A Review of N P Ramadurai's
"Ancient History of
With reference to his
Astronomical Dating of Mythological Events.
It is with a mixed feeling of challenge and pleasure this review is written. The challenge comes from the fact that the author Sri NP Ramadurai (hereinafter to be referred as NPR) makes very significant assertions that contradict every shade of traditional understanding of Indian mythology. The pleasure comes from the fact that here is an author who, for the first time, looks at almost every 'mythological' event from a historical point of view, ventures innovatively into difficult terrain and dates them from his astronomical calculations. It may be difficult to appreciate this review until one keeps in mind both the challenge of the contradictions and the pleasure of the innovation just mentioned.
The fundamental points that NPR uses as his foundation for his findings are four in number:
1. The planets, including Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, complete one full rotation (in respect of their mutual positions) and all come back to their 'starting' point every 12160 years. Precession of the equinoxes is taken as
53.2894736842 seconds of arc per year
2. The unit for duration of each yuga mentioned in scriptural texts is not to be taken as the divine year (equal to 360 earthly years) but should be taken as ordinary earthly years. NPR declares that every time the duration of a yuga is mentioned in terms of divine years, the statement should be interpreted as a 'decorative' statement and not as an actual statement of facts.
3. Regarding the Saptarishi era NPR assumes that the stay of the saptarishis in each nakshatras is only 81 years and not 100 as traditionally accepted. Again he takes the number 100 as a rounding-up approximation and not a precise number.
4. The significance of the Magha cycle
This review has no comments on Point No. 1 above. The modern astronomers take precession as about 50" . The difference of 3" has a significant effect on the massive calculations that NPR makes, but this is purely a technical matter of practical astronomy and so we do not make further comments on it. Similarly the number 12160, which NPR uses significantly, is a matter for astronomers to decide.
While NPR rightly emphasizes the significance of the Magha cycle (Point No.4) , the numbers that he gives in this connection contradict those of K.S. Raghavan's ' The Saptarishi Era' (pp.212-221 of Ref. No.1) as well as those of Dr. Vedavyas (Ref. No.2) .The Magha cycle of 160 sidereal years which NPR uses, is an original idea. According to Srinivasraghavan, Vedavyas, and all traditional opinion, the saptarishis stay in each nakshatra for 100 years and when they stayed in magha for 100 years that cycle is called the magha cycle. Thus each of the saptarishi cycles was named after the nakshatra in which they stayed. After the magha cycle there was purva phalguni cycle and so on. NPR proceeds as if there is another cycle called magha cycle and he estimates it as 160 sidereal years. While it might be true that the concept of these 160 sidereal years may be useful to 'relate full moon with the respective stars during Tamil months' , to associate it with the magha cycle of the saptharishi movement, has yet to be accepted by scholars. This is a point which must be left to scholars for further investigation.
Regarding No.3, Bhagavatam XII-2-28 says clearly 'abdaSatam nRNAm' while referring to the stay of saptarishis in one nakshatra. It is difficult to accept NPR's contention that this is a 'decorative statement'; for this appears in a specific technical reference to the time fixation with regard to all events and the whole chapter 2 of 12th skanda of bhagavatam is on this. One hundred years of human years is the statement referred above. Incidentally the mention of 'human years' here is significant. In fact this is the key point against the contention of NPR (Point No.2) that 'the yuga durations mentioned in the puranas are all to be taken as earthly years and not divine years'. While they mention 'divine years' for such durations in some contexts they say 'years' in other contexts, where the context is clearly understood. But when they want the text to show 'earthly years' they mention it invariably. Here is one such context and it is almost unique. 'One hundred human years' is therefore a clear reference, first of all to the number 100 - as against 81 of NPR - and to the 'human' years, which shows that when they want to refer to 'human' years, they say so and they do not leave it to our imagination whether the reference is to 'human' or 'divine'.
Regarding No.2, NPR's '81 years' for the stay of saptarishis in one nakshatra comes from 1000 lunar months converted into solar years. This idea of bringing in 1000 lunar months does not seem to have any corroborative evidence. The only reference which comes anywhere near to this could be Srinivasaraghavan's statement in Ref. No.1, p.212, quoting RigVeda. 1.24.9. But according to Srinivasaraghavan himself, it only says that Saptarishi stays in each nakshatra for 100 years and the point of precession stays in each nakshatra for 1000 years with Chandra moving in each nakshatra daily and the Sun moving about this Zodiac in a year. But certainly this does not mean what NPR takes it to be, namely 'saptarishi stays for 1000 lunar months in each nakshatra.' In addition, our own examination of this quotation from Rig Veda reveals no evidence to corroborate NPR's statement.
Bhagavatam XII-2-34 says 'divyAbdAnAm sahasrAnte' , while referring to the time when kritayuga will follow kaliyuga. It says 'at the end of 1000 divine years'. This is the main part of the kaliyuga, leaving out the yugasandhi. This therefore makes NPR's assumption of 1200 ordinary years for kaliyuga, totally an assertion uncorroborated by the scriptures. Three verses earlier, in XII -2-31, Bhagavatam says 'dvAdasAbda-satAtmakam' for the period of the kali. This means: 1200 years. Because there is no mention of 'divine' or 'earthly' here, NPR (perhaps) assumes that it is 'earthly'. But his assumption contradicts the mention of 'divine' years just three verses later. As we said earlier, the scriptures do not say every time 'divine years' (devamAna varshAh) when the context is clear. Only when the reference is to 'earthly' years they mention it, so that there is no confusion. Every purAna follows this style of writing.
But there is one author (R.R. Karnik) who agrees with NPR on the yuga periods being only 'earthly' years. His article on how the large numbers such as 4,320,000 years for a mahayuga came into being, is interesting. In Ref. No.3, basing his thoughts on an intensive study of Surya Siddhanta, he writes:
In the hightech uses of computer technology there is an area called simulation, in which time is used in two different manners. One is called 'real time' and the other 'non-real time' - either slow motion or fast motion. The surprising thing is that Surya Siddhanta makes use of this concept of time. All the arithmetics in the Surya siddhanta is in terms of integers for which sometimes 'real time' is not suitable. Some people believe that these huge number of years correspond to an LCM of the periods of revolution of the planets around the sun. ...
The answer is simple and elementary. The least count used in Surya siddhanta for general computations is one kala or minute of the arc of which there are 21,600 in the whole circle. If one has to specify the movement of planetary element to the accuracy of one kala in a year a period of 21,600 years will have to be taken. This is the period of a mahayuga and its tenth part which is 2160 years is the period of kaliyuga. ...
The accuracy of one kala in a year is not adequate. To therefore obtain an accuracy of one two-hundredth of a kala in a year, a period that is 200 times 21,600, that is, 4,320,000 years is necessary. The first number of 21,600 years is the real time and the other number of 4,320,000 years taken for a mahaytuga is the frame-time or the non-real time. ...
Surya siddhanta says (i.10) "The time which destroys is the real time and the other kind of time is for the purpose of computations. They are of two kinds, the gross one is used for real time and the firm one for the purpose of computations.' 'Such thousand yugas, of the all destroying kind, are called a day or kalpa of brahma the night being of equal duration.'
The significance of the above reference for the purpose of this review is this. Even the one astronomer who agrees with NPR that these large numbers for the mahayugas are non-real, ends up with a calculation for the duration of kaliyuga as 2160 years whereas NPR's assertion is that it is of 1200 years. Thus it appears that a lot of research has to be done in this direction to come to reasonably acceptable conclusions.
The other points NPR mentions are with reference to the
kaliyuga having 'started' even during
Carrying this argument of kaliyuga having started in
Conclusion. In spite of what all we have said above, NPR's work is remarkable. It has to be brought to the attention of the public. It is a piece of worthwhile research. There is a fertile area for further research here. This further work has to be done by historians, puranic experts, astronomers and specialists in hegiology. Before such further research is carried out, it is difficult to give a stamp of authenticity to this work.
2. Astronomical Dating of the mahabharata war. - Dr. Vedavyas. 1995
3. Yuga, Mahayuga and kalpa - R.R. Karnik in