Maha Bharata : The Dating of A Timeless Epic.

Milspec

सर्वदा शक्तिशाली; सर्वत्र विजय
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Could be Austro Asiatic aboriginals much like the aboriginals of Australia were a century & a half ago. Their appearance, way of living etc may have been primitive enough for the ancients to classify them as not entirely apes but not human as well.
It gets weirder that they would not classify them as humans but attribute one of the greatest gods to their lineage.
 

_Anonymous_

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Dec 4, 2017
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It gets weirder that they would not classify them as humans but attribute one of the greatest gods to their lineage.
Well that's what you get in pantheistic religions but you're looking at what happened millenia ago with modern lens. Of course , the advantage at that time being, you could be an animal too, but with the right attributes you could be a God.
 

drunken-monk

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Dec 8, 2017
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Lord Krishna was cursed to die within 36 years of the date of curse. so it could be anytime within 36 years. But as per my own knoledge he died in the 25th years of the curse. so if his day of death is 3102, add 24/25 to it and you get 3126/3127 as the year of Mahabharat.
Do you have source (in terms of holy books) which gives this details. Gandhari curse Krishna and his whole family of Yadus to have same fate to that of Kauravas. If you have a substantial info on Musala parv beginning after 25 years and not 35 years after the Kurukshetra war, i would appreciate if you could share..
Also this means, when Parikshit became king he was of 25 years old.
I could never figure out if the characters depicted in Ramayan especially for vanar sena were monkey-like humanoids or not.
Kishkindha seems to be a real place, but the inhabitants are suggested as vanaras?

Was it a term for tribals back in the day and later due to lost in translation/Smriti style reproduction morphed into monkey-like characters or was this the original intent.

Hanuman with his monkey characteristics also transcended Indian borders and went into China and was celebrated as the monkey king.

Kishkinda's vanar kings Mainda and Dwivida also find a reference in Mahabharat's side missions of sahdeva.

this entire monkey aspect of Ramayan and Mahabharat has always perplexed me.
There is a difference between Vanar= Van + Nar means thoes who live in Jungles.
Markat is the word for Monkeys.
 

SrNair

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Mar 12, 2018
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As @AudreyTruschke recently triggered a discussion on Mahabharata, a thread on the same

Key questions

1. Is there a historical kernel to Mahabharata?
2. If yes, which epoch's events does it describe?
3. How old is the text itself as opposed to the events
4. Who are its authors?

Now the common issue in public discourse is -

We tend to mix up 2 and 3

Mahabharata's social milieu is definitely pre-Buddhist by a very long margin.

Possibly belonging to the middle-Vedic period (possibly contemporaneous with the composition of the Brahmana texts)
But this does not mean that all 100K verses in the vulgate versions that exist today also date back to the middle-Vedic period

That would be a stretch. And even many traditionally rooted scholars have not taken that view, if one examines the historiography of the epic
First Question 1 -

What makes us think the Mahabharata has a historical core?

In part because several of its characters and its polities find mention in Vedic literature. Including its purported early author krSNa dvaipAyana vyAsa
To be precise it is in the Kathaka brAhmaNa of the Krishna Yajurveda (Black YV) that vyAsa parAsharya finds mention

Of course it may be argued that there is more than one vyAsa, but there is little doubt that a character bearing that title was around during middle Vedic period
Besides vyAsa, parts of Shatapatha brAhmaNa (affiliated to White Yajurveda), speaks of the mutual flourishing of Kurus and Panchalas - attesting to their historical existence

The same brAhmaNa also refers to Janamejaya Parikshita - a descendant of pANDavas
Mr CV Vaidya who published a study of Mahabharata in 1905, uses these references to argue that the Mahabharata war likely took place during the time the Shatapatha brAhmaNa was being composed
In Upanishadic literature too, there are references to the characters of the Epic

Most notably kRSNa devakIputra in Chandogya Upanishad - who is described as a student of Ghora Angirasa, and also a musing on the descendants of Parikshita in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
There are also references to Parikshita in Atharva veda, DhrtarAshtra Vaichitravirya (Yajur veda), Janamejaya (Aitareya brAhmaNa)

So there is little doubt that a historical core underlies the epic
Moving to Question 2 -

When do we date the events described in the epic (as opposed to the epic itself)?

In other words, when do we place the Kurukshetra war?

There are many candidate dates -

1. Circa 1000-900 BCE - Consensus in modern Indology
2. 3100 BCE - Traditional dating in brahmanic circles
3. 1400 BCE - based on a verse in Vishnu Purana
4. 2600 BCE - based on a reading of Varahamihira
The conventional dating of ~1000 BCE stems from the near consensus that the early Vedic period dates to 1500 BCE-ish, and hence the middle Vedic period (which is contemporaneous with the events and milieu of the Epic) has to fall sometime close to 1000 BCE
Among Indian scholars, BB Lal has also backed a date circa 1000-800 BCE based on Puranic genealogy and archeological evidence from the Painted Grey ware sites
The evidence stems from this pAurANika verse which states -

“When Hastinapura was flooded by Ganges, Nichakshu (a descendant of Parikshit) will abandon the city and shift his Kuru base to Kaushambi”
Now the flood has been confirmed by archeological evidence.

The purAnika genealogies also suggest that Nichakshu is the 5th generation descendant of Parikshit, Udayana (contemporary of Buddha) is 24th generation descendant of the War princes
Using an average reign of 15 years per ruler, we get to a date of 850-900 BCE.

So the ~1000 BCE conjecture of modern academics can be aligned with some verses in pAurANika literature

Now let’s move to a few other dates (with more traditional backing)
3102 BCE : This is the “traditional” date that most traditionalists accepted for a long time

Now what is the basis for this date? It stems from the understanding that the Kali Yuga begins in 3102 BCE, and the Kurukshetra war is supposed to coincide with the dawn of the Kali age
The dating of the beginning of Kali age to 3102 BCE itself is based on astronomical conjecture.

However 3102 BCE is not a new fangled date. Mr CV Vaidya in his work from early 1900s argues that even at the time of Chandragupta Maurya, traditional authorities backed that date!
This conclusion is arrived at from a Greek work (possibly derived from Megasthenes) which states that 138 generations separated “Heracles” (likely Hari-krishna) from Chandragupta Maurya.
Taking 20 years per generation, 2760 years separate the two. As Maurya ruled circa 310 BCE, you arrive at the dating of 3100 BCE which is also consistent with the understanding that the Kali age began then!
So clearly for 2000+ years, the Indian elite have backed the 3100 BCE date, though it is likely not accurate as suggested by modern Indology and also BB Lal
There are two other traditional sources which do not back the 3100 BCE date.

Varahamihira

Vishnu Purana
Varahamihira - who states that Yudhisthira precedes the Shaka era by 2526 years - placing the war circa 2600 BCE

viSNu purANa - which states that 1065 years separate the coronation of Mahapadma Nanda and King Parikshita
The Vishnu Purana verse would give a date of 1400 BCE to the Kurukshetra war - which does seem more plausible than the date of 2600 BCE or 3100 BCE.
So that’s the overview of the dates ascribed to the War

The traditional date of 3100 BCE appears to have had the backing for a v long time (maybe for 2000+ years)

But the viSNu purANa date of 1400 BCE is closer to the academic view that tends to a date around 1000 BCE
Next we move to Questions 3 and 4 -

3. When did the text take shape?
4. Who are its authors?
The text itself possibly has taken shape over a millennium (1200 BCE to 300 BCE) , possibly reaching its final form 2-3 centuries prior to the Common Era, with its early layers dating back to the “events” of the Epic themselves
Tradition ascribes the epic to kRSNa dwaipAyana Vyasa. Who likely authored the earliest core of the epic - which possibly composed of 8800 verses (as opposed to 100K in the present vulgate editions)

But how did the epic attain its present bulk? Do we know who edited it further?
Possibly the work of two subsequent individuals…

Sage VaisampAyana

Ugrasrava Sauti (possibly the final editor, and the narrator of the epic in its present form)
CV Vaidya’s hypothesis is that Vyasa’s epic was Jaya, Vaishampayana’s epic was “Bharata” , which eventually attained its present bulky form “mahA-bhArata” in the hands of Ugrashrava Sauti
Among these three authors, vyAsa and vaishampAyana were likely RSis of the brAhmaNa varNa, while Sauti was likely a member of the Suta
Caste - renowned for charioteering and storytelling.
Vaidya’s hypothesis is -

The original Jaya epic was likely a work of history - outlining the Kuru fortunes

Vaidya attributes the composition of Gita to either Vyasa or Vaishampayana - the Gita probably took shape before Sauti got his hands on the Epic
Vaidya’s other hypothesis is that progressively the Vaishnavite character of the Epic grew in the hands of later editors.

It was possibly in Vaishampayana’s edition that kRSNa’s life - the Harivamsha was added to the Epic, and maybe the Vishnu Sahasranama too
But I am not sure if these hypothesis can be validated by anyone

What is clear though is that what was originally a work of history assumed the character of a religious text, with important tracts on Dharma, and Vaishnavism

That's undeniable
Why did it assume the bulk that it did?

Possibly the religious character of the Epic became very important to counter heterodox creeds that were gaining popularity post 700 BCE
The Mahabharata perhaps became a central repository of orthodox brahmanical theistic ideas to counter the heterodox creeds (including Buddhism) that were gaining favor with the rulers at the time
On when do we date the final form of the Epic - is a tricky problem

It is quite likely the earliest epic is much closer in time to 1000 BCE than 500 BCE
Vaidya’s hypothesis is that most of the Epic had taken shape by 300 BCE, except perhaps the stray references to Yavanas etc which might have been added after that date
There is also a reference to Nagna Kshapanaka (possibly a Digambar Jain) in the Adi Parva. So accretions to the Epic post 400 BCE cannot be ruled out.
That brings us to the end of this survey.

Clearly MB is a work of history in its original conception, which assumed a pronounced religious character as the centuries wore on

It describes events possibly set in the middle Vedic period (1300-900 BCE)
It is likely the work of three major figures, as acknowledged by tradition

But there is little reason to doubt the fact that it had assumed its present form for the most part much before 300 BCE

So @AudreyTruschke 's categorical statement dating Mahabharata to 0CE is unfounded
Post script : Thread is influenced by CV Vaidya’s fine book on Mahabharata -

“Mahabharata - A Criticism” (1904)



Various scholars tried various methods to find out the real time line of the Mahabharatha .
Astrologers also did their part.
There was this famous astrologer Mr Rao did an attempt .
His objective was to identify the actual astrological chart of Lord Krishna .

For that he used one event mentioned in the Mahabharatha . We knows there was one total eclipse when they starts Kurukshetra War .
But there was another one happened at 13 day where Jayadratha was hiding from the wrath of Arjuna .Arjuna oath was to kill Jayadratha within next sunset .To avoid that Kauravas hide him in all day and protected him .
Lord Krishna used his Sudarsana Chakra and covered the Sun caused another eclipse and Jayadratha met his last because he thought it was Sun set .
A rare celestial event of 2 total eclipse within 13 days .His conclusion was also same 3109 BC something like that
 

SrNair

Member
Mar 12, 2018
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20
Kerala
Please have a look at the size of Saraswati river civilizations and the area it spread to. The Vedic Aryans or early Tamil Sangam people had already moved out and occupied whole of India from Saraswati river. I even today manitain that so called Dravids are original Rakhigarhi people. Prof. Lal was handicapped by the so called Indus valley findings which was named by the Germans and British. All our scriptures talk about population in south India of the same stock. From Lord Rama to Lord Krishna and before that Lord Shiva. The God of Tamil Sangam is Lord Shiva and he is supposed to have taught the language called Tamil to Rishi Agasthya. India was always known to have very large population due to its very fertile land and good climate. Let us consider the size of the army of Nanda of Magadh when Alexander came to India? What was the size of the army of Just Magadh? over 600k. Now imagine whole of India about 3000 years back which did not face any invasion or where no one fought anyone? A single unit as a nation combined thru culture and Vedic culture?
Mahabharat had armies coming from whole of India, central Asia, Afghanistan and also from south east Asia. So these numbers are quite correct considering that a child became a warrior at the age of 16 years when his yagyo pavitam was done.
Europeans and Bactrians also.
Lord Krishna during negotiation once mentioned the Kauravas have the support of Yavanas .Yavana is actually Greek aka Europeans
 
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