Date(s) of the Mahabharata War

Shrinivas Tilak shrinivast at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Oct 8 14:57:58 UTC 2000

    Some time ago Rajesh Kocchar made a valid observation that various
scholars, though they use the same astronomical data, have come up with
diferent dates of the Mahabharata War. He then made a plea for resolving
such contradictions.
    In this context I would like to draw the attention of scholars to a book
by Oscar Marcel Hinze, a psychologist of perception trained in
astronomy--"Tantra Vidya: Based on Archaic Astronomy and Tantric Yoga"
(trans V.M.Bedekar, Motilal Banarasidass 1979).
    Hinze argues that it would be unfair for modern scientists to propose
uncritically that they would be able to know exactly what the ancient
priest/astronomers of Babylon "saw or observed." Because, the way in which
the modern scientist perceives is only one among the many possibilities of
perception. One and the same "world of stimuli" does not necessarily lead to
one and the same perception (pp 2-3).
    Hinze therefore argues for a more sensitive understanding of "archaic
astronomy." He alludes to two kinds of numbers in ancient astronomy: (1)
Period numbers, which are dependent on certain selected temporal units (day,
week, month, year etc). Since the time of revolution of the Moon is a fixed
period of 28 days or 4 weeks or 1 month; 28, 4, and 1 are known as
period-numbers. There are as many period-numbers as there are units of time.
    (2) Gestalt numbers: In the period of four weeks, the Moon appears in
different phases. If we bring together in our thought the four phases in the
sky which correspond to the main phases, i.e. the three visible main phases
and the new moon phase which is visible, we get a definite figure: a square.
The number four, thus obtained, is called "gestalt-number" which refers to a
"spatially fixed temporal form. It is, like a melody, a successive--i.e. a
temporal form because it appears only in the course of time (see Hinze
p.46-47). On this basis we can understand how Ptolemy could perceive a
20-year cycle of Mercury (see Hinze pp 56-57).
    Is it possible that the astronomical data in ancient Indian texts is
similarly preserved in terms of "period" and "gestalt" numbers? This might
explain, in part, the contradictions in the date of the Mahabharata War.
Indologists need to take a closer look at Hinze's arguments as well as at
the two sources he quotes--Hermann von Baravelle and Franz Boll.
    S.Tilak, Dept of religion, Concordia University,
    Montreal, Canada

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