Saturday, May 4, 2013

Knowledge of Panchanga existed in Silappadhikaram times. (part 2)

(continued from the previous post - Part - 1)

In that (Tamil) society nothing was done without the advice of the astrologer.
To cite an example, the local poet of the village used to consult the village astrologer on the right time to go the king and the prospects of getting a hefty reward from the king. He says in verse 204 of Pura Nanuru, that if the king (by name Valvil Ori) did not give him the rewards, he would not blame the king,  but the blame his "time" and the nimitthas when he started. This king Valvil Ori lived 2000 years ago which can be cross checked from a copper coin found in Karur and now housed in Karur Museum and the inscription found in Pugalur hills. My Tamil article on this can be read here  In the absence of Sangam Tamil sources, people would have deduced that this coin was a Roman coin as Roman traders used to frequent this place (Karur) and many Roman coins have been found here. A similar hazard is happening in the current issue on Aries claiming it to be a Greek invention.

Yet another example that I want to quote is that astrologers were consulted even for stealing! The famous Tamil Epic Silappadhikaram of the 2nd century AD, devotes a full chapter on a community of hunters who used to steal the cattle and distribute them to the people in their village including the astrologers. (Silappadhikaram – chapter 12). This type of culture of stealing the cattle was part of ancient culture of the Tamils which is mentioned in the grammar works that in the fringe regions of the country, where the king could not have effective control over protecting his subjects, thieving or stealing cattle was allowed as a dharmic act as that was done to the benefit of the entire community. The highlight is that astrologers were consulted for fixing the fruitful time for stealing!

In the same Silappadhikaram, in the scene where the gold smith was trying to convince the security guards that Kovalan was indeed a thief, he was quoting information from the Shastra for stealing (in Tamil "KaLavu nool") This Shastra is one among the 64 forms of art. This shastra contains information on astrology which a thief must know so that he can choose the right time to steal and escape successfully. In particular he mentioned the basic 8 things of this shastra that the thief (Kovalan) must have mastered and continued to justify them relating to the events. Jyothish related factors in that list are Tantra karana, Nimittha, time factor. (Silappadhikaram -chapter 16 – lines 166 -190) Tantra Karana as we know contains knowledge of moon and planets. The timing of stealing requires the knowledge of all the five angas of Panchanga. The best (or worst) kind of stealing or even murder can be carried out without hassle and with success in specific combination of all these 5 factors. The thief as well as others of that time of Silappadhikaram had possessed the knowledge of astrology used in crimes.

In the same period of this incident mentioned in Silappadhikaram there comes another mention of the "Perum GaNi"The Chief Astrologer who was one among the four members of the Cheran king's advisors. The Kula Guru or Acharya (AsaAn), Perum GaNi (Chief astrologer), Chief Minister and Chief of the Army were accompanying the Cheran king wherever he went or when he was in the Royal court. When the king finalised the decision to go to the Himalayas to gather a suitable stone with which he can carve out the image of Kannagi, (on whose life Silappadhikaram revolves around), it was the chief astrologer's turn to give his bit of advice. There the poet gives some crucial information. The poet was a contemporary of that King and was his own younger brother. So whatever he says is taken as pertaining to that period. He says that Chief astrologer possessed the knowledge of 12 signs and the position of the planets in them in addition to the knowledge of the five. 

The verse is as follows:
"ARiru madhiyinum kAruga vadip payinRu
Aindhu kELviyum amainthOn"  (Silappadhikaram chapter 26 – lines 25, 26)

ஆறிரு மதியினுங் காருக வடிப் பயின்று
ஐந்து கேள்வியும் அமைந்தோன்"

From the commentary of Adiyaarkku nallaar belonging to the pre- 9th century AD:-

ARiru = 6 X 2 = 12
madhiyinum = the signs where moon moves.
kAruga vadi = kaarugam + adi
KArugam = planets
Adi = foot-steps / movement 
payinRu = learnt
Aindhu = five
kELvi =  knowledge.
The five knowledge are the Pancha angas of the almanac. Adiyaarkku nallar says that they mean thithi, vara, nakshatra, yOga and karaNa.

He says that the Chief astrologer had the knowledge of the movement of planets in the 12 signs. He also knew the Five angas of Panchanga. The commentator further says that the five-some knowledge could also mean (1) friendly, (2) own, (3) exalted, (4) inimical and (5) debilitated positions of the planets. If the poet had meant this, this is a sufficient proof of the knowledge of signs.

The poet continues to say that the chief astrologer possessing (the above mentioned) knowledge rose up and said "Muzhuththam eengkithu"  (Silappadhikaram chapter 26 – line 30), meaning "now is the Muhurtha (auspicious time)" – so that the king can start immediately. As it is impossible for the king to start in such a short notice, the practice was to do a symbolic shifting. This was done by ceremoniously shifting the Royal Umbrella of the King to another place. This is an age old practice is followed in Tamil nadu even now by shifting a thing that a person is going to carry with him to another place at an auspicious time. This practice was there from time immemorial – as it is found mentioned as a sutra in the Sangam Grammar book of Tholkappiyam (Chapter 2- 69). There are so many sub-classes coming under this category based on the thing that is shifted. It could be the sword, Drum or Umbrella or any object of the paraphernalia of the king.  Unless this practice was a common and frequent one, this kind of main class and sub-class division of shifting the things on an auspicious hour would not have found mention in Tholkappiyam. King Karikal Chola – of the 1st century CE also did the same thing, according to the 9th century commentator Nacchinarkkiniyar.

Every such practice that Tholkaappiyam has mentioned is not a newly formed one at the time of writing of the Tholkappiyam. Tholkappiyar says in more than 100 places in this book, that he is only repeating what was told by scholars of the previous times or what was practiced in previous times. That is why we see Tholkappiyam as a mirror of ancient Tamil culture. This practice of symbolic shifting of a thing in an auspicious Muhurtha pushes the knowledge and practice of Muhurtha astrology to a far earlier time before the Common Era.

The basic minimum factors that are taken for computation of Muhurtha for such a shift are Tara bala and Chandra bala. The Chandra bala is based on Moon's position in a rashi with reference to the janma rashi of the person. In this context let me point out that the use of the word Madhi (meaning Moon) in the above quoted verse looks strange. There is a more suitable word called "il" for the rashi. "Il" means the house of the planet. (Pingala NigaNdu and Choodamani NigaNdu – the two popular Tamil thesaurus of the 9th century AD ). But the poet had chosen the word Madhi whose popular meaning is 'moon'. The literal meaning of the verse is " The position of planets in the 12 places that moon transits". This reference to Moon seems to be related to the "Chandra bala" factor that the Chief astrologer would take into account in deciding the auspicious muhurtha. 

The knowledge of Panchanga also means the existence of the system of Navanayakas. Except the King, every other entity of the Navanayaka is deduced from the entry of the sun into some sign of the zodiac. Infact there are rulers for sankramana  / entry of the sun into each and every rashi.

The poem also contains some astrological information, the most important of which is the curse on Madurai of an outbreak of fire on the waning period in the solar month of Gemini (called as Adi in Tamil) when the star Krittika joins Ashtami thithi and Friday. (Silappadhikaram - chapter -23 – 133 to 135). This curse was given in an undated past – prior to the period of Silappadhikaram.  This takes the well established knowledge of the astrology to many years or centuries in the period before the Common Era. The thithi- vara- nakshatra- maasa combination of this date is the effect of prevalence of Panchanga  at a date before the Common Era. This date continues to be very important throughout Tamilnadu even today. The last Friday of the month of Aadi is known for 'fire-walk' in most of the Amman temples of Tamilnadu – because it was on the last Friday of Adi (Gemini) that Madurai was put on fire by Kannagi.  Adi – Kritthikai is a special occasion in the Amman temples. This is the impact of kannagi's episode.

Before explaining further, we have to establish the time period of Silappadhikaram without any doubt. There are 2 historical clues in Silappadhikaram to deduce the time period. One was that a King called Kayavaahu (Kayabahu) of Lanka participated in the consecration ceremony of the Kannagi temple. From Buddhist accounts of Lanka there was a Kayabahu who ruled Lanka in the early part of 2nd century AD.

Another clue is that the King Senguttuvan was a friend of SatakarNis (in Tamil this is written as 'nooRRuvar kannar'). Senguttuvan had to settle score with two kings of the Aryavartha (Kanaka and Vijaya, sons of Balakumara– whose identity is not known from the presently available information) who teased him on his earlier visit to the North when he went with his widowed mother to pay oblations to his late father in the Ganges. At that time he did not take his army with him. He wanted to take revenge on them and utilized the trip to the Himalayas to do that. The Satakarnis provided him with boats to cross the Ganges and he won the war on Kanaka- Vijaya. There is another information towards the end of the story that this king Senguttuvan scored a victory over the 'foul- mouthed YAVANAS' (வன் சொல் யவனர் வளநாடு ஆண்டு) before he reached the Himalayas. (Silappadhikaram, chapter 28 – 141 & 142)

This information is not found in any of the North Indian chronicles. But Silappadhikaram says that he won the Yavanas. Looking at the context that he was accompanied with the Satakarnis, it becomes obvious that the king who helped him was Gautami Putra Satakarni who won over the Yavanas. In his war against the Yavanas, the Cheran king also had fought along with him.  Gautami Putra Satakarmni ruled between 78- 102 CE. This puts the time of Silappadhikaram to the end of 1st century.

Silapapdhikaram says that after winning over the Yavanas, the Cheran king reached the Himalayas and procured the stone. This location must be near Amarnath caves as there were similar expeditions by other two Tamil kings (Pandyan and Cholan) to Amarnath whose name is Paruppadam in Tamil.  The route to Amarnath passes through Yavana countries in the land of five rivers. The description given in Silappadhikaram fits with the route.