The most often used term in the Mahābhārata is ‘Nimitta’ which means ‘omen’. The nimitta can be good or bad and seen on one’s own body or in one’s surroundings. Popular example for nimitta-s experienced on one’s body is that of Sītā who started noticing odd throbs in her body while she was about to end her life. She felt a quiver on her left eye, left shoulder and left thigh which are regarded as auspicious nimitta-s (VR: 5.29.4). Feeling these sensations in her body, she regained her calm that something good was going to happen and no sooner than this, Hanumān appeared before her as a messenger of Rāma.
In the Mahābhārata too, Arjuna experienced such nimitta-s on his body - as goosebumps, dryness on his face and his skin and a shiver in his hands such that his famous bow kept dropping down. He recognized them as inauspicious nimitta-s (MB: 6.23.29-31) and decided not to fight. These nimitta-s felt by oneself on one’s own body while passing through moments of distress or agony, appear as forewarnings from the Antarātman (the In-Dweller within oneself) about what is going to happen.
When nimitta-s appear in Nature, at the three levels of existence, namely Bhūḥ, Bhuvaḥ and Svaḥ (terrestrial, including the animal and the bird kingdom, atmospheric and celestial), they seem to be the forewarnings given by the Paramātman. The Universe is the body of the Paramātman and in tune with the saying that if something were to happen, the entire universe will conspire to make it happen, the indications are seen at all levels of the visible universe. These include eclipses and the falling objects (meteors) which are observed for their size, colour, rays, brilliancy, shape etc. When seen with odd behavior of animals and birds at the terrestrial level and abnormal features at the atmosphere, they are noted as nimitta-s.
Almost all the so-called ‘astronomy observations’ found in the Mahābhārata are nimitta-s of this nature and mentioned along with terrestrial and atmospheric nimitta-s. For example, an eclipse is a nimitta only if sighted with an inauspicious appearance and also along with adverse indications at terrestrial and atmospheric levels. During the entire period of the Mahābhārata story, many eclipses had occurred but not all of them were mentioned as nimitta-s. Only three eclipses find mention in the text as nimitta-s and are described along with the nimitta-s at the other levels of Nature. In this way, more than seventy-five nimitta-s were mentioned by Vyāsa, thirty-two by Karṇa and sixteen Drona. They were either mentioned at the moment of appearance or soon after the event of the observation, but invariably linked with a bad effect.
One will be surprised to know that the spiteful talks of Karṇa and Duryodhana when Draupadī was humiliated were brought to an end by Dhṛtarāṣṭra not by any saner counsel, but on hearing the howl of a jackal in the Agnihotra (homa) chamber, followed by the braying of asses and the cries of birds – something perceived as ‘nimitta.’ (MB: 2.63.22-24). Vidura and Gandhārī who were well versed in the features of this kind of “utpātam ghoram” conveyed this nimitta to Dhṛtarāṣṭra and that made him call for a halt to the harassment to Draupadī and give her boons by which she got the Pāndava-s released from bondage.
Extra-terrestrial impact on the moon and the earth
As we go through all the nimitta-s given in the Mahābhārata, we get amazing hints at the odd events that caused such nimitta-s. The oddest of all is a weird observation pertaining to the moon. Before leaving Hastināpura on his peace mission, Krishna had a personal talk with Karṇa, when Karṇa stated, “somasya lakṣma vyāvṛttaṃ” (MB: 5.141.10). The same verse was repeated by Vyāsa to Dhṛtarāṣṭra before the war began – “vyāvṛttaṃ lakṣma somasya” (MB: 6.2.32). This literally means, “The mark (sign) of the moon became separated or parted with.” This observation looks bizarre but it refers to some abnormality with reference to the features found on the lunar disc.
Waning phase of the moon with the lunar mark shifted (hypothetical)
Scientifically speaking, atmospheric turbulence can make the lunar surface shimmer for naked eye observation, by which the dark marks on the lunar surface appear blinking or shaky. Such appearances are common even today that a regular sky watcher can see the shimmering appearance many times in his life. But here, a single mark is said to have appeared separately which is observable only if it appeared on the featureless part of the moon. Every other nimitta, given by Karṇa and Vyāsa seem to be centred around this odd nimitta pertaining to the moon.
For instance, Vyāsa, referred to an Amāvāsyā (No-Moon) on the thirteenth tithi, which is impossible to happen in nature (MB: 6.3.28). A tithi is a lunar day, just 12-degree distance travelled by the moon from the sun in the sky. Counted from the Full Moon Day (Paurṇamī), the 15th part occurs on the No-Moon Day at 168 to 180 degrees. At times Amāvāsyā had started before 168 degrees but ended up between 168 and 180 degrees (from 14th to 15th phase), but it can never start on the 13th tithi (between 144 and 156 degrees).
The 13th tithi Amāvāsyā can never happen unless the circumference of the moon’s orbit had changed from the original. As per current knowledge, the moon is 252,088 miles away from us at the farthest distance and 225,623 miles when it is at the closest. The average orbital distance is 238,855 miles. At the average distance 30 phases occur that correspond to 30 tithi-s (15 in waxing and 15 in waning phase).
The duration of a phase at average distance = 238,855 / 30 = 7961.8 miles.
Now let us find out the range between the closest and farthest.
252088 - 238855 = 13233 miles.
This divided by 7961.8 = 1.66
This means that between the closest and the farthest orbit of the moon, the phases can vary within 2 phases (1.66) only.
At the farthest it is 15 +1
At the closest it is 15-1 (14th tithi)
That is why never it is stated in any text of astrology that Amāvāsyā (No-Moon) or Paurṇamī (Full-Moon) can happen on the 13th tithi. If the 13th tithi phase occurs, then it means something went amiss with the moon. This drift can happen over millions of years but not in a day or within a phase or two, i.e., within a month.
Oral Legend about the earlier than normal Amāvāsyā
The earlier than normal Amāvāsyā finds mention in an oral legend in the Tamil speaking regions, of Kṛṣṇa choosing to do Pitru Tarpana well before the expected day of Amāvāsyā to deny the advantage of starting the war preparations on Amāvāsyā, by the Kaurava-s. Perplexed by Kṛṣṇa’s action, the sun and the moon approached him saying that the Amāvāsyā had not yet come. Kṛṣṇa pointed out that Amāvāsyā occurred then and there since both the sun and the moon had come together. This story has a flaw. Kṛṣṇa could not have done the Tarpana because his father was alive at that time. He passed away only after Krishna left the world. But the main theme of this story is the arrival of Amāvāsyā well before the normal time which is not possible unless something disturbed the earth-moon system upsetting the regular time-motion speed.
Suppose the fragments of an extra-terrestrial object hit the earth and the moon simultaneously with great speed, the earth-moon system (z-axis) gets disturbed causing both the earth and the moon take up different alignment before they regain their normal. This is not the first time we come across a disturbance to the moon in the Vedic texts. In Raivata manvantara, the fall of Revatī by the kick of the sage Ṛtavāc and the subsequent return to the original path by the moon is suggestive of a simultaneous cosmic hit on the earth-moon in a distant past, by which we come to know that the early society had noticed a change in the path of the moon and a return to the path in course of time (Markandeya Purana: Ch.75).
In the Mahābhārata too, right from the time Kṛṣṇa started his peace mission on Revatī, till his return on the day of Uttara Phalguni in the month of Kārtika, there are frequent references to nimitta-s suggesting meteor-showers and their after-effects. The impact on the first day was terrible that water flowed in opposite direction in seven rivers including the River Sindhu (MB: 5.82.6). While Karṇa referred to Meteors (Ulkā) falling from the sky with loud noise (MB: 5.141.10), Vyāsa was more explicit stating “dhūmaketur mahāghoraḥ puṣyam ākramya tiṣṭhati” (MB: 6.3.12).
The word Dhūmaketu generally refers to a comet and it turns out to be so in this verse too, going by the description of nimitta-s after Bhīṣma was made the chief of the army on that day. The hit is similar to the crash of the comet Shoemaker-Levy on Jupiter, after being caught in the gravitational field of Jupiter in 1994, and breaking into several pieces and falling on Jupiter over a span of seven days with the biggest fragment falling on the 3rd day.
Scientific evidence for the meteor-hit in the Mahābhārata
Scientifically speaking, simultaneous collision of fragments on the earth and the moon has a probability ratio of 23:1. The impact of a major cosmic hit on the earth is detected as a rapid temperature drop in GISP2 graph. The meteor/fragments entering the Earth atmosphere, at 2000-3000 C, produce different radioactive substances, such as 10-B (radioactive Beryllium) and 14-C and are reflected as several proxies.
Interestingly, four sharp drops are noticed in GISP2 graphs around 5000 years ago with three of them located on the earth with only one not detected historically. That was 3136 BCE – the year of the Mahābhārata war. The description of the nimitta-s months before the war point out to the “Hastināpura event” matching with the rapid temperature fall in the GISP2 graph. The four dates and the locations are,
1. Andaman Sea 3210 BC
2. Hastināpura 3136 BC
3. Morasko 3040 BC
4. Burckle 2920 BC
3136 BCE was the 36th year before Kṛṣṇa left his mortal coils which marked the first year of Kali Yuga – a time scale that we continue to use in our country for all religious purposes. The Kali Year is well marked in numerous inscriptions at 3101 BCE, which was 3179 years before the current Śaka, the third Śaka, namely Śālivāhana Śaka. The year of Mahābhārata war being Pre-Kali 35, the comet hit described by various nimitta-s fit well with the GISP2 graph of a meteor impact in the same year.
Graph courtesy: Joachim Seifert, Climate scientist
A major proxy for a meteor impact is the abundant release of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) in the atmosphere. It is reddish-brown in colour that it causes red clouds, bloody rains and makes the waters appear blood-red in colour. All these are repeatedly expressed as nimitta-s in the Mahābhārata.
There is a research article by Dr. Dr. Quanzhi Ye and others of a comet breaking up near the orbit of Mercury 5000 years ago, reported in the NASA website on 19th August, 2021. This gives a scenario of broken parts strewn around, some of them racing towards the earth and the moon and hitting them over a period of 13 days, with the bigger fragments falling on the 1st and the 9th day. That comet was seen by the earthlings, claims the article. Vyāsa’s assertion “Dhūmaketur mahāghoraḥ puṣyam ākramya tiṣṭhati” (MB: 6.3.12) goes to prove that the people had seen the Comet and also seen it appear horrible on Puṣya day after which it was no longer visible. That is why he used the term ‘tiṣṭhati’. The visible comet turned invisible by the Puṣya day, though the initial broken pieces started descending on the earth from the day of Revatī.
Evidence of the meteor-hit at Mohenjo-Daro
The most credible evidence of the impact exists in the Sindhu region but is mired with controversies for nearly 100-years. This comes from the strewn skeletons found in the Lower Town in Mohenjo-Daro, presumed to be “massacre victims” of the invading Aryans, by the proponents of the Aryan Invasion theory. However, a study by David Davenport found out radiation in the site, caused by intense heat followed by sudden cooling. Moreover, the strange sight of all the four sites of the so-called ‘massacre’ in a straight line shows a high probability of a shower of meteors - a strong case of which exists in the Mahābhārata.
Picture courtesy: Hemphill Brian (2020)
The location of the Great Bath so close to this site but not having any sign calamity goes to show that the Lower Town was the oldest and the original township during the Mahābhārata period. The Great Bath coming up in the Mature phase of the Harappan after 2800 BCE, it goes without saying that no calamitous crash had taken place after the Great Bath was built. By the next millennium, the crash site in the Lower Town accumulated debris and the memory of the gory past was completely forgotten. The locally prevalent meaning of this place, Mohenjo-Daro as the “Mound of the Dead”, was perhaps derived from a long-lost memory of the crash during the Mahābhārata time.
The discovery of this site offered fodder to the Aryan debate. With the comet-theory backed the Mahābhārata, it is time a fresh approach is made to examine the date of this site and the dead. This region is more likely to have borne the brunt of the collision mentioned in the Mahābhārata.
This article is based on my book “Mahabharata 3136 BCE: Validation of the Traditional Date”.
To get a copy of the book write to firstname.lastname@example.org