Refutation of Rupa Bhaty’s dating of ancient texts

Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa was NOT written in 10,000 BCE

Refutation of the article “Samvatsara in Vishuva-Vernal Equinox at Uttarā Phālgunī- Epoch 10,000 BCE-Evidence from Taittiriya Brāhmana” by Rupa Bhaty

In my previous articles I have presented a summary of my research on the origins of ancient Indian astronomy. I have also presented astronomical dating of some ancient texts. The picture that emerges from my research is that the formative period of Indian astronomy is 4th millennium BCE and some Vedas and Brāhmaṇas can be dated to 3rd millennium BCE. Contrary to this, some Indic researchers are dating many Indian texts to much older periods based on astronomical dating. Fantastic claims are being made, and since these claims are not being falsified by experts, a large number of people are beginning to accept these claims as proven truths. It is important that the astronomical dating of texts be based on sound scholarship. I intend to show that all these fantastic claims are result of wishful thinking, lack of subject matter expertise, manufactured evidence and shoddy scholarship including selective use of evidence and gross misinterpretations of texts. We don’t want to move from one fictional history to another. The extraordinary claims of antiquity must be properly vetted. With this in mind, I will critically evaluate some of these claims. I will begin with an article by Bhaty titled “Saṃvatsara in Vishuva-Vernal Equinox at Uttarā Phālgunī- Epoch 10,000 BCE-Evidence from Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa” [1]. Bhaty has also presented this dating on Sattology Youtube channel [2].

As the title suggests Bhaty claims in this article that Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa contains astronomical information that can be dated to 10,000 BCE. Here is what Bhaty writes:

After understanding Vishuva in the Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.7 we arrive onto the next verse 1.1.2.8 which describes “agni” to be invoked in Saṃvathsara, i.e, year of Uttara Phālgunī and has special prescription of not invoking in Pūrvā Phālgunī, if done in later would bring bad results. To understand Vernal in beginning point of Uttara Phalguni one has to count back from ādi point of Ashwini which will point at the 500 CE from where each Nakshatra will take 25750/27 = 954 years approximately to go back. Thus from Ashwini when we go back to ādi of Purva Phalguni it would take us into 11×954= 10494–490 (meshaadi/ashwiniaadi) = 10004 years~approximately 10,000 BCE. This is a clear example of unbroken Indian civilization which is evidently present in Taittiriya Brahmana.

Let’s try to understand Bhaty’s reasoning. Bhaty claims that Viṣuva (equinox) is explained in Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.7 which is followed by the description of year ending in Pūrvā Phālgunī and beginning in Uttara Phālgunī in Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.8. Bhaty then claims that this means that vernal equinox was at the beginning of Uttara Phālgunī. Bhaty then calculates the date of this event to be 10,000 BCE using astronomy assuming that the vernal equinox was at the beginning of Aświnī in 490 CE. Though in the same paragraph Bhaty also claims the beginning of Aświnī to be in 500 CE, let’s ignore this difference of 10 years as it is of no significance compared to the 10,000 BCE date proposed by Bhaty. An illustration of Bhaty’s calculation is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Position of vernal equinox according to Bhaty [1]

In Figure 1, I have drawn the nakṣatras in anti-clockwise order and placed the date of 490 CE at the beginning of Aświnī nakṣatra. Then following Bhaty, I have gone back by 954 years for each nakṣatra and arrived at 10,005 BCE for vernal equinox at the beginning of Uttara Phālgunī.

I have added some more information in Figure 1 that is crucial to falsifying the claim of Bhaty. If you look at Figure 1, you will notice that I have written “Moon” next to 10,005 BCE and “Sun” diametrically opposite to it. These two words are enough to falsify the claim of Bhaty. Most of the astronomical dating of texts is based on the phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes. If you are not familiar with it, don’t be daunted by it, as it involves nothing more than addition and subtraction or may be multiplication if you want to simplify things. Precession of the equinoxes results from the wobbling of earth’s axis similar to the motion of a top. It has a periodicity of roughly 26,000 years and due to it the position of the sun at the time of vernal equinox (or for that matter at any specific time of the year) keeps on changing in the background of stars. Since there are 27 nakṣatras, we can approximate that it takes 960 years for the sun to cross each nakṣatra. It is very important to understand that precession of the equinoxes applies to the position of sun and not moon.

With this background let’s examine whether Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.8 can be dated to 10,000 BCE. Here is the text of Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa I.1.2.8.

na pūrvayoḥ phalgunyoragnimādadhīta | eṣā vai jaghanyā rātriḥ saṃvatsarasya | yatpūrve phalgunī | pṛṣṭita eva saṃvatsarasyāgnimādhāya | pāpīyānbhavati | uttarayorādadhīta | eṣā vai prathamā rātriḥ saṃvatsarasya | yaduttare phalgunī | mukhata eva saṃvatsarasyāgnimādhāya | vasīyānbhavati|

Here is the English translation of this text by Sengupta [3]:

Fire should not be set up on the day of full-moon at the Pūrva Phālgunīs (δ and θ Leonis). It is the last night of the year what is the full moon at the Pūrva Phālgunīs; a man becomes a sinner by making fire for the year at the fag end. Fire should be set up in the full moon at the Uttar Phālgunīs (β Leonis and another small star near to it); it is the first night of the year — the full moon night at the two Uttar Phālgunīs. A man becomes wealthy by making fire from the very beginning (of the year).

Important point is that the observation refers to full moon. Sengupta has translated as full moon at the Phālgunīs though text does not explicitly mention full moon. It is obvious to people familiar with Vedic texts that Phālgunī means full moon in Phālguna. Kātyāyana Śrauta Sūtra V.1.1 says: “cāturmāsyaprayogaḥ phālgunyām” meaning Cāturmāsya begins from Phālgunī. In the Karka Bhāṣya commentary by Karkācārya on this Sutra, Karkācārya comments: “phālgunīśabdena ca paurṇamāsyabhidhīyate” meaning the full moon day is meant by Phālgunī. There are explicit mentions of full moon in Phālgunī in Vedic texts as well. Here is one example from Gopatha Brāhmaṇa II.1.19:

athātaścāturmāsyānāṃ cāturmāsyānāṃ prayogaḥ phālgunyāṃ paurṇamāsyāṃ cāturmāsyāni prayuñjīta | mukhaṃ vā etatsaṃvatsarasya, yat phālgunī paurṇamāsī, mukhaṃ uttare phalgunyau, pucchaṃ pūrve, tadyathāpravṛttasyāntau sametau syātām, evamevaitat saṃvatsarasyāntau sametau bhavataḥ | tadyat phālgunyāṃ paurṇamāsyāṃ cāturmāsyairyajate, mukhata evaitat saṃvatsaraṃ prayuṅkte | atho bhaiṣajyayajñā vā ete, yaccāturmāsyāni | tasmadṛtusandhiṣu prayujyante, ṛtusandhiṣu vai vyādhirjāyate |

Here is the English translation of this text by Chand [4].

Henceforth (we shall explain) the performance of four-monthly sacrifices. On the Full-moon day of the Phālguna (month) one should begin the four-monthly sacrifices. The Full-moon day of the Phālguna is the mouth of the year. The Uttara-Phālgunī constellations form the mouth; the Pūrva-Phālgunī the end. Just as two ends of a circle are joined, so these two ends of a year are joined. In that one performs the cāturmāsyas on the Full-moon day of the Phālguna, thereby he holds the year by mouth. Moreover, the four-monthly sacrifices are sacrifices of healing; on account of this they are performed in the joints of the seasons. The ailment is born in the joints of the seasons.

Bhaty has made a critical error by assuming that the position refers to that of sun, while the texts mention that it was full moon at the time of the new year in Uttara Phālgunī. Now on full moon, the position of sun is diametrically opposite to the position of moon. Hence the position of sun would be diametrically opposite to the beginning of Uttara Phālgunī. As shown in Figure 1, sun would be at the midpoint of Pūrva Bhādrapadā and the date of this event is 2,875 CE in the scheme of Bhaty. Yes, you have it right; it is more than 800 years in future.

Clearly, Bhaty’s assumption of vernal equinox at the beginning of Uttara Phālgunī is wrong. Let’s go back to Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa I.1.2.7, which Bhaty refers to in support of her claim. Here is the text of Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa I.1.2.6–7:

vasantā brāhmaṇo’gnimādadhīta | vasanto vai brāhmaṇasyartuḥ | mukhaṃ vā etadṛtunām | yadvasantaḥ | yo vasantā’gnimādhatte | mukhya eva bhavati|

Here is the English translation of this text by Sengupta [3].

A Brāhmaṇa should set up his fire in spring. Spring is the season for the Brāhmaṇa. What is spring is the first season of the year. One who sets up fire in spring, becomes a chief among men.

Bhaty uses Vasanta as the first season of the year from this text and combines with Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa I.1.2.8 to come to the conclusion that vernal equinox was at the beginning of Uttara Phālgunī. Even if the combination were true, it will mean a position full one month before vernal equinox as the vernal equinox falls in the middle of two-month long Vasanta season. If Bhaty had also taken into account Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa I.1.2.1, which just precedes Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa I.1.2.6–7, then Bhaty would not make such a ridiculous combination as it says:

mukhaṃ vā etannakṣatrāṇāṃ | yatkṛttikāḥ |

Its meaning is:

That which is the mouth of these nakṣatras is Kṛttikā. (Translated by author)

Assuming that mouth here means the beginning, the position of sun would be in Kṛttikā during Vasanta season. This is not sufficient information to date the text. The dating of this text requires additional assumptions to be made and the validity of the calculated date depends on the validity of the assumptions. Sengupta has assumed that the position refers to winter solstice and arrived at this date [5]:

We have now to settle the exact indication of the winter solsticial points from the above Brāhmaṇas reference. The full-moon at the Pūrva Phalgus was the last night of the year, while the full-moon at the Uttara Phalgus was the first night of the next year. If we take the meaning that the sun reached the winter solstice at the full-moon at the Pūrva Phalgus, from such references, we arrive at the year 3293 B.C. On the other hand, if we take that the sun in opposition to β Leonis marked the winter solstice, the date comes out to be 3980 B.C. Here is produced a difference of about 700 years.

Let’s try to understand how Sengupta has calculated the date of this observation. He has considered two possibilities, one of the yogatārā of Pūrva-phālgunī being opposite the winter solstice point and other of the yogatārā of Uttara-phālgunī being opposite the winter solstice point. The stars belonging to Pūrva-phālgunī and Uttara-phālgunī nakṣatras based on their identifications by Kaye [6] are shown in Figure 2. The important details about these stars including modern identification, apparent magnitude and ecliptic coordinates (J2000.0) are given in Tables 1 and 2. The yogatārās are shown in bold. The data for ecliptic coordinates (J2000.0) were obtained using Stellarium software by setting the date to January 1, 2000 at 12:00 noon and noting the ecliptic longitudes and latitudes by selecting the specific stars.

Figure 2: Pūrva-phālgunī and Uttara-phālgunī nakshatras
Table 1: Pūrva-phālgunī nakshatra
Table 2: Uttara-phālgunī nakshatra

In 2000 CE, the ecliptic longitude of the yogatārā of Pūrva-phālgunī, Zosma, was 161° 19′ and that of the yogatārā of Uttara-phālgunī, Denebola, was 171° 37′. The dates for the two scenarios considered by Sengupta refer to the ecliptic longitude of these stars being 90°. This can be understood from the following diagram, Figure 3. Ecliptic longitude is measured from Vernal (spring) equinox. Accordingly, the longitudes are 90°, 180° and 270° on summer solstice, autumnal (fall) equinox and winter solstice respectively. If moon was in conjunction with one of these stars on winter solstice on full moon day, then sun was in conjunction with that star during summer solstice and hence that year the ecliptic longitude of that star was 90°. Figures 4 and 5 show that the yogatārā of Pūrva-phālgunī, Zosma, was on summer solstice in 3,131 BCE and the yogatārā of Uttara-phālgunī, Denebola, was on summer solstice in 3,953 BCE. Sengupta has estimated these dates to be 3,293 BCE and 3,980 BCE respectively as quoted above. While the date for the yogatārā of Uttara-phālgunī matches well, there is some discrepancy with the date for the yogatārā of Pūrva-phālgunī. This may be result of calculation error on the part of Sengupta as he did his work 80 years ago before the age of computers.

Figure 3: Ecliptic longitudes of equinoxes and solstices
Figure 4: The yogatārā of Pūrva-phālgunī, Zosma, on summer solstice in 3,131 BCE
Figure 5: The yogatārā of Uttara-phālgunī, Denebola, on summer solstice in 3,953 BCE

From the information presented above, it is clear that Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa cannot be dated to 10,000 BCE. Based on certain assumptions, the date seems to fall in 4th millennium BCE, but the validity of those assumptions need to be further investigated. Also, as discussed in my previous article, Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa I.5.2.6–7 specifies the vernal equinox in Kṛttikā nakshatra [7]. The date for this observation is between 3045 BCE to 2074 BCE according to my calculations [7]. The dating of Uttarā Phālgunī observation in Brahmana texts is not straight forward as the above discussion shows. It requires knowing the position of sun, which is not specified explicitly. Regardless, the date arrived by Bhaty is clearly wrong as Bhaty has assumed the position of sun while the texts clearly show that it was the position of moon.

References

1. Bhaty, Rupa, “Saṃvatsara in Vishuva-Vernal Equinox at Uttarā Phālgunī- Epoch 10,000 BCE-Evidence from Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa”, https://rupabhaty.home.blog/2019/07/08/sa%E1%B9%83vatsara-in-vishuva-vernal-equinox-at-uttara-phalguni-epoch-10000-bce-evidence-from-taittiriya-brahma%E1%B9%87a/

2. Epoch of Uttarphalguni — II ;#Sattology, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlGuDDeXTsY

3. Sengupta, P.C. (1947). Ancient Indian Chronology, Calcutta: Calcutta University Press, page 209.

4. Chand, P. H. (1969). Gopatha Brāhmaṇa: English translation with notes & introduction, Poona: University of Poona, pages 212–213.

5. Sengupta, P.C. (1947). Ancient Indian Chronology, pages 172–173.

6. Kaye, G.R. (1924). Hindu Astronomy, Calcutta: Government of India, Central Publication Branch, page 118.

7. Zero Points of Vedic Astronomy. Part 8 of 8- Indus Valley Civilization… | by Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Roy | Mar, 2021 | Medium

Note: 10 April, 2021

Bhaty has written a refutation of my refutation of her article dating Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa to 10,000 BCE. The article is titled “Taittiriya Brah’s Uttaraphalguni epoch is 10,000 BCE but Gopatha’s? Only 23,000 BCE, no ifs and no buts”.

In this refutation, Bhaty provides this Table that summarizes her words of wisdom.

As shown above, Bhaty dates Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.1 to 28,260 BCE, Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.2 to 16,780 BCE, Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.3 to 15,000 BCE, and Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.9–10 to 10,000 BCE. So second section of first chapter of first book of Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa is dated from 28,260 BCE to 10,000 BCE. What were sages doing between writing Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.1 in 28,260 BCE and writing Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa 1.1.2.2 in 16,780 BCE for over 11,000 years? I don’t think I can take it seriously. Can you? Of course, as the title shows Bhaty dates Gopatha Brāhmaṇa to 23,000 BCE. The way Bhaty argues, Bhaty can come up with any date she wants in her quest to prove the remote antiquity of Indian civilization, but it does not serve any purpose other than misleading gullible people.

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.

Email: rajarammohanroy108@gmail.com

Next: 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

Vedic Scholar, Materials Scientist, Author of books on Vedic Astronomy, Jain Astronomy, and Ancient Indian History

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