Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s dating of ancient texts
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE
Part 2 of 10- Lord Rama was NOT born in Śarad season
In my first article in this series, I described and explained the basis of Nilesh Oak’s dating of the Ramāyaṇa. I labeled it the Vartak-Oak hypothesis. I pointed out that it is a hypothesis, and not a proven scientific fact. Vartak and Oak had not presented enough evidence to support their hypothesis, I argued. They hypothesize that the luni-solar months get shifted from the seasons due to precession. Based on the information provided by Oak , Table 1 summarizes the important configurations according to Oak as I showed in Part 1 of this series .
If you are a researcher who has concluded that the luni-solar months were shifted by six months compared to the standard configuration during the time of Rāmāyaṇa in 12209 BCE, what are you going to do next? You are going to look for proof in the Rāmāyaṇa. Is that not so? Therefore, when I started evaluating Oak’s astronomical dating of the Rāmāyaṇa, I searched the Rāmāyaṇa for explicit mention of seasons and months. I could not find any proof of Oak’s supposed configuration in the Rāmāyaṇa. Wherever months and seasons or months or seasons are explicitly stated, they always conform to the standard configuration. At this point therefore, it is useful to know more about the standard configuration.
- The Vedic/Hindu Calendar
The division of a year according to the Vedic/Hindu calendar is shown in Table 2. The year is divided in two, Uttarāyaṇa and Dakṣināyana. Uttarāyaṇa is the period from winter solstice to summer solstice, and Dakṣināyana is the period from summer solstice to winter solstice. There were different ways to divide the year into seasons. The common way was to divide the year into six seasons of two-month durations: Śiśira (late winter), Vasanta (spring), Grīṣma (summer), Varṣā (rainy season), Śarada (autumn), and Hemanta (early winter). In this division, the first three seasons were part of Uttarāyaṇa and the last three seasons were part of Dakṣināyana. Two alternative lists of months were in use. One list named the months as Tapa, Tapasya, Madhu, Mādhava, Śukra, Śuchi, Nabha, Nabhasya, Īśa, Urja, Saha, and Sahasya. I have listed them as tropical months, but there is difference of opinion about it. This list is no longer in use.
Another list is that of Māgha, Phālguna, Caitra, Vaiśākha, Jyeṣṭha, Āṣāḍha, Śrāvaṇa, Bhādrapada (Proshṭhapada), Āśvina, Kārttika, Mārgaśīrṣa (Agrahāyaṇa), and Pauṣa. This is the list that is in current use. Generally, Tapa was used interchangeably with Māgha, Tapasya with Phālguna, Madhu with Caitra, and so on as shown in Table 2. However, there was a technical difference between these two lists, and dates were different in the two systems when both lists were in use. I have not found how exactly the dates in Tapa, Tapasya system were calculated. If anyone has more information on this matter, please do contact me using the email address listed at the end of this article. With this preliminary information, let us look at the evidence contained in the Rāmāyaṇa.
2. Evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa
The translations of the Rāmāyaṇa are available on the internet. For the present discussion I will use the excellent resource created by my alma mater IIT Kanpur. Here is the link to the site:
On this site, one can specify the Kāṇḍa, Sarga, and Śloka of the Rāmāyaṇa, and the site will display the verse in different scripts including Roman and the English translation of the verse. I am providing the quoted verses and their translation from the site as well as links to the IIT Kanpur Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa site for each quoted verse so that you can check it independently.
Sarga 26, Śloka 14 of the Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa of the Rāmāyaṇa has explicit mention that Varṣā season started with the month of Śrāvaṇa as shown below:
This is as listed in Table 2 and under standard configuration in Table 1. Please note that this verse refers to the four-month long Varṣā season also known as Cāturmāsya. This is clearly against Oak’s assertion that the month of Śrāvaṇa was in the Śiśira season during the time of the Rāmāyaṇa. See Table 1.
Furthermore, Sarga 28 of the Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa of the Rāmāyaṇa has explicit mentions of seasons and months as described below:
iii) Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa 28.55
Together, these verses imply that the Varṣā season had started, the month of Bhādrapada was in the Varṣā season, the month of Āṣāḍha had passed, and the Śarad season was still to come. According to Oak, the month of Bhādrapada should be in the Śiśira season (see Table 1), but it is clearly in the Varṣā season according to the Rāmāyaṇa. Sage Vālmīki is clearly following the standard configuration of seasons and months as shown in Tables 1 and 2. So how exactly does Oak justify his dating of the Rāmāyaṇa, if the evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa is clearly against it?
3. Astronomy Poison Pills
Oak claims that he has sets of evidence called “Astronomy Poison Pills” that make it impossible for the date of the Rāmāyaṇa to be later than 10000 BCE. There are four Astronomy Poison Pills for the dating of the Rāmāyaṇa according to Oak :
Both epics have linchpins. The linchpins come from what I call ‘astronomy observations’ due to long term phenomenon of ‘Precession of Equinoxes’. … Ramayana does not have ‘UNIQUE’ evidence like AV observation. It has 4 specific and independent astronomy observations (or set of them) that all point to 10,000 BCE or before, e.g.
(1) Chaitra as the lunar month that occurred during Sharad season (10500 BCE — 15000 BCE)
(2) Ashwin as the lunar month that occurred during Vasanta season (11800 BCE — 16500 BCE)
(3) Sun setting near pushya during Hemant season (11500 BCE — 17500 BCE)
(4) Brahmarashi/Vega/Abhijit as pole star during Ramayana times (10,000 BCE — 14000 BCE)
These are linchpins. The rest of the astronomy evidence (500+) goes in ‘supporting’ these inferences and assist in identifying specific year (12209 BCE) of the timing of Rama-Ravana war.
To refute Oak’s claim, all these supposed “Astronomy Poison Pills” must be addressed. In this article, Oak’s first claim will be refuted and in the following articles the rest of his supposed “Astronomy Poison Pills” will be refuted. The first Astronomy Poison Pill is the month of Caitra being in the Śarad season.
4. Caitra in the Śarad season?
Oak cites Ayodhyākāṇḍa 3.4 as proof of Caitra being in the Śarad season in his book “The Historic Rama” .
Ayodhyākāṇḍa 3.4 says the following:
Oak claims that blooming of flowers is proof of the Śarad season. Normally, it will be an obvious sign of the Vasanta season, but Oak says that it cannot be. The Rāmāyaṇa events took place a long time ago, certainly earlier than 5561 BCE, his date of the Mahābhārata. At that time months would have shifted from the seasons according to his hypothesis. Since Caitra is in Vasanta season now, it could not have been in Vasanta season during the Rāmāyaṇa time. Oak then proceeds to claim that other Rāmāyaṇa researchers are wrong because they have not taken his hypothesis into account. First, Oak’s dating of the Mahābhārata is wrong just as his dating of the Rāmāyaṇa is wrong. Oak cannot use his unproven date of the Mahābhārata in support of his date of the Rāmāyaṇa. Second, Oak makes all these claims based on a hypothesis for which he has not provided enough evidence. Did Oak do a literature review of Indian texts to look for mention of seasons and months and found any direct evidence explicitly mentioning seasons and months in accordance with his hypothesis? I have not seen him produce any direct evidence where seasons and months are explicitly mentioned in accordance with his hypothesis. I have done the literature review and found no evidence supporting the Vartak-Oak hypothesis going backwards from the standard configuration. I will present the evidence in Part 9 of this series titled “The grouping of seasons and lunar months from the Vedic age till now”. In the final part of the series titled “Fatal logical errors in the Vartak-Oak hypothesis” I will show why the Vartak-Oak hypothesis is untenable and wrong.
Oak’s other proofs for the claim of Caitra being in the Śarad season are all analogies. Here are the verses quoted by Oak on pages 76 and 77 of his book “The Historic Rama” :
iii) Ayodhyākāṇḍa 7.31
(IIT Kanpur site has clubbed Ayodhyākāṇḍa 15.32 to 15.40 together, so I am not copying the whole image.)
Adorned with hundreds of galleries, it had a peak mounted with golden idols. The arches were studded with different gems and corals. Bright like dense autumnal cloud, it shone like the cave of mount Meru.
All of these are poetic expressions. To take these metaphors and symbolism literally as proof of the Śarad season is both simplistic and wrong. Oak is implying that whenever an analogy of a season is made, it is that season. So Oak implies that an analogy of the Śarad season can be made only in the Śarad season. It is ironic that Oak berates people on their ability to think logically, but then proceeds to load his work with logical fallacies. Let us look at Oak’s first piece of evidence in Ayodhyākāṇḍa 2.17 above. It gives the analogy of peacocks making sound in the rain. How can this be proof of the Śarad season? It clearly is an example of the Varṣā season. This shows how absurd it is to use analogies as astronomical evidence. Oak has used this kind of “logic” to inflate the numbers of allusions in the Rāmāyaṇa in support of his hypothesis, and he then proceeds to discard clear and direct evidence in the very same Rāmāyaṇa.
If we look at the verses that Oak has quoted in support of the Śarad season, we will see that they range from Sarga 2 to Sarga 44 of the Ayodhyākāṇḍa. So there should be no analogy of another season between these Sargas according to Oak! Let us take a look at the following verse from Sarga 20, which falls between Sarga 2 and Sarga 44.
Well, here clearly is an analogy of the Varṣā season. If, therefore, we were to use Oak’s “logic”, we would have the Varṣā season right in the middle of the Śarad season. This makes little sense.
If we look at the evidence presented in Section 2, we know that Caitra was in the Vasanta season during the Rāmāyaṇa time. Since the order of months is Māgha, Phālguna, Caitra, Vaiśākha, Jyeṣṭha, Āṣāḍha, Śrāvaṇa, Bhādrapada (Proshṭhapada), Āśvina, Kārttika, Mārgaśīrṣa (Agrahāyaṇa), and Pauṣa, and the order of seasons is Śiśira, Vasanta, Grīṣma, Varṣā, Śarad, and Hemanta, the month of Caitra can’t be in Śarad according to the clear evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa from the Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa showing Śrāvaṇa and Bhādrapada in the Varṣā season. There is further evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa that clearly shows that Caitra was in the Vasanta season during the Rāmāyaṇa time.
5. Caitra was in the Vasanta season
Dr. Jayasree Saranathan, a brilliant Indic researcher, has shown that Caitra was in the Vasanta season during Lord Rama’s birth . Here I show her impeccable logic step by step. The evidence is found in Bālakāṇḍa.
Evidence 1: Bālakāṇḍa 1.12.1 shows that king Daśaratha desired to perform a sacrifice in the Vasanta season.
Evidence 2: Bālakāṇḍa 1.13.1 shows that after one year king Daśaratha started the initial horse sacrifice rituals in the Vasanta season.(After this, the horse was set free to roam for one year.)
Evidence 3: Bālakāṇḍa 1.14.1 shows that sacrificial horse returned after one year and king Daśaratha started the final horse sacrifice rituals. (This means final horse sacrifice rituals took place in the Vasanta season as well.)
Evidence 4: Bālakāṇḍa 1.18.8 shows that Lord Rāma was born one year after the completion of sacrifice.
The final horse sacrifice rituals took place for three days after the return of the horse (Bālakāṇḍa 14.37–40). The final horse sacrifice rituals were started in the Vasanta season as per Bālakāṇḍa1.14.1 shown above. Lord Rāma was born one year after the completion of the rituals. Hence, Lord Rāma was born in the Vasanta season. As Bālakāṇḍa 1.18.8 specifies the date as Caitra Navami, clearly Caitra was in the Vasanta season during Lord Rāma’s birth.
Oak has used his unproven hypothesis and analogies to claim that the Caitra month was in the Śarad season as discussed in Section 4. Against this claim of his I have provided clear and direct evidence in this article that the Caitra month was in the Vasanta season during the Rāmāyaṇa time. Having refuted Oak’s Astronomy Poison Pill #1, I will refute Oak’s remaining Astronomy Poison Pills in the forthcoming articles. Please see the “Coming Up” section below for details.
4. Oak, N.N. (2014). “The Historic Rama”, (Publisher not mentioned in the book), pp. 57–59.
5. Ibid, pp. 76–77.
P.S. I was very saddened to receive the news that Prof. Narahari Achar passed away on April 23. Like most Indic researchers, I had great respect for Prof. Achar who pioneered the use of astronomy software for the dating of ancient Indian texts including the Mahābhārata. After the publication of my previous article, I received an email from one of his colleagues that Prof. Achar was very disturbed with the dating of Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata by Oak. He wanted to write a detailed rebuttal of Oak’s dating of the Rāmāyaṇa and the Mahābhārata, but his desire remained unfulfilled. Prof. Achar’s colleague expressed his happiness that I am fulfilling his wish. In 2018 Oak published an article in Pragyata claiming to refute Prof. Achar’s dating of the Mahābhārata [Mahabharata War Date: Rebuttal to claim of 3067 BCE (pragyata.com)]. I was offended by Oak’s comment at the bottom of the article: “Delusion follows from words that have no correspondence with reality”. Our civilizational ethos is “Vidyā Dadāti Vinayam”. Oak and his followers continue to insult scholars who were/are trendsetters, and who did/are doing careful, thoughtful research. I will complete this series of articles refuting Oak’s dating of the Rāmāyaṇa as a tribute to Prof. Achar. Om Shanti.
Note: May 8, 2021
I had tagged Oak in my tweet announcing the publication of this article. Oak did not respond directly to this announcement on Twitter.
The link to this article was also posted in the Google group भारतीयविद्वत्परिषत् by me. Oak is member of this group. There was no reply from him in this group.
There was an indirect comment by Oak telling his followers not to waste time reading my article.
Obviously, Oak has no answer to the points raised in this article. Oak often tells people who criticize him of lacking scientific acumen.
If Oak had any scientific acumen, he would have realized that his hypothesis of lunar months shifting from seasons is wrong because it directly conflicts the clear evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa as shown in this article. In science, a hypothesis is discarded if the experimental results are against it. Experimental results are never discarded if they are against the hypothesis. Oak has discarded the evidence that is clearly against his hypothesis and he has used bogus claims for this purpose. His strategy of discarding clear evidence by the sheer weight of bogus numbers is shown below [https://indictales.com/2017/02/14/dating-ramayana-nilesh-oak-srijan-talk/]:
Take a look at the “8+” evidence that Oak claims for Śarad and Caitra. I have shown in this article that these examples are bogus as Oak’s main argument is based on a hypothesis for which no evidence has been provided. Rest of the evidence is logically absurd as it consists of analogies/poetic expressions. The man giving lectures on logic has no sense of logic. It is puzzling to me that educated people have accepted this nonsense of claiming analogies as astronomical observations.
I will show that all the numbers claimed by Oak are bogus in this series of articles. Please read my next article to find out the truth about Oak’s claim of the Sun being near Puṣya Nakṣatra during the Hemanta season.
More about the author
I am a seeker of historical truths and am deeply interested in the heritage of India. I have earned a B.Tech. in Metallurgical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from The Ohio State University, USA. I have a deep interest in ancient Indian texts. My research besides Materials Science covers several different areas: Vedic cosmology, Vedic astronomy, Jain astronomy, and ancient Indian history.
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE: Part 4 of 10- Āśvina month was NOT in Vasanta season during Rāmāyaṇa time (to be published on May 15, 2021)
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE: Part 5 of 10- Brahmarāśi is NOT Abhijit (Vega) star (to be published on May 22, 2021)
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE: Part 6 of 10- The Comet observed by Lakshmana CANNOT be identified (to be published on May 29, 2021)
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12,209 BCE: Part 7 of 10- A bridge to NOWHERE: A tale of two Laṅkās (to be published on June 05, 2021)
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE: Part 8 of 10 — Bluffing and the Game of Numbers (to be published on June 12, 2021)
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE: Part 9 of 10- The grouping of seasons and lunar months from the Vedic age till now (to be published on June 19, 2021)
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE: Part 10 of 10- Fatal logical Errors in the Vartak-Oak Hypothesis (to be published on June 26, 2021)