Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s dating of ancient texts
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE
As I described in Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series of articles, Oak claims that he has a set of evidence, which he calls “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.
The first Astronomy Poison Pill of “Caitra being in the Śarad season” was refuted in Part 2 . I pointed out that according to the evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa, Caitra was in the Vasanta season. I refuted the third Astronomy Poison Pill — that of the “Sun setting near pushya during Hemant season” in Part 3 . I pointed out that Araṇyakāṇḍa 16.12 in the Rāmāyaṇa does not specify the position of the Sun. I refuted the second Astronomy Poison Pill — that of “Āśvina month being part of the Vasanta season” in Part 4 . I pointed out that Caitra, not Āśvina month, was part of the Vasanta season based on clear evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa. In this article, Oak’s fourth Astronomy Poison Pill will be analyzed. According to Oak, the description of Brahmarāśi/Vega/Abhijit as the Pole Star fixes the date of the Rāmāyaṇa between 10000 BCE and 14000 BCE.
1. The description of evidence by Oak
Oak describes the evidence for “Brahmarāśi/Vega/Abhijit as the Pole Star during Rāmāyaṇa times” in a presentation he did for “Srijan Talk” :
Ramayana has more than 500 astronomy observations. And like we did previously, we can split them into two categories. This category is ‘near earth phenomena’ which repeats frequently; the position of moons, eclipses, planetary positions and so on.
And the other side is driven by the phenomenon known as ‘the precession of equinoxes’.
‘Yudh Kanda’ of Ramayana. As different from the Mahabharat, here the word used is ‘Kanda’ instead of ‘Parva’. Hanuman and party have found Sita. She is in Lanka, Ravanna’s kingdom. They came to Kishkindha and in a hurry everybody left for Lanka.
Everybody is walking towards Lanka in order to rescue Sita and during this time, Laxman is describing the various things and patterns in the sky. It is quite obvious that they are taking the help of various stars, to make sure that they are traveling in the right direction at night and so on. And he describes the pole star of Ramayana times.
Translation: Great sages are making Parikrama around the fixed/settled Brahmarashi/Abhijit, the pole star. So he is describing the pole star of Ramayana times but you are experts now, you know now when the Brahmarashi was the pole
So he is describing the pole star of Ramayana times but we are experts now, we know now when the Brahmarashi was the pole star, when was it? 13000 years ago, around until 12000 BC. We can do the exact maps, to be more precise and find out the closest that the NCP was to the star Brahmarashi was in 12048 BC. We can go plus minus 1000 years or 2000 years to be on the safe side.
So that gives us the boundary 10000 BC and never after that. And again we put our scientific hat. We have the description, we have empirical proof and now we bring it all together. Testing, empirical, various pole stars that we have seen in the circle. Everybody knows it is the prediction for Brahmarashi, we can find out 12000 BC.
So if you accept this reference, if you put this together, we can say that Ramayana did not happen even a day late than 10000 BC.
According to the description above, Oak claims that based on the Rāmāyaṇa Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.48 Brahmarāśi/Vega/Abhijit was the Pole Star and this astronomical observation can be dated to 12000 BCE. As this discussion requires an understanding of the concept of Pole Star, I will refer the reader to my article “Surya Siddhanta was NOT written over 14,000 years ago”, which discusses the concept of Pole Star in detail . It also shows that Abhijit (Vega) star was indeed the North Pole Star in 12000 BCE. Given this fact, the assertion “Brahmarāśi/Vega/Abhijit was the Pole Star in 12000 BCE as per Rāmāyaṇa” rests on two assumptions: 1. Brahmarāśi was the Pole Star according to Rāmāyaṇa and 2. Brahmarāśi is same as Abhijit (Vega) star according to Rāmāyaṇa. Let us examine these assumptions.
2. Was Brahmarāśi the Pole Star according to Rāmāyaṇa?
Oak has quoted Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.48 in support of the claim that Brahmarāśi was the Pole Star during the time of the Rāmāyaṇa. Here are six different translations of Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.48–49:
Translation 1: Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.48–49: IIT Kanpur Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa Site 
Translation 2: Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.48–49: valmikiramayan.net
Translation 3: Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.46–48: Gītā Press
Translation 4: Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.47–48: Hari Prasad Shastri
Translation 5: Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.47–48: Manmatha Nath Dutt
Translation 6: Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.49–50: Dwārakāprasāda Śarmā
The translation by valmikiramayan.net equates Brahmarāśi with Pole Star, while the translation by IIT Kanpur site does not. In other translations it is not clear what Brahmarāśi is. I had sent a message to valmikiramayan.net asking the basis for equating Brahmarāśi with Pole Star. I never received a reply from them. If you read the verse Yuddha Kāṇḍa 4.48, it says that Brahmarāśi is pure, and all are revolving around Dhruva or the Pole Star. It does not say that all are rotating around Brahmarāśi. Even if Brahmarāśi is taken as Dhruva or the Pole Star, the claim of Oak needs the equivalence of Brahmarāśi and Abhijit (Vega) star.
3. Was Brahmarāśi same as Abhijit (Vega) Star according to Rāmāyaṇa?
Oak equates Brahmarāśi with Abhijit (Vega) star and claims to be the first to do so [8–11]. However, the Rāmāyaṇa in Kiṣkindhā Kāṇḍa 63.15 uses Abhijit for Abhijit (Vega) star. Here is the verse where Abhijit is clearly mentioned.
Kiṣkindhā Kāṇḍa 63.15: IIT Kanpur Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa Site
Nowhere in the Rāmāyaṇa it is said that Brahmarāśi is Abhijit star. If Sage Vālmīki meant Abhijit, then he would have written Abhijit and not Brahmarāśi, as he knew Abhijit star. It is merely Oak’s interpretation to fit this interpretation to suit his timeline for the Rāmāyaṇa. Oak claims to have support for his interpretation from the Mahābhārata.
4. Was Brahmarāśi same as Abhijit (Vega) Star according to Mahābhārata?
Oak’s claim of Brahmarāśi being same as Abhijit (Vega) star is based on the Mahābhārata, Bhīṣma Parva 3.18 . Three different translations of this verse are shown below:
Translation 1: Mahābhārata Bhīṣma Parva 3.18: Gītā Press
Translation 2: Mahābhārata Bhīṣma Parva 3.18: Manmatha Nath Dutt
Translation 3: Mahābhārata Bhīṣma Parva 3.18: Kisari Mohan Ganguli
The red-bodied (Mars) possessed of the effulgence of fire, wheeling circuitously, stayeth in a line with the constellation Sravana over-ridden by Vrihaspati.
These three translations interpret Brahmarāśi as the nakṣatra in which planet Jupiter was residing at that moment. As I have shown again and again in this series of articles, Oak offers his own interpretation that suits his timeline. In this case, here is Oak’s interpretation :
After being fixed in the region of chitra/swati and moving in ‘अपसव्य’ direction and after going through ‘वक्रानुवक्रं’ motions, Mars approached the area of nakshatra Shravana near ब्रह्मराशिं’.
Oak places Śravaṇa near Brahmarāśi to facilitate the identification of Brahmarāśi with Abhijit, while according to the translations Śravaṇa was the Brahmarāśi at that moment. Oak claims support for the identification of Brahmarāśi with Abhijit by pointing out that the deity of Abhijit nakṣatra is Brahma .
… and the word ब्रह्मराशिं itself was an easy giveaway, since nakshatra Abhijit, a star in the vicinity of Sharvan, is identified with nakshatra-devata Brahma
Oak then claims that the clinching evidence comes from a Southern recension of the Mahābhārata :
I was indeed delighted when I recently (2016 CE) found a southern recension (P P S Sastri) that should remove all the doubts in anyone’s mind regarding the identification of ‘ब्रह्मराशिं’
The Southern recension version is shown below along with the version from the Gītā Press:
Mahābhārata Bhīṣma Parva 3.18: Southern recension (P P S Sastri)
vakrānuvakraṃ kṛtvā tu śravaṇe pāvakaprabhaḥ |
brāhmaṃ nakṣatramāśṛtya lohitāṅgo vyavasthitaḥ ||18||
Mahābhārata Bhīṣma Parva 3.18: Gītā Press
vakrānuvakraṃ kṛtvā ca śravaṇaṃ pāvakaprabhaḥ |
brahmarāśi samāvṛtya lohitāṅgo vyavasthitaḥ ||18||
The Gītā Press version has “brahmarāśi samāvṛtya” while the Southern recension has “brāhmaṃ nakṣatramāśṛtya”. Oak claims that replacing of Brahmarāśi with “brāhmaṃ nakṣatra” means Brahmarāśi is Abhijit nakṣatra as Brahma is the presiding deity of Abhijit nakṣatra. However, three translations of the Mahābhārata, Bhīṣma Parva 3.18 concur that Brahmarāśi is the nakṣatra in which Bṛhaspati or planet Jupiter is residing. The presiding deity of planet Bṛhaspati is Lord Brahmā, so Oak’s claim is not the clinching evidence he claims it is. Besides, Bṛhaspati is also called Brahmaṇaspati, so this is another justification for calling the nakṣatra in which Bṛhaspati is residing as Brahmarāśi.
Oak claims further support for the identification of Brahmarāśi with Abhijit nakṣatra based on astronomical configuration of stars and planets at the time of Mahābhārata, which, according to Oak, took place in 5561 BCE. However, he has confused Abhijit nakṣatra with Abhijit (Vega) star.
5. Abhijit nakṣatra or the yogatārā of Abhijit?
Brahmarāśi is made by joining Brahma and Rāśi. Brahmarāśi cannot mean Pole Star as the Pole Star at any time can be only one star, while rāśi means a collection. Here are the meanings of rāśi: stack, quantity, collection, mass, cluster, volume, amount, multitude, sum, division of beings, number, group, one-twelfth part of the ecliptic, heap of corn, pile, heap, measure of quantity, sign of the zodiac, and astrological house . As such, Brahmarāśi can only mean a nakṣatra and not its yogatārā. Thus, even if Brahmarāśi means Abhijit nakṣatra, it cannot mean its yogatārā, which is star Vega. Abhijit nakṣatra is a region of the celestial sphere that spans from the ecliptic to the ecliptic poles on both sides, while the yogatārā of Abhijit nakṣatra is Vega star, which is a point on the celestial sphere. Oak does not make this distinction as he writes :
… and the word ब्रह्मराशिं itself was a easy giveaway, since nakshatra Abhijit, a star in the vicinity of Sharvan, is identified with nakshatra-devata Brahma
Oak says that Abhijit nakṣatra is Vega star, which is not precise. The correct statement is that the yogatārā of Abhijit nakṣatra is Vega star. This distinction is of critical importance as Mars can go near or be inside the Abhijit nakṣatra, but it cannot be near the yogatārā of Abhijit nakṣatra, Vega star, under any circumstance. I will explain why but let us go through the evidence provided by Oak to this effect first. This is what Oak asserts :
I tested position of Mars for the first day of war (16 October 5561 BCE) and found that it was indeed as described in the Mahabharata text. In fact, there can not be a better description of its position. …
(After being fixed in the region of chitra/swati and moving in ‘अपसव्य’ direction and after going through ‘वक्रानुवक्रं’ motions, Mars approached the area of nakshatra Shravana near ब्रह्मराशिं’.)
Let’s reproduce the RA (Right Ascension) measurements for this scenario, from my book (Chapter 7 — Planets were aligned)
nakshatra Shravana 13 hr 48 min
Mars 14 hr 21 min
naskshatra Abhijit 14 hr 32 min
nakshatra Dhanishtha 14 hr 52 min
Oak then produces the following sky chart in support of the astronomical information presented above :
Oak makes it look like that Mars is close to the yogatārās of Abhijit, Śravaṇa, and Dhaniṣṭhā, thereby satisfying his interpretation of the Mahābhārata, Bhīṣma Parva 3.18. However, Oak has only given the RAs (Right Ascensions) of these astronomical bodies as quoted above. The positions of the astronomical bodies are specified by two coordinates, in this case the Right Ascension and the Declination. This is similar to specifying longitude and latitude for places on the Earth. Would you accept that two places on the earth are closer if their longitudes are closer even when their latitudes are far apart? By this logic North Pole is close to a point on Equator as they are on the same longitude. The fallacy of Oak’s logic is illustrated below, where I have simply rotated the figure provided by Oak by 90°. Now, we can see how far apart Mars was from the yogatārā of Abhijit nakṣatra, the Vega star. Mars is nowhere near Vega and can never be near Vega. This can be easily shown by considering ecliptic coordinates.
Ecliptic coordinate system measures the coordinates from and along the ecliptic, which is a great circle on the celestial sphere representing the sun’s apparent path during a year. The poles of the ecliptic are called North Ecliptic Pole (NEP) and South Ecliptic Pole (SEP). Ecliptic coordinates are specified by providing ecliptic latitude and ecliptic longitude. Ecliptic latitudes of stars with low proper motion does not change significantly over time. I illustrate this for Vega using three sky charts shown below:
Vega: -6000, Ecliptic latitude 62° 5′
Vega: -2000, Ecliptic latitude 61° 54′
Vega: 2000, Ecliptic latitude 61° 44′
Over past 8,000 years, the ecliptic latitude of Vega was always close to 62°. Mars goes around the Sun in 687 days, which is less than two years. I checked the ecliptic latitude of Mars over several years in Stellarium. The ecliptic latitude of Mars was within ±7°. This is expected as Mars is a planet and planets stay close to the ecliptic. If Mars is always close to the ecliptic and Vega is always close to 62° away from the ecliptic, then there is no way Mars was closer to the yogatārā of Abhijit (Vega) at any time. This proves that the equivalence of Brahmarāśi and the yogatārā of Abhijit (Vega) is false. With this, all four Astronomy Poison Pills pertaining to the Rāmāyaṇa proposed by Oak have been shown to contain no poison, and his thesis therefore stands refuted. In the next article, Oak’s claim of 12209 BCE dating of the Rāmāyaṇa based on the unique evidence of a comet observed by Lakṣmaṇa will be critically examined.
7. Yuddha Kāṇḍa has not been uploaded on IIT Kanpur Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa Site yet. The translation has been provided to me by Professor T.V. Prabhakar and Ms. Tulika Sharma. I gratefully acknowledge their assistance. According to them, the source of the information is Valmiki Ramayana with Selected Commentaries published by Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, Tirupati, Edited by Prof P.M. Nayak and Prof P. Geervani, 2012.
8. Oak, N.N. (2014). “The Historic Rama”, (Publisher not mentioned in the book), p. 62.
9. Oak, N.N. (2011). “When did the Mahabharata Happen?”, Bhim USA, p. 81.
10. Oak, N.N. (2018). “Bhishma Nirvana”, Bhim LLC, p. 121.
Note: May 29, 2021
I had tagged Oak in my tweet announcing the publication of this article. Oak did not respond 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.
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 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)