Bhishma’s conversation with the Pandavas continued.
Day 3 of the conversation with Bhishma (Magha Shukla Pancami)
- The next morning after doing the morning oblations, the Pandavas and the Yadavas set out to meet Bhishma. 
- After answering the queries of Yudhishthira, Bhishma replied to a question of Nakula on how the first sword was created. Bhishma’s response was in the form of a story of a powerful being called “Asi” falling from the sky as fire whose shape was incorporated in the design of the first sword. This sword-like streak of fire falling from the sky suggests a huge meteor fall. A similar story is repeated by Markandeya to the Pandavas at the time of their exile, as having taken place during Skanda’s time. These are mentioned here to show that Mahabharata does contain information on cosmic impacts in the past.
- After the conversation was over, the text says that Yudhishtira returned home and discussed with his brothers and Vidura the information they had received from Bhishma until then. This gave rise to an opinion among some researchers that Yudhishthira went alone on the 3rd day. Nakula’s question on the sword appearing in the conversation of the 3rd day refutes this assumption. The discussion on the night of the 3rd day among the brothers seems to be a recap of whatever they had received from Bhishma, with Yudhishthira raising certain questions on Dharma to all the five (4 Pandavas and Vidura) and seeking their explanations to know what they had understood from the conversation so far with Bhishma.
- All of them were satisfied with the answers given by each other. This conversation at that night seems to imply that they had almost come to the end of gaining required knowledge from Bhishma.
- At the end of the same chapter on Yudhishtira discussing with his brothers, it is said that he left to meet “saridvarāsutaṃ” – Saridvarā being the name of River Ganga! (punaś ca papraccha saridvarāsutaṃ)
- After having heard all the duties and sacred acts from Bhishma, certain questions were raised by Yudhishtira, says Vaisampayana to the king Janamejaya. That conversation has stood the test of time to be present among the ordinary mortals today, even after 5000 years, as the famous “Vishnu Sahasranāma.”
- Yudhishthira asked Bhishma to name of the One god of the world who is the sole refuge of mankind - by worshiping whom man gets benefited. He also wanted to know the foremost religion of all religions.
śrutvā dharmān aśeṣeṇa pāvanāni ca sarvaśaḥ
yudhiṣṭhiraḥ śāṃtanavaṃ punar evābhyabhāṣata
2 kim ekaṃ daivataṃ loke kiṃ vāpy ekaṃ parāyaṇam
stuvantaḥ kaṃ kam arcantaḥ prāpnuyur mānavāḥ śubham
3 ko dharmaḥ sarvadharmāṇāṃ bhavataḥ paramo mataḥ
kiṃ japan mucyate jantu janma saṃsārabandhanāt 
- Bhishma gave thousand names of that One God, Vishnu. This narration contains 142 verses in which after the first three narrated by Vaisampayana, the rest were by Bhishma that includes the 10 verses following Vaisamapayana’s verses and the rest starting from “Visvam Vishnur..” until the end of Phala-sruti as it is being recited today, with the last verse being,
142. viśveśvaram ajaṃ devaṃ jagataḥ prabhavāpyayam
bhajanti ye puṣkarākṣaṃ na te yānti
· This rendition had taken place on Magha Shukla Shashthi, just a day (tithi) before Bhishma left the world.
The traditional date of Vishnu Sahasranāma vs the derived date
The currently held opinion is that Vishnu Sahasranāma was delivered on Magha Shukla Ekadasi (known as Bhishma Ekadasi), but the date derived here is Magha Shukla Shashthi.
· Bhishma Ekadasi in the lunar month of Magha is untenable for the reason it comes after the date Bhishma left the world.
· Bhishma’s own version of leaving on Magha Shukla Ashtami is the primary evidence of his date of leaving which makes any date after that unrealistic.
· Therefore Bhishma Ekadasi can at best be replaced by Bhishma Shashthi – the actual day of delivery of Vishnu Sahasranāma
The question remains how this date came into tradition.
A probe into this question brings out a surprise element that this date is one tithi behind the Uttarayana date of that year (Parivatsara – Vishvavasu), i.e. Shukla Trayodasi in the original (pre-comet-hit) calendar – in very much the same way Shukla Shashthi is one tithi behind Shukla Ashtami!
The analysis of the Mahabharata dates must have been going on in the past that the researchers of those times must have found out the number of days of conversation. They might have treated the Shukla Ashtami Uttarayana verse of Bhishma as an interpolation and stuck to the original calendar day of Shukla Trayodasi. The next question comes here, on how they found out the original calendar.
To find out this calendar, all one needs to know is the traditional Kali Yuga date. The traditional date was common-place knowledge through the millennia – unlike the absence of it among the present-day people. And that date coincided with vernal equinox at the beginning of Aries is also common-place knowledge – which is still being retained as the year-beginning in South India. Vernal equinox at the beginning of Aries implies that Uttarayana started at the beginning of Capricorn (Makara) at the star Uttarashadha. The tithi in which the moon joined the sun at that place marked the day of Uttarayana in the first year of the 5-year Yuga. From that one can construct the dates of Uttarayana for the other four years.
In this way the ancestral people had derived Magha Shukla Trayodasi as the day of Uttarayana as the time of Bhishma leaving the world.By deducting a tithi, they assumed that Shukla Ekadasi must have been the time of rendition of Vishnu Sahasranāma. From where the single tithi difference is deduced will be discussed in the course of this part.
Day 4 of the conversation continued.
- Krishna was present at that moment of the rendition by Bhishma and his lineage and fame was narrated by Bhishma only in the previous chapter. Following the delivery of Vishnu Sahasranāma and other mantras, Krishna imparted “Sata- rudriya” – hundred names of Rudra to Yudhishthira on being asked to impart the knowledge he gained from the sage, Durvāsa.
- This is mentioned here to convey that religious sectarianism of the Hindus as found today was not present in Mahabharata. All Gods find mention in the text and each God is associated with certain fruits of worship. Ganesha for auspiciousness, Skanda for valour and Shakti for success find place in Mahabharata.
- After imparting few more mantras, Bhishma fell silent. Gently prompted by Vyasa to give leave for the entourage, Bhishma bid them farewell asking them to return once the sun turned northward - “dinakare pravṛtte cottarāyaṇe”.
- This expression could confuse us as to whether it is about the true position of the sun turning to north but we should not lose sight of the fact that the exact turning is not possible in four out of five years of the 5-year Yuga. The expected arrival of Uttarayana was in the second year and therefore Uttarayana could not match with the true position, but it was referred so obviously because that was meant to be the day of Uttarayana.
- What Yudhishthira told earlier on “śeṣam alpaṃ dinānāṃ” for the southward sun to turn northward – was truly about very few days – less than five days.
- The conversation lasted for four days but the knowledge transfer took place only on the last three days.
- At the end of the 4th day, all of them started back and in this context comes the mention of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari leading the group back home.
- This implies that the elders had accompanied the Pandavas on the 4th day, with Uttarayana round the corner.
- By the 4th day the Pandavas seemed to have become content with whatever they learned from Bhishma. Looking back, the discussion among the Pandavas on the night of the 3rd day is truly a recap of the knowledge they gained in the two days (2nd and the 3rd day)
The sequence of the 4 days of conversation after the day of coronation is shown in Figure 1.From the day of coronation, Yudhishthira spent only five nights at Hastinapur. The next day was Shukla Saptami when the sun turned north. The absence of any information between the last day conversation and the Saptami day in addition to the “alpam sesham” verse do indicate that the day was nearing.
Fig 1: The days of conversation
The final sequencing of the dates for Bhishma’s 58 days along with the days of the war is furnished in Figure 2 (To be seen from right to left).
Fig 2: Bhishma’s 58 days.
· There is perfect alignment of the dates of war. Two eclipses occurred within the 19 days of the war of which the 19th day solar eclipse was an extended tithi.
· The extended tithi at the time of Gada Yuddha is found compensated by a kshaya tithi in the counting. I just placed it in the waning phase of the Adhika masa.
· Counting started from the night before Bharani Yajna (Rana Yajna) when Pushya Shukla Dasami was running.
· Pushya Shukla Dasami to Full moon = 6 tithis
· Pushya waning phase = 15 tithis
· Magha Adhika masa = 30 tithis
· Nija Magha Shukla paksha Saptamī = 7 tithis
· Total = 58 tithis
Bhishma had meant the counting in tithis.
· The calculation is same as above but started after Gitopadesa when Pushya Shukla Dwadasi began. Shukla Dwadasi was running on the night of Gitopadesa and was present at day break on the 1st day of the war.
The very next chapter following the 4th day conversation with Bhishma is about the last day of Bhishma. However the 5th verse of this chapter states that “The blessed monarch having passed fifty nights in the capital recollected the time indicated by his grandsire as the hour of his departure from this world.”
uṣitvā śarvarīḥ śrīmān pañcāśan nagarottame (13-153-5)
The number 50 doesn’t match with the derivation we made so far.
· Yudhishthira spent his first night in the capital on the night of coronation.
· This is reiterated by the details on the palaces allotted to the Pandava brothers coming after the description on the coronation and the shraddha ceremonies. That day was Magha Shukla Dwitīya.
· The conversation with Bhishma ended on Magha Shukla Shashthi. From Dwitīya to Shashthi, five nights of stay were over. The next day was Shukla Saptamī when the sun turned north (now popularly remembered as Ratha Saptami).
· Therefore the word should have been pañcāha (पञ्चाह), not pañcāśa (पञ्चाश) (Fig 3)
Pañcāha = period of 5 days, lasting 5 days (Source: Katāsarit sāgara)
Pañcāha = oblation with 5 Sautyā days (Source: Srauta Sutra, Brāhmana)
Fig 3: Sanskrit dictionary http://sanskritdictionary.com/scans/?col=1&img=mw0578.jpg
The problems in accepting extra 50 days (nights):
- The entire duration of the waiting period, be it 56 days or 58 days cannot go beyond the commencement day of Uttarayana.
- The Uttarayana of Mahabharata time cannot be simulated in any astronomy software, for no software is incorporated with the settings applicable to the 5-year Yuga.
- The Uttarayana of Mahabharata times has to be deduced on the basis of tithi- star- month etc. for the 5 years in the 5 year Yuga calendar.
- Therefore it is suspected that there was a scribal error in writing pañcāha as pañcāśa.
- This is the first time so far in this series I am referring to a scribal error – but I have rectified it with evidence.
So there were only five nights spent by the Pandavas before the final day of Bhishma. The next day the sun ‘turned’ north and after that Bhishma left. This must have weighted in the minds of the analysts of yore who arrived at Shukla Ekadasi - one tithi before the original Uttarayana tithi if no cosmic impact had taken place. The mishap from the sky must have been beyond the comprehension of the past analysts as it is now.
The next day arrived with Saptami at sunrise. Placing Dhritarashtra in the lead the Pandavas along with Gandhari, Kunti, Krishna and a number of priests started proceeding towards Kurukshetra.
(To be continued)