As we celebrate the birth day of Shri Rama, we will ponder on various aspects of Maryada-Purushottma Rama and of our Adi-kavya – Valmiki’s Ramayana. One of the significant and curious aspects, for many, is the history and chronology of Shri Rama and thus Ramayana.
Valmiki Ramayana presents us with more than 500 specific astronomy and chronology references. Some of the specific references from this list allow us to determine broad timeline for the chronology of the Ramayana while some other allow us to nail down timing for the specific instances of Ramayana, and the remaining references allow us to check if our assertions are correct.
Four references from four different kanda of Valmiki Ramayana (Ayodhya 3:34, Aryanya 16:12, Kishkindha 53:9 and Yuddha 4:48) place lower limit of 10,000 BCE as the boundary for the chronology of Ramayana, i.e., the incidents of Ramayana did not occur even a day later than 10,000 BCE. These four independent observations of seasons and astronomy phenomenon also create upper boundary of 17,000 BCE, for the chronology of Ramayana.
A solitary observation of a comet afflicting nakshatra Mula was key to determine 12209 BCE as the year of Rama-Ravana yuddha. This year (12209 BCE) as the year when Shri Rama went to Lanka, along with Laxman, Sugriva, Hanuman and other Vanara warriors and Vanara army, can be combined with chronological narrations of Valmiki Ramayana to determine timing for numerous instances of Ramayana, such as 12240 BCE being the year of Rama-Janma, 12223 BCE as the year when Rama left Ayodhya, along with Laxman and Sita, for 14 year-long Vanavas. These dates were further corroborated by hundreds of additional seasonal and astronomy observations of Valmiki Ramayana.
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A question may be raised that if Rama was born in the month of November as per Julian/Gregorian calendar computations, how come we celebrate it in the month of March/April (Gregorian calendar) in our times? The answer to this important question is the astronomy phenomenon known as ‘Precession of Equinoxes’. One of the key consequences of this phenomenon is that seasons shift by about one lunar month every 2000 years. Thus, while Valmiki Ramayana descriptions of lunar month of Chaitra are that of Sharad rutu (season); after about 14,000 years, lunar month of Chaitra falls during the second half of Vasanta rutu (season) and thus during end of March and beginning of April.
In fact, this fact was lost on dozen plus Ramayana researchers who were curious to determine the timing of Ramayana and this resulted in their proposing a timeline that cannot match with the descriptions of Valmiki Ramayana. For example, Late Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar proposed 10 January 5114 BCE as the day of Rama-Janma. This day falls during the peak of winter and thus the problem with this day is that it neither agrees with descriptions of Valmiki Ramayana nor it agrees with mistakenly assumed time of Vasanata rutu by Shri Pushkar Bhatnagar. And this wrong starting point resulted in erroneous chronology.
We can learn from Valmiki Ramayana that star Brahmarashi, also known as Abhijit or Vega, was the north pole star at the time of Ramayana as described by Laxman, or the lunar month of Ashwin occurred during the Vasanta rutu. Thus, if we compare the timing of seasons and Indian lunar months of our time, we realize that the seasons have shifted with respect to lunar month by about 6 months, i.e. exactly halfway through 26000 years long cycle of the precession of equinoxes. This means we have documented records of Indian civilization going back to about 14000 years.
Further, we can combine narration of King Trishanku from Valmiki Ramayana and from Mahabharata and combine it with knowledge of astronomy to determine 13000 BCE as the timing of King Trishanku. This means our Indian history has documented chronology of at least 15,000 years.
Of course, one may wonder if it is reasonable to make such claims, based on one stream of evidence, i.e., chronology of Ramayana. Fortunately, this is not the case. We can combine evidence from various branches of scientific disciplines – geology, hydrology, anthropology, genetics, genealogies of Kings and genealogies of Rishis that are responsible for various ‘suktas’ and ‘mandalas’ of Rigveda to present additional clues to this deep antiquity of Indian civilization.
For example, descriptions of river Sarasvati from Rigveda, Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata allow us to trace the changes in the condition of river Sarasvati that matches very well from what we know today via geology, hydrology and climatology. Geology evidence tells us that river Yamuna separated from river Sarasvati as early as 50,000 BCE and before 9000 BCE, and this evidence is consistent with descriptions of rivers not only for Yamuna, but also for river Sarasvati and river Sutlej (Shatudri). Modern discoveries in genetics also tell us that the Indian gene pool is very old and practically unchanged for last 20,000 plus years. Indian civilization and its narrative tradition has cleverly amalgamated science, history, art, adhyatma, medicine and peaceful living in a single tradition without any strains among its various pursuits.
Indian civilization combined these multifaceted aspects of civilization around numerous festivals it celebrates. We glean from even stray references of Valmiki Ramayana and Mahabharata of a tradition of Indra-dhwaja festival that was celebrated during the Vasanta rutu (season) and during the lunar month of Ashwin in Ramayana times (13th millennium BCE) and that was continued to be celebrated through Mahabharata times and it is also celebrated in our times with both its old and new names. Whether it is Tamil Sangam literature or the living ‘natha’ tradition of Nepal, both refer to it as Indra-dhwaja (Indra Viza) festival. And, while tradition of Nepal continues to celebrate it during the lunar month of Ashwin, as was done in Ramayana times, state of Maharashtra celebrates it on the first day of lunar month of Chaitra with ‘Gudhi (Dhwaja) Padava’. The times and style may change with changing times; however, the age-old tradition is preserved and celebrated throughout this land of Bharata-varsha.
It is in this very spirit, let’s celebrate 5 April 2017 CE, as the birth day of our dear Shri Rama. Jai Sri Rama!
– Mr. Nilesh Nilkanth Oak, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA.