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The Overwhelming Evidence in Favour of the Traditional Indian Date for the Beginning of the Kaliyuga and the Mahabharata War

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  1. The Aihole Inscription of King Pulakesin II and Its Implications for the Modern Historical Dating of the Mahabharata War

This 7th century A.D. inscription says:

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It means ‘3,735 (30+3000+700+5) years have already elapsed in kaliyug (dykS dkys) after the Mahabharata war, and 556 (50 + 6 + 500) years of Shalivahan era is running (on this date of engraving this inscription)’. The inscription says that 3,735 years of kaliyug had already elapsed. It means the 3,736th year of Kali era was running in the Shak era 556 A.D. which was 556+78 = 634 A.D. Thus deducting 634 from 3,736 comes to 3102 B.C.” (1. p.483)

King Pulakesin II was the successful opposer of the southward push of King Harsha (606-647 A.D.) who is mentioned by the Chinese scholar Hiuen Tsang (2, XI, pp.756-57) as a patron during his travels in India in the years 630-643 A.D. This serves as a check for the Saka era meant by Pulakesin II. When we take Saka era of 78 A.D., then the year of the inscription, as noted above, becomes 634 A.D., which falls within the period indicated by Hiuen Tsang. The Kaliyuga beginning 3102 B.C. – the last of the traditional four yugas – is a major reference point in the Puranic chronology. Another important reference point closely linked with it in the traditional chronology is the Mahabharata War and this inscription also links these when it refers to the War as preceding the Kaliyuga.

With this traditional date for the beginning of Kaliyuga and the list of dynasties that are given in various Puranas, the beginning of the Maurya Dynasty with Chandra Gupta Maurya should be placed around 1500 B.C. and Chandra Gupta I of the Imperial Guptas at the time the modern historians put Chandra Gupta Maurya. Actually, the whole fixing and the bringing forward of the date of ancient Indian chronology is done by the European historians on the basis of the testimony of the Greek ambassador Megasthenes who was sent by Seleucus Nicator at the end of the 4th century B.C. to the capital Pataliputra (called Palibothra by the Greeks) of a king named Chandra Gupta (called Sandrocottus by the Greeks). Modern historians identify this king as Chandra Gupta Maurya and make some further adjustment to bring forward the date of the Mahabharata War – fixed 36 years before the beginning of Kaliyuga in the traditional Hindu chronology – to around 1000 B.C. or a few centuries earlier.

Some modern historians sympathetic to the traditional Hindu chronology have questioned the identification of Sandrocottus with Chandra Gupta maurya and shown that the description by Megasthenes of the Chandra Gupta’s administration and other prevailing conditions are more in line with the conditions prevailing at the time of Chandra Gupta I and Samudra Gupta of the Imperial Guptas than at the time of the Mauryas. The works of Sethna (3), Mankad (4), Kota Venkatachelam (5 to 10) are prominent among those of many others who have provided evidence and advanced supporting arguments as convincing as any advanced by modern historians in favour of the generally accepted version of ancient Indian history. Once the new version is accepted it is not too difficult to fill in other gaps and take the Mahabharata War and the beginning of Kaliyuga in 3102 B.C. as historical events.

Sethna (3) has not only succinctly stated arguments in favour of the traditional ancient Indian chronology but has answered all possible criticism of it that may possibly be made by the modern mainstream historians who are loath to the substitution of Imperial Guptas for the Mauryas. Even after doing all this Sethna is not able to accept the traditional puranic dates in totality and comes up with his own version – with apparently no credible arguments or basis in its favour – which puts the Great War at about 1500 B.C. which (in his scheme) makes it less than 500 years prior to the beginning of the Maurya dynasty and less than 250 years before the birth of Lord Buddha. Nevertheless, we have found Sethna’s work (3) very very helpful and full of many pertinent observations and irrefutable arguments in favour of the traditional Puranic chronology. In his introduction he rightly observes, “We may remember that even modern historians borrow the reign-lengths of Chandragupta Maurya, his son BindusDra and his grandson AQoka from the PurDKas or from the Ceylonese Chronicles. As the Chronicles are themselves rated as rather unrealistic for events beyond the second century before Christ and as the two sources do not differ much about the reign-lengths concerned, we may affirm that modern historians accept something of ancient indigenous evidence for the Mauryas. And when we come to the post-Mauryan dynasties – the SuOgas, the KDKvas, the Endhra SDtavDhanas – modern historians are in accord with the PurDKas in numerous respects in regard not only to the king-names but also to the lengths of individual reigns, the duration of dynasties and the sequence both of the kings and their lines. When so much sense of historical time is manifested, can we discard as totally fictitious all the epochs to which Indian chronology assigns the several ruling houses?

To some extent the high-handedness of our historians towards the PurDKic cause is due, on the one side, to the blind chauvinism exhibited by most of the champions of that cause, the uncritical mind they frequently bring to their task … the absurd suspicion they occasionally entertain about the motives of their opponents – and, on the other side, to the conviction these opponents have with equal absurdity that the ancient Indians were capable of egregious historical error in every important matter and that the traditional chronology has at no point any support from non-Indian records, accounts left by foreigners Western or Eastern, and that certain Indian epigraphs provide a definite contradiction of it.” (3, p.vi)

  1. The Superfluity of the Arguments Against the Historicity of the Kaliyuga Era and Their Repudiation

According to John Faithful Fleet, the Kaliyuga era which is the principal astronomical reckoning of the Hindus “is not of historical origin, dating from the occurrence of any actual event in B.C. 3102, and running in actual use from that time. It is nothing but an artificial reckoning – (almost as much so as is our Julian Period, beginning 1 January, B.C. 4713) – devised by the Hindu astronomers some thirty-five centuries after the initial point which they assigned to it; that is, roughly, at some time about A.D. 350-400.” (12, p.675) And again, “This reckoning is not an historical era, actually running from 3102 B.C. It was devised for astronomical purposes at some time about A.D. 400, when the Hindu astronomers, having taken over the principles of the Greek astronomy, recognized that they required for purposes of computation a specific reckoning with a definite initial occasion. They found that occasion in a conjunction of the sun, the moon, and the five planets which were then known, at the first point of their sign Mesha. There was not really such a conjunction; nor, apparently, is it even the case that the sun was actually at the first point of Mesha at the moment arrived at. But there was an approach to such a conjunction, which was turned into an actual conjunction by taking the mean instead of the true positions of the sun, the moon, and the planets.” (13, p.497)

After the above statement he talks about different schools to discredit the whole thing. He wrote, “The reckoning thus devised was subsequently identified with the Kaliyuga as the iron age, the last and shortest, with a duration of 432,000 years, of the four ages in each cycle of ages in the Hindu system of cosmical periods. Also, traditional history was fitted to it by one school, represented notably by the PurDKas, which, referring the great war between the PDKdavas and the Kurus, which is the topic of the MahDbhDrata, to the close of the preceding age, the DvDpara, placed on the last day of that age the culminating event which ushered in the Kali age; namely, the death of KrishKa (the return to heaven of VishKu on the termination of his incarnation as KrishKa), which was followed by the abdication of the PDKdava king YudhishFhira, who, having installed his grand-nephew Parikshit as his successor, then set out on his own journey to heaven. Another school, however, placed the PDKdavas and the Kurus 653 years later, in 2449 B.C. A third school places in 3102 B.C. the anointment of YudhishFhira to the sovereignty, and treats that event as inaugurating the Kali age; from this point of view, the first 3044 years of the Kaliyuga – the period from its commencement in 3102 B.C. to the commencement of the first historical era, the so-called Vikrama era, in 58 B.C. – are also known as ‘the era of YudhishFhira.’” (13, p.497)

Besides being presumptuous and without any reliable basis, there are many other serious flaws in this kind of argument, for it is undeniable that even at the time of Megasthenes – as reported by other foreign writers who read his Indica* – Indian Pundits knew the line of kings in India which went back by more than 6000 years from that time. McCrindle (14) translated in English the fragments of the Indica of Megasthenes collected by Schwanbeck. In this we find the following statement, “For the Indians stand almost alone among the nations in never having migrated from their own country. From the days of Father Bacchus to Alexander the Great their kings are reckoned at 154, whose reigns extend over 6451 years and 3 months.

Father Bacchus was the first who invaded India, and was the first of all who triumphed over the vanquished Indians. From him to Alexander the Great 6451 years are reckoned with 3 months additional, the calculation being made by counting the kings who reigned in the intermediate period, to the number of 153.” (14, p.115) Thus, there is a prima facie case for holding that the date of Kaliyuga era (3102 B.C.) was not invented in 400 A.D. and existed from times much earlier.

The older Puranas provide a list of king dynasties beginning much earlier than the Mahabharata War – with the line of 7th Manu Vaivasvata or even earlier – to the beginning of the Imperial Guptas. In these lists the names (their spellings) and number of kings – even though a great many are common – and their reign periods vary somewhat among the various Puranas. Pargiter (25, 26) was the first one to attempt a systematic study of the field from an intellectual stand-point. Many modern Indian historians have since taken up the work of a systematic study of this field. Extensive work has been done by Venkatachelam (5 to 10), Mankad (4), and Pradhan (27) and many others who, because of the differences in their psychological stand-point and motive, have arrived at results considerably at variance with each other. Pusalker (28) has succinctly summarised the findings of the intellectual research done in the field of Epics and Puranas during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Commenting on Mankad’s work he says, “Mankad’s main thesis, as explained in detail later on, is that the Puranic genealogies have been constructed on an arbitrary and artificial method, designated as Manvantara-Caturyuga-Method by him, according to which, one King-name in the genealogies represents a time-unit of 40 years or 20 years. On the basis of Puranic and Greek evidence, he arrives at the following important dates:- 5796 B.C. = date of Manu Vaivasvata; 3201 B.C. = date of the Bharata war; 2976 B.C. = date of the Kali Era; 2066 B.C. = date of Buddha’s death; 2051 B.C. = date of Mahavira’s death; 1986 B.C. = accession of Mahapadma; 1550 B.C. = accession of Candragupta Maurya; 1498 B.C. = coronation of Asoka; 1113 B.C = accession of Pusyamitra Sunga; 329 B.C. = accession of Candragupta I; c. 312-10 B.C. = start of the Gupta Era; 307-5 B.C. = accession of Samudragupta. Candragupta I of the Gupta dynasty has been taken as the contemporary of Alexander. It is also stated that the Mahabhasya of Patanjali (contemporary of Pusyamitra Sunga) came to be studied in Kashmir in the eleventh century B.C.” (28, pp.201-02)

According to Mankad, Sri Rama – the greatest king of the Surya Vansa – was in the 57th generation from Vaivasvata Manu and Brihadbala, who fought in the Mahabharata War from the side of the Kauravas, was in the 71th generation. Thus Ikshavaku Rama reigned 14 generations earlier than the Mahabharata War. This scheme puts Rama somewhere around 400-500 years earlier than the time of the Mahabharata War. In the case of historians who put 28-29 generations between Rama and Brihadbala, this period may be somewhere around 800-900 years.

Pundit Venkatachelam’s is perhaps the most extensive and painstaking effort in this field because he seems to have been deeply hurt by what he perceived to be a great injustice done to India and its glorious past by the European historians and their Indian proteges. He spent a good part of his life and labours trying to redress it. In his Chronology of Ancient Hindu History we find a list of the kings of the lines of Hastinapur, Kosala and Magadha after the Mahabharata War. The lines of Hastinapur and Kosala end in 1634 B.C. while Magadha lines continue till the time of the Imperial Guptas. Beginning from Yudhisthira (3138 B.C.) 29 kings reigned on the throne of Hastinapur. The last king in this line was Kshemaka (or Chemaka) whose reign came to an end when Mahapadma Nanda* assumed the Magadha throne around 1634 B.C. Similar was the fate of Kausala line – to which Gautam Buddha belonged – which beginning from Brihatkshama (son of Brihadbala) after the War (3138 B.C.) came to an end with Sumitra (30th in the line) around 1634 B.C. The Magadha dynasty continued till the time of the Imperial Guptas and practically had sway over the whole of the country. The following is the complete list of Magadha dynasties reproduced from Venkatachelam (5).

The Name of the                       Number of Years                                 Date of Beginning

Dynasty                                       Reigned                                                 (B.C)

  1. The Brahadradhas             1006                                                             3138
  2. The Pradyotas                    138                                                                2132
  3. The Sisunagas                    360                                                               1994
  4. The Nandas                        100                                                               1634
  5. The Mauryas                      316                                                                1534
  6. The Sungas                         300                                                              1218
  7. The Kanwas                        85                                                                 918
  8. The Andhras                      506                                                                833
  9. The Imperial Guptas        245                                                               327

As pointed out earlier, the modern historians too depend on the Puranas for the list of the dynasties between the Mauryas and the Imperial Guptas except that they place the latter between 320 to 570 A.D. which implies that when – according to Fleet – the Indian Pundits devised the traditional chronology and fixed the date of Kaliyuga in the 4th Century A.D., the Guptas were reigning – again according to established chronology – at the throne of Magadha and had sway over practically the whole of India. This means that these Pundits put their contemporaneous kings more than 600 years before their own time. Thus the whole logic is ridiculous. “Surely, there is a limit even to the lack of the historical sense we may attribute to Indian chronologists. Critics of the PurDnic time-scheme would definitely overshoot the mark by asking us to believe that an Indian living day after day under a particular king could be mad enough to push publicly the same monarch back in history by more than 6 centuries. Here is a reductio ad absurdum of the modern criticism and of the chronology currently accepted.

An Unescapable Predicament

What we have to conclude is clear:

Since the Indian chronology, using the Kaliyuga and closely connecting it with the BhDrata War in a considerably ancient time, was undoubtedly in vogue in the centuries immediately preceding 634 A.D., the date of the Aihole Inscription, the Guptas could never have ruled during those centuries.

If they cannot be placed in this period, they must have started with Chandragupta I in the age of Megasthenes when there flourished as a Magadhan dynasty-founder at Palibothra (PDtaliputra) Sandrocottus, the only Chandragupta of the right associations prior to 320 A.D., the initial point of the Guptas according to the current chronology. And, ipso facto, the Mauryan Chandragupta who at present is dated to c. 321 B.C. must recede into a past sufficiently beyond the post-Alexandrine epoch in India.

Only by the Guptas beginning in that epoch could the PurDnic pundits of the period 400-634 A.D. – or of any other period following the age of Megasthenes – be contemporaneous with whatever kings might belong to that period.

Consequently, whether or not we credit the entire corpus of ancient dates calculated by Indian chronology, the commencement which that chronology has to make of the Guptas with Chandragupta I in the period posited for the accession of Sandrocottus in Palibothra – between 326 and 305 B.C. – must be absolutely correct.

All these conclusions must drive our historians into an unescapable predicament.” (3, pp.16-17)

To all this the answer of Fleet and others, as already pointed out in the passage cited earlier from Fleet, is that India’s own chronology has not been of one piece. Aihole inscription cited above is alright but the testimony of the famous astronomer and astrologer Varahamihira in his renowned Brihatsamhita (15) – a book containing a volume of rich and varied material throwing light on many issues and concerns of human living – must be, if anything, taken as even more reliable. According to Fleet, Varahamihira places the Pandavas and the Kauravas 653 years after the traditional date for the beginning of the Kaliyuga. Alberuni (1031 A.D.) in his Indica (16, II: pp.4-5) and Kalhana (1148 A.D.) in his Rajatarangini (17, I: 51 and 56) seem apparently to support the above contention of Fleet.

  1. The Brihatsamhita of Varahamihira

According to Varahamihira’s Brihatsamhita (15: XIII.3, pp.207-08)

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The Munis (Sapta Rishis) were in Magha when king Yudhisthira ruled the earth, the period of that king was 2526 years before the Saka era.

In his Sloka XIII.2 Varahamihira refers to the view of Vriddha Garga in whose light the above Sloka (XIII.3) was written. In astronomer Bhattotpal’s commentary on Varahamihira’s Brihatsamhita entitled Chintamani (3:49) we find the following exact words of Vriddha Garga (15: 208):

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“‘At the junction of the Kali and Dvapara ages, the virtuous sages who delight in protecting the people stood at the asterism over which the Pitris preside (that is, MaghD).’

From these words VarDhamihira’s meaning should be unmistakable. If, according to Garga, the Seven Rishis were in MaghD at the junction of the Kali and DvDpara Ages and if, according to VarDhamihira who is expounding Garga, Yudhishthira ruled when the Seven Rishis were in MaghD, then, according to VarDhamihira, Yudhishthira ruled within the same 100 years during which the junction of the Kali and Dvapara Ages occurred. VarDhamihira could never have meant that Yudhishthira ruled 654 years after the Kaliyuga’s advent in 3102 B.C. Here is a simple syllogism which cannot be denied.” (3:49)

Even more important is the question one has to ask about Varahamihira, “whether his BrihatsamhitD could really fly in the face of the MahDbhDrata whose final form was in circulation in that age and closely associated the BhDrata War with the Kaliyuga of 3102 B.C. without identifying in time the two occasions.” (3:48)

All this must make any thoughtful person to wonder that, “‘May not the Paka Era which VarDhamihira declares to be 2526 years after the ‘period’ of Yudhishthira, be other than the one of 78 A.D.?’ The Paka Era of the Aihole Inscription has to be referred to 78 A.D. because this inscription is of King PulakeQin II, who foiled the southward ambition of King Harsha whom Hiuen-Tsang names as his patron in India during 630-643 A.D.: the specified Paka year 556 counted from 78 A.D. brings us to 634 A.D. We have no comparable outside-check for VarDhamihira’s Paka Era. And a Paka Era different from the usual one is nothing incredible in itself. R. K. Mookerji writes: ‘There was an old Paka era which started in about 129 or 123 B.C., the year that marked the settlement of the dispossessed Pakas in Bactria after the Parthian Emperor Phraates II was killed.’ A. K. Narain cites an older Paka Era, one of 155 B.C., which is ‘widely accepted’. A still older one is also quite on the cards. It would have to be at the end of 2526 years from the point at which ‘Yudhishthira’s period’ can be fixed. Properly to fix it we must bear in mind the fundamental association of Yudhishthira with MaghD. The ‘period’ of the former must necessarily relate to that of the latter.” (3: 49-50)

It is well established and accepted that according to the traditional astronomical calculations, the Saptarishis were in Magha from B.C. 3177 to B.C. 3077 (10:35). The two important events related to Yudhisthira, his coronation in 3138 B.C. immediately after the Mahabharata War and his abdication in 3102 B.C immediately after Krishna’s departure fall within this period but they coincide neither with its beginning nor its end. B.C. 3177 is accepted as the date on which Yudhisthira was crowned king of Indraprastha. After this crowning he, “gradually extended his Empire and performed the Rajasuya and established himself as the Emperor of Bharat and in B.C. 3151 he lost his Empire in the game of Dice with his cousin and remained in exile for 13 years thereafter, that is till B.C. 3138, and in B.C. 3138 waged the Great War known as the Mahabharata War, in which he emerged victorious and once again established himself as the Emperor of Bharat; and in B.C. 3102 … having learnt of the Nirayana of Sri Krishna and the advent of Kali, renounced his Empire and started on a tour to all the holy places of pilgrimage and finally in B.C. 3077, ascended to heaven.” (10: 35-36)

According to the above, Yudhisthira ruled at Indraprastha for 26 years after he was crowned the king of the one-half of the Kaurava empire with its seat at Khandavaprastha by Dhritarastra in 3177. The way the story of the Mahabharata is popularly known and seen to develop twenty six years may look like too long a period for Yudhisthira’s rule at Indraprastha. However, if we look closely at the details of this period in the Mahabharata, this figure does not appear as too long. First, after Yudhisthira’s crowning at Hastinapur, a large area of the Khandavaprastha had to be cleared of dense forests before the building of the city of Indraprastha could be undertaken. After all this, Arjuna wandered in the country for a period of twelve years because this was the penalty he had to undergo for transgressing – even though voluntarily and for a noble cause – a mutual understanding arrived at earlier between the Pandava brothers. After the return of Arjuna, Yudhisthira thought of performing a Rajasuya Yagya Sacrifice. Jarasandha, the king of Magadha with his huge army was considered the greatest obstacle in such a venture. He was eliminated by making him engage alone – without his army – into a physical duel with Bhimsena. After this, all the then ruling kings – leaving aside the close relatives like the Yadavas, Kauravas and Chedis etc. – were subdued by the four Pandava brothers in all the four quarters – one quarter at a time by one brother – of the land and made to pay tax and tribute in recognition of the supremacy of Yudhisthira as the sole emperor of the land. If we look closely into these and other details provided in the Mahabharata, it becomes obvious that a considerable number of years must have elapsed for all this to happen.

The beginning of the year B.C. 3077 – actually 3077-76 as it began from the first day (Chaitra Shukla Pratipada) of the bright half of the lunar year – is called, variously, as Laukikabda (because established by people) or Yudhisthira Kala, as it was established in the memory of Yudhisthira’s Swargarohan Kala. It is also called Kashmirabda as it has been in vogue in Kashmir all along and used by the almanac makers as the basis for their calculations from year to year. Kalhana in his Rajtarangini (17: Vol.1, First Book, Verse 52, p.11, footnote 50 and Fourth Book, Verse 703, p.183) used this Laukikabda as the basis of his chronology.

The general impression that most people who are familiar with the story of Mahabharata carry is that not a great deal of time lapsed between the Pandavas’ renunciation of the Hastinapur throne (in 3102 B.C.) and their ascension to heaven. According to the above dates, the Pandavas ascended to heaven only in 3077 B.C. – about 25 years after they left Hastinapur. The suggestion is that the Pandavas wandered all over the length and breadth of the land for these years – a period twice as long as the one they earlier spent in their wanderings in forests after they lost their kingdom to the Kauravas in the gambling – before finally taking a Northern route and ascending to heaven. This part of the story is very briefly related in the very short Mahaprasthanika Parva of the Mahabharata which gives the impression that the length of the period between the departure from Hastinapur and ascension to heaven must have been very short. However, if one looks carefully, there are few slokas in this Parva which do point to a longer duration. One such Sloka is the following (18: 6487):

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All of them, the great-souled, were in yoga and were the followers of the path of renunciation. They travelled to many countries, rivers and seas.

In the light of the Yudhisthira Kala of 3077-76 we can easily calculate the Saka era implicit in Varahamihira’s Brihatsamhita (Sloka XIII.3) by deducting 2526 from it. Thus the era implicit in the Brihatsamhita comes to 3077-76-2526 = 551-550 B.C. Here the important question that very obviously must be asked is: did such an era really exist? The answer according to Venkatachelam (5: 242) and Sethna (3: 55-56) unequivocably is yes. This era, according to them, is associated with the name of Achaemenid emperor ‘Cyrus the Great’ who founded it in 551 B.C. during his reign which ran from 558 B.C. to 530 B.C. Cyrus’ empire included the Bactrians and the Indians and was bounded on the east by the Indian Ocean and the Western Kshatrapas of India were aligned to him. According to Sethna, “Our historians take the Western Pakas to be feudatories of the KushDnas. But the KushDnas never refer to any member of the KshaharDta-KDrdamaka families nor have they any cognizance of the term ‘Kshatrapa’. The Western Pakas, on their side, never allude to the KushDnas or mention any overlord. But they can figure most appositely as owing allegiance first to the Achaemenid emperor Cyrus and then to Darius I and his successors. From Darius onward we hear explicitly of the satrapies of the Achaemenid empire.

However, we are digressing, though not irrelevantly. Going back to our proper theme, we may assert: ‘Whatever else may be demonstrable or no, our syllogism apropos of VarDhamihira will never allow anyone, on the strength of traditions, to separate Yudhishthira and the BhDrata War from the Kaliyuga of 3102 B.C.’ Indian chronology is not inconsistent at all. It is of one piece – the PurDnic school and the BrihatsamhitD standing together in spite of Kalhana. Kalhana’s reasoning is faultless on his own premises; but his ignorance distorts VarDhamihira completely.” (3: 56-57)

  1. Alberuni’s Indica and the Rajatarangini of Kalhana

Alberuni’s gauge-year is 1031 A.D. (16: Volume II, p.7). There was no difference of opinion about the beginning of Kaliyuga at his time. He writes, “Regarding the time which has elapsed since the beginning of the kaliyuga, there exists no difference amounting to whole years. According to both Brahmagupta and Pulisa, of the kaliyuga there have elapsed before our gauge-year 4132 years, and between the wars of Bharata and our gauge-year there have elapsed 3479 years. The year 4132 before the gauge-year is the epoch of the Kalikala, and the year 3479 before the gauge-year is the epoch of the Pandavakala.” (16:Vol.II, pp.4-5)

Alberuni’s dating of the Kaliyuga is the same as the Puranic but he makes the mistake of putting the Mahabharata 653 years later due to the misreading of the date implied by Varahamihira which must have become popular around his time – the same mistake that was repeated by Kalhana who came a little over hundred years after him. As has been pointed out earlier, Kalhana, who made no mistake in dating the Laukika Era’s beginning to 3077 B.C., mistakes Varahamihira’s Saka Era for the popular Saka of 78 A.D. This led him to declare in his verse I.51 that “when six hundred and fifty-three years of the Kaliyuga had passed away, the Kurus and the Pandavas lived on the earth.” (17: Vol.I, p.11)

This single verse has been cited by the modern historians to discredit the traditional Indian chronology but this kind of a little mistake or misreading cannot legitimately be used to drive a wedge between the Kaliyuga Era and the Mahabharata War which are closely associated with each other in the traditional Puranic Chronology. In the Mahabharata itself we find the description that, after the eighteen day war was over, on the nineteenth day all the ladies of the royal family of the Kauravas proceeded to the battlefield along with Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas and Gandhari, the mother of the Kauravas for a last sight of the corpses of their dear departed ones. Though Gandhari was, initially and many more times subsequently, checked by Vyasa from any kind of unfortunate utterance in anger; at one sight she got so overwhelmed with grief and anger that she cursed Govind (Sri Krishna) in the following words in Slokas 43, 44 and 45 of the twenty fifth chapter of the Stri Parva of the Mahabharata:

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“O Govind, since you have overlooked the Kauravas and Pandavas fighting and destroying each other, you will also be a destroyer of your own people. In the 36th year from now, your brothers, sons and nobles will also destroy each other in a similar fashion and wandering in the forest you will meet your end in an ignoble manner.”

Again, there is a description in the Mausala Parva of the Mahabharata about how Sri Krishna observed the ominous circumstances at the commencement of the 36th year after the war of Mahabharata and said thus in Sloka 21 of the second chapter (18: 6467):

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The time has come for the fulfilment of the curse laid by Gandhari when she was tormented and afflicted by sorrow on account of the slaying of her people.

Wishing to see the fulfillment of the curse Sri Krishna advised the Yadavas to move to Prabhasha Tirtha where after getting drunk they destroyed each other in the ensuing fight.

According to Sethna, even if one were to accept Kalhana’s dating of the Mahabharata War based on his mistaken belief that Varahamihira disagrees with the ancient Indian tradition, it would still not help the modern historical traditions chronology for ancient India arrived at by identifying the Sandrocottus of Megasthenes with Chandra Gupta Maurya. Sethna, in discussing the implications of Kalhana’s dating for ancient Indian Chronology observes, “In RDjatarangini I, 52-53, he gives Paka 1070 as his own date – that is (78+1070=) 1148 A.D. – and counts 2330 years from Gonanda III of Kashmir to himself. Thus Gonanda III is dated to (2330-1148=) 1182 B.C. Between Gonanda II and Gonanda III Kalhana puts a long line of kings including familiar names like AQoka, Jalauka, Hushka, Jushka, Kanishka. The last-named comes, for the majority of modern historians, in 78 A.D. But, for Kalhana, basing himself on VarDhamihira, he is beyond 1182 B.C., and Kalhana (I, 72) further says that Kanishka is 150 years after Buddha. So Buddha too is pushed up far beyond his commonly calculated time. We may ‘pooh-pooh’ all this; but we may with equal justification ‘pooh-pooh’ the idea that old Indian annalists following VarDhamihira could ever countenance placing the founder of the Imperial Guptas in 320 A.D. Although Kalhana may be deemed rather fantastic in his historical sequences, no Indian chronology will allow the Guptas to begin à la Fleet or the identification of Sandrocottus with Chandragupta Maurya.” (3: 48-49)

“According to the account in Kalhana’s Rajatharangini Gonanda-I, king of Kashmir joined with Jarasandha in his invasion of Madhura, long before the Mahabharata war, and was killed in the battle by Balarama. His son Damodara-I attempted to disturb the swayamvara function of a princess of Gandhara and was destroyed in that connection, by Sri Krishna himself. His son Gonanda-II became the king of Kashmir in 3140 B.C. while he was yet a boy in 3138 B.C., in the Mahabharata war. All the tributary princes of country ranged themselves on one or other of the two sides in the war. But, says Kalhana, as Gonanda-II of Kashmir was a minor in his teens, his participation in the war was not solicited by either of the two parties to it, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. In proof of his statement we may also note that nowhere in the account of the Mahabharata war in the ‘Mahabharata’ is there any mention of an army of Kashmir.” (10: 14-15)

  1. The Records in the Annual Indian Calendars – The Panchangas

The Panchangas which record the positions and movements of the seven celestial bodies – the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – have been in vogue in different parts of India and have been prepared year after year since times immemorial. The Kaliyuga era has long been the basis of all reckoning of time in these calendars. Their current editions list the Vikram (57 B.C.) and the Salivahan (78 A.D.) eras in addition to the Kaliyuga era. There have never been any questions about the Kaliyuga era until the entry of the European scholarship in the field.

  1. The Recorded Histories of Kashmir and Nepal

There is available the record of the dynastic chronology of Kashmir (9) and Nepal (8) that goes right back up to B.C. 3138 – the period of the Mahabharata War – and even a little earlier.

  1. The Inscription of the Chola Emperor Parantaka I

This inscription mentions the passing of 4044 year of the Kaliyuga. The inscription is dated 943 A.D. This brings the beginning of the Kaliyuga to 3201 B.C. (24:2)

  1. The Inscription of Janmejay

a .The First Inscription

Janmejaya’s Gift Deed

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“It is clearly stated in this inscription that the gift of land for the worship of Sitarama mentioned there in was made by Emperor Janamejaya in the year 89 of the Jayabhyudaya Yudhishtira Era. Jayabhyudaya Yudhishtira Saka is named after ‘Jaya’ rFkks t; eqnhj;sr~ ‘tatho ‘Jaya’ mudeerayet’. The name by which Bhagavan Vyasa called his great epic as ‘Jaya’ now known as ‘Mahabharata’ which he began to compose in Kali 1, and completed in 3 years. Jayabhyudaya Yudhishtira Era 1 means therefore only Kali 1. Jayabhyudaya Yudhishtira Saka 89 means Kali 89 or B.C. (3101-89) = 3012. It was the 29th year of the reign of Emperor Janamejaya. He came to the throne on the death of his father Emperor Parikshit in Kali 60.” (10: 48-49)

b. The Second Inscription

“A similar gift of land was made on the same day by the same Emperor Janamejaya for the worship of Kedaranathaswamy at the Kedara Kshetra, in the Himalayas to the head of the ‘Usha-Matt’, Sri Goswamy Ananda Linga Jangama Swamy through his disciple Sri Jnana Linga Jangama. The copper-Plate on which the gift deed is inscribed is preserved to this day in the same Matt. It does not seem to have reached the notice of the Government Archaeological Department. So it is not reported in the Indian Antiquari. A copy of it has been taken by some Andhra Pilgrims of the Saiva religious sect to the Saiva Shrine, and it has been published on their return home, at Masulipatam. The text of the inscription as published by them is given in his ‘Ancient Hindu History Part-1, by this Author. The same text is also given below:-

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The above two inscriptions record two gifts of land by the Emperor Janamejaya at the time of the Solar eclipse on the same day. In the first the Donor is described as seated on the imperial throne at the city of Kishkindha and in the second as seated on the imperial throne at the city of Indra-prastha. The discrepancy may give rise to some doubts. Janamejaya was crowned Emperor of Bharat at Indra-prastha, the imperial capital. But it was the custom in ancient as in modern times, to celebrate the coronation of the Emperor simultaneously in all the chief cities, of the Empire. So it was the tradition to describe him in a gift-deed as the Emperor seated on the throne at the chief city of that province in which the land gifted away was situated. Kishkindha was the capital of South Western province of the Empire. So he was described as ‘’ ‘Kishkindha Nagaryam Simhasanasthah’ in the gift-deed relating to the land in that province and as ‘’ ‘Indraprastha Nagare Simhasanasthah’ in the gift-deed relating to the land in the Himalayan region.

Janamejaya was crowned at Indraprastha only. The two gifts were made at Indraprastha only. But the narration in the gift-deed was appropriately worded in view of the location of the land gifted. The apparent discrepancy need not give rise to any doubts of the authenticity of the gifts or the deeds or the inscriptions.” (10: 50-51)

  1. The Beginning of Kaliyuga and the Astronomical Evidence for Its 3102 B.C. Date

The beginning of Kaliyuga is tied exactly to Sri Krishna’s departure from this earth. There are numerous references to this in the Puranic literature. Here are some examples:

In the Sri Madbhagvata Maha Purana (20: 132) we have the following Sloka (I.18.6):

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In that way, the day Bhagawan (Sri Krishna) abandoned the earth, at the same instant the Kali – the root of all Adharma (unrighteousness) – came on it.

In the Vishnu Purana (21: 415) we have the Sloka V.38.8:

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The day Hari left this earth for his heavenly abode, the very same day, the gloomy and mighty Kali entered here.

Similarly, we find repeated in the Brahma Purana part II (19: 412) practically the same Sloka (212.8) as the one above in the Vishnu Purana:

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The day Hari left this earth for his heavenly abode, the very same day, the glooming Kali entered here.

According to our traditional astronomical calculations, the seven planets were in conjunction at the end of Pisces and the beginning of the Aries in 3102 B.C. somewhere between 17th to 20th February. The Kaliyuga is reckoned from that moment. We have earlier discussed the stand of Fleet and other Western Pundits on the date of Kaliyuga which they regard as imaginary. imaginary. In recent years a good number of interested individuals have tried their hand at finding out if the astronomical combinations reported in the old scriptures – especially in the Mahabharata – were genuine actual observations as with the advancements in computer technology and the availability of many advanced astronomical programs can be used to derive the exact equivalent Georgian calendar dates for these past events. Panchwagh (22: 7-10) claims that the conjunctions of seven planets did occur at his calculated date of 18th February 3102 B.C. for Kaliyuga. He has presented his results with computer printouts. He also claims that the Mahabharata War occurred about 24 years before the beginning of the Kaliyuga. Many other people have tried their hand at it and arrived at various results – no two persons arriving at exactly the same dates. However, most of them hover around 3000 B.C. for the dates of Kaliyuga and Mahabharata. Until some definitive systematic further work is done in this field not much reliance can be placed on such findings.

  • List of References
    1. Saraswati, Swami Prakashananda, “The True History and the Religion of India”, Mcmillan Publishers India Limited, 2011
    2. Beal, Samuel, “Buddhist Records of the Western World, Low Price Publications, Delhi – 110052, 1995
    3. Sethna, K.D., “Ancient India in a New Light”, Aditya Prakashan, New Delhi, 1997
    4. Mankad, D.R., “Puranic Chronology”, Gangajala Prakashan, Anand, Gujarat, 1951
    5. Venkatachelam, Kota, “Chronology of Ancient Hindu History – Part I”, Vijaywada, A.P., 1957
    6. Venkatachelam, Kota, “Chronology of Ancient Hindu History – Part II”, Vijaywada, A.P., 1957
    7. Venkatachelam, Kota, “Indian Eras”, Vijaywada, A.P., 1956
    8. Venkatachelam, Kota, “Chronology of Nepal History, Reconstructed”, Vijaywada, A.P., 1953
    9. Venkatachelam, Kota, “Chronology of Kashmir History, Reconstructed”, Vijaywada, A.P., 1955
    10. Venkatachelam, Kota, “Age of the Mahabharata War”, Vijaywada, A.P., 1991
    Note: For all the books of Pundit Venkatchelam, contact Dr. K.N. Sastry, ADRIPS, 23-34-18, IInd Floor, Manepalliveri Street, Lakshminagar, S.N. Puram, Vijaywada, A.P., 520011, Ph.0866-6539146
    11. Fleet, J.F., “The Kaliyuga Era of B.C. 3102”, The Journal of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Published by Cambridge University Press, Year 1911, Issue April, pp.479-496
    12. Fleet, J.F., “The Kaliyuga Era of B.C. 3102”, The Journal of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Published by Cambridge University Press, Year 1911, Issue July, pp.675-698
    13. Fleet, J.F., “Hindu Chronology”, The Encyclopedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, Vol. XIII. p.497
    14. McCrindle, J.W., “Ancient India as Described by Megasthenes and Arrian”, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2015
    15. feJk] lqjs’kpUnz, “c`gr~ lafgrk”] with Hindi translation and commentary, Volumes I and II, Ranjan Publications, New Delhi, 1997
    16. Sachan, Edward C., “Alberuni’s India”, Volumes I and II, Munshiram Manoharlal, New Delhi, 2015
    17. Stein, M.A., “Kalhana’s Rajatarangini”, Volumes I and II, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, 2009
    18. egkHkkjr] xhrkizl] xksj[kiqj][k.M 1 ls 7] fo-l- 2060
    19. rkfj.kh’k >k (vuqoknd), “czà iqjk.k”, iwoZ o mRrj Hkkx] fganh lkfgR; lEesyu] iz;kx] 2014
    20. Jhen~Hkkxor&egkiqjk.k] xhrkizl] xksj[kiqj]Hkkx 1] fo-l- 2044
    21. Jhfo”.kqiqjk.k] xhrkizl] xksj[kiqj]fo-l- 2060
    22. Panchwagh, R.V., “Astronomical Proof of Mahabharata”, Navata Publication, Mumbai, 2011
    23. Pusalker, A.D., “Studies in the Epics and Puranas”, Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Bombay, 1955
    24. feJ] jkes’ojizlkn ,oa dsfM;k] dqlqeyrk] “Hkkjr & gtkjksa o”kksZa dh ijk/khurk ,oa vkSifuosf’kd Hkzetky”, e/;izns’k fgUnh xzUFk vdkneh] Hkksiky] 2001
    25. Pargiter, F.E., “Ancient India Historical Tradition”, Oxford University Press, London, 1922
    26. Pargiter, F.E., “The Purana Text of the Dynasties of the Kali Age”, Oxford University Press, London, 1913
    27. Pradhan, S.N., “Chronology of Ancient India”, Cosmos Publications, New Delhi, 1966
    28. Pusalker, A.D., “Studies in the Epics and Puranas”, Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan, Bombay, 1955
    29. Rajaram, N.S., Frawley, David, “Vedic Aryans and the Origins of Civilization”, Voice of India, 2001
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