Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s dating of ancient texts
Refutation of Nilesh Oak’s Astronomical Dating of the Ramayana to 12209 BCE
Part 7 of 10 — A bridge to NOWHERE — A tale of two Laṅkās
In the previous six articles of this series, Oak’s dating of the Rāmāyaṇa to 12209 BCE has been refuted. There are four Astronomy Poison Pills for the dating of the Rāmāyaṇa according to Oak . 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 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. 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 fourth Astronomy Poison Pill — that of “the description of Brahmarāśi/Vega/Abhijit as pole star” in Part 5 . I showed that Brahmarāśi cannot be the Abhijit (Vega) star because Mars can never be near Vega. Finally, I refuted the assertion by Oak that a unique event involving a comet took place in 12209 BCE in Part 6 . I stated the following reason for the refutation :
Though the Comet 2P/Encke was in the Mūla nakshatra on 9 September, 12209 BCE according to Voyager 4.5 simulation, it was nowhere near the Mūla nakshatra on that day according to Stellarium simulation. Instead, Comet 2P/Encke was closest to earth on 17 April, 12210 BCE in the Stellarium simulation. This shows that the trajectory and brightness of comets shown in astronomy software are completely unreliable. Astronomy software cannot be used to corroborate the position of comets in remote antiquity due to the unpredictability of comets’ trajectories. This is especially true for Comet 2P/Encke as it has been losing mass during its approach to the Sun but not gaining mass like other comets as it does not pass through the Kuiper belt. This means that Comet 2P/Encke was much brighter in 12209 BCE if it made an appearance in that year, which itself cannot be predicted. All things considered, 12209 BCE dating of the Rāmāyaṇa is based on astronomy software generated illusion. It has no basis in reality and therefore must be discarded.
There is also an obvious reason for the Rāmāyaṇa to not have taken place in 12209 BCE. I had stated this in Part 1 :
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.
In this article the claim of Oak that the Laṅkā of the Rāmāyaṇa was not Sri Lanka but somewhere else will be critically analyzed.
1. Where is Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā?
As stated earlier, there was no need for Rāma Setu in 12209 BCE as India and Sri Lanka were connected by land. This fact itself should have made it obvious to Oak that his dating of the Rāmāyaṇa is wrong. Oak has been aware of this problem since April 2018 at least, when he was asked by a member of the audience what was the need for the bridge in 12209 BCE [8, t = 0:00 to 3:09]. Oak evaded a direct answer and left it as a problem to be solved later. Recently, Oak seems to have found the possible location of Laṅkā and has been giving presentations on this topic. In a recent “Sangam Talks” in March 2021, Oak says the following [9, t = 12:44 to 12:57]:
If you go back 14,000 years ago, Sri Lanka was connected to the Indian land mass. There is no need for a bridge, no need for crossing the ocean, none of that.
He then says that Laṅkā was at 100 yojanas from the southern tip of India, which does not apply to Sri Lanka [9, t = 24:15 to 28:47]. Oak quotes two verses from the Rāmāyaṇa in support of the 100 yojanas distance. These two verses are shown below:
Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa 41.24: IIT Kanpur Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa Site
Kiṣkindhākāṇḍa 58.20: IIT Kanpur Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa Site
So, the evidence is clear about Laṅkā being 100 yojanas from the southern tip of India. Oak then cites information from astronomical texts to pinpoint the location of Laṅkā.
2. Astronomical Laṅkā
Oak states at the end of his “Sangam Talks” presentation [9, t = 36:57]:
Indian astronomy texts point to ‘Niraksha’ (0,0) location of Lanka on the equator and on the prime meridian passing through Ujjain & Kurukshetra.
Indeed, many Indian astronomical texts state that Laṅkā was located at the intersection of the equator and prime meridian passing through Ujjain. Oak cites Laghu-Bhāskarīya 1.23 as an example [9, t = 32:11]. It is shown below:
avagāhya sthitā rekhā deśāntaravidhāyinī ||
Its English translation is given below :
Avantī was another name for Ujjain, so Laṅkā was on the prime meridian passing through Ujjain. Laṅkā was also on the equator based on information from Indian astronomical texts. This is made clear from the coordinate system used in these texts.
3. Indian Coordinate System
The text of Sūrya-siddhānta 12.38–40 is as follows:
bhūvṛttapāde pūrvasyāṃ yamakotīti viśrutā |
bhadrāśvavarṣe nagarī svarṇaprākāratoraṇā ||38||
yāmyāyāṃ bhārate varṣe laṅkā tanmahāpurī |
paścime ketumālākhye romakākhyā prakīrtitā ||39||
udaksiddhapurī nāma kuruvarṣe pratiṣṭhitā |
tasyāṃ siddhā mahātmāno nivasanti gatavyathāḥ ||40||
Its English translation by Burgess is as follows :
38. At a quadrant of the earth’s circumference eastward, in the clime (varsha) Bhadrāśva, is the city famed as Yamakoti, having walls and gateways of gold.
39. To the southward, in the clime Bhārata, is in like manner, the great city Laṅkā: to the west, in the clime called Ketumāla, is declared to be the city named Romaka.
40. Northward, in the clime Kuru, is declared to be the city called that of the Perfected (siddha); in it dwell the magnanimous Perfected, free from trouble.
Please note that we consider all directions from the North Pole as south. Sūrya-siddhānta is not following this convention. It considers India to the south and other directions are defined relative to India. As per the verses above, the city of Laṅkā is on the equator. It is not same as Sri Lanka. At 90° east of Laṅkā on the equator is the city called Yamakoṭi, at 90° west of Laṅkā on the equator is the city called Romaka, and directly opposite Laṅkā on the equator at 180° in either the east or west direction is the city called Siddhapurī (or Siddhapura) as shown in Figure 1.
Since Laṅkā was located at the intersection of the equator and prime meridian passing through Ujjain, we know the exact location of these four cities. Ujjain has coordinates of 23.2° N and 75.8° E. Thus, the coordinates of Laṅkā, Yamakoṭi, Romaka, and Siddhapura are (0.0, 75.8), (0.0, 165.8), (0.0, -14.2), and (0.0, -104.2) respectively. I have used Google Maps to find these positions as shown in Figures 2 to 5.
All of the supposed positions of these cities are in the deep ocean. There never was any city at any of these locations. These were just four mathematically defined points. These four points Laṅkā, Yamakoti, Siddhapura, and Romaka on the equator together with Meru or Sumeru denoting the North Pole and Kumeru denoting the South Pole defined the coordinate system used by Indian astronomers as shown in Figure 1. These mathematically defined points were described as hypothetical cities. It was the ancient Indian way of transferring abstract information of the coordinate system to the masses. Anyone who does not understand that is going to come up with a chronology that has no basis in reality. Oak and his colleagues are in this league. Oak has a new colleague, Jeevan Rao, who has written many articles on the position of Laṅkā. In his article “Forgotten City on Hindu Meridian” Rao quotes the Laghu-Bhāskarīya 1.23 and its English translation as shown below :
Now compare this to the image taken from the translation by Kripa Shankar Shukla :
Clearly, they are the same, if you notice the superscript 7 in the Sanskrit original and superscript 3 in the English translation. Why is this important? Because, Shukla has also given his commentary on this verse on the same page below the translation, which goes as follows :
Notice the sentence “It is one of the hypothetical cities on the equator…”. Rao knows that Shukla has called the Laṅkā on the equator a hypothetical city, but he has not disclosed it. Shukla also calls this Laṅkā astronomical Laṅkā. Still, however, Rao proposes that this hypothetical astronomical Laṅkā was an actual city, Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā . One of the four cities can be destroyed by a comet impact or a volcanic eruption, but not all four cities that are so far apart. There can be no doubt that all these four cities were hypothetical cities. Also, there has to be a bridge to this Laṅkā for it to be the Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā. So where is the bridge, the Rāma Setu?
4. Where is Rāma Setu?
Let us assume that Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā was at the equator, 100 yojanas away from the southern tip of India. That means that the Vānara army built a 100 yojanas-long bridge to Laṅkā. The yojana is not a standard length. The value of yojana in modern units has varied from 4.5 to 9.0 miles . The southern most part of mainland India has a latitude of about 8°. Each degree of latitude is about 110 km apart. Thus, we can approximate the length of the bridge from the southern most part of mainland India to the equator to be about 900 km. This is equivalent to 9 km per yojana which falls within the range of 4.5 to 9.0 miles per yojana. The Rāmāyaṇa 6.22.74 also specifies the width of the bridge as ten yojanas. (Please note that in the verse below it should be 6.22.74, not 2.22.74)
Yuddhakāṇḍa 22.74: valmikiramayan.net
This means that the width of the bridge was about 90 km. So, the bridge was about 90 km wide and 900 km long going all the way to the equator from the southern most part of mainland India. Where is the bridge then? Figure 6 shows the southern tip of India. The northern end of the 90 km wide bridge should be visible there. Such a bridge cannot simply vanish in merely 14,000 years, the time since the Rāmāyaṇa, according to Oak. If it existed, with all the maritime traffic in the Indian ocean, can it go unnoticed? There was no need for a bridge in 12209 BCE, and therefore the Rāmāyaṇa did not take place in 12209 BCE. It is as simple as that. Instead of accepting this fact, Oak has created a messy situation by confusing the hypothetical astronomical Laṅkā with Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā.
5. A Tale of Two Laṅkās
The depiction of astronomical Laṅkā as a hypothetical city led to confusion over time with the real Laṅkā, which is Sri Lanka. As Oak notes there have been descriptions of Laṅkā different from the Simhaladwipa by travellers over the past 2,000 years and by Indian writers over the past 1,200 years [9, t = 36:57]. However, this was not because of a real Laṅkā being at the equator. It was due to the belief of Laṅkā being at the equator as postulated by Indian astronomers. Oak and Rao’s proposition that Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā was at the equator is equivalent to denying the historicity of the Rāmāyaṇa as the Laṅkā at the equator was a hypothetical city. This means that there is no other choice for Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā except Sri Lanka. There is no better proof for that than the Rāma Setu also known as Adam’s Bridge. It connects India to Laṅkā just as the Rāmāyaṇa says. Sri Lanka also has many places associated with the Rāmāyaṇa such as Seetha Amman Temple where Sita was held captive by Rāvaṇa. So, how do we resolve the problem of Laṅkā being described at 100 yojanas from the southern tip of India? It is by realizing that the Rāmāyaṇa we have is not exactly same as what Sage Vālmīki wrote. There have been additions and changes to it over time. Sule and Vahia write :
Next, as we said in the previous article, the zodiac signs (path of the Sun) and planets appear to be a greek import to Indian astronomy while Indians used Nakshatras (Lunar Mansions). Even the concept of making a birth chart is very recent in India and we do not find references to birth charts of the personalities in Mahabharata. If that is so, how can Valmiki, who supposedly predated Alexander, write about Rama’s birth chart? This contradiction is solved by realising that both epics were passed down the generations orally for centuries and the descriptions of events kept evolving and getting added.
As per one estimate, the original ‘Jaya’ had just 8000 verses, but ‘Mahabharata’ as we know today has more than 100,000 verses. The same is the story with Ramayana. Thus, it is near impossible to know if the astronomical reference we are hinging our argument on is really from original text or a later addition.
All things considered, there is only one choice for Rāvaṇa’s Laṅkā and that is Sri Lanka. There is only one choice for the bridge Rāma made for crossing to Laṅkā and that is the Rāma Setu connecting India to Sri Lanka. There is no other choice if the Rāmāyaṇa is to be considered historical.
8. [Q&A] Timeline of 17000+ Years of Unbroken Indian Civilization — A Talk By Nilesh Nilkanth Oak, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpAYs6oYhXM.
9. Ravana’s Lanka | Nilesh Oak | #SangamTalks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoIJeQfG87I.
10. Laghu-Bhāskarīya, edited and translated into English by Kripa Shankar Shukla, Published by Department of Mathematics and Astronomy, Lucknow University, 1963, p. 7.
11. Burgess, E. (1860). Translation of the Surya-Siddhanta: A Text-Book of Hindu astronomy, Reprinted in 1935 by University of Calcutta, p. 286.
12. Jeevan Rao, “Forgotten City on Hindu Meridian”, https://jeevanraya.wordpress.com/2020/08/07/forgotten-city-on-hindu-meridian/.
13. Jeevan Rao, “Lanka & Rama’s Journey To Ayodhya”, https://jeevanraya.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/lanka-ramas-journey-to-ayodhya/.
14. Cunningham, A. (1871). “The Ancient Geography of India”, London: Trubner and Co., pp. 571–574.
15. Sule, A. and Vahia, M. (2020). “World Space Week: Applying Astronomical Dating Methods to Ancient Indian Epics Mahabharata and Ramayana”, https://weather.com/en-IN/india/space/news/2020-10-07-world-space-week-astronomical-dating-methods-ancient-indian-epics.
Note: June 12, 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.
I had tagged Oak in another tweet addressed to Prachyam inquiring if they are comfortable with their movie leading to dredging of Rama Setu. Oak did not respond to this tweet as well.
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 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)