Saturday, February 24, 2024

Review of Yuganta: The Advent of Kali Yuga

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The concept/notion of Kali Yuga has persisted throughout a good part of the classical and medieval ages of Indian history. Starting from the last century, the enigma of “true” dating of the Mahabharata war engulfed the Indian psyche which has continued even till today. To add to this, the mainstream scholarship gave the date of 3102 BCE as the start of Kali Yuga and this date was entwined with Shri Krishna’s departure, using which the date/year of the Mahabharata War was also extrapolated. However, the presented evidence, or rather speculations from Aryabhatiya and Surya Siddhanta was never definite enough, because the word Kali Yuga is not present in both texts, to support any date of Kali Yuga. Thus, the origin of the mainstream “Kali Yuga from 3012 BCE” has been one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in Hindu history, and a topic of unending academic debates. One needed to be courageous and determined to sort through the perplexing assumptions that are pervasive in this argument. Courageous enough in his first book, “Yuganta: The Advent of Kali Yuga” young researcher Jeevan Rao explores this subject and brings an end to the aforementioned debates and speculations.

There are many claims for the dating of Mahabharata by many researchers in the past century, many times based on the Kali Yuga narrations of Puranas. So, a detailed purva-paksha was necessary to understand the structure and nuances of Puranic utterances of Kali Yuga and Jeevan Rao hits it well. After discovering the perplexing structure of Puranic evidence, Jeevan Rao finally chooses to prioritize the internal evidence of the Mahabharata Text. At one place in the Mahabharata, interestingly, Shri Krishna himself states that the Kali Yuga began on the final day of the Kurukshetra War. This provided Jeevan Rao with a key piece of information that set him on his mission of interpretive challenge to decode the advent of Kali Yuga.

The book is divided into sections scrupulously, exhausting almost all the evidence of Kali at bay, which the author has categorized as Yuganta evidence, chronology evidence, and astronomy evidence of Mahabharata.

This surprised me—for a youngster like Jeevan Rao, who read the Mahabharata text voraciously and also brought all the internal evidence to one place by chaffing them. This was not attempted by any researcher in the past in such a rational and logical way. The understanding of the lunisolar calendar at the time of the Mahabharata also provides a few constraints on Kali Yuga’s beginning, which the author eventually brings together to support his theory further. With the use of these criteria, he was able to bring together all the yuga evidence, verify the veracity of the various claims for the beginning of Kali Yuga, and condense the time period of Yuganta to a very specific date, month, and year.

In this process, the author also attempts to verify the claims of other researchers and cogently addresses their claims as well, which itself appears as an art of expressing the content in a lucid way. In accordance with constraints imposed by the evidence, he quantitatively evaluates and contrasts their suggested dates with the internal evidence of Mahabharata. Jeevan Rao maintains his focus while being extremely thorough, direct, and rational, in presenting his facts in a user-friendly manner. For readers who may not have the necessary knowledge of Hindu literature or astronomy, this makes the work far more readable and valuable. I found the section “Harivamsha speaks” containing some critical evidence and it appears to me that these have the potential for even more exploration. A section in the last chapter on the implications of the author’s findings on Mahabharata research throws light on various weird and dogmatic hypotheses made by past researchers, and the thorough discussion and analysis provided in the “New Problems” section are worth reading as to how a young researcher is commenting so cogently on this subject. Lastly, the book’s Appendices are also very carefully chosen and effectively written, which has given more clarity to support the main theory of Yuganta. These include the discussions on the hypothesis of Yukteshwar Giri, evidence of Surya Sidhhanta, discourses of Yuga Purana, Aryabhatiya’s testimony, and an in-depth analysis of the Aihole inscription.

The chapter “Evidence Analysis” deserves a separate mention. The author donned the cap of a critique to closely scrutinize the Mahabharata evidence he extracted thus far. In order to explain few apparent contradictions found in the Mahabharata, Jeevan takes a novel approach of a comparative analysis of multiple versions of the Mahabharata text, namely, the Gita Press and Critical edition. To top it off, author also performs a sensitivity analysis on the Kali Yuga references from the Puranic literature. Finally, once the Mahabharata evidence is shown to be free of contradictions, Jeevan delves deeper into the final question “When did Kali Yuga begin?” and finds the answer to it successfully.

It’s a fantastic achievement by such a young author and a wonderful example for the younger Indian generation who are interested in Indology and studies of Indic texts. It may also be enjoyed by established authors; this is a book for all Mahabharata enthusiasts—readers & researchers alike. This book provides a useful framework for choosing a subject, developing a theory, practicing purva-paksha, and conducting original research with the goal of hitting the truth squarely in the face and untainted by outside forces.

Excellent book, crisply written, with an unbiased, rational, and logical approach, and is very satisfying to read. I would highly recommend this book to all sections of readers. The book is easily comprehensible by even those who don’t know astronomy or find it a little uninteresting but still are curious to hunt for the truth. It is also recommended, for those who are neither interested in astronomy nor Indology, but just for the compendium of shlokas which by itself has a shelf life and such finesse in compiling demands a shelf space. I can bet that once you grab the book you won’t leave it before completing it.

 

Yuganta is available at:

India: https://subbupublications.com/product/jrgs/

Amazon.com: https://www.amazon.com/dp/9356807078

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