Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s dating of ancient texts
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of Ramayana to 12209 BCE
Part 1 of 10 — Understanding the Vartak-Oak Hypothesis
Trying to refute a thesis that has gained a high level of acceptability is a challenge in the first place. Once a thesis gains traction, many people, including educated ones buy into it though they have little knowledge about Indian texts or astronomy. Thus, many have simply accepted a date for the Rāmāyaṇa that is based on misinterpretation of evidence and denial of clear evidence in the epic itself. We are not talking of the Vedas that are difficult to comprehend, but the Rāmāyaṇa that most people are familiar with. Verse by verse translations of Rāmāyaṇa are only a click away on the internet. Still, people have not bothered to crosscheck the evidence cited by Oak in his dating of the Rāmāyaṇa to 12209 BCE.
Indian civilization is grounded in intellectual inquiry and we have survived numerous assaults on our civilization simply because of the strength of our knowledge systems. However, at present, I observe that many intellectuals have fallen prey to bogus claims. As I write these articles, Prachyam is involved in the production of ten documentaries that intend to correct the historical inaccuracies of currently accepted Indian history . Three of these episodes seem to be based on Oak’s claims, one of them being the claim that the Rāmāyaṇa can be dated back to 12209 BCE. Without the careful vetting of these claims by outside observers, the fallout from such documentaries can be dire — both to the viewers and the producers, and even more so to the Indian intellectual tradition.
There was a story in my elementary Hindi textbook called “Rakṣā me Hatyā” or murder while trying to save a life. Let me make it clear what I mean. In 12209 BCE, the sea level was over 100 meters below the current sea levels. India and Sri Lanka were connected by land and there was no need for Rāma to build his setu. Therefore, Oak is proposing that Lanka was somewhere else and that the Rāma Setu is not the bridge that Rāma and his vānara sena built. Rāma Setu was about to be dredged by a previous government and was saved by the heroic effort of Dr. Subramanian Swamy. A future government may use the work of Oak and the documentary made by Prachyam as a basis for dredging Rama Setu. Have the good folks at Prachyam thought of this possibility and are they comfortable with the consequences of proposing the untenable hypothesis and claims of Oak?
As stated in my previous article, it was proposed by Vartak that the grouping of seasons and lunar months changes by one month every 2,160 years due to precession :
“The seasons depend on the Solstices and Equinoxes i.e. on the relation of the Sun and the Earth. Hence due to the precession the Ṛtus shift back on the Lunar months at the rate of one month in (30x72) = 2160 years.”
This has been adopted by Oak, who uses a period of 2,000 years for the change of one lunar month . I have called this hypothesis the “Vartak-Oak hypothesis” in my previous article. According to this hypothesis, seasons consist of different pairs of luni-solar months as time changes. Indian months are called luni-solar as they are not purely lunar like the Islamic calendar and are adjusted to seasons by inserting months or deleting months periodically. The Vartak-Oak hypothesis is based on certain assumptions and its validity is dependent on the validity of those assumptions.
1. Oak’s Assumptions:
The most common division of a seasonal year is that of six seasons in the Vedic-Hindu calendar. These six seasons, in order, are Vasanta (spring), Grīṣma (summer), Varṣā (rainy season), Śarad (autumn), Hemanta (early winter), and Śiśira (late winter). Oak’s first assumption is that the vernal equinox has always been in the middle of the Vasanta season as shown in Figure 1. This fixes the summer solstice at the beginning of Varṣā, autumnal equinox in the middle of Śarad, and the winter solstice at the beginning of Śiśira. Here it is in Oak’s words :
Varsha (rain) season begins from the day of summer solstice (SS) and continues for two months. This is followed by Sharad (pre-autumn) season and the day of autumnal equinox (AE) is the midpoint of Sharad season. Two months leading up to the day of winter solstice (WS) constitutes the Hemant (autumn) season. Shishir (winter) season begins from the day of winter solstice and continues for two months. This is followed by Vasant (spring) season and the day of vernal equinox (VE) is the midpoint of the season. Two months leading to the day of summer solstice constitute Grishma (summer) season.
Oak’s second assumption is that seasons and luni-solar months get decoupled due to precession. Accordingly, seasons have consisted of different luni-solar months in the past and will consist of different luni-solar months in the future. This assumption is based on the peculiarity of Indian calendar in which months are named after the nakṣatra in which the moon resides during full moon. As the position of the Sun is opposite to the position of the full moon and the position of the Sun changes in the background of nakṣatras due to precession, the months are supposed to slide compared to seasons due to precession. Oak has assumed a period of 2,000 years for the shift of one luni-solar month with respect to the seasons. We should note that only precession is scientifically proven, whereas the shift of luni-solar months relative to seasons due to precession is not. The validity of the assumptions described here will be examined in the final part of this series of articles.
2. Oak’s time periods for groupings of months and seasons:
Oak has divided the time periods for different groupings of seasons and months as follows:
2.1. Current Configuration (500 CE to 2500 CE):
The current configuration is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 2.
2.2. Standard configuration (1500 BCE-500 CE):
The configuration between 1500 BCE to 500 CE is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 3. It is the standard configuration found in various texts.
2.3. 3500 BCE to 1500 BCE:
The configuration between 3500 BCE to 1500 BCE is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 4.
2.4. 5500 BCE to 3500 BCE:
The configuration between 5500 BCE to 3500 BCE is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 5. Mathematically, 5561 BCE falls between 7500 BCE and 5500 BCE, but Oak has chosen this combination for Mahābhārata as shown in his tweet.
2.5. 7500 BCE to 5500 BCE:
The configuration between 7500 BCE to 5500 BCE is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 6.
2.6. 9500 BCE to 7500 BCE:
The configuration between 9500 BCE to 7500 BCE is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 7. Please note that Oak has made an error in giving constituents of Vasanta and Grīṣma.
2.7. 11500 BCE to 9500 BCE:
The configuration between 11500 BCE to 9500 BCE is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 8.
2.8. Oak’s Rāmāyaṇa configuration (13500 BCE to 11500 BCE):
The configuration between 13500 BCE to 11500 BCE is shown in Oak’s tweet . Its equivalent representation is shown in Figure 9. According to Oak, this is the configuration during Rāmāyaṇa’s time.
Based on the information presented above, Table 1 summarizes the important configurations according to the Vartak-Oak hypothesis.
Therefore, according to Oak, Āśvina and Kārttika were part of Vasanta season, and Caitra and Vaiśākha were part of Śarad season during Rāmāyaṇa times. It is one thing to propose that seasons were off by six months from standard configuration during Rāmāyaṇa time, but where is Oak going to find evidence for it in the Rāmāyaṇa? It is very clear from reading the Rāmāyaṇa that Vālmīki is using the same grouping of seasons and months that we are using now. Oak has misinterpreted the meaning of the Rāmāyaṇa verses to create the evidence he needs and called them “Astronomy Poison Pills”. He has come up with a time period between 17500 BCE and 10000 BCE spanning 7,500 years, when these supposed Astronomy Poison Pills were valid . Then, Oak claims to have found an observation so unique that it has happened only once during those 7,500 years. That year is 12209 BCE, the date of Rāma-Rāvaṇa yuddha . Never mind that this unique event involves a comet that is visible from the Earth every 3.3 years. It has been visible from the Earth more than 2,000 times between 17500 BCE and 10000 BCE. Oak has then used the date of 12209 BCE to claim that there are 600 corroborations for it in the Rāmāyaṇa, and he has used this bogus claim to discard the unequivocal evidence in the Rāmāyaṇa.
I will provide the details of these manipulations by Oak in the articles following this. Please see the “Coming Up” section below.
2. Vartak, P.V. (2004). “The Scientific Dating of the Mahābhārata War”, Veda Vidnyāna Mandala: Pune, India, 2nd revised edition, pp. 17–18.
3. Oak, N.N. (2011). “When did the Mahabharata War Happen? The Mystery of Arundhanti”, Bhim, USA, p. 39.
6. Oak, N.N. (2014). “The Historic Rama”, (Publisher not mentioned in the book), p. 64.
7. Ibid, p. 70
Note: May 1, 2021
I had tagged Mr. Oak in my tweet announcing the publication of this article. Mr. Oak didn’t respond to this announcement on Twitter.
The link to this article was also posted in the Google group भारतीयविद्वत्परिषत् by me. Mr. 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 3 of 10- The Sun was NOT near Puṣya nakṣatra during Hemanta season (to be published on May 08, 2021)
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)