The Moon Analogy

The absurdness of finding tithīs in Itihāsās by many researchers.

The absence of tithīs in Itihāsās like Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata

The two Indian Itihāsās, namely Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata have some very beautiful moon analogies in regard to new moons or full moons of respective seasons, yet we don’t find that Vālmiki and Vyāsa used the “tithī” for describing them( except for Monier-Williams Literary Sources: MBh. xiii , 4238, which i have yet to cite in this vast literature of MBH.). Why I said tithīs, because tithīs are based on waxing and waning of moon and in English we can say, the phases of Moon. Had it been the tithīs and proper seasons descibed directly we would not have been debating for chronological dates of the events of Itihāsās. This appears insane to some researchers as if Vyāsa didn’t know about the phases of moon or else he should have described them and if he has not described them then full moon could have been stretched only for a day or two. Now look at the pic below, or look at the sky today and find out without tithīs whether today is “pūrṇīmā — full moon” day or not.

Carefully look at the full moons and nearby moons appearing as full moons.
Moon on Pratipada and Tritiya — they are not full moons ( we didn’t have a pic for dwititya due to cloudy weather. Pic Courtesy — Shri JP Vaidya
Moon on sankashtha Chaturthi- Courtesy @JP_Vaidya

Sinīvālī and Rākā

And I was surprised on such wakefulness of the “vedic” researcher who went to the extent that Sinīvālī and Rākā are mentioned as the days after the fullmoon, but he forgot to ask the same question to Vālmiki and Vyāsa that why didn’t they use these terms. Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa is a part of Vedas and Vedas were known to Bhagvān Shri Rāma and Shri Krishna too and so to call the same is with Shri Veda Vyāsa, who compiled the vedas and purāṇās in his time. Purāṇās also mention Sinīvālī and Rākā but these terms are absent in the Itihāsās. Why these words are absent instead the full moon analogy goes for days before and after full moon? Ok, now take Raghuvamsham or Meghadutam, i.e., Kālidāsa’s works. Many of the moon analogies, cloud analogies are being mentioned but the jyotiṣa terms are largely absent there also which do not reminisces with the finds of Varāhmhīra’s descriptions. Does that means that Kālidāsa didn’t know about the moon phases. In my opinion Kālidāsa did know Astronomy in great detail which is reflected in Raghuvamsham very clearly with the phrases like “Agastya cinhāt ayanāt” etc.

If we don’t find the phases of moon, with the help of the word tithīs, then does this mean that the Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata are just poetic mythologies written without referring to any timeline in the past? What would a great poet do even if he has the knowledge of Astronomy.

Methodology regard

A revered academician wrote to me about the methodology ( read a short portion from my e-mail below), and with good faith asks me to sort out on the methodology. Firstly, I admitted that it will be difficult to sort out the differences at any point of given time since the other researcher’s methodologies are based on mingling of the notes from different scriptures which collects purely astronomical instances and finding them absent in Itihāsā texts.

Secondly, it appears that Upamās( by name itself an analogy — upamāna) in the poetical rendition of Itihāsās are not much subjected to change but instead Sharada can become Vasanta at some point of time if mentioned with some nakṣatras and this happens due to the huge lapse of time and memories shifting to different patterns of seasons due to precession of equinoxes. In the oral tradition such things happen which is seen even in Astronomy texts. Only Ṛgvedic texts remained as it is at large because they had many diiferent methods of remembering or byhearting the saṃhitā as pada pāṭha or krama pāṭha. Further they had many types of vikṛtipāṭha like jaṭā, mālā, śikhā etc, which coalesced back into the original text when a faction gone missing. Something like the instance of Sāraswat brāhmins who contained the same Vedas with different pāṭhas found after a huge lapse of time from different times and places.

Thirdly, one may ask me that how different parts of india captured the similar essence in all the texts. We don’t know if they captured same addition and alterations but we do know that the Kumbha congregations and the likes were the events not just to visit the rivers and have a plunge in them but the satsang and debates on various issues were encompassed in those Kumbhas in earlier times. The visit to such congregation and the outcome of such congregation can be felt even in Ṛgveda for once they were different family books and then compiled together as one Ṛik, this itself must be an historical event. Such Sangam-congregations was prevalent in southern parts also by which we know about Sangam literature. Our Indic knowledge system were profound in containing the facts in poetical ways and I look at them still with an awe for how they maintained few things through out India be it Aryabhatiya or any text available in and outside India, India wide and worldwide. After going through all the diversified texts the critical editions were carried out by Geeta press and the BORI edition. There were thousands of manuscripts found before the critical editions.

I see the texts with the logical mind…

Do observe moon from ekādaśī(śukla pakṣa)till caturthī ( kṛṣṇa pakṣa)and you will realise how scientific they had been for the intake of food and water during these times. Other than that pūrṇīmās were deceptive thus the five year yuga system began when the Surya-Chandra were in the same sign, i.e., during Amāvasyā, since this day was not as deceptive as full moon near days and locating new moon was easier than full moon, successive years then bore different tithīs. Read here.

Do you want to read the Itihāsās with more approachable logic or dwindle due to other textual pureness which has only lead to more vitanḍavāda instead of reaching the truth of timing of events?

Choice is purely on the readers.



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Rupa Bhaty

Architect and Adjunct Assistant Professor at School of Indic studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, MA, USA