Discovery of the Original Boundaries of Nakshatras
Zero Points of Vedic Astronomy
Part 8 of 8- Indus Valley Civilization was Vedic Civilization
In my previous articles, I have established that original boundaries of nakṣatras were different from currently accepted boundaries [1–3]. The origin of the original boundaries was at the yogatārā of Rohiṇī, which was the beginning of Rohiṇī nakṣatra or end of Kṛttikā nakṣatra. This gives us precise dates for the position of sun among the nakṣatras during equinoxes and solstices as shown in Figures 1 and 2. We can use these dates to gain significant insights into Indian history in an objective manner.
Vedic text Taittirīya Saṃhitā (IV.4.10) starts the list of nakṣatra with Kṛttikā. Later astronomical texts such as Sūrya Siddhānta (8.1–9) start the list with Aśvinī. The most obvious explanation for this shift is that the position of sun during vernal equinox had shifted from Kṛttikā nakṣatra to Aśvinī nakṣatra. From Figure 1, we can see that during vernal equinox the sun was in Kṛttikā nakṣatra from 3045 BCE to 2074 BCE and in Aśvinī nakṣatra from 1106 BCE to 142 BCE. Since vernal equinox is not explicitly mentioned in Taittirīya Saṃhitā, there are other researchers who claim different position of sun and come up with much earlier dates. However, there are additional references that support the view of vernal equinox being in Kṛttikā nakṣatra. For instance, Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa (I.5.2.6–7) says:
devagṛhā vai nakṣatrāṇi | …kṛttikāḥ prathamaṃ | viśākhe uttamaṃ | tāni devanakṣatrāṇi | anūrādhāḥ prathamaṃ | apabharaṇīruttamaṃ | tāni yamanakṣatrāṇi
This has been translated by Tilak as follows :
The Nakshatras are the houses of gods. … the Nakshatras of the Devas begin with the Kṛttikās and end with Viśākhā, whereas the Nakshatras of Yama begin with the Anurādhās and end with the Apa-Bharaṇīs.
This signifies that the sun was between Kṛttikās and Viśākhā from vernal equinox to autumnal equinox and between Anurādhā to Bharaṇī from autumnal equinox to vernal equinox. Tilak has discussed this in detail in The Orion, where he refutes the possibility of sun being in Kṛttikā nakṣatra during winter solstice, autumnal equinox or summer solstice . Thus the sun being in Kṛttikā nakṣatra during vernal equinox is the only possibility. As shown in Figure 3, this was valid between 3045 BCE to 2074 BCE. During this period, the sun was in Kṛttikā nakṣatra during vernal equinox, in Maghā and Āśleṣā nakṣatras during summer solstice, in Anurādhā and Viśākhā nakṣatras during autumnal equinox, and in Śatabhiṣaja and Dhaniṣṭhā nakṣatras during winter solstice.
The yogatārā of Kṛttikā nakṣatra, Alcyone, was at vernal equinox in 2337 BCE as shown in Figure 4 using Stellarium software. Many researchers date the astronomical observations using yogatārās, which can give erroneous dates. Proper way to date is using the span of nakṣatras, as the yogatārās of some nakṣatras can be even outside the span of those nakṣatras. The sun was already in Kṛttikā nakṣatra during vernal equinox for over 700 years before the sun’s position coincided with the yogatārā of Kṛttikā nakṣatra, Alcyone.
Next important astronomical observation comes from Atharvaveda. Atharvaveda Saṃhitā (19.7.2) says that “ayanam maghā me” meaning ayana or solstice was in Maghā. Here two interpretations are possible: summer solstice was in Maghā nakṣatra or winter solstice was in Maghā nakṣatra. As shown in Figure 5, the sun was in Maghā nakṣatra during summer solstice between 3,288 BCE and 2,316 BCE. It was in Maghā nakṣatra during winter solstice nearly 13,000 years before that time, so that possibly can be discounted. We should also note that 3,288 BCE to 2,316 BCE date for Atharvaveda observation overlaps with 3045 BCE to 2074 BCE date for Taittirīya Saṃhitā observation.
Another important observation is from Maitrāyaṇī Brāhmaṇa Upaniṣad (6.14). It says the following:
dwādaśātmakaṃ vatsarametasyāgneyamardhamardhaṃ vārunaṃ maghādyaṃ|
śraviṣṭhārdhamāgneyam krameṇotkrameṇa sārpādyaṃ śraviṣṭhārdhāntaṃ|
saumyam tatraikaikamātmano navāṃśakaṃ sacārakavidham|
Its translation by Max Müller is as follows :
Of the year one half (when the sun moves northward) belongs to Agni, the other to Varuṇa (when the sun moves southward). That which belongs to Agni begins with the asterism of Maghā and ends with half of the asterism of Śravishṭhā, the sun stepping down northward. That which belongs to Soma (instead of Varuṇa) begins with the asterism (of Aśleshā), sacred to the Serpents, and ends with half of the asterism of Śravishṭhā, the sun stepping up southward. And then there (are the months) one by one, belonging to the year, each consisting of nine-fourths of asterisms (two asterisms and a quarter being the twelfth part of the passage of the sun through the twenty-seven Nakshatras), each determined by the sun moving together with the asterisms.
According to this observation, the sun was at the junction of Maghā and Āśleṣā during summer solstice and in the middle of Śravishṭhā (Dhanishṭhā) during winter solstice. As shown in Figure 6, the sun was at these positions in 2,316 BCE.
Final astronomical observation for this article comes from Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa. It is mentioned in the verses 6–8 of the Yajur-Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa that the winter solstice was at the beginning of the Śraviṣṭhā (Dhaniṣṭhā) nakṣatra and the summer solstice was at the midpoint of the Āśleṣā nakṣatra. I have discussed the dating of this observation in detail in my earlier blog . As shown in Figure 7, the sun was at these positions in 1,832 BCE.
There are many other astronomical observations in ancient Indian texts that further corroborate the dates described in this article. I am still in the process of compiling and determining the date of those observations. I will present the details in my forthcoming book “Astronomical dating of Vedic Texts.” The astronomical observations presented in this article clearly show that the Vedic texts contain specific observations belonging to third millennium BCE. As Indus Valley Civilization was at its peak from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE, Indus Valley Civilization was Vedic Civilization. The Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa was composed at the end of this period to preserve the astronomical knowledge developed during the Indus Valley Civilization.
4. Tilak, B.G. (1893). “The Orion”. 1987 Reprint. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications, page 41.
5. Ibid, pages 39 to 43.
6. Max Müller, F. (1884), “The Upanishads”. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, page 316.
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.
Next: Taittirīya Brāhmaṇa was NOT written in 10,000 BCE: Refutation of the article “Saṃvatsara in Vishuva-Vernal Equinox at Uttarā Phālgunī- Epoch 10,000 BCE-Evidence from Taittiriya Brāhmaṇa” by Rupa Bhaty