Varahamihira was one of the 9 gems of Vikramaditya’s court. There is a famous shlokam which says this. Kalidasa was one of the other nine. Kalidasa’s Megha Sandesam demonstrates a clear knowledge of Varahamihira’s observations on meteorology. So to get Varahamihira’s date is also to fix the date of Kalidasa and Vikramaditya.
The date assigned to Varahamihira is based on these verses of the PanchaSiddhanthika. Chapter 1, Verse 8 to 10. (Page 288 in the Reference : The Text and Translation of The PanchaSiddhantha by Mahamohopadhyaya Sudhakara Dwivedi and G. Thibaut, 1889. available at the Digital Library of India).
Varahamihira gives a way to calculate the ahargana, or the “count of days” from the beginning of the relevant epoch to the present day. For that he says that 427 must be subtracted from the present Saka Era. This merely implies that 427 Saka Era was the start of the Karanagrantha in use at the time. It does not specify Varahamihira’s birth, death or the date of the pancha siddhanthika.
Alberuni made two Assumptions both are possibly wrong:
- 427 Saka Era is the date of the Panchasiddhanthika
- The saka era of kalahana is the same as the saka era of Varahamihira.
Based on those 2 assumptions, he computed that the date for Varahamihira’s Panchasiddhantika was 526 years before his time. And based on this statement, Varahamihira is assigned a date in the 6th century CE (AD).
My Conclusions :
- Year 427 of the Saka Era referred to by Varahamihira in the Panchasiddhanthika is the year of the Karanagrantha.
- 2526 years separate the Bharata War and the start point of this Saka Era (Brhat Samhita)
- Kalahana and AlBeruni assumed that Varahamihira’s Sakam was the same as Kalahana’s sakam. Thus, AlBeruni calculated that 526 years separated him from Varahamihira and Kalahana calculated that Bharata War was in 653 Kaliyugam.. both were possibly wrong.
- Taking 3168 BCE (36 kaliyuga) as the Date of the Bharata war, we conclude that the Saka referred to by Varahamihira started in 612 BCE.
- Karana Granthas have astronomical significance and Sakas have historical significance.
- So we must look for an important astronomical event in 612-427=185 BCE and an important kingly victory in 612 BCE.
- We know that Varahamihira could not have lived prior to 185 BCE. This gives us an upper bound.
For Easy Reference I am including part of this previous post here : How many kinds of Sakas (Eras) are there?
The Bharata War (Mahabharata Yuddham) occured 36 years before the start of the Kaliyuga. We know this from the Mahabharata.
The Bharata war was such a significant year in Indian history that it is used as a reference point for all Sakams.
- Varahamihira speaks of a Saka or Era that commenced 2526 years after the period of the King Yudhisthira, during whose time the munis (saptarishis) were in Magha Nakshatram. These munis traverse each lunar mansion for a peiod of 100 years. (That is how the Saptarishi Yuga = 2700 years. Whichever constellation (nakshatram) makes them conspicuous when they rise to the eat of it, in that they are said to be situated. The Vishnu Puranam also tells us that the dvijottamah ( best of brahmins – the saptarshis) were in Magha, in the time of Parikshit. – Parikshit was born soon after the Bharata war, in the same year that Yudhisthira became the king. As per this source, the Saptarishis are in Visakha Nakshatram now. This gives 2 possible dates of the Bharata war 300 BC and 3000 BC.).
- Pulakesin speaks of a different Saka or Era when he says ” V. 33.) (Now) when thirty (and) three thousand and five years besides, joined with seven hundred years, have passed since the Bharata war; (V. 34.) And when fifty (and) six and five hundred years of the Saka kings also have gone by in the Kali age” in the Aihole Inscription.
So Pulakesin equates 3735 years after the Bharata War with 556 years of the Sakam that he was living in. Therefore the zero point of that Sakam was 3179 years after the Bharata war, while Varahamihira is speaking of a Sakam which is 2526 years after Yudhisthira was made king. (Bharata War).
- Vyasa said that Kaliyuga began 36 years after the Bharata war.
- Therefore 3143 Kaliyuga is the zero point of the Aihole inscription Sakam and 2490 Kaliyuga was the zero point of Varahamihira referenced Sakam.
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Please see the Image below from the book : Vedanga Jyotisha of Lagadha: Prof. K.V. Sarma : Introduction: Pg 13.
- This page says that Varahamihira said that the winter solstice was in 1st pAda of uttarASADa nakSatram.
- Today, we take it that, the point marked by the winter solstice is the (middle of the) mUla nakSatram.
- Beginning of mUla 1st to end of uttarASADa 1st is 30 degrees, or a precession of equinoxes of approximately 2000 years. (30*71.6 = 2148 years)
- mUla mid to beginning of uttarASADa first, will give us 1432 (20*71.6) years, approximately. The solstice lasts in each pAda of a nakSatram for about 239 years. So using nakSatra pAdA: for dating cannot give us a better accuracy than this.
- So varAhamihira’s date can be between 132 BCE to 584 CE. (2016-2148, 2016-1432)
- *Subject to verification of the ślOkam referred to below.