Mahabharata question

Artur Karp hart at POLBOX.COM
Tue Mar 21 01:36:28 UTC 2000

At 17:05 2000-03-22 +0100, Georg v. Simson wrote:

>I don't think we can use the last two passages you quote as evidence for the
>new moon day at the beginning of the battle. The poet here just collects all
>kind of sinister omens: meteors, hurricanes, earthquakes and all kind of
>queer movements of the planets - if you try to take this astronomically
>seriously, you will see that it doesn't work. This is not on the same level
>as the first quote (V.140.18).

If I dare to entertain that idea, it is because of the presence of the
triad: Moon, Moon's node, Sun. Even if the fragments V.141.10 and
VI.3.11 with their image of the Moon's node moving towards and "devouring"
the Sun  are <not on the same level as the first quote (V.140.18)>,
taken together the three of them form a meaningful whole.

A cursory check tells me that the images of solar eclipses aren't used
helter skelter throughout the Epic. RAhu is mentioned in a dozen or so
comparisons with yathA, iva; once or twice in lists of celestial and other
beings. Three times RAhu is said to eclipse the Sun on a day that is "out of
joint" (aparvani, i.e. "not on the new moon day"), but that fact is
stressed, as in II.72.21 (rAhuz cArkam upAgrasat aparvaNi mahAghoraM
prajAnAM janayan bhayam), where it terrifies people by its sheer
untimeliness, or in IX.55.10 (rAhuz cAgrasad Adityam aparvaNi). The two
times when the term 'aparvaNi' is not used, are precisely V.141.10 and
VI.3.11, where the presence of the new moon could be implied. Which
would make THIS solar eclipse perfectly 'parvaNi'.

I am far from trying to convince anyone that this (or other) solar eclipse
could provide the events depicted in the Epic with a hard date. Although its
appearance is made quite realistic, I would rather imagine its role as one
of signs by which the last eighteen days of the Dvapara-yuga are cut off from
the rest of time and given their special status.

With regards,

Artur Karp
University of Warsaw

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