Refutation of Rupa Bhaty’s dating of ancient texts
Maitrāyaṇī Brāhmaṇa Upaniṣad is NOT over 35,000 years old
Refutation of the article “Fascinating Astronomical and Eustatic Observation by King Bṛhadratha” by Rupa Bhaty
“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” — Carl Sagan
I had posted the link to my previous blog on Twitter. There was one comment that if I don’t like Bhaty’s articles, I should just ignore it. This completely misses the point why I am writing these articles. Bhaty’s articles are read by many people and Bhaty is also putting forward her views on Sattology Youtube channel. Many people might have doubts about her extravagant claims and would like to get a second opinion. My articles are written to give the second opinion, nothing more and nothing less. I am going to build this blog site as a resource for people to check the extravagant astronomical claims made by various Indic researchers. Let the people have all the information and let them decide what they want to believe. I say that all Brāhmaṇa texts belong to the same period and different Brāhmaṇa texts can’t be separated by over 7,000 years. Bhaty disagrees and that’s fine. Let the people decide. I say that explicit mention from Gopatha Brāhmaṇa that it was full moon at the time of the new year in Uttara Phālgunī means it was full moon for Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa observation also as rest of the information is exactly same in Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa. Bhaty disagrees and wants the proof of full moon from Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa itself. Here is the commentary by Sāyaṇācārya on Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 220.127.116.11, where he clearly mentions that it was full moon of the Phālguna month . Note the word “Purṇimā” which means full moon.
Bhaty can claim that she has better understanding of Vedic Texts than Sāyaṇācārya. I won’t bet on it. To me it is clear that Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa observation refers to full moon and therefore Bhaty’s dating of Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa is wrong. Bhaty can still insist that it is from the commentary by Sāyaṇācārya on Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa and not from Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa itself. That is fine too. Let the people decide. With this background, I will now proceed with my refutation of the article “Fascinating Astronomical and Eustatic Observation by King Bṛhadratha” by Bhaty . Bhaty has also presented this information on Sattology Youtube channel .
Maitrāyaṇī Brāhmaṇa Upaniṣad (Hence after MBU, Bhaty uses MAU) is considered a later Upaniṣad. It is also known as Maitrī Upaniṣad, Maitrāyaṇīya Upaniṣad, Maitrāyaṇa Upaniṣad, and Maitrāyaṇīya Brāhmaṇa Upaniṣad . Bhaty has dated this Upaniṣad to 33,800 BCE as follows :
Vernal equinox in Magha, thus its epoch 8500 BCE and 33800 BCE, in which 33800 BCE appears to be correct with corroborative eustatic evidence.
Bhaty has arrived at this date by combining three different sections of MBU. According to Bhaty :
1. MBU 6.33 specifies spring as the first season of the year.
2. MBU 6.14 specifies that year begins at the beginning of Maghā.
3. MBU 1.7 specifies the drying of oceans.
Combining 1 and 2, Bhaty concludes that vernal equinox was at the beginning of Maghā with its date being 8,500 BCE and in the earlier precession cycle being 33,800 BCE. As sea level was rising during 8,500 BCE, Bhaty concludes that the date belongs to previous precession cycle when sea level was receding. Thus the date of observations mentioned in MBU is 33,800 BCE according to Bhaty.
To get the context of MBU 1.7, the chapter 1 is reproduced below :
1. The laying of the formerly-described sacrificial fires is indeed the sacrifice of Brahman. Therefore let the sacrificer, after he has laid those fires, meditate on the Self. Thus only does the sacrifice become complete and faultless.
But who is to be meditated on? He who is called Prāṇa (breath). Of him there is this story:
2. A king named Bṛhadratha, having established his son in his sovereignty, went into the forest, because he considered this body as transient, and had obtained freedom from all desires. Having performed the highest penance, he stands there, with uplifted arms, looking up to the sun. At the end of a thousand (days), the Saint Śākāyanya, who knew the Self, came near, burning with splendour, like a fire without smoke. He said to the King: ‘Rise, rise! Choose a boon!’
The King, bowing before him, said: ‘O Saint, I know not the Self, thou knowest the essence (of the Self). We have heard so. Teach it us.’
Śākāyanya replied: ‘This was achieved of yore; but what thou askest is difficult to obtain. O Aikshvāka, choose other pleasures.’
The King, touching the Saint’s feet with his head, recited this Gāthā:
3. ‘O Saint, What is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures in this offensive, pithless body — a mere mass of bones, skin, sinews, marrow, flesh, seed, blood, mucus, tears, phlegm, ordure, water, bile, and slime! What is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures in this body which is assailed by lust, hatred, greed, delusion, fear, anguish, jealousy, separation from what is loved, union with what is not loved, hunger, thirst, old age, death, illness, grief, and other evils!
4. And we see that all this is perishable, as these flies, gnats, and other insects, as herbs and trees, growing and decaying. And what of these? There are other great ones, mighty wielders of bows, rulers of empires, Sudyumna, Bhūridyumna, Indradyumna, Kuvalayāśva, Yauvanāśva, Vadhryaśva, Aśvapati, Śaśabindu, Hariścandra, Ambariśa, Nahuṣa, Anānata, Śaryāti, Yayāti, Anaraṇya, Ukshasena, &c., and kings such as Marutta, Bharata (Daushyanti), and others, who before the eyes of their whole family surrendered the greatest happiness, and passed on from this world to that. And what of these? There are other great ones. We see the destruction of the Gandharvas, Asuras, Yakshas, Rākshasas, Bhūtas, Gaṇas, Piśācas, snakes, and vampires. And what of these? There is the drying up of other great oceans, the falling of mountains, the moving of the pole-star, the cutting of the wind-ropes (that hold the stars), the submergence of the earth, and the departure of the gods (suras) from their place. In such a world as this, what is the use of the enjoyment of pleasures, if he who has fed on them is seen to return (to this world) again and again! Design therefore to take me out! In this world I am like a frog in a dry well. O Saint, thou art my way, thou art my way.’
Please note that MBU 1.7 referred by Bhaty is shown under MBU 1.4 by Max Müller. If you read this chapter in whole, you can have only one conclusion — this is all philosophical. This is about everything being perishable. There is nothing specific here that can be dated. But this does not prevent Bhaty from doing OBJECTIVE TESTING of the observations made in this chapter. Bhaty writes :
…third and very important information is about the drying of Ocean, which could have been assumed to be accounted by Bṛhadratha due to his remorsefulness towards life, yet I take this as an evidence and in our times with ample research data this can be objectively tested.
Bhaty’s group uses the word OBJECTIVE TESTING a lot. How can anyone do OBJECTIVE TESTING of subjective data? What is the data here? Ocean is drying. Is the sea level given that Bhaty can test? Let me reproduce the relevant part of MBU 1.4/1.7 in Sanskrit here:
In roman transliteration:
atha kimetairvā’nyānāṃ śoṣaṇaṃ mahārṇavāṇāṃ śikhariṇāṃ prapatanaṃ dhruvasya pracalanaṃ vraścanaṃ vatarajjūnāṃ nimajjanaṃ pṛthivyāḥ sthānādapasaraṇaṃ surāṇāmityetadvidhe’sminsaṃsāre kiṃ kāmopabhogaiḥ |
The word used is “śoṣaṇaṃ” which Bhaty has taken as meaning the lowering of sea level. But this is not the meaning and it is made clear in the translation by Cowell :
But why talk of these? There are others higher yet — the great oceans are dried up, the mountains fall, the pole star moves from its place, the wind cords (of the stars) are cut, the earth is submerged, and the heavenly beings depart from their homes. In such a world as this what have I to do with the enjoyments of desire?
Meaning is that ocean has completely dried. This is consistent with the general theme of Chapter 1 of MBU, where the perishable nature of everything is explained. This includes oceans as well as mountains. If Bhaty wants to do OBJECTIVE TESTING then Bhaty has to figure out when the oceans were completely dry. It gets even worse, when one reads the commentary by Rāmatīrtha on MBU 1.4/1.7 :
Rāmatīrtha specifies the time of the complete drying up of oceans. It is Pralayakāla, i.e. the time of the end of the universe. I hope you understand what kind of absurdity Bhaty indulges in when Bhaty does OBJECTIVE TESTING of subjective data. It is even worse when you read the complete passage of MBU 1.4/1.7. It also talks about the submergence of earth, which Bhaty has conveniently ignored. Now, how can you fulfill the two conditions simultaneously: oceans have dried up completely and earth is submerged? This is the type of situation you run into when you do OBJECTIVE TESTING of a philosophical passage.
Now that we are clear that MBU 1.4/1.7 can’t be used for dating, let’s focus on the other two pieces of evidence Bhaty has used: MBU 6.14 and 6.33.
Here is relevant portion of MBU 6.33:
pañceṣṭako vā eṣo’gniḥ saṃvatsarastasyemā iṣṭakā yo vasanto grīṣmo varṣāḥ śaradhemantaḥ sa śiraḥ pakṣasīpṛṣṭhapucchavān …
Its English translation by Max Müller is as follows :
This fire (the Gārhapatya-fire) with five bricks is the year. And its five bricks are spring, summer, rainy season, autumn, winter; and by them the fire has a head, two sides, a centre, and a tail.
Here is relevant portion of MBU 6.14:
dwādaśātmakaṃ vatsarametasyāgneyamardhamardhaṃ vārunaṃ maghādyaṃ śraviṣṭhārdhamāgneyam krameṇotkrameṇa sārpādyaṃ śraviṣṭhārdhāntaṃ |aumyam tatraikaikamātmano navāṃśakaṃ sacārakavidham …
Its English translation by Max Müller is as follows :
Of the year one half (when the sun moves northward) belongs to Agni, the other to Varuṇa (when the sun moves southward). That which belongs to Agni begins with the asterism of Maghā and ends with half of the asterism of Śravishṭhā, the sun stepping down northward. That which belongs to Soma (instead of Varuṇa) begins with the asterism (of Aśleshā), sacred to the Serpents, and ends with half of the asterism of Śravishṭhā, the sun stepping up southward. And then there (are the months) one by one, belonging to the year, each consisting of nine-fourths of asterisms (two asterisms and a quarter being the twelfth part of the passage of the sun through the twenty-seven Nakshatras), each determined by the sun moving together with the asterisms.
According to MBU 6.14, the sun was at the junction of Maghā and Āśleṣā during summer solstice and in the middle of Śravishṭhā (Dhanishṭhā) during winter solstice. As shown in Figure 1, the sun was at these positions in 2,316 BCE. I had discussed this in my earlier blog too .
Bhaty has combined MBU 6.14 and MBU 6.33 to claim that vernal equinox was at the beginning of Maghā. There is no room for such a combination. MBU 6.14 is clear that summer solstice was at the beginning of Maghā. This is the way it has been traditionally understood. I have not found any evidence to the contrary. Here is the commentary on MBU 6.14 by Rāmatīrtha :
Rāmatīrtha says that six months of Uttarāyaṇa belong to Agni and six months of Dakṣiṇāyana belong to Varuṇa. This clearly establishes that MBU 6.14 is referring to solstices not equinoxes.
Contemporary source Dharmawiki says the following about MBU 6.14 :
Maitrayaniya Brahmana Upanishad (6.14) refers to the winter solstice being at the mid-point of the Shravishtha segment and the summer solstice at the beginning of Magha. This indicates 1660 B.C.E.
Please note that the date depends on the boundaries of nakṣatras. Here 1,660 BCE date refers to the system that I have named Kṛttikā system . I have dated MBU 6.14 using Rohiṇī system as this is the original system and Kṛttikā system was developed during first millennium according to my research. The dates for sun’s position during solstices and equinoxes in different systems have been presented by me in an earlier blog .
Even Bhaty’s colleague Oak had accepted in 2014 that MBU 6.14 specifies the position of solstices :
Astronomy reference of Maitrayani Upanishad also states that the Dakshinayan ended at the point of half –Dhanishstha and that Uttarayan began from that point. … Thus, we can say that either the original composition of Maitrayani Upanishad or its subsequent modification/update/addition took place sometime around 2000 BCE.
Recently, Oak has tried to change his position in an attempt to incorporate Bhaty’s ideas, but has come up with 22,000 BCE date as Oak puts Maghā at autumnal equinox :
Let us see what dating we arrive at if we assume the position of Magha at autumnal equinox (i.e. the entry of the sun in the southern hemisphere). To align the position of Magha with respect to the point of fall equinox leads us to the timing of 22000 BCE.
However, there is no room for such an interpretation. As discussed above, Rāmatīrtha in his commentary has clearly mentioned Uttarāyaṇa and Dakṣiṇāyana, which can only mean solstices and not equinoxes. The conclusion is clear. The astronomical observations in MBU can be dated only to 3rd millennium BCE. Any date earlier than that has no basis.
1. The Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa of the Black Yajurveda, with the commentary of Sāyaṇācārya, edited by Rājendralāla Mitra, Bibliotheca Indica; A collection of Oriental Works published under the Superintendent of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, №216, Calcutta, 1866, page 13 of Bhāṣya.
2. Bhaty, Rupa, “Fascinating Astronomical and Eustatic Observation by King Bṛhadratha”, https://rupabhaty.home.blog/2020/06/20/fascinating-astronomical-and-eustatic-observation-by-king-b%e1%b9%9bhadratha/.
3. Bhaty, Rupa, “Astronomical Observations of King Brhadratha”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyJTmi-pxdE.
5. Max Müller, F. (1884), “The Upanishads”. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, pages 287–290.
6. The Maitri or Maitrāyaṇīya Upanishad with the commentary of Rāmatīrtha, edited with An English translation by E.B. Cowell, published by Asiatic Society of Bengal, Printed in London, 1870, page 244.
7. Ibid, page 11.
8. Max Müller, F. (1884), “The Upanishads”. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, page 331.
9. Ibid, page 316.
11. The Maitri or Maitrāyaṇīya Upanishad with the commentary of Rāmatīrtha, edited with An English translation by E.B. Cowell, published by Asiatic Society of Bengal, Printed in London, 1870, page 119.
More about the author
I am a seeker in search of the true history and heritage of India. I have strong scientific background (B.Tech. in Metallurgical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from The Ohio State University, USA) and a deep interest in ancient Indian texts. My work on Indology spans three different fields: cosmology, astronomy, and history.