The Scientific Dating of the Ramayana

Did Rama exist? A billion Hindus believe he did and an unbroken tradition of Rama…

Did Rama exist? A billion Hindus believe he did and an unbroken tradition of Rama worship has continued for thousands of years in India. Rama is also a hero in Indonesia (despite it being a Muslim country), Thailand and in several other South East Asian countries. Without the weight of historical tradition, the Ramayana would have been swept away by the tidal waves of conquests that India suffered over a period of 1300 years.

A Ramayana ballet from Indonesia

But there are others who argue that there is no proof Rama lived. These are the same people who will happily agree that a child can be conceived without human conception. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence produced by the likes of Charles Darwin, they believe the earth was created in 4004 BC and that a certain being called god created the world in seven days. (Or was that six? Yes, he was so powerful he needed to rest on Sunday.) They won’t question any Christian or Muslim myths – howsoever outrageous, bizarre or downright funny – but Hindu traditions are open season for them. They want you to produce Rama’s birth certificate, and chances are even if you somehow get a copy, they will ask for the doctor who attested it.

The British and their acolytes like Max Muller are originally responsible for the prevailing stereotypes about Indian history, religion and culture. Muller, who was in the pay of the East India Company, went so far as to describe the Vedas as childish poetry.

In her History of India, academician Romilla Thapar describes the celebrated Rig-Veda as “primitive animism”; the Mahabharata as the glorification of a “local feud” between two Aryan tribes; the Ramayana as “a description of local conflicts between the agriculturists of the Ganges Valley and the more primitive hunting and food-gathering societies of the Vindhyan region” (sic).

But the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other ancient Indian texts like the Vedas, Puranas and Upanishads are true records of Indian history, interwoven with mythology, philosophy and spirituality. Just because they talk about battles between gods and demons is no reason to dismiss their accounts of kings and other contemporary developments as mere story telling. It is indeed amazing that the Bible mentions numerous fantastic events like the Great Deluge, Pillar of Fire, instantaneous healing of cut-off ears, is full of sexual imagery including incest and is yet considered a history of Christianity and Jews, while the ancient Indian texts are considered “mere” mythology.

The unfortunate part is that many secularists, brown sahibs and Macaulayites – a class of Indians who are English in outlook and Indian only in looks – readily agree that India’s epics are pure mythology and gleefully bow down to the verdict passed by their former white colonial masters. In their view, because the British averred that Indian epics do not pre-date the Christian Bible, then it must necessarily be true.

Science comes to history’s aid

Science, however, is not parochial. Just like the laws of motion cannot be questioned, scientific evidence is incontrovertible. Science also has a habit of shaking up the deepest foundations if they rest on a bed of lies. Catholic Christians – or more accurately their boss, the Pope – had to admit at long last in 2009 that the Earth was not the centre of the universe, a discovery made by Galileo 400 years ago (and which the Hindus knew thousands of years before that).

Ruins of Dwarka, underwater at the Gulf of Khambhat

In the late 1980s divers of the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, led by leading archaeologist S.R. Rao discovered Krishna’s sunken capital Dwarka, precisely at the place in Gujarat where Krishna mentioned it was located. Palaces, pillars, fort walls, a port, anchors and various artefacts have been discovered. This is among the rare instances where a historical fact has been established through scientific methods. It establishes the fact that Krishna existed. So the Mahabharata was true, and since it mentions incidents from the Ramayana, then doesn’t it prove that Rama also existed?

Also, literary references to the characters from the Ramayana Era provide limits after which the Ramayana could not have occurred. For example, Valmiki is referred to in the Taittiriya Brahmana (dated to 4600 BCE) and therefore Ramayana must have been written before the Taittiriya Brahmana was composed.

Follow the clues

The wonderful thing about the Ramayana is that when Valmiki wrote the epic, he made it idiot-proof. (For fun let’s assume Valmiki being a prescient sage knew that secularists, communists, India haters, British invaders and Macaulayites would exist in the future and try to run down his historical opus.) He packed so much information about the various planetary positions of those days, the geography of the areas mentioned in the epic, the seasonal events, and about the genealogy of various kings that modern astronomers and scientists can have a crack at the dates on which those events occurred.

Genealogical links and archaeological findings provide clues to the dating of the Ramayana era. According to journalist and author B.R. Haran, “In no other nation and no other religion in the world, true history is so meticulously documented, supported by umpteen evidences. Any ancient history is supported with evidences of architecture and literature. The Sangam literature is the documented evidence for the existence and ruling of Tamil kings, and similarly, Ramayana and Mahabharata are the documented evidence for Rama and Krishna. Questioning Ramayana and Mahabharata is like questioning the very existence of India.”

Archaeological and literary methods can only provide approximate datelines. For determining the precise time of the Ramayana events, scientists use astronomical calculations. Several of India’s leading astronomers, astrologers and retired nuclear scientists have come together to establish the dates of India’s ancient history.

Note that the “Hindu epics are myth” brigade is led by communist academicians who have zero interest in the truth, Nehru family carpet baggers, Christian freeloaders who have penetrated Indian cultural outfits, and Indians who have slept with their Anglo-American PhD guides to become, in Arun Shourie’s words, “eminent scientists”.

Dr Raja Ramanna

On the other hand, most of those trying to prove the epics are history are scientists. For instance, at a global colloquium (http://ignca.nic.in/nl002503.htm) jointly organised by The Mythic Society, Bangalore, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts and Sir Babasaheb (Umakanth Keshav) Apte Smarak Samithi Trust on January 5 and 6, 2003, the late Dr Raja Ramanna, the father of the Indian nuclear bomb, said the “best clock for dating was the sky itself and the position of stars”.

These scientists are studying facts, they are looking back in time at precession or the position of stars. They are not regurgitating the discredited writings of Karl Marx, the racist German who supported English rule over India. So you judge for yourself who is speaking the truth and who’s peddling snake oil.

Dating the Ramayana

So how is astronomical dating done? Historian Dr P.V. Vartak says: “Sage Valmiki has recorded the dates of events in detail, albeit by describing the positions of stars and planets. To decipher the astronomical encodings has not been a trivial task, and not many have attempted to do so. It should be noted that the ancient Indians had a perfect method of time measurement. They recorded the ‘tithis’ (days) according to the nakshatra (star) on which the moon prevailed, the months, the seasons and even the different solstices. By noting a particular arrangement of the astronomical bodies, which occurs once in many thousand years, the dates of the events can be calculated.”

Dr Vartak has taken hundreds of illustrated passages from the epic to establish dates. He writes: “Valmiki records the birth of Rama as Chaitra Shuddha Navami (9th), on Punarvasu Nakshatra and five planets were exalted then; Sun in Mesha up to 10 deg; Mars in Capricorn at 28 deg; Jupiter in Cancer at 5 deg; Venus in Pisces at 27 degrees and Saturn in Libra at 20 degrees. (Bala Kanda 18, Shloka 8.9). December 4, 7323 BCE, therefore, is the date of birth of Rama, when the four planets exalted. Ramayana occurred over 9300 years ago.”

Frankly, only an astrologer or astronomer can make any sense of it. Still, Dr Vartak’s passages illustrate how dating can be done with sufficient information. Events – such as an eclipse, planetary or astral positioning or a comet sighting – mentioned in an epic like the Ramayana may have occurred subsequently or prior. Over a period of say, 20,000 years, a particular type of event could have happened several times.

Stars shift position too vis-a-vis the earth so the star field we see in the night sky is not what the ancients saw 9000 years ago. This is called precession and has to be factored into all calculations. The idea is to back astronomical data with other reference points such as geography (for instance, how many of those eclipses took place over Ayodhya) in order to reduce the probability of error.

King Guha’s descendants

The Daily Pioneer (http://www.dailypioneer.com/todays-newspaper/ramayana-not-a-work-of-fiction.html) reports that an international team of researchers consisting of geneticists, anthropologists, archaeologists and historians have found that Ramayana is a chronicle of events and characters recorded by Sage Valmiki and not a work of fiction.

The team, led by Dr Gyaneshwer Chaubey, a genetics scientist of the Estonian Biocentre in Estonia, included scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Delhi University; Indian Institute of Technology-Kharagpur; and the Institute of Scientific Research on Vedas. It has found that the Bhils, Gonds and the Kols communities are the true descendants of characters featured in Ramayana.

The Kol tribe, found mainly in areas like Mirzapur, Varanasi, Banda and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, are the descendants of the Kol mentioned in the Ramayana, the study says. Guha, the Nishad king, who helped Rama cross the Ganga during his journey to the forests, is the ancestor of the present day Kol tribe. “These groups of people carry the basic indigenous genetic traits of India… they are the true descendants of Rama and his contemporaries,” Dr Chaubey said.

Who knows, further research could come up with more surprises. For, unlike the secularists, Macaulayites and communists who are unanimous that Rama never existed, the scientists are not adamant that the date is fixed. Like all good scientists, they just want to continue looking in the hope that one day they’ll nail the truth.

“Where do we go from here?” asks Dr Kalyan Raman, a Chennai-based scientist, and offers the answer: “Trash western Indological work done with motivation and instead rewrite Indian history.” Truth, he says, should be perceived in terms of our national heritage.

Epilogue: Why Hindus love Rama

Unlike Krishna, who had the 16 kalas or qualities that makes one perfect, Rama had mastered only 14 kalas. The prince of Ayodhya is, therefore, imperfect and he shows it on several occasions, most starkly when he asks his wife to undergo a chastity test. Again, when an uncouth citizen questions his queen’s chastity, Rama sends his pregnant wife off to the forest. Krishna would have probably publicly mocked and shamed the citizen instead of banishing his own queen.

Flaws aside, Rama is loved by Indians because he takes sacrifice to a new level. He is a warrior prince who cheerfully gives up the greatest empire of the day so his step mother would not have the slightest reason to complain.He is a husband who lets go his wife because one man – just one –among his millions of subjects objected to her presence in the kingdom.

Looking at things from the perspective of the modern era – where we instinctively genuflect before politicians – Rama was taking it too far, but for the king of Ayodhya his own comforts or that of his family mattered little. True to ancient Hindu laws, he knew the king’s primary duty was to serve his people. So how could he have even one unhappy citizen, howsoever boorish that person may be?

In their moving and brilliant translation of the Ramayana, William Buck and B.A. van Nootena say: “Rama could discover the truth of things, and men resorted to him from all over the earth, as the rivers of the world all flow to the sea. Rama was well-honoured and well-loved. His presence filled the heart.

“Rama was strong enough to support all men, and gentle as the new moon’s beams. Fame and wealth never left him. When he was king men were long in life, and lived surrounded by their children and grandchildren and all their families. The old never had to make funerals for the young. There was rain and fertile earth; indeed, the earth became bountiful.

“Peace and Rama ruled as friends together, and bad things did not happen. Men grew kind and fearless. Everyone had about him a certain air and look of good fortune.

“A king like Rama was never seen before and nowhere remembered from the past in any kingdom, nor did any like him ever follow in the later ages of this world.”

Rakesh is a journalist at New Zealand’s leading media house. He mostly writes on defence and foreign affairs.
His articles have been quoted extensively by universities and in books on diplomacy, counter terrorism, warfare, and development of the global south; and by international defence journals.
Rakesh’s work has been cited by leading think tanks and organisations that include the Naval Postgraduate School, California; US Army War College, Pennsylvania; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC; State University of New Jersey; Institute of International and Strategic Relations, Paris; BBC Vietnam; Siberian Federal University, Krasnoyarsk; Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi; Institute for Defense Analyses, Virginia; International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Washington DC; Stimson Centre, Washington DC; Foreign Policy Research Institute, Philadelphia; and Institute for Strategic, Political, Security and Economic Consultancy, Berlin.
His articles have been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Foundation Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw; and the Research Institute for European and American Studies, Greece, among others.