restricted access CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN: Indian Chronology
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497 CH APTER THIRT Y-SEV EN Indian Chronology In 2005 a team of French archaeologists, led by Laurent Marivaux of the University of Montpellier, found in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, in the Indus River basin, fossils of primate teeth belonging to the Oligocene (ca. 34– 23 million bce), fueling renewed speculation about an Asian origin of primates and of hominids over against the long-held opinion about an African origin.1 A. K. Sharma,2 of the Archaeological Survey of India, had earlier unearthed remains of a Paleolithic settlement in northern India, described as “extending over 400 square km, dated 1.2 million years ago or even earlier.” The oldest Paleolithic sites in Tamiḷnāḍu and Punjab are dated at ca. 470000 bce. The so-called Soan culture (with different phases)3 flourished between 400000 and 200000 bce. Excavations in Mehrgarh in 1974 uncovered remains of a Neolithic culture dating back to the eighth millennium bce. The area was continuously inhabited for several thousands of years. Other settlements representing early phases of the Sindhu-Sarasvatī civilization date back to ca. 5500 bce.4 The Sindhu-Sarasvatī civilization reached its peak between 2700–1700 bce. It did not die suddenly, but slowly faded out and elements of it entered later riverine cultures along the Ganges and Nārbada. It is becoming ever more evident that there is no single-track prehistoric or protohistoric development in South Asia but a variety of different cultures coexisted in this large area and developed at different paces and in different directions. Thus cultural developments in the Indus region were paralleled by developments in Gujarat (Dvārakā: Kṛṣṇa dynasty), Delhi5 (Pāṇḍava/Kaurava clans), eastern India6 (Ayodhyā: Rāma dynasty). The “parallel histories” of these different populations show some common elements but even more distinctive features. It was only at a relatively late period that a systematic attempt was made to extend the northern Vedic culture through most of India;7 even then leaving out large areas in the interior, inhabited by a number of populous tribes. The formerly widely held notion that the invasion of the Aryans, the Vedic Indians, brought a sudden and violent end to the Indus civilization has been all but abandoned: “Harappan culture did not fall, die, or come to a more 498 PART V: M ISCELL A N Y or less abrupt end . . . many, but not all Indus settlements were abandoned, not destroyed.”8 India’s traditional chronology, supported by astronomical calculations,9 provides precise dates also for prehistoric events. Thus the creation of the present world is dated at 1972947101 bce and the beginning of the Kali-yuga at 3102 bce, thirty-five years after the end of the Bhārata War according to one school. Scholars accepting the historicity of the Purāṇic materials10 take this also to be the date of Manu. According to another school, Rāmacandra is said to have flourished around 1950 bce and Kṛṣṇa around 1400 bce. That would then also be the date for the Bhārata War. According to P. C. Sengupta,11 July 25, 3928 bce is the date of the earliest solar eclipse mentioned in the Ṛgveda. He set Kṛṣṇa’s birth date on July 21, 2501 bce and the date of the Bhārata War at 2449 bce. Using astronomical data provided in the Bhīṣma Parvan of the Mahābhārata, Anand Mohan Sharan, who teaches engineering at Memorial University Newfoundland (Canada) set the date for the Mahābhārata War in 2156 bce.12 S. B. Roy, using astronomical observations recorded in the Ṛgveda and working with the list of Purāṇic kings and ṛṣis as established by Pargiter arrived at a fairly precise dating of most of the major events of early Indian history.13 By cross-referencing Indian events and names with exactly dated events and names of Babylonia and Persia, he appears to provide a fairly good foundation for his dates. Roy held that Max Müller—whom most earlier Western scholars followed in dating Vedic literature and events of early Indian history—had based his calculations only “on the ghost story of Kathāsaritasāgara composed in about 1200 ad, i.e., nearly three thousand five hundred years after the event.” Max Müller, in fact, based his conjectures on the by then believed to be established dates of the life of Buddha. Assuming that the Upaniṣads were pre-Buddhist and conjecturing that it would...