dates when the respective hymns have been composed." The technique and the results of using it have been challenged by Pingree and many other scholars. Sarma gives the determinations indicated in Table 9.3.

The view that linguistically intelligible hymns could have been transmitted from before 6000 b.c. is incompatible with what is known of linguistic change elsewhere. Alternative interpretations may be that not all deities had the same identity in Vedic times as currently or that the calendar year may have begun differently among different groups and at different times. Dates of composition between 2500 and 800 b.c. would be more acceptable to most western scholars.

Sarma (1990a, p. 335) also cites with apparent approval a determination by P.C. Sen Gupta that a solar eclipse mentioned in the Vedas occurred in 3928 b.c. Given the difficulties in determining the correct dates of much later eclipses, and the partially repetitive nature of eclipse cycles, we see no reason to accept this date, although we have not seen the original discussion.

The great war celebrated in the epic poem the Mahabharata is often associated with the beginning of the Kaliyuga age later calculated as 3102 b.c., and made an era base (Pradhan 1927). In the epic, a considerable number of astronomical events appear as portents. The sage Vyasa reports the evil omens to the blind king Dhrtarasta (Sharma 1986, p. 79):

[T]he planet Saturn oppresses Rohini. . . Rahu constantly eclipses the sun. The white planet (Venus) after passing over Citra (Spica) stays there A fierce comet is afflicting Pusya. The fiery bodied (Mars) is retrograde in Magha and Jupiter in Sravana. The sun's offspring (Saturn) approaches Bhaga and oppresses it. Venus ascending toward Purva Bhadrapada shines brilliantly, and is wheeling toward Uttara Bhadrapada. The dark planet (Mercury) blazing up like fire .. . having attacked the Naksatra Jyestha, stays there. . .. The moon and the sun both are oppressing Rohini. The cruel planet (lunar node) has come between Citra (Spica) and Swati. The ruddy planet (Mars) .. . after its uneven motion overpowers Sravana, close to Jupiter. The two blazing planets Jupiter and Saturn having approached the naksatra Visakha have stayed there for one whole year. . . . The planet Mercury also rises with a terrible appearance indicating fearful happenings ahead. Rahu of fierce deeds is . .. afflicting Krttika.

The parentheses are those of Sharma. The date at which the poem was composed is put by some traditional scholars before 3000 b.c., whereas some modern scholars think that composition began as late as 200 b.c. and others would argue that some additions are as late as 400 a.d. The astronomical portents are of interest for the light they throw on attitudes toward astronomical events regardless of the date of composition. The portents are useful for dating only if they are part of a genuine set of observations over a relatively short interval. V.N. Sharma (1986) cites previous attempts to use these portents for dating:19 Chandra (1978) [3137 b.c.], Vaidya (1967) [2786 b.c.], Sengupta (1947) [2432 b.c.], and Daftari (1942) [1197 b.c.]. We add Pradhan (1927, p. 268) [1150 b.c.], who argued that a solar eclipse at the time of the Mahabharata war was that of 1151 b.c. as (mis)calculated from a Saros cycle of 65851/3 days.20 He got comparable dates both from precession relative to the summer solstice and from genealogical traditions. None of these earlier writers was able to make systematic computer checks. Sharma thought that the most useful statement referred to a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the naksatra Visakha (in Libra), where they remained for a year. Allowing substantial variation, Sharma showed 23 possibilities, of which only two showed a reasonable match with other statements of the epic, in his opinion. The resulting dates are 1493/1492 b.c. and 2110/2109 b.c. We note only that differences in position up to 45° between planets in a single naksatra are accepted as matching the descriptions.

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