Sunday, May 24, 2020

Indic Past Series 4: Zodiac re-designed by Skanda.


The 4th part of the Indic Past series continues with the narration of sage Markandeya in Mahabharata on the life events of Skanda. Three events are discussed in this video in the same sequence given by Markandeya.

The first one was the marriage of Skanda with Devasena, the daughter of Daksha Prajapati who was offered in marriage to Skanda by Indra! In the Tamil tradition Devasena is regarded as the daughter of Indra. To separate myth from reality it is highlighted that the name Indra has three connotations - as a deity, a natural force (rainfall) and a human being who lived in flesh and blood. All the references to Indra in Indic texts can be understood from one among these three.
In the context of Skanda’s marriage it is highlighted in the video that Indra was a human being who lived in Indra Dweepa, comprising Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam that is home for Parijata tree. Parijata is indigenous only to India and these regions of East Asia.

After Skanda’s marriage the six rishi patnis were acceded the status of mothers of Skanda, and ultimately identified with the six Krittika stars.

Here comes the secret of the change of an Epoch identified with astronomy features. The end of the Ice Age that marked the end of a cycle or an epoch is recognized in the shift in position of the star Abhijit. This shift is explained with a sketch of the orbit of the earth shifting from elliptical to the current near-circular path by which Abhijit which was once part of the zodiac when the path was elliptical was found away from the zodiac as the earth’s orbit started becoming what it is now. This is a crucial piece of evidence of the cycle of eccentricity of the earth in terms of astronomy reference which is completely unknown to the outside world and the scientific community.

The video further discusses the implication of this shift and the subsequent recognition of Krittika to fill up the count, on the design of the zodiac and how it solves some of the difficult and mis-interpreted references in the Indic literature. Other related features such as ‘Swati Patha’ and Skanda fixing Aries as the first sign of the zodiac are discussed.

The last theme of this video deals with Skanda-apasmara and Shamanism recognized as Skanda cult. It is also revealed that it is not right to grade Skanda as a sub deity or a lower deity as Markandeya’s subsequent narration states that it was Skanda who started the first ever Vedic Homa. That will be discussed in the next episode. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Indic Past Series 3: Time period of Skanda deduced from climatic descriptions.

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The 3rd part of the Indic Past Series moves on to the next step of deducing the time period of Skanda based on the climatic references found in the birth legends of Skanda gleaned from Valmiki Ramayana and Kalidasa’s Kumara Sambhava. The video can be watched here:

The birth legends of Skanda are many but all of them have a common thread of events. The events are found repeated but the deductions had been different, perhaps changing with time. The events are mostly metaphorical of natural or geological happenings but cited with some hints of cosmic or climatic nature giving scope to deduce the time period of the events, thereby of Skanda. Ultimately all the events and the hints are associated with a real character, Skanda who lived at that time. The reality of Skanda as a human being who walked on this earth will be discussed in the course of this series.

In Markandeya’s narration in Mahabharata, Skanda’s birth is infused with a mythical element as one born from the union of Svaha with Adbhuta the Agni. One of Skanda’s works was to redesign the zodiac by adding Krittika in the 27-star count. This event gets mythical in Valmiki Ramayana and Kumara Sambhava besides adding newer elements in the birth legend with climatic hints to decipher the time period of Skanda and the events associated with him. The Krtttika star group that was promoted by Skanda as part of the zodiac was made the foster mother of Skanda in these texts. The bottom line is that Krittika stars had some connection with Skanda’s times.

The climatic events match with ‘Younger Dryas when a sudden drop in temperature followed the rising temperature at the end of Ice Age. This raises the scope to interpret that Skanda had lived at the junction of two epochs – the end of the Last Glacial Maxima and the beginning of Holocene. The change over from glaciation to de-glaciation marks the change of the epoch perhaps caused by the change in eccentricity of earth’s orbit that is documented in one of the astrological Siddhantas, to be discussed later, sounds more perfect compared to Milankovitch theory. The epoch change that matches with Indic perception of precession (not with western perception) had come up with newer revelations with reference to certain stars such as Arundhati, Vasishtha, Abhijit and Krittika in the narration of Markandeya. It is a sad state of events that Indians themselves are not at all aware of these.

The basis of this hypothesis of the hint at climatic change lays in the marriage legend of Uma, the younger sister of Ganga with Shiva not really producing an offspring, given in some detail in Ramayana and Kumara Sambhava. On the insistence of Agni Deva, Shiva transfers to him whatever “tejas” he could produce. Tejas means light or glow or fiery energy. That was carried by Agni but deposited by him on the slopes of the snowy Himalayas, unable to bear it any longer. This caused reed-growth on the slopes from which Skanda was born, says Ramayana.

The same narration is altered in the very next chapter of Ramayana where it is said that Agni Deva transferred the Tejas to Ganga in the hope that she would grow the embryo to the full form as a child. But Ganga too found it difficult to bear the embryo / Tejas and slid it on the slopes. This resulted in reed- growth from which Kumara was born. Since he was born from that which is shed or fallen or cast off, he came to be known as Skanda (from Skanna). The same narration is repeated in Kumara Sambhava.

The transference of Tejas, whatever of it was available from Shiva, the significator for sun or fire, that was further let off by Agni and the glaciated Ganga on the slopes of the Himalayas sounds metaphorical of the first spread of solar radiation or heat on the Himalayan slopes at the end of Ice age. Initially it started impacting the region of Uma, in the north west of Ganga (Gangotri) but got aborted. That is now the famous Amarnath Snow Linga – the peak known as Paruppadam (Barbara) in Tamil texts where the kings of the three Tamil dynasties engraved their emblems long ago. A serious exploration of the Amarnath peak might get us to see those engravings.

The advent of Younger Dryas caused by a comet hit brought out an abrupt end to the spread of heat in the Himalayas. This was described as loss of heat radiation from north to south with only a shred of it falling on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. By bringing Ganga into the picture, the myth making sages has indicated the location of the solar glow on the slopes south of Gangotri. Ramayana further states that minerals are also available in that region. This corresponds to the southern slopes of the Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand where reed-growth and mineral presence are noticeable.

This birth legend of Skanda ends up with Skanda being made the commander in chief of the Devas. To know what he did as the commander in chief, we get continuity in Kumara Sambhava where it is stated that Skanda was made the commander in chief to destroy Tarakasura!  The fight with Taraka brings us back to the old and original story of natural burst of volcanoes witnessed in Skanda’s times. Traraka was the brother of Shura killed by Skanda. Kumara Sambhava picks out only the fight with Taraka whereas Adi Shankara hints at the fight with three that include Taraka. The fight with all the three and others continue in Tamil literature and in the temple tradition of Tiruchendur.

A special addition in Kumara Sambhava is the sorry fate of Kama deva. A closer analysis of the passages reveals that his inclusion also is part of the clever strategy to hint at the climatic change impacting the spread of insolation in the Himalayan region. Kama emerges in the scene to facilitate the marriage of Uma with Shiva. To seduce Shiva, Kamadeva induces an untimely spring (akAla vasanata) of sprouts and flowers in the Himalayan slopes, but he was burnt by Shiva. With that the short spring was gone. The import of this is that whatever sprouted withered away.

Initially the increasing insolation from south to north towards the end of the Ice age caused the first sprout of vegetation in the Himalayas. The sad story of Kamadeva hints at the abrupt end of it caused by Younger Dryas. Further loss of heat is hinted by the story of transfer of available Tejas sliding down the slopes south of Gangotri facilitating the growth of reeds. The clump of reeds is known as ‘SharavaNa’. By having said that was Skanda born from Sharavana, the sages had hinted at the time of Skanda’s birth. He was born after the comet-hit that caused Younger Dryas. We will be discussing all that in future episodes.

For now we are able to get a clear upper limit of the Indic chronology that started with Skanda. It was between 12,900 to 11,700 BP.

Vaivasvata Manu, Rama and Rig Veda had appeared after this date only. Any research claiming the date of Ramayana during or before this date is therefore untenable.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Sita’s Agni-pravesha, a case of fire-walking?

Sitaayah caritam Mahat!
Greater are the two ordeals she underwent!

The Agnipariskha and exile as a pregnant woman are so heart-wrenching that the current generation is totally at a loss to understand those events. One needs to shed present-mindedness in judging these events of a remote past. In this context it is worth remembering the verses inscribed on stone 1000 years ago by the Chola King Veerarajendra, the grandson of Rajaraja Chola.

The exile of Sita is discussed in this inscription besides the other contentious issues of Ramayana. These were debated all these years, perhaps right from Rama’s times. The one who understands them in the way they should be understood is truly closer to the state of ‘Sthitaprajna’, others can try to learn more, but never attempt to whitewash the truth. Any attempt to twist or remove Agni Pravesha incident is grave injustice to the Epic, to Sita and to posterity. Since because people of current times can’t understand the purport of it, it is not right to rewrite the Ramayana, which is Veda as per Valmiki and for scores of devotees of Rama including this writer.

Here I am taking up the analysis of ‘Agni Pravesha’ to show the historicity behind and the historic developments around that over the millennia.

Fire-walking as Agni Pravesha.

Anyone visiting Sri Lanka on a cultural tour will be pleasantly surprised to get introduced to Sita’s Agni Pravesha as Fire-walking. The cultural events arranged for tourists in Sri Lanka contain the event of fire walking too, which Sri Lankans think was done by Sita to prove her loyalty to Rama! This version prevalent in Sri Lanka cannot be ignored, for, that country was very much part of Ramayana events and the memory carried by them down the ages cannot be false. That memory of fire walk by Sita offers a convincing reason on how she managed to come out of the ordeal unhurt.
Sita asked Lakshmana to prepare a pyre (चितां मे कुरु). Similar pyre is created for fire walk even today. The following picture is that of the preparation of the fire in Draupadi Amman temple in Udappu, Sri Lanka.

Fire- walking is wide-spread in Tamil lands even today. Huge pyre is created for the fire-walk. The devotees walk on smoldering fire, not on burning fire. They come out unscathed due to their devotion – something to do with their thought force and will power. In all the cases the underlying concept is complete allegiance to the deity.

Similar fire walking is found in the Pacific island of Vanuatu where fire walking is a native practice. Today it is promoted as fire-dance for tourist attraction.

This could not have started as a past time, but anything other than that. Most probably as a ritual with religious connotations but is exploited as tourist attraction today.

The concept and causes for this ritual are best known from the Tamil lands only. In the contemporary world no other people conduct the fire-walking events as Tamils do. And this has been a continuing practice from an undated past. There was a Sangam age poet by name “Thee-midhi Naaganaar” – meaning, ‘Naaganaar who walked on fire” There is a tradition to call this event as “Poo midhi” – “walking on flowers”. One can understand from this expression what the devotees think about this ordeal. For the devout, walking on fire is akin to walking on a bed of flowers. And they voluntarily do it, as a show of devotion and commitment to the deity.

The strange feature of Fire walking is that it is done only to female Goddesses. Prominent among them is Draupadi Amman! Not many know that there are temples for Draupadi in remote regions in Tamilnadu where Fire- walking is an important annual festival. The devotees of this deity (Draupadi amman) in Tamil lands believe that she did this walk after Mahabharata war to wipe out the insult done to her by disrobing her in the court of Dhritarashtra! This proves that Draupadi Amman is indeed Draupadi of Mahabharata. How she came to Tamil lands is best understood from the literary references to the migration of Velir groups consisting of  relatives of Krishna and others owing allegiance to Krishna and Pandavas after the last deluge that happened 3500 years ago (coinciding with the decline of the Harappan culture and inundation at Byt Dwaraka).

The migrants had continued with their previous practices, one of which is worshiping Draupadi by means of fire-walk. The migration of fire-walking practice from Dwaraka and Harappan regions shows that this practice must have been prevalent in North India too in remote past but forgotten after a series of invasions.  

Now let us go from the known to the unknown to justify that Agni Pravesha done by Sita was nothing but fire walking.

Honor and Allegiance

Two features are deciphered from the fire walking ritual done by the devotees of Tamil lands. One is that the deity for whom the fire walking is done is a female and the other is absolute commitment or allegiance to her. The popular belief that Draupadi did fire walking to wipe off the dishonor she suffered in the hands of Dussasana could not have come up in the first place without an incident of fire walk done by her. It is like how gold shines more when burnt. The high level of importance attached to chastity must have given rise to this practice. The same act also demonstrates her complete allegiance to the Lord – in her case the Pandavas.

The incidence of Jauhar committed by Rajput women in the event of facing certainty of dishonor (rape) in the hands of the cruel Mleccha Muslims seems to be rooted in this practice only. Draupadi had a future with her husbands after the war and so opted for fire-walk, but the hapless Rajput women had none and therefore decided to end their life by fire. They could have chosen easier and less painful means to end their lives, but by choosing fire they seemed to have gone with the age old views on wiping out dishonor caused by or expected to be caused by a male and to demonstrate their complete allegiance to their husbands. What a thought, what a sublime emotional thought these women have held on to! Certainly we have no right question the way they thought.  

This has a parallel to Sita’s fire walk!

She did that to wipe out the dishonor suffered in the hands of Ravana. She had hopes of a future with her beloved husband Rama. An examination of the dialogues by Rama and Sita that ended with Sita entering fire sheds more light on this issue.

After winning Ravana, Rama says that he killed Ravana to wipe out the insult meted out to him by way of having abducted his wife, Sita. Now that insult had been paid back, Rama was not in a position to take back Sita in the interests of keeping up the honour of his dynasty.

Sita’s response to this was to undergo test by fire. She did not enter fire to get perished in it. Instead she wanted to show that fire would not harm her if she was genuinely loyal and faithful to Rama.

She made 3 statements as a kind of command to the Fire god, all of which convey only one meaning – that she was absolutely loyal to Rama in thought, word and action and that Fire would not harm her if this was true.

She used the same statements when she created yajna fire at Ashoka Vana to worship Fire God appealing him not to harm Hanuman whose tail was put on fire. The fire God did not hurt Hanuman. Such was the power of Sita, the Pati Vrataa! Could that fire do any harm to her when she entered the smoldering fire?

With Sita and then Draupadi being fire-walkers by themselves, the practice would have evolved after them and directed at female deities.

This practice might sound primitive and might have been in existence in the times of Sita or before.

Or it could be the other way that it was Sita who started the practice and others followed her - to show loyalty to whomever it matters and to show that they are as pure and golden like Sita. 

With Draupadi more recent in memory, fire walking has come to be associated with Draupadi. Following Draupadi this practice must have thrived and inspired Kshatriya women whenever they faced ordeal of similar nature. Today it continues with an emotional and spiritual fervor throughout Tamilnadu.  

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Did Valmiki compose Uttara Ramayana?

In Valmiki Ramayana 1-3 where the plan of the Epic is described we come across a verse “Vaidehyaah ca visarjanam” (1-3-38) stating that Valmiki described in the Epic the exile of Sita and also how Rama ruled the country.  This means Uttara kanda was composed by Valmiki only. In the next verse it is stated  he had written ‘anAgatam ca’ - what is going to come and ‘Uttare Kaavye’ that covers what is yet to happen at the time.  In the next sarga 1-4-2 we are once again told that Uttara Kanda was also written by Valmiki himself. षट् काण्डानि  तथोत्तरम् - ṣaṭ kāṇḍāni tathā uttaram where Uttaram refers to the end piece – Uttara Kanda. Earlier when Brahma met him he granted that whatever had happened and whatever was yet to happen would be known to him (1-2-34). So there can be no doubt who wrote Uttara kanda.

But Valmiki had not released all at once is what we gather from the next verse onwards. While he was wondering who would render his composition, (1-4-3) Lava-Kusha touched his feet (1-4-4) and Valmiki decided to teach them the kavya. Now that he has chosen Lava- Kusha, the question comes which parts of his composition he taught them. Definitely not the futuristic one when Valmiki himself enters the scene before Sita exits the world. Definitely not from the beginning that we have today, but from the 5th sarga of Bala kanda “SarvA pUrvam” when the story starts ..once upon a time.. and ended with Pattabhishekam, what we have now in the Epic.

Ramayana as taught to Lava-Kusha ended with Pattabhishekam. Always we follow a tradition of ending the renditions on a happy note and a phala sruti. Pattabhiskheka sarga has the Phala sruti of what one gets by reciting Ramayana. That is why even after finishing Sundara kanda parayanam at home we recite Pattabhisheka sarga and offer sweets / payasam as neivedhyam. The Phala sruti we find in Pattabhisheka sarga contains futuristic elements of Rama’s rule.

Based on all these we can conclude that Uttarta Ramayana was written by Valmiki only. He had framed Ramayana in groups – one for Lava-Kusha starting from the  5th sarga and ending with the 6th Kanda; another for us starting from the background of composition that we have now. And another i.e., Uttara Kanda which must have been made known to the world after Rama exited.

We find a similar pattern in Mahabharata too. Bharatam was made known to the world not until Dhritarashtra, Pandavas etc (the characters of the Epic) exited the world (Mbh: 1-1-55 & 56) which means the 1st version of 24k verses was already made by Vyasa after the war was over but not released until Krishna and Pandavas left. He made the same story with differing number of verses meant for different people, but this 24K Bharatam was meant for us. Then he added 150 verses. Again he made 100,000 verses and made an entry in the Epic in Janamejaya’s sarpa yaaga – much like how Valmiki, the composer of Ramayana made an entry in  Uttara Kanda. These two Epics follow a certain pattern – of delivering only that part of incidents that were over, and releasing the rest later. Uttara kanda must have been released after Rama’s exit. All incidents of Rama’s life were conceived by Valmiki by the blessings of Brahma (1-2).

When did Valmiki compose Ramayana?

Though no explicit mention of the time of writing the Epic is found in Ramayana, we can make a fair guess.

From the boon of Brahma that Valmiki must write the Epic from whatever that was revealed and unrevealed or known to him or not yet known (1-2-34), it is known that he had already known something. Since the kids (Lava – Kusha) were around when he finished the Epic we can deduce that Sita was in the Ashrama during most time of his writing of the Epic. This means Valmiki was aware of the Sita’s side of the story, her plight.

Did the first hand information of her story that he got from her left him undecided about Rama’s stature? This question arises from the fact the Ramayana begins with Valmiki asking Narada who he thinks is a virtuous person. Doesn’t he know about Rama before? When Narada picks out Rama’s name and compares him with Vishnu, Valmiki must have been convinced about the divinity of the couple.

However the plight of Sita was upper most in his mind is revealed from the ‘Ma Nishada” verse that flowed from his mouth on seeing the plight of the Krauncha bird that lost her lover to the arrow of the hunter. The grief of the female bird continued to haunt him till Brahma consoled him and ordained him to compose Ramayana. The name Ramayana was repeated quite a few times by Brahma in his conversation with Valmiki, but Valmiki considered Ramayana as “Seetaayah Caritam Mahat” (1-4-7).

His devotion to Sita is again demonstrated in his Tamil verse found in Purananauru (Sangam verse) wherein he gives primacy to Sri, and not to her counterpart in not letting down anyone who gave up desires. She didn’t let down Kaakaasura and Trijata – both who agonized her. All these make me think that Sita’s story was haunting him right from the time she reached his ashrama.

Three turning points occurred after he was fully aware of Sita’s story – meeting with Narada, seeing the plight of Krauncha bird and getting blessed by Brahma. Writing the Epic started after that right in the presence of Sita, the glorious Sri or Lakshmi the motivating factor who points out the lakshya, the aim of the Epic and of anyone who reads the Epic.

On Valmiki’s contribution to Tamil:

Valmiki and Agastya were contemporaries.

Since Ramayana happened at the junction of the 1st and 2nd Tamil Sangam around 7000 years ago when sage Agastya migrated to the South to restore the literary tradition of the Tamil lands affected by sea floods, Valmiki’s contribution to the revived Sangam Assembly at Kavaatam sounds plausible. In fact Valmiki had composed Tamil grammar too that was studied till 1000 years ago as per Naccinarkkiniyar’s commentary to Tolkappiyam.

Bogar, the Siddha also remembers Valmiki as “Vedanta Valmiki’ says that he didn’t attain Samadhi but had physical existence for more than 700 years. (“Bogar 7000” verses 5723 to 5725) Bogar also refers to the birth date of Valmiki in the star Anuradha in Kanya month (Purattasi). 

Related article:

Friday, April 24, 2020

Indic Past Series 2: Decipherment of Skanda- legends (Vishakha, Deva Senapati and Shura Samhara)

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In the 2nd part of the Indic series, the legends of Skanda are being analyzed. The video can be watched here.

Since Skanda antedated Vaivasvata Manu, as known from the mantra of Indradvaja given by Vaivasvata Manu, it is necessary to investigate the legends of Skanda to get a proper understanding of what happened before Vaivasvata Manu came into being. From the Tamil literary sources it is known that Skanda was a real- life character who ruled from a place called Southern Madurai and inaugurated the Tamil Sangam Literary Assembly.

From a verse of Brahmanda Purana it is known that Vivasvan, the sun in whose name Vaivasvata Manu is identified, was born in the constellation of Vishakha in Cakshusha Manvantra. The interesting part of this reference is that the name Vishakha was identified with Skanda in one of the legends. That legend begins with the description of a fire called ‘Adbhuta’ – a reference to naturally occurring forest fires caused by the sun’s heat. But there was a time the fire was about to die – which is a reference to lack of solar heat  - corresponding to the time of Ice Age.

Skanda was born to Adbhuta and Svaha who impersonated the wives of six of the seven ‘Sapta rishis’. That was the time the unchanging positional alignment of the star Arundhati with the star Vasishtha was recognized. That was the time the star Abhijit was removed from the 27-star count of the zodiac and was replaced by the star Krittika. This redesign of the zodiac was done by Skanda! The legend also conveys that at any point of time the zodiac had only 27 stars with a total of 108 Pada-s.

The legend continues that Devendra who felt threatened by the growing strength of Skanda attacked him with his Vajrayudha. It split Skanda into two parts, known as Vishakha (divided). But what was split also became Skanda himself which started spewing fire. This frightened Devendra even more that he conceded defeat and accepted the supremacy of Skanda. He anointed him as the Commander in Chief of the Devas.

This legend sounds symbolic of a fierce lightning strike on the ground which simultaneously witnessed a fissure on the ground or burst of a volcano spewing fire. Skanda must have lived at that time. The cataclysm caused widespread damage to life and property that people had started thinking the ‘Vishakha’s children’ were tormenting them. Skanda had successfully managed to bring succor to the people then.

Vaivasvata Manu had carried the memory of the calamity and the succor given by Vishakha (Skanda) that his progeny (Ikshvaku) started regarding Vishakha as their family star. 

Further on I am discussing the legend of Shura Samhara which was found to be the case of a volcano tormenting the people. A chain of volcanoes had burst around the time – with the probable location along the Sunda trench where Mt Krakatoa, Mt Samalas, Mt Tarakan and Mt Agung are found. The people had run into safety from the bursting volcanoes with the nearest place of refuge being South East India – in the region in and around Tiruchendur.

Mt Agung in Bali is known as Mt Meru - an important location of the temple Pura Besakih. My investigation takes me to the conclusion that Besakih was the probable location of Vishakha – of the Skanda legend. Further legends are to be discussed in the next episode.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Rama’s 14 years, Pandavas’ 13 years and Gandhari’s 36th year.

Is there any specific rationale behind the differing number of years of exile undertaken by Rama and Pandavas is a question I have often heard right from my childhood. The most common answer was the stipulation of 7 years beyond which if a person doesn’t return he/ she can be assumed to be lost forever or kind of ex-communicated. A woman whose husband did not show up for 7 years can treat his absence as lost forever and seek remarriage. Perhaps the former Justice Katju can throw more light on this feature that is part of Indian penal code for divorce cases.

If the person makes appearance after 7 years, certain rites were to be performed for taking the person back into the fold. Based on this rationale the first meeting with the bridegroom –a stranger until then – is done in a temple where the families make friendship with each other in the presence of God.  This was done for the first time acquaintance and also for renewed acquaintances that were away for more than 7 years. Based on this the elders used to say that twice that duration was suggested by Kaikeyi to completely keep Rama ex-communicated.  

This explanation doesn’t fit with the reunion with Rama after 14 years in Nandigrama in the outskirts of the city with no report of rituals of taking him back into the community. This also doesn’t fit with the exile period of the Pandavas. And there is a third instance too – of 35 years in the curse of Gandhari to Krishna. This makes me go through the contexts of the texts where the time period is stipulated. Needless to say it turns out to be rewarding.

Rama’s exile of 14 years.

The idea of 14 year exile is planted by Manthara with the justification that within that period Bharata can get intimate association in the hearts of the people and get stabilized in his kingdom.(VR: 2-9-21) Having laid his roots within the 14 year period, Bharata can stay in power for the remaining period also- even after Rama comes back. (VR: 2-9-31). By the time Rama returns, Bharata would have established his roots firmly by making many friends and drawing people to his side (VR: 2-9-34) All these imply that a 14 year period is needed to cause an influence to endear oneself to people and to erase the memory of the one who was away. It would be difficult for one to make an impact after being away from sight for 14 long years.

In the course of this sermon Manthara doesn’t fail to remind Kaikeyi of an old tussle Kaikeyi had with Kausalya that is likely to be paid back by Kausalya if her son ascends the throne. (VR: 2-8-37) This would cause Kaikeyi and Bharata servile to Kausalya and Rama (VR: 2-8-10 &11)

It must be mentioned here that Rama recounted similar kind of ill-treatment to siblings and their families by the king and his family as a prevailing norm in those days, in the context of accepting Vibhishana in his fold. (VR: 6-18-10 & 14) It was perhaps for reasons that younger siblings cannot thrive under the crowned elder brother, Janaka’s younger brother, Kushadvaja too made his home very far away in the west in a moat in the river Ikshumati (Swat) (VR:1-70-2)

Having said all these, why 14 years is a question that becomes decipherable from Bharat’s first reaction on knowing that Rama had left for the forest.

When Kaikeyi informed Bharata that Rama wearing long narrow pieces of bark went to the forest followed by Lakshmana and Sita (VR: 2-72-42) Bharata feared whether Rama was sent on exile for any unrighteous act. (VR: 2-72-44) This prompted him to ask,

Has not Rama indeed stolen the wealth of some Brahmana?” (VR: 2-72-45)

This is in line with what Manu Smruti says for stealing the gold of a Brahman that,

He who desires to remove by austerities the guilt of stealing the gold (of a Brahmana), shall perform the penance (prescribed) for the slayer of a Brahmana, (living) in a forest and dressed in (garments) made of bark.” (11- 102)

The punishment for slayer of a Brahma is exile to forest as ascetic for 12 years, says Manu Smruti in the same chapter.

For his purification the slayer of a Brahmana shall make a hut in the forest and dwell (in it) during twelve years, subsisting on alms and making the skull of a dead man his flag.” (11-73

Rama was asked by Kaikeyi to lead the life of an ascetic with matted hair, covered with a hide, and living beyond pleasure and pain in the forest. This is same as what Manu Smruti has prescribed for one who either killed a Brahmana or stole his gold. Bharata wondered the whether Rama had stolen the wealth of a Brahma thereby indicating that the nature of exile and duration was in consonance with this clause of Manu. It is 12 years in Manu Smruti, but 14 years for Rama, perhaps adding one year each as sandhi before and after the 12 year rigorous exiled life of an ascetic.

The stipulation of living like an ascetic is repeated at several places in Valmiki Ramayana. While breaking the news of his exile to his mother Kausalya, Rama says that he is going to “live in a solitary (vijane) forest like a sage for fourteen years, leaving off meat and living with roots, fruits and honey.(VR:2-20-29 & 31)

At the time of taking leave of all, Rama asks for “shovel and a basket” (VR: 2-37-5) the two things needed by him in his life as an ascetic to subsist on roots and fruits.

Kaikeyi had no qualms in sending Sita along with him dressed in wooden bark, so that ensures that Sita cannot play a spoilsport to her plans, by drawing people’s sympathy and affection towards her that can work to Rama’s favour when he comes back.

Another probable thought in her mind could be that by the time Rama returns he would have completed 25 years of married life, with the ascetic life in exile ensuring that he would remain childless for that long. By the time he comes back, Bharat’s progeny would be in place and old enough to ensure continuity of Bharata’s lineage.

The solitary life deprives Rama of developing any coterie that could be of help to him on his return to claim the throne. The 14 year long ascetic life as a couple would make them conditioned to such life even after returning to Ayodhya. They may not be able to get back to the city and royal life. This is not possible in 7 year exile. Therefore Kaikeyi (Manthara) had chosen 14 year period.

So we can say that the first issue raised by Bharata on the cause of exile (stealing the wealth of a Brahman) offers a clarity on why the insistence on the life of an ascetic for 14 long years.

But Bharata doesn’t stop with that; he continues to mention 2 more offences that invite the kind of exile that Rama was made to undertake.

They are (1) harm done to either rich or poor virtuous (apaapa / अपाप) person

(2) Desiring the wife of another.

It seems these three (including killing a Brahman or stealing the wealth of a Brahman) invited exile of the kind Rama was made to undertake. Valmiki Ramayana itself becomes the pramana for the 14 year exile – originally derived from 12 year exile of the same kind given by Manu Smruti. This revelation helps in deciphering the 12+1 year exile of the Pandavas.

Pandavas’ exile of 13 years.

The Pandavas were ordained to undergo a straight 12 year exile of the same kind that Rama underwent (ascetic life with barks and hides in the solitude of the forest) with the 13th year (incognito) acting as a buffer to enable the Kauravas pick them out and push them back to another round of exile. The 12 year exile has one relevance as far as Manu Smruti is concerned and two other relevances as per Bharata’s version in Valmiki Ramayana.

With no scope of harm to a Brahmin in the events that unfolded, we can deduce that the other two causes cited by Bharata must be examined to understand the stipulation of 12 year period of exile.

In the first instance of losing the dice game, Draupadi raises the legality of her status as the wife of the five Pandavas. Her status as wife of five brothers was against the norm of the day as known from frequent derisions thrown at her. Notwithstanding that her status was approved by her mother in law, it remains questionable if it was approved by the ethics of the then society. Since the tenets of Dharma are very subtle for us to understand, I am left with pointing out what could be her status as wives of other four if she is accepted as won in the dice game as a property of the eldest Pandava. This attracts the third point in Bharata’s narration for causes for the exile. I am leaving this to the reader to ponder over and not want to elaborate it here. 

After Draupadi and the Pandavas were let off, they were once again called back to play the dice game. It was then the 12+1 year exile condition was made. The winner could take up all the wealth of the other which will be returned if the loser successfully completed 13 year exile. The 12 year exile being the core component here, I am led to link the other cause given by the Bharata, that of harm done to rich or poor virtuous person.

It begins from the time before the Pandavas were born. Pandu relinquished the throne in favour of his elder brother Dhritarashtra and left to the forest where the five sons were born. On their return to the country troubles had started.  What would be the stance of the Kauravas who had legally inherited the kingdom from their father that was legally given by the father of the Pandavas?

When they were not willing to and not bound to part with any part of the kingdom, the ceding away of the territory to the Pandavas however barren it may be, under coercion and persuasion by the elders would be seen by them as injustice meted out to them. From this angle, the Kaurava-side contention will be that of losing their wealth for no fault of theirs. This is the other cause given by Bharata for exile which must have been an accepted norm of the day.

When the Kauravas could not subdue the Pandavas by other means, they must have felt justified in 12 year exile demand in the dice game, by virtue of legal heirs to the kingdom. The way the elders had kept quiet through all these goes to show that the elders were not able to take contrary stance with reference to this clause on exile.

The bottom-line for the topic of this blog is that the 12 year exile was prompted by any of the last two causes mentioned by Bharata in Valmiki Ramayana. Much like Kaikeyi, the Kauravas had intended to isolate the Pandavas while enabling themsleves strengthen friendship with as many kingdoms as possible in their absence. They penetrated the friends of Pandavas and got the brother of Krishna (Balarama) speak for their side. They even maintained friendly relations with the maternal uncle (Shalya) of Nakula and Sahadeva. 

Unfortunately for them, the Pandavas too had a huge network or friends and relatives by the time they left on exile. They managed all the networking and contacts in their absence - something expected to be non-existent in favour of Rama when Kaikeyi devised her plan.

Gandhari’s curse of destruction on the 36th year.

The following is produced from my upcoming book on the Date of Mahabharata war (wherein I have defended the traditional date 35 years before Kali Yuga started / Krishna left the world)

(Should not be reproduced without my consent)

“On seeing the death of her children and all relatives in the war Gandhari vented out her frustration at Krishna that he (Krishna) after causing the slaughter of his kinsmen would perish in the wilderness on the 36th year.  On the 36th year a huge carnage did take place wiping out the Krishna-clan.

The number 36 has a special relevance for the welfare of one’s progeny. A 36-year sacrifice (sattra) was in vogue during Mahabharata times. It is known from Pancavimsa Brahmana that the descendants of Sakti had conducted 36 year sattra.  By the mention of Gauriviti as one who did the satttra  , Sakti is identified as the father of Parasara whose son was Vyasa. It is further said in the Brahmana text that the one who performs this sattra gets rulership and also ten strong sons.  Without doubt this sattra must have been popular with the Kauravas, the Pandavas and the Vrishinis. 

As biological descendants of Vyasa, the Kuru kings could have performed the sattra. Perhaps the Kauravas could not complete the 36 year long sattra or else they could have won the war, retained rulership and children. It is doubtful the Pandavas had completed the sattra in view of the exile they had to undertake. Only the Vrishinis had survived the war and were expected to prosper more in the years after the war. The Vrishnis headed by Krishna were very clever in having chosen to support both the warring sides. Whichever side wins the war, the Vrishnis would bring home the advantages of the winner.

Gandhari’s anger naturally turned towards Krishna who she accused as not having worked enough to avert the slaughter of the Kuru-s. The Kauravas lost their progeny, so did the Pandavas by the time the war ended, but only the Vrishnis survived! The Vrishnis were already known for wealth creation and didn’t mind relocating to newer terrains (Dvaraka) to safeguard their wealth, works and resources.  Their clan continued to be intact after the war, unlike the Kuru clan which suffered heavy losses. Gandhari’s anger was such that the new 36 year sattra that was likely to be initiated by the Vrishnis after the war was over should collapse at the penultimate hour, thereby wiping out their progeny and rulership.

This gives rise to the presumption that the Kauravas failed to complete the 36 year sattra and lost in the last year of the Sattra. This caused Gandhari to cast a similar doom on Vrishnis whom she thought would initiate the Sattra for their welfare. It is not known if the sattra was done by the Vrishnis, but their end came in the 36th year just before the Sun entered Aries with all the planets gathered around it.”