It led to fear among historians that the ICHR would henceforth expend all its energy dating the epics, a field that many historians dub 'unhistorical'.
According to a recent news report, the ICHR will soon be taking up research projects on new approaches to writing ancient Indian history based on Sanskrit texts, and revisiting the theme of Aryan immigration into India. It is clear that the epic dating enterprise will be getting a fillip in times to come. Contemporary dialogue on India's ancient past often resembles the battlefield of Kurukshetra, cleaved into two factions, the Left and the Right, mythology versus history, truth versus bunkum.
Beyond the political battleground, if you take a popular vote on this subject, it will show up the duality that the Indian mind is so at ease with: Generations of researchers have combined the study of the two texts with data from astronomy, archaeology and paleogeography. The field has been widened to include genetic studies and natural sciences, but to little or no avail. We are far from any unanimous agreement, except for concurring that the Vedas predate the Ramayana, which came before the Mahabharata.
Gyaneshwar Chaubey, Geneticist, Estonian Biocentre: There are people, however, who are committed to delving deeper for answers by applying imaginative cross-disciplinary ways of thinking and analysis to the epics. He has been conducting genetic studies on the tribes of the Ramayana. In the first part of the project that lasted for three years, he studied the gene pool of the three main tribes mentioned in the epic, Bhil, Kol and Gond, to establish their continuity since ancient times with contemporary tribal and caste populations of the Indian Subcontinent.
We know that Indian mythological sources might have preserved information about prehistoric peopling as well as past societal structure.
And we use this information and look into the human genome DNA , which preserves information back several generations. And then we see how this information coming from their genome is in concordance or vice-versa with the mythological information,' he explains in an interview over email.
The Ramayana project is ongoing, and the plan for the next phase is to collect DNA samples from communities that claim direct lineage from Rama and then look for a consensus result--if any--that traces his male descent via the Y chromosomal haplogroup. Chaubey also speaks of how his growing up years in Varanasi gave him a firm grounding in mythological texts and sources, which he now applies to research. He is extending the same analysis to the Mahabharata. She turned to botany and zoology to establish the historicity of the Ramayana.
Two life scientists from the institute, P Sudhakar and M Amirthalingam studied the plants and animals of the Ramayana. Chitrakut, Dandakaranya, Kishkindha and Lanka," Krishna says. The idea for this research came to her while on a visit to Bhimbetka caves in Madhya Pradesh, where she saw a painting of a tiger and a lion together.
Dismissing it as artistic licence, since the two are not found in the same forest, she later found out that in the forest of Dandakaranya, the two had co- existed, and Valmiki had weaved this into the Ramayana. She felt she had to follow his trail. By next year, the results of their work on Krishna and the Mahabharata will be out. The Mahabharata, though, is not as yielding in botanical information as the Ramayana. Nanditha Krishna has also authored Sacred Plants of India and Sacred Animals of India published by Penguin , books about research done on the Vedas and epics to authenticate their historicity.
As I searched for correlations in ancient texts, I realised that while writers can make up stories about people, they cannot fake plants and animals, which are described so accurately in these texts. That was a tremendous source to authenticate our literature. Neera Misra, Chairperson, Draupadi Trust: She was witty and intelligent. An icon of our times" Photo: Neera Misra, who runs the Draupadi Trust in Delhi, is not a historian or scientist, unlike other pursuers.
She is a former entrepreneur who was drawn to the field quite by accident. Misra belongs to Kampilya, which, located in Farrukhabad district of Uttar Pradesh, is considered the birthplace of Draupadi and the capital of the kingdom of Panchala. Some years ago, while recovering from an illness, she started watching reruns of Mahabharata on television and realised the importance of Kampilya. She also rediscovered Draupadi, and through her work she has introduced the question of gender to the debate on the epic's historicity.
She was witty and intelligent, fiercely independent and progressive. She is an icon for our times," says Misra. Her tiny office is filled with ancient maps of Panchala, some frayed with age. I have a connection with the land.
DATING THE MAHABHARATA
Misra has the air of someone who knows how to get things done. She campaigned extensively for excavation at Kampilya, which took place between and Misra talks about the tragedy of Kampilya. The mound where Drupad Kila Fort of King Drupad is assumed to be located has been taken over by squatters. On the third day, Bhishma arranged the Kaurava forces in the formation of an eagle with himself leading from the front, while Duryodhana's forces protected the rear.
Bhishma wanted to be sure of avoiding any mishap. The Pandavas countered this by using the crescent formation with Bhima and Arjuna at the head of the right and the left horns, respectively. The Kauravas concentrated their attack on Arjuna's position. Arjuna's chariot was soon covered with arrows and javelins.
Mahabharata - Wikipedia
Arjuna, with amazing skill, built a fortification around his chariot with an unending stream of arrows from his bow. Abhimanyu and Satyaki combined to defeat the Gandhara forces of Shakuni. Bhima and his son Ghatotkacha attacked Duryodhana in the rear. Bhima's arrows hit Duryodhana, who swooned in his chariot.
His charioteer immediately drove them out of danger. Duryodhana's forces, however, saw their leader fleeing the battlefield and soon scattered. Bhishma soon restored order and Duryodhana returned to lead the army. He was angry at Bhishma, however, at what he saw as leniency towards the five Pandava brothers and spoke harshly at his commander. Bhishma, stung by this unfair charge, fell on the Pandava army with renewed vigor.
It was as if there were more than one Bhishma on the field. Arjuna attacked Bhishma trying to restore order. Arjuna and Bhishma again engaged in a fierce duel, however Arjuna's heart was not in the battle as he did not like the idea of attacking his grand-uncle. During the battle, Bhishma killed numerous soldiers of Arjuna's armies. The fourth-day of the battle was noted for the valour shown by Bhima. Bhishma commanded the Kaurava army to move on the offensive from the outset.
While Abhimanyu was still in his mother's womb, Arjuna had taught Abhimanyu on how to break and enter the chakra vyuha. But, before explaining how to exit the chakra Vyuha, Arjuna was interrupted by Krishna another story is that Abhimanyu's mother falls asleep while Arjuna was explaining the chakra vyuha exit strategy. Thus from birth, Abhimanyu only knew how to enter the Chakra vyuha but didn't know how to come out of it.
When the Kauravas formed the chakravyuha, Abhimanyu entered it but was surrounded and attacked by a number of Kaurava princes. Arjuna joined the fray in aid of Abhimanyu. Bhima appeared on the scene with his mace aloft and started attacking the Kauravas. Duryodhana sent a huge force of elephants at Bhima. When Bhima saw the mass of elephants approaching, he got down from his chariot and attacked them singlehandedly with his iron mace. They scattered and stampeded into the Kaurava forces killing many.
Duryodhana ordered an all-out attack on Bhima. Bhima withstood all that was thrown at him and attacked Duryodhana's brothers, killing eight of them. Bhima was soon struck by an arrow from Dushasana, the second-eldest Kaurava, on the chest and sat down in his chariot dazed. Duryodhana was distraught at the loss of his brothers. Duryodhana, overwhelmed by sorrow at the loss of his brothers, went to Bhishma at the end of the fourth day of the battle and asked his commander how could the Pandavas, facing a superior force against them, still prevail and win.
Bhishma replied that the Pandavas had justice on their side and advised Duryodhana to seek peace. When the battle resumed on the fifth day, the slaughter continued. The Pandava army again suffered against Bhishma's attacks. Satyaki bore the brunt of Drona 's attacks and could not withstand them. Bhima drove by and rescued Satyaki. Arjuna fought and killed thousands of soldiers sent by Duryodhana to attack him.
Bhima engaged in a fierce duel with Bhishma, which remained inconclusive. Drupada and his son Shikandi drove to aid Bhima with his fight with Bhishma, but they were stopped by Vikarna, one of Duryodhana's brothers, who attacked them with his arrows, injuring both father and son badly. The unimaginable carnage continued during the ensuing days of the battle. The sixth day was marked by a prodigious slaughter.
Drona caused immeasurable loss of life on the Pandava side. The formations of both the armies were broken. However, Bhima managed to penetrate the Kaurava formation and attacked Duryodhana. Duryodhana was defeated, but was rescued by others. The Upapandavas sons of Draupadi fought with Ashwathama and destroyed his chariot. The day's battle ended with the defeat of the Kauravas.