The Mahabharata Research
Dating the Kurukshetra War
Incidentally, the dating of the Mahabharata War has been a matter of challenge and has become a controversy for a century or two. Mahabharata war is said to have occurred before the transition of Dwapara Yuga to Kali Yuga. Dating the Mahabharata war and start of Kaliyuga has been elusive and going on for many centuries. The oldest known suggestion of a possible date for the Mahabharata war dates back to Aryabhatta, and over centuries there have been a lot of arguments and reasoning done to expand the number of possible dates to around 50 different proposal from a period between 1,000 to 3,500BC (a few researchers have thrown up dates around 5,500BC as well). The list of researchers trying to demysify the date or Mahabharata war includes astronomers, archaeologies, historians, indologists and religious scholars, and accordingly the source for prediction also varies.
Based on the multple sources that project the date of Mahabharata War, it is highly likely that the war happened around 3000 BC. A few of the most reliable sources and the reasoning behind those are detailed below.
Dating the war based on Inscriptions and literature
Attempts to date the events using methods of archaeoastronomy have produced, depending on which passages are chosen and how they are interpreted, estimates ranging from the late 4th to the mid-2nd millennium BCE. The late 4th millennium date has a precedent in the calculation of the Kaliyuga epoch, based on planetary conjunctions, by Aryabhata (6th century).
Aryabhatta's dating: 3102 BC.
Aryabhatta was the first of the major mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy
He had written "When the three yugas (satya yuga, treta yuga and dwapara yuga) have elapsed and 60 x 60 (3,600) years of kali yuag have already passed, I am now 23 years old.” - This comes to 3102 BC. Aryabhatta's date of February 18 3102 BE for Mahābhārata war has become widespread in Indian tradition. Some sources mark this as the disappearance of Krishna from earth
Dating by other ancient astronomers: 2449BC
Another traditional school of astronomers and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga, Varahamihira (author of the Brhatsamhita) and Kalhana (author of the Rajatarangini), place the Bharata war 653 years after the Kaliyuga epoch, corresponding to 2449 BC.
Aihole Inscription(634 AD) 3101 BC
Many of the scholars have relied on the inscription found in the Jain Temple at Aihole prepared by one Chalukya King Pulakeshi II
The verse inscribed is:
Trinshatsu Trisahasreshu Bhaaratdahavaditaha ||
Saptabda Shatayukteshu Gateshwabdeshu ||
Panchasu Panchashatasu Kalaukale Shatasu Panchashatsu cha ||
Samatsu Samatitasu Shakaanamapi Bhoobhujaam ||
(V. 33.) (Now) when thirty (and) three thousand and five years besides, joined with seven hundred years, have passed since the Bharata war;
(V. 34.) And when fifty (and) six and five hundred years of the Saka kings also have gone by in the Kali age;
(V. 35.) This stone mansion of Jinendra, a mansion of every kind of greatness, has been caused to be built by the wise Ravikirti, who has obtained the highest favour of that Satyashraya whose rule is bounded by the three oceans.
It says, according to scholars, that the temple was constructed in 30 + 3000 + 700 + 5 = 3735 years, after the Bharat War and 50 + 6 + 500 = 556 years of Shaka era in Kali era. The Shaka era started in 78 AD.Thus the year of inscribing this note is 634 AD (78 + 556) - (This matches with the period of Pulikeshi) At this time 3735 years had passed from the Bharat War. So the date of the War comes to 3101 BC. This is also the date of Kali Yuga Commencement as per Aryabhatta. So, in fact, this inscription might likely be prepared relying on date of the beginning of Kaliyuga Era and holding that the War took place just before the commencement of Kaliyuga. It doesn't in fact give a clear proof of the date of the war, but tells us that king Pulikeshi and his contemporaries believed in the Kaliyuga by Aryabhatta and probably dated the war to the same period.
Dating the war based on Archaeological evidence
Scientific Date of Mahabharata War as per Indus Valley / Harappan seal and other geological evidence is between 3500 BC to 2500 BC. The excavations done at Hastinapur and Kurukshetra also points to the period between 3500BC to 2500BC. And the discovery of a sunken city along the coast of Bet Dwarka and its astounding connection with the legendary city of Dwarka is another interesting datapoint used by many for the dating of the Mahabharata war. Many of the artefacts dating back to around 3500BC also supports the most accepted period for the war. Interestingly, Dr. S.R. Rao who led the excations at Dwarka, Bet-Dwarka and Kurukshetra had commented that the period of 1900-1700BC is acceptable based his derivation on archaeological evidence obtained from onshore and offshore excavations conducted in Dwaraka, Bet Dwarka and in the Kurukshetra region.
Dating the war based on Astronomy
Sanskrit epics were academically attacked occasionally – an attempt to disprove the authenticity of the annals noted therein.For example, the European Ideologist Max Muller, tried to interpret the astronomical evidences to prove that the observations recorded in the Hindu scriptures are imaginary, probably because it did not match the prevalent views of European historians! On the contrary, many Bharatiya scholars have vehemently maintained the actual occurrence of the Mahabharata War. Astronomical and literary evidences or clues from the Pauranic and Vaidik texts have been deciphered to provide a conclusive date for the Mahabharata War.
The fifth century mathematician, Aryabhatta, calculated the date of the Mahabharata War to be approximately 3100 B.C. from the planetary positions recorded in the Mahabharata. Prof. C.V. Vaidya and Prof. Apte had derived the date to be 3101 B.C. and Shri Kota Venkatachalam reckoned it to be 3139 B.C.
However, a scholar from Pune, Dr. P.V. Vartak argues that the astronomical data used by the above, and many other, scholars contained some errors and using astronomical references and variety of other sources, Dr. Vartak has derived the date of the initiation of the Mahabharata War to be 16th October 5561 B.C with some credible arguements. I would rate this as well as a probable date, if credit is given for some of the finer details.
Planetary Software calculation by Dr. Nahari Achar -- 3067BC
Many scholars have questioned astronomical references in Mahabharat Text. The bases of questioning was inconsistencies in position of single planet at given time. Dr. Narahari Achar (Dept of Physics, University of Memphis) has shown the apparent inconsistencies where due misinterpretation of text specially the meaning of word ‘Graha’ ( ग्रह ) was always assumed to be planet, whereas it could refer to any celestial body. Also, Dr. N Achar has taken into account the fact that we cannot accurately calculate time of some of the events that occurred 5000 (or so) years back, such as lunar or solar eclipse. Due to this constraint we should not go by time of eclipse but the fact that eclipse occurred in a certain duration. Whereas we can accurately know position of Saturn in certain constellation 5000 year ago.
Dr. Nahari Achar did following,
1. Used planetary software to do astronomical calculations.
2. Did not give lot of weight to exact time of eclipse. Because we cannot yet accurately calculate eclipse time for events of remote past. However, occurrence of eclipse has been given due weight.
3. Gave due weight to position of Saturn. Because it can be calculated with accuracy.
4. Resolved inconsistencies in interpreting the astronomical references in Mahabharat.
5. Did not use any other source/information apart from astronomical references.
6. Came up with a date (Nov 22, 3067BCE), already propose by 4other scholars.
7. Shown that date is consistent with tradition and date given by ancient scholar Aryabhatta.
Plantary Software calculation by Ramesh Panchwagh - 3126 BC
As per Ramesh Panchwagh, using Cyber Sky Planetarium program based on JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) ephemeris 404, the date of Mahabharata War is 3126 BC. This is based on a number of astronomical references one of which is the 7 planets lining up together and solar eclipse.
P V Holey - 3143 BC
As per P V Holey in a session "Date of Kurukshetra War based on astronomical data" in 2003 in Bangalore, date of Mahabharata War is 3143 BC. This is based on important events with planetary positions after comparing astronomical dates based on nakshatra, the Julian and Gregorian systems.
Calculation with Lodestar Pro Software - 3129BC / 2559 BC
As per Dr S Balakrishna of NASA, the date of Mahabharata War could be one of 3129 BC, 2559 BC, 2056 BC, 1853 BC, 1708 BC and 1397 BC. This is based on all possible double eclipses with 13 days gap between 3300 BC to 700 BC ascertained using Lodestar Pro software.
In mahabharata-research.com, I have tried to keep away the huge volume of details behind each of the dating mentioned above to prevent the readers from getting lost in the contraditing details of each of these. There is in fact a vast sea of details available for each of the prominent astronimical dating by modern scholars (using platenary software), as well a good amount of details available on the archeological excavations and related dating. For those who are interested in more details, a few external links with more details are listed in the reference page of this site.