Date of Mahabharata War from Literary Sources

Date of Mahabharata War from Literary Sources

In this post I will talk about the Date of Mahabharata War from various literary sources. I will show that the Date of Mahabharata War is 1053 BCE based on Vedic literature.

In order to estimate the date of Mahabharata war, we need to identify some marker with respect to which we can establish relative chronology. The marker is the date of Gautam Buddha.

Assumptions
  • As per Thai and Burmese traditional sources, Gautam Buddha is believed to have have lived from 625 BC to 545 BC.  Thus we may say that Budddha lived around 585 BC (mid-point). 
  • Average royal reign has been assumed to be 20 years. 
  • Average guru-shishya gap has been assumed to be 45 years.
Date of Mahabharata War from Royal Genealogy
Evidence
  • Parikshita's date coincides with Mahabharata War.
  • Janamejaya, Parikshita's son was a famous sovereign whose name is mentioned in the Aitareya Brahmana.
  • Nichakshu was 4th in descent from Janamejaya. During his reign the city of Hastinapura was washed away by Ganga.
  • Udayana was the 26th king in that line.
  • Udayana flourished in the second half of 6th century BC and was a contemporary of Buddha.
Conclusion
  • Udayana lived around 550 BC.
  • Parikshit rule 26 generations earlier, that is 520 years earlier.
  • Hence Parikshita may be placed at 1070 BC.
Date of Mahabharata War from Puru Royal Genealogy is 1070 BC.

Date of Mahabharata War from Literary Sources - Uddalaka  Aruni

Date of Mahabharata War from Upanishad Student Teacher List
Evidence
  • Kaushitaki or Sankhayana Aryanaka contains a list of guru-shishya through whom sacred knowledege had been handed down. The list is as follows:
    • Uddalaka Aruni
    • Kahola Kaushitaki
    • Gunakhya Sankhyayana who is identified with author of Sankhyayana Grihyasutra. He was a contemporary of Ashvalayana. There is only one Ashvalayana in both Vedic and Buddhist text and he is Ashvalayana Kaushalya (of Kosala) and he was a contemporary of Kabandhi Katyayana. He was a contemporary of Gautam Buddha.
  • Tura Kavasheya was Janamejaya's priest and he was 6 generations up from Udaalaka Aruni.
Conclusion
  • Thus there were a total of 9 guru-shishya or priestly generations between Sankhyayana and Janamejaya, or 405 years. 
  • Adding another 20 years for Parikshita, we get the gap between Parikshita and Gunakhya Sankhyayana/ Ashvalayana Kaushalya as 425 years.
  • Hence Parikshita may be placed at 1035 BC.
Date of Mahabharata War from Upanishad Student Teacher List is 1035 BC.
Date of Mahabharata War from Literary Sources - Udayana

Both these traditions agree reasonably well and converge at 1053 BC for Parikshita's reign and Mahabharata War.

Aside
  • Another tradition is the one mentioned in the Puranas. It is stated that there is 1050 years gap between Mahapadma Nanda and Parikshita and some 23 royal kings. 
  • Mahapadma Nanda's date is beleieved to be 350 BC. 
  • However, using Puarana dates we may end up with some inconsistencies, as 1050 years for 23 kings would mean an average reign of 45 years for a kings, which is on the higher side (20 years is the average). We can thus come to two conclusions:
    • either the 1050 number is incorrect, or
    • there were more than 23 kings between Mahapadma Nanda and Parikshita
  • Both cannot be right . 
  • 1050 years gives a date of 1400 BC and 23 kings gives a date of 820 BC, which cannot be reconciled.
Hence we may conclude that the date of the Mahabharata War is 1053 BC as per Literary Sources.

References
  1. Ancient India, R.C. Majumder Page 73 , 96
  2. Political History of Ancient India, Hemchandra Raychaudhuri Page 27, 28
  3. http://forums.cgsociety.org/archive/index.php?t-704499.html
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Comments

  1. Great analysis. I am more familiar with the estimated date as about 3100 BC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Personally to me 1000 BC seems more reasonable, based on the people mentioned in the text. However, the text at many places itself refers to astronomical events which could have occurred in 3100 BC.

      1000 BC is also the official position of our Government and my analysis matches closely with the official position. http://ccrtindia.gov.in/literaryarts.php

      Delete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment - please be careful of your language.

      You have to read my whole series - I have given all the dates based on different sources in different articles. No need to get excited by reading only 1 article.

      Read the below and then comment:
      Date of Mahabharata War from 7 Amazing Sources
      Date of Mahabharata War from 7 Astronomical Sources
      Date of Mahabharata War from Riyazu-s-Salatin

      As I have said in all my articles, there is NOT one single date which everybody agrees to - even in Mahabharata book itself there are different dates in different chapters.

      Delete

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