruled by Sakra, the war was to be started. The star was Jyeshta. (By this it is deduced that the day in which this conversation took place was Uttra Phalguni. The thithi was Krishna paksha Navami).
Hearing Krishna mention the date of war, Karna starts talking (next chapter -5-141). The first thing he says is that he foresees the death of Duryodhana and other Kauravas besides himself and victory for Pandavas. How does he say this? He says this on the basis of terrible portends (निमित्तानि च घॊराणि तथॊत्पाताः सुदारुणाः MB 5-141-5)
What are those terrible nimitthas and Utpadas? Here he quotes the planets and their dhrishti and their relationship to each other due to this dhrishti. The planets mentioned are Saturn, Mars and Moon. The narration about them here is purely astrological. Let us examine them now.
7 पराजापत्यं हि नक्षत्रं गरहस तीक्ष्णॊ महाद्युतिः
शनैश्चरः पीडयति पीडयन पराणिनॊ ऽधिकम
(7 prājāpatyaṃ hi nakṣatraṃ grahas tīkṣṇo mahādyutiḥ
śanaiścaraḥ pīḍayati pīḍayan prāṇino 'dhikam)
First he mentions the affliction caused to the star lorded by Prajapati. Here the reference is to Rohini which is lorded by Prajapati. Rohini receives the severe and precise dhrishti from the planets. One such planet is Saturn. The affliction of Rohini by Saturn is further confirmed in Ved Vyasa's observation in chapter 6-2, verse 32 where he says " rohiṇīṃ pīḍayann eṣa sthito rājañ śanaiścaraḥ" ( 32 रॊहिणीं पीडयन्न एष सथितॊ राजञ शनैश्चरः)
Saturn can aspect Rohini from 4 positions, (1) in Taurus by crossing Rohini (2) from Leo with 10th aspect on Rohini, (3) from Scorpio with 7th aspect on Rohini or (4) from Pisces by 3rd aspect of Rohini.
To ascertain in which of the above 4 positions, Saturn was located at that time, we get 2 clues in chapter 6-3
14 भाग्यं नक्षत्रम आक्रम्य सूर्यपुत्रेण पीड्यते
(14 bhāgyaṃ nakṣatram ākramya sūryaputreṇa pīḍyate)
The son of Sun (Saturn) attains Bhaga. Bhaga is the lord of Purva phalguni, situated in Leo.
25. विशाखयॊः समीपस्थौ बृहस्पतिशनैश्चरौ
(25 viśākhayoḥ samīpasthau bṛhaspatiśanaiścarau)
Brihaspathi (Jupiter) and Saturn had approached Vishaka.
The first clue gives the position of Saturn in Purva phalguni in Leo which fits well for an affliction of Saturn of Rohini by 10th aspect. If we take up the 2nd clue and position Saturn in Vishaka (either in Libra or in Scorpio) such a position does not satisfy (1) the affliction of Rohini (2) or affliction of Purva Phalguni in Leo.
But if we position Saturn in Purva Phalguni, its 3rd aspect falls on Vishaka and 10th aspect falls on Rohini. This fulfils all the clues on Saturn found in Mahabharata.
Further fine-tuning of Saturn's position:
Saturn must have been in Leo in 3rd pada of Purva phalguni. (Leo 20 degrees to 23 degrees 20 minutes)
Saturn posited in the third pada of Purva phalguni means it is in the 7th pada (of the 9-padas) of Leo.
From there it is afflicting both Rohini and Vishaka.
That means the exact drishti would fall on the 7th pada in Libra and 7th pada in Taurus.
The 7th pada in Libra is Vishaka 1st pada.
The 7th pada in Taurus is Rohini 4th pada.
The position of saturn could not be at any other place than 7th pada of Leo (3rd pada of P.Phalguni) because if it is one pada behind, it can not aspect Vishaka. If it is one pada forward, it can not aspect Rohini.
Therefore Saturn was in the 7th pada of Leo / Purva phalguni at the time of start of Mahabharata war.
Having ascertained the position of Saturn in Leo, let us continue with what Karna says.
After saying that he and Kauravas are sure to die, he says,
prājāpatyaṃ hi nakṣatraṃ grahas tīkṣṇo mahādyutiḥ
śanaiścaraḥ pīḍayati pīḍayan prāṇino 'dhikam (5-141-7)
The affliction of Rohini by Saturn (from Leo) brings out grave affliction to the living beings of the earth. Then he continues,
कृत्वा चाङ्गारकॊ वक्रं जयेष्ठायां मधुसूदन
अनुराधां परार्थयते मैत्रं संशमयन्न इव
kṛtvā cāṅgārako vakraṃ jyeṣṭhāyāṃ madhusūdana
anurādhāṃ prārthayate maitraṃ saṃśamayann iva (5-141-8)
This is a crucial verse which must be carefully analysed. I got the translation done by Mr Ramanathan who is a Veda Adhyayin and who also teaches Vyakarana.
कृत्वा : Doing (Here is can be taken as proceeding or moving)
चाङ्गारकॊ : And Angaraka
वक्रं : Vakram
जयेष्ठायां : in Jyeshta
अनुराधां :To Anurdha
परार्थयते :Entering into
मैत्रं : Of Friends
संशमयन्न : go together (explanation later)
इव : like(Here it means indicates)
The outward meaning of this verse is that Mars does a Vakram in Jyeshta. If Vakram is taken to mean retrogression, it cannot be so, because Mars cannot go retrograde in the sign where Sun is transiting. So it must mean something else. Here the verse further says that it enters into Anuradha Maitram. Mitra is the lord of Anuradha. So there is a mention of backward moving dhrishti of Mars crossing Jyeshta to Anuradha.
Any further decipherment needs further clues. We find 2 clues to the position of Mars in chapter 6-3
मघास्व अङ्गारकॊ वक्रः शरवणे च बृहस्पतिः (6-3-13)
(maghāsv aṅgārako vakraḥ śravaṇe ca bṛhaspatiḥ)
Here both Mars and Jupiter are mentioned. Mars does a vakram at Magha and Jupiter at Sravana. (Here let us concentrate on Mars.)
वक्रानुवक्रं कृत्वा च शरवणे पावकप्रभः
बरह्मराशिं समावृत्य लॊहिताङ्गॊ वयवस्थितः (6-3-17)
(vakrānuvakraṃ kṛtvā ca śravaṇe pāvakaprabhaḥ
brahmarāśiṃ samāvṛtya lohitāṅgo vyavasthitaḥ)
Translation by Mr Ramanathan:
वक्रानुवक्रं : frequent forward/retrograde motions
कृत्वा च; And Performing
शरवणे पावकप्रभः With Shravana, shining like fire
समावृत्य : Co-linear
लॊहिताङ्गॊ Red bodied probably mars,
From these 2 clues, it emerges that Mars was in Sravana after having done vakranuvakram. Till the time Sun was in Leo or Virgo, the retrogression of Mars would have continued upto the beginning of Capricorn or Sravana. When the gap between Mars and Sun reached 132 degrees, the retrogression ended and Mars started forward motion – which is opposite of the previous vakram movement in Sravana. That is mentioned as vakranuvakram.
From Capricorn, Mars can aspect Magha in Leo by its 8th aspect. Sravana 1st pada is the 4th pada of Capricorn (former 3 padas are the last 3 padas of Uttrashada). If Mars was in Sravana 1st pada, from there its 8th aspect falls on 4th pada of Leo which is 4th pada of Magha. There also the 'vakram' is mentioned which perfectly fits with a previous backward motion of 8th aspect of Mars on Magha which now has gone in opposite direction – which is meant as "maghāsva aṅgārako vakraḥ".
The location at Sravana 1st pada is confirmed by the 2nd clue where it is supposed to be positioned at Brahm rashi.
If Brahmarashi means Abhijit, Mars must have been between 10 degrees and 10-56 degrees. Just a short span of 56 minutes of Sravana comes under Abhijit. That is the 1st pada of Sravana. Brahma Rashi could also refer to Rohini, lorded by Brahma. From Sravana, the 4th aspect of Mars falls within 10*-56' of Taurus. Rohini pada 1 starts within that span (after 10 degrees Taurus). So the affliction of Rohini by Mars is there. The affliction of Magha by Mars (8th aspect) is there. This puts the location of Mars at Sravana (Capricorn). But from there Mars does not send any aspect on Jyeshta. To understand what then has been told by Karna in those verses, let us continue to analyse the next verse.
नूनं मह भयं कृष्ण कुरूणां समुपस्थितम
विशेषेण हि वार्ष्णेय चित्रां पीडयते गरहः (5-141-9)
(nūnaṃ maha bhayaṃ kṛṣṇa kurūṇāṃ samupasthitam
viśeṣeṇa hi vārṣṇeya citrāṃ pīḍayate grahaḥ)
After having said that Mars is going vakram in Jyeshta and further moves over to Anuradha of Mitran, Karna expresses great fear of a calamity that approaches the Kurus with "Gara" afflicting Chitra!
Then in the next verse he says,
सॊमस्य लक्ष्म वयावृत्तं राहुर अर्कम उपेष्यति
दिवश चॊल्काः पतन्त्य एताः सनिर्घाताः सकम्पनाः (5-141-10)
(somasya lakṣma vayāvṛttaṃ rāhur arkam upeṣyati
divaś colkāḥ patanty etāḥ sanirghātāḥ sakampanāḥ)
Here he tells about Moon's quality or rays or lustre (lakshma) getting Vayavruttam! These 2 verses pertain to Moon's movement which was approaching Amavasya but qualified as lakshma Vyavrittam.
We can see the same expression told by Ved Vyasa on the day of war when he met Dhritharashtra in chapter 6-2. In the penultimate verse of this chapter he says that Saturn is afflicting Rohini and Moon having attained Vayavruttam in its lakshma, it causes great fear.
"रॊहिणीं पीडयन्न एष सथितॊ राजञ शनैश्चरः
वयावृत्तं लक्ष्म सॊमस्य भविष्यति महद भयम" (6-2-32)
rohiṇīṃ pīḍayann eṣa sthito rājañ śanaiścaraḥ
vayāvṛttaṃ lakṣma somasya bhaviṣyati mahad bhayam
Note the similar expression of Moon in both the dialogue of Karna and Vyasa and the recurrence of Saturn along with that. They are talking about some connection of Moon to the events that cause great fear and calamity. And Saturn's location also comes in some connection with the expression of Moon.
This brings us to an astrological combination where Moon as the fastest entity forms a connection between two other planets which are not originally in any aspectual connection. This is called Nakta Yoga in Prasna astrology.
The above verse of 'Vaya vruttham lakshma somasya' can be interpreted by this Nakta yoga. Lakshma is the lustre or the innate great quality of Moon which is nothing but its rays. Vaya means power, strength, vigour, branch etc. Vruttham means "fence in" or enclosed with or firm or completed or rounded etc. But with Amavasya nearing, how could they say that Moon's rays or lustre could become so complete or Vayavruttham?
It can attain vaya vruttham of its lakshma when it comes in between 2 planets that have no aspect on each other, but can transfer the rays from the forward moving planet to the planet that is behind.
When there is no mutual aspect between a fast moving planet (in this context Mars in Sravana) and a slow moving planet (Saturn in Purva phalguni), a faster planet (Moon) that comes in between them transfers the light of the fast planet (Mars) to the slow planet (Saturn). This will happen when the faster planet (moon) reaches the degrees in which it forms a coupling with fast planet (Mars) and slow planet (Saturn) separately.
Let me show an example chart given by Dr BV Raman in his book Varshaphal, page 50.
Jupiter and Mercury are not in any coupling as there is no Opposition (180 degrees -7th from each other), or Trinal (120 degrees – 5rd and 9th house) or sextile (60 degrees -3rd and 11th house) or square (90 degrees – 4th and 10th ) aspect between them. Of these two, Mercury is a fast moving planet while Jupiter is a slow moving planet. When the fastest Moon comes in between them forming an aspect with Jupiter (sextile) and with Mercury (square), it transfers the light of the faster Mercury to slower Jupiter thereby forming a coupling between Mercury and Jupiter. By this, the benefic or malefic aspect of the faster planet will fall on the slower planet.
Similar connection is told in the verse Udyoga parva -142-8
8 kṛtvā cāṅgārako vakraṃ jyeṣṭhāyāṃ madhusūdana
anurādhāṃ prārthayate maitraṃ saṃśamayann iva
8 कृत्वा चाङ्गारकॊ वक्रं जयेष्ठायां मधुसूदन
अनुराधां परार्थयते मैत्रं संशमयन्न इव
Mars is in Sravana 1st pada (4th pada of Capricorn) and Saturn is in 3rd pada of Purva phalguni (7th pada of Leo). From Capricorn, Martian aspect can go upto 4th pada of Leo and not upto Saturn which is in 7th pada. But by backward motion of rays by crossing Jyeshta and then coming to Anuradha, Mars can make 'Samshamayan' with Moon which is coming towards Jyeshta amavasya.
Note the word संशमयन्न. This is similar to the expression of सं-समिद युवसे, of the last verse of Rig Veda ("saṃ-samid yuvase.." Rig Veda 10-191). It means 'united' or 'go together' etc. The root word is samasya meaning junction or union.
Let us take a look at the 'Krutva cha angarako' verse. Mars sends its rays backwards through Jyeshta and reaches Anuradha where it does a coupling or union. Union with whom? With Moon. To do a union or coupling with Moon, (for Mars in 4th pada of Capricorn) moon must come to 4th pada of Scorpio. This is 3rd pada of Anuradha! At that location there is a 60 degree connection (3rd and 11th house coupling) between Mars and faster Moon. This happens on the day before the Amavasya.
From there when Moon reaches the 7th pada of Scorpio (Jyeshta 2nd pada), it forms a 90 degree coupling with Saturn which is located in 7th pada of Leo. That is on the day of Jyeshta amavasya (which was eclipsed by Rahu – Immediately after saying "somasya lakṣma vayāvṛttaṃ" Karna continues to say " rāhur arkam upeṣyati divaś colkāḥ". The trigger of Nakta yoga happens at a most unfortunate time for the ruler (Duryodhana) on the day of war which started on an eclipsed amavasya.
Translated into degrees, Mars was between 10 degrees and 10-56 degrees in Capricorn on that day. Between 10 degrees and 20 to 23-20 degrees Scorpio, Moon was forming the coupling first with faster Mars and then with slower Saturn (which was in 20 to 23-20 degrees of Leo) and formed a Vayavruttham by its rays.
When Moon actually made the coupling with Mars it was in Anuradha, but at that time the exact coupling was not made with Saturn. But only after it entered Jyeshta, the coupling between Mars and Saturn was achieved by the laksma of Moon. That is why Karna has said that Mars did a backward reach out upto Anuradha to catch Moon.
There is another meaning also. Mars in Capricorn means it is exalted. Such an exaltation happens in the sign of Saturn. But that does not make Mars mellow down its enmity towards Saturn(they both are bitterly inimical to each other as per astrology). Mars extends its rays upto Anuradha and Anuradha's planetary lord is Saturn! It is as though Mars is reaching out its friendly hand to Saturn (of Anuradha) from the house of Saturn (Capricorn) but eventually causing a great havoc by afflicting Saturn through Moon's lakshma.
On its own course of motion, Mars can catch up with Saturn in Purva phalguni by its 8th aspect. Mars was in the 11th degree in Capricorn and Saturn after 20th degree in Leo. There is a difference of 10 degrees to be covered by Mars to afflict Saturn by its 8th aspect. At the rate of motion of one and a half days to cover 1 degree, it would take 15 days for Mars to strike its blow on Saturn in Leo. It must be noted that on the 15th day of war, Yudhishtira committed a travesty of Dharma and Acharya Drona was killed.
But Mars didn't have to wait for 15 days to trigger the calamitous events. By reaching out backward to Anuradha it caught up with Moon on the day before Amavasya which was transferred to Saturn (by Moon) on the day of Amavasya itself.
Here there is a verse in between "Krutwa cha angarako" and "Somasya lakshma"
"nūnaṃ maha bhayaṃ kṛṣṇa kurūṇāṃ samupasthitam
viśeṣeṇa hi vārṣṇeya citrāṃ pīḍayate grahaḥ" (5-141-9)
Here it is said that an entity called "Gara" afflicts Chitra!
This is a remarkable verse according to me because this is proof of Panchanga factors even as early as Mahabharata times. Gara is a Karana which is the 5th anga of Panchanga. A karana is half of thithi. Every thithi has 12 degree span. Therefore each thithi has 2 Karanas of 6 degree span each. On the day of conversation between Krishna and Karna, Krishna says 7 days on, the war is going to start on Jyehsta. That means Uttara Phalguni and Navami were running on that day. Navami has Taitila and Gara Karanas. There is a need to explain this to understand the above verse.
Here a brief note on karanas. There are 11 karanas of which the first 7 are Chara karanas as they keep coming in rotation. The last 4 karanas are sthira karanas as they are always present around the time of Amavasya.
As per the system of Karanas, Taitila and Gara karanas were there on the day Krishna and Karna were conversing.
Bhadra / Vishti
After that day, Gara must come back again in the first half of Trayodashi when moon would be transiting Vishaka. (Table above).
But Gara was noticed on the day of Chitra as per Karna's version. A re-work of the star- thithi- karana will be as follows:
With Gara appearing on Chitra, Amavasya comes on Trayodashi. This means 2 stars are skipped so that Jyeshta was in place on Trayodhashi / Amavasya. Astrologically speaking, there is only one explanation for this. Atleast 2 stars did not see sun rise in the week before Jyeshta amavasya. That means 2 Avamas (when more than 3 stars or 3 thithis come in a day) were witnessed in the week before, with 2 stars and 2 thithis becoming short / kshaya. This is possible as stars were seen to have appeared for as low as 48 nadikas against the normal 60 nadikas.
Earlier we saw that the Karthak Paurnima in the beginning of that paksha was also a kshaya. Thus starting from that paksha, the first reduction happened with prathama appearing on the day when Karthak Paurnami (which was kshaya) was to have occurred and the other two reductions happened in the second half of that paksha which is reflected in Karna's observation of Gara karana on a different star. The last reduction in that paksha happened as Bodayana amavasya on the day of Krishna Chathurdashi at sunrise, with amavasya coming in the last quarter of the day (ahas).
After having indicated the faster movement of Moon through Chitra when Gara karna could not be there in normal course, Karna goes on to say how the lakshma of Moon catches with samasya of Mars. This quick movement of moon in between Mars and Saturn had caught the attention of people at that time which got expressed in the words of both Karna and Vyasa. This quick movement facilitated a deadly contact between Mars and Saturn, the 2 malefics which were afflicting Rohini. Sun and Moon were afflicting Rohini from Jyeshta. Rahu and Ketu joining them on that day enabled a severe affliction of Rohini.
On the position of Jupiter, the 2 clues are that Jupiter was afflicting Vishaka and doing a retro in Sravana. Jupiter has 5th, 7th and 9th aspects. To aspect these two stars Jupiter must have been in retrogression – between 5th and 9th signs from Scorpio. Cancer or Taurus was the probable locations for Jupiter.
From Taurus, 7th and 9th aspect falls on Scorpio and Capricorn respectively. In both cases, direct affliction of Sravana is possible but on Vishaka factor, approach towards Vishaka would be there.
Another possibility is Jupiter to be in the junction of Gemini- Cancer or Aries - Taurus. In these positions, direct affliction of Vishaka would be there and retrogression over Sravana would have been over. But Jupiter being in retrogression, an anu-vakram on sravana would happen once Jupiter comes in forward motion.
The likely sky map at the start of the war with certainty in the position of Mars and Saturn can be shown as follows:
I exchanged these views with Dr Narahari Achar in the month of August and elicited his opinion along with another clue, that there were no twin or triple eclipses at the time of Mahabharata war. The Karthak Paurnami that preceded Jyeshta Amavasya was a kshaya thithi and not an eclipse. The Paurnami that followed Jyeshta Amavasya did not see an eclipse as there is no mention of it. The hypothesis of an eclipse on the day of slaying of Jayadratha was not an eclipse (sun getting eclipsed) as the paksha was waxing (Shukla) and therefore no scope for a solar eclipse.
Dr Achar came up with 2 dates satisfying these three conditions (Mars in Sravana, Saturn in Purva phalguni and an eclipsed Amavasya in Jyeshta with no eclipses in the preceding and successive pakshas)
They are 3178 BCE and 3030 BCE.
The traditional Kaliyuga date is 3102 BCE. Mahabharata war took place 36 years before that. That puts the date of Mahabharata at 3138 BCE. Dr Achar's date of 3178 BCE comes within 40 years of traditional date.
Such a close date affirms the truthfulness of Vyasa's narration.
It affirms that astrology and Panchanga were well established as early as the 3rd millennium BCE.
The knowledge of planets had been well established at that time.
The rashi knowledge is well pronounced from the aspectual influence of the planets and the mention of Upagrahas in Mahabharata.
The five Dhoomadhi Upagrahas are calculated on the basis of rashi.
The following verse in chapter 6-3 -15 of Mahabharata is of importance to Upagrahas:
शयामॊ गरहः परज्वलितः स धूमः सह पावकः
ऐन्द्रं तेजस्वि नक्षत्रं जयेष्ठाम आक्रम्य तिष्ठति
śyāmo grahaḥ prajvalitaḥ sa dhūmaḥ saha pāvakaḥ
aindraṃ tejasvi nakṣatraṃ jyeṣṭhām ākramya tiṣṭhati
The SyamO graha is mentioned as Yama graha in Tamil translations. This refers to Yamakanta, the upagraha of Jupiter. This is one of the 4 Gulikadhi upagrahas (Gulika - the upa-graha of Saturn, Kaala - the Upgraha of Sun, Yamakanta - the upagraha of Jupiter and Artha-praharana - the upagraha of Mercury) that are located from sunrise on the basis of the week day.
The shining Yamakanta occupying Jyeshta lorded by Indra means that the day was Thursday. Yamakanta rises at sunrise / along with sun on Thursday. That day being Amavasya with sun and moon transiting Jyeshta, the above observation that Yamakanta was occupying or invading Jyeshta fits well.
The other upagraha mentioned in this verse is Dhuma. Though the intensity of Dhuma is described as Pavakah, the singular verb 'Thishtathi' refers to one of them, which is Yamakanta. Dhuma is one among the 5 Dhoomadhi Upagrahas which are calculated in terms of rashi numbers. Dhuma, the Upagraha of Mars is calculated by adding 4 rashis, 13 degrees and 20 minutes to the true position of Sun in terms of rashi- degree- minutes. As Sun was in Jyeshta in Scorpio, it must have been anywhere in the last 13-20 degrees of scorpio. Assuming that it was in 20 degrees Scorpio, by adding 4-13-20, we arrive at Mesha as the location of Dhuma.
In mundane prediction of wars, calamities and natural disasters, the maarak and Bhadak houses from Jag lagna (Mesha) is observed for afflictions. This can be checked in all the disasters and even prediction of comets (one is going to appear in Thula maasa this year) by the presence of malefics in these houses (2nd, 7th and 11th) from Mesha.
The above verse indicates the affliction to the 2nd house (Marak) of Taurus (by Mars, Saturn, Sun, Moon, the nodes and Yamakanta) and the affliction to the 7th house (Libra) by Dhuma. In addition Upaketu, the upagraha of Ketu was in Libra – owing to the fact that it will be always one rashi behind the Sun's true position (Brihad Parashara Hora sastra 3 – 60 to 64) . As Sun was in Scorpio, Upaketu was in Libra which is a maraka house for the Jag lagna. This is a malefic position.
The mention of Ketu or Dhuma ketu in other places refers to nimittha indications. For example,
" śveto grahas tathā citrāṃ samatikramya tiṣṭhati
abhāvaṃ hi viśeṣeṇa kurūṇāṃ pratipaśyati" (6-3-11b and 12a)
refers to sighting of a ketu in Chitra which will be disastrous for the Kuru people . The same idea appears in chapter 11-57 of Brihad Samhita. The Ketu need not be a comet always as Varahamihira in that chapter says that Ketus can be celestial, ethereal and terrestrial. The meteor fall is also referred to as ketu of the ethereal kind. A similar view is given in a Sangam Tamil verse which I will write in my article on "aadu" verses. The Sveto graham referred in the above verse is white glow of the meteor that fell in the direction of Chitra.
Similarly with verse 6-3- 26
kṛttikāsu grahas tīvro nakṣatre prathame jvalan
vapūṃṣy apaharan bhāsā dhūmaketur iva sthitaḥ
The Kritthika graham is Sun, its another star is Uttara Phalguni. The Prathama star of this is Hastham. An ethereal Ketu with smoke (meteor), that is, the Dhuma Ketu stole away the glow of Hastham when it encroached the region of Hastha.
Similar meteor sighting was done in the region of Pushya.
"dhūmaketur mahāghoraḥ puṣyam ākramya tiṣṭhati " (6-3- 12)
Chitra, Hastha and Pushya are crucial stars for Royal well being. Chitra in the star of Mars was considered as Royal canopy according a Sangam Tamil song. Hastha comes in the category of Rohini, the sensitive star. For Pushya, refer to Pushya snaan passages in Brihad Samhita for the importance of Pushya to Royalty.
Thus every reference to celestial sightings and planetary reference in Mahabharata had astrological meaning. When we have a proper understanding of these, we can arrive at the exact date of occurrence. Dr Achar has come up with one such date which is close to Mahabharata time. Any scholar in this group is welcome to test this and add to our understanding. But what stands out in the final analysis is that Mahabharata was a historic reality, Vedic astrology with its rashi system and grahas and upagrahas is a science of unfathomable antiquity.
With this I am once again going back to Tamil sources in my next article.
(To be continued)