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Mahabharata Itihasa and Hiltebeitel
by Indrajit Bandyopadhyay Bookmark and Share

Indology, Quo vadis? Whither goest thou?

Continued from
Hiltebeitel, “Fifth Veda,” and the Panini Factor
(This review is based on Reading the Fifth Veda: Studies on the Mahabharata— Essays by Alf Hiltebeitel, Volume 1. Edited by Vishwa Adluri and Joydeep Bagchee. Brill 2011; and also with few references from Rethinking the Mahabharata: A Reader's Guide to the Education of the Dharma King. University of Chicago Press, 30-Oct-2001)

I have noted that Bankim Chandra [1] opines that since Mahabharata is called Itihasa it must have Historicity: “True there are many facts in Mahabharata that are Supernatural, impossible and unhistorical; we can discard them… why would we discard those parts as unhistorical that are not Supernatural? The ancient history of every nation is mixture of Historical and Unhistorical, of Truth and Myth. The Roman historian Livy etc., the Greek historian Herodotus etc., Islamic historian – all have mixed historic facts with supernatural and unhistorical facts. Their works are accepted as History – why would Mahabharata be absolutely discarded?” (p-411)

How right Bankim Chandra is, is evident from the Dual Strategy regarding Ashoka too. Ashokan Edicts are naturally accepted as authentic historical source; however, the same historians overlook the Supernatural claims of Ashoka.

For example, in Rock Edict-IV (Girnar Text), Ashoka claims that his Dhamma has enabled Supernatural Sightings: “The sighting of heavenly cars, auspicious elephants, bodies of fire and other divine sightings has not happened for many hundreds of years. But now because Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi promotes restraint in the killing and harming of living beings, proper behavior towards relatives, Brahmans and ascetics, and respect for mother, father and elders, such sightings have increased.”

And in Minor Rock Edict- I (Rupnath Text) [2] Ashoka claims: “The Gods who were unmingled with the people inhabiting Jambudvipa during the ages down to the present time, have now been mingled with them by me. This is indeed the result of my exertion in the cause of Dhamma.” (D.C. Sircar)

The question is: if approach to Ashoka involves a judicious subtraction of Supernatural, why not the same approach to Mahabharata?

In this article, I will show how Hiltebeitel etc. follow a Dual Strategy/ Dual Approach with regard to Historical Texts that confirm Mahabharata as Itihasa.

1. Hiltebeitel’s Dual Approach to Historical Texts

Hiltebeitel betrays a dual approach (Strategy? Or, someone might feel, Double-Standard?) - relating to a particular Source Text on at least four occasions; regarding Megasthenes/Arrian’s Indica, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, Ashokan Edicts, and Patanjali.

1.1. Megasthenes/Arrian’s Indica

Hiltebeitel mentions Megasthenes only on two occasions (p- 86; pp 107-8) and Arrian once in association with Megasthenes. He accepts Megasthenes as authentic source that enables him to conclude (“The following ten points can now be made by way of conclusion”) that “Megasthenes’ report from Candragupta’s Maurya’s time of a genealogy of 153 kings shows that the Mauryans had an early historical record even before Ashoka, probably without yugas, or with them designating only short time-cycles.” (p-107-8)

Strangely Hiltebeitel avoids discussion on Indica’s mention of Heracles (Megasthenes/Arrian’s Indica -5, 8, 9) – and Heracles’ worship by Sourasenians in Methora and Cleisobora. [3] Thus Megasthenes is authentic Source Text to him when that suits his Theory, otherwise not.

Following same logic with reference to same Source Text, Hiltebeitel admits that Megasthenes knows something about Mahabharata (most of which might be in the missing Text as Bankim Chandra suggests). Significantly, he admits that Megasthenes knows “historical record even before Ashoka” (that Ashoka himself admits in his Edicts) – and by implication, Megasthenes’ knowledge of History therefore, also includes Mahabharata as ‘History’ – a Status that Hiltebeitel constantly denies to Mahabharata.

If the “Mauryans had an early historical record even before Ashoka,” we cannot certainly assume that Chandragupta Maurya with a “rags to riches” legendary Script was the first to initiate that record. In other words, there has been a long tradition behind – that, later, Ashokan Edicts too corroborate.

Megasthenes’ account of Mahabharata is corroborated by Kautilya’s Arthashastra – because Kautilya too mentions Krshna as one to be worshipped.

Hiltebeitel adopts same Dual Strategy regarding Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

1.2. Kautilya’s Arthashastra

Kautilya’s Arthashastra has the following Mahabharata mentions:

Kautilya mentions Janaka (Karaala Janaka, 1.6.5), Dvaipaayana (1.6.10) [4], Yudhishthira (8.3.43), Duryodhana (1.6.8 [5]; 8.3.41[6]), Krshna and Kamsa (14.3.44)[7], Janamejaya (1.6.6). He counts Itihaasa as Veda (1.3.2), defines Itihaasa as - puraanam itivrttam aakhyaayika.udaaharanam dharma.zaastram artha.zaastram caitiitihaasah (1.5.14). He recommends second part of the day for King’s listening to Itihaasa (pazcimam itihaasa.zravane, 1.5.13), and says that (true) Arthashastravit knows Itihaasa-Purana (itihaasa.puraanaabhyaam bodhayed artha.zaastravit, 5.6.47)

Kautilya mentions Duryodhana’s refusal to give half/part kingdom to Yudhishthira, and even the Dice Game that caused Yudhishthira’s suffering. Significantly, Yudhishthira is mentioned with King Nala – pointing to the antiquity of the Nala-Damayantii narrative too.

Hiltebeitel completely avoids Mahabharata-mention of Kautilya, though elsewhere he uses Kautilya’s mention (and definition) of Itihaasa in Arthashastra as a historical Source Text to deny Mahabharata the Status of either Itihaasa or ‘History.’

Strikingly, Kautilya’s Arthashastra finds place only in his footnote once – when he mentions Kautilya’s Arthashastra’s definition of Itihaasa, but ‘avoiding discussion’ on Arthashastra because it “subordinates dharma to Artha.” Fn. 12, P-79).

Needless to say, this is an entirely erroneous assessment of Kautilya. Kautilya’s definition of Itihaasa – mentioned by Hiltebeitel himself - treats Dharmashaastra and Arthashastra at par (puraanam itivrttam aakhyaayika.udaaharanam dharma.zaastram artha.zaastram caitiitihaasah, 1.5.14). Besides, Kautilya places Dharma before Artha – for example in the dictum – “Let the King enjoy Kaama, not violating Dharma and Artha (dharma.artha.avirodhena kaamam seveta, 1.7.3).”

I will not elaborately discuss here Kautilya’s philosophy on Dharma, but say this much that his saying - artha.muulau hi dharma.kaamaav iti (1.7.7) – which has perhaps given rise to Hiltebeitel’s erroneous view bears a startling resemblance with Arjuna’s discourse on Arthashastra in Shanti-Parvan – even the Maatsyanyaaya Imagery is common to both. A lesser known aspect of Arjuna is that he is Arthashastravizaaradah (12.161.9). Given Kautilya’s knowledge of Mahabharata, and given Panini’s mention of Arjuna with Vaasudeva as worshipped, I will go this far to say that Kautilya has Arjuna’s discourses in mind other than of course of the foremost ones – Brhaspati and Shukra.

Panini perhaps knew a Mahabharata in which Arjuna had a more prominent role as Yudhishthira’s Intellectual minister – Arthashastravizaarada – presaging Kautilya. It is possible this role was revised in post-Ashokan Mahabharata in favour of a dominantly warrior Arjuna. Similar revision is possible about Draupadii too. Lalitvistara mentions Draupadii as “protector.”

Read with 1.7.3 and other pronouncement on Dharma, what Kautilya actually suggests is a traditional and practical view of Human Existential Reality – akin to the Upanishadik Philosophy of considering Praana and Anna as the foremost Gods – a philosophy that Shi Raamakrshna and Swaami Vivekananda would later represent during the Bengal/Indian Renaissance as: Khaali Pete Dharma Hay Naa (No Dharma with empty stomach).

Now I will quote from Kautilya’s Arthashastra some of his dictums from a single chapter to show how Kautilya centralizes Dharma – (naturally to be so in the scheme of Purushaarthas) - the precepts that Ashoka actually imitated (or tried to) but without acknowledging:

“In virtue of his power to uphold the observance of the respective duties of the four castes and of the four divisions of religious life, and in virtue of his power to guard against the violation of the Dharmas, the king is the fountain of justice (dharmapravartaka.). Sacred law (Dharma), evidence (Vyavahara), history (Charitra), and edicts of kings (Rajasasana) are the four legs of Law. Of these four in order, the later is superior to the one previously named. Dharma is eternal truth holding its sway over the world; Vyavahara, evidence, is in witnesses; Charitra, history, is to be found in the tradition (sangraha), of the people; and the order of kings is what is called sasana. The king who administers justice in accordance with sacred law (Dharma), evidence (vyavahara), history (samstha) and edicts of kings (Nyaya) which is the fourth will be able to conquer the whole world bounded by the four quarters (Chaturantam mahim)." [8]

Ashoka was not only imitating but copying Kautilya’s Arthashastra (and one might add, violating copyright act). Thus, Ashokan Dhamma is nothing but appropriation of Kautilya. More on this soon.

In light of this – as well as considering Apastamba Dharmasuutra as pre-Ashoka (that Hiltebeitel admits), the Ashokal Complex of Modern Indology really seems to be in need of urgent cure! And Trshnaa, if we remember, is compared with Disease by Shaunaka – one of Hiltebeitel’s favourite examples to show how Mahabharata is influenced by Buddhism. If Hiltebeitel suggests that Shaunaka’s eightfold dictum is a response to Buddha’s eightfold path; then, Buddha’s eightfold path is actually an appropriation of the Vedic Mystic Number "8" – also found in Upanishads. Besides, let us note, Apizali’s work quoted by Yaska and Panini had "8" books; Paaninii’s Ashtaadhyaayii has "8" chapters, Pingala’s Chandahzaastra/ Chandahsuutra (anywhere between 4th century BCE – 2nd century BCE) [9] has "8" chapters and so on. More on this "8" later; for now to note further is that Krshna is also "8". (See Krishna, Last Days: Why Vyasa ‘kills’ him at the 16th Parvan?)

As is Megasthenes’ fate, Kautilya’s Arthashastra is authentic to Hiltebeitel when it suits his Theory, otherwise not.

1.3. Patanjali’s Mahaabhaashya (2nd century BCE)

Hiltebeitel’s most glaring contradiction is however, his locating Patanjali in 150 BCE (p-214) or 200 BCE (p-406). If Patanjali already knows a well-formed Mahabharata, how can Hiltebeitel then settle date of his “composing committee’s” First Mahabharata in 150 BCE to 0?

Hiltebeitel’s non-mention of Patanjali is all the more surprising because “(Patanjali) lived at a time when Asoka's anti-Brahmanic measures were bearing most disastrous fruits” (Shashtri, 40). We of course know the reason. If Patanjali already knows the Mahabharata, how can the “composing committee” emerge in post-Ashokan times as Reaction and “rage” to Ashoka? Certainly, the “composing committee” membership cannot be given to a grammarian.

Just as Hiltebeitel avoids discussing Kautilya’s Arthashastra’s mention of Mahabharata (Itihaasa-Veda) and Mahabharatan characters, he avoids discussion of Patanjali’s Mahaabhaashya’s frequent mention of Mahabharata too.

Hiltebeitel mentions Patanjali only thrice (p- 59; p-214, fn 67; p-406), but does not mention Mahaabhaashya at all! Even in the three mentions, he gives two different dating of Patanjali – 150 BCE (p-214) and 200 BCE (p-406). If Patanjali already knows a Mahabharata, then Hiltebeitel Deconstructs his own proposition of 150 BCE-0 Mahabharata by this dating.

Elsewhere he says: “Falk (1988, 109, 117-(8) also speaks of 150 B.C. as a time when Braahmana authors, after the first decades of Shunga rule, may have first developed Sanskrit writing for the transcription of certain Upanishads and the Mahaabhaashya, Patanjali's commentary on Panini’s grammar. Patanjali, who knows Mahabharata names and something of a story, is quite reliably dated to this time, though one cannot be sure whether he wrote his commentary, and if not, when this was done. He and the Mahabharata poets have, in any case, the same term, Shishta, for what would appear to be a common (even if flexibly oriented) ideal.” (Rethinking, p-27)

As we shall see, there is indeed much more in common – rather uncommonly common between Mahabharata and Patanjali.

As is evident, Hiltebeitel is skeptic about Patanjali’s mention too – and though he does not apply his Interpolation Theory on Mahaabhaashyaa, (Patanjali is a bit luckier than Panini on that count), yet he would not admit Patanjali’s widely accepted historical time as evident from – “though one cannot be sure whether he wrote his commentary, and if not, when this was done.” Here, he clearly contradicts himself. Like automatic light, he sometimes accepts Patanjali’s date, sometimes not – On and Off – as and when it suits his case.

Regarding Patanjali’s mention of Mahabharata, Bhandarkar said: "Perhaps the story of the epic was made the subject of new poems in Patanjali's time. ... But the main story as we now have it, leaving the episodes out of consideration, was current long before Patanjali's time" (fn. 111, p-27)

Quoting this in footnote, Hiltebeitel adds: “the evidence for which, however, is mainly Panini.” This “however” reveals Hiltebeitel’s opinion about Panini as the primary evidence, and explains why Panini becomes so important to be dismissed as Interpolation.

Now, the argument Hiltebeitel takes in finding the use of the word and ideal of Shishta in Mahabharata and Mahaabhaashya (and therefore, their origin in same time), does not hold good, because the word finds mention in Shatapatha Braahmana in the same sense: “disciplined, cultured, educated, learned, wise (m. a learned or well-educated or wise man),” and in Atharva Veda as “taught, directed, ordered, commaned (applied to persons and things)” (Monier-Williams). It is in these senses that the Dharmashaastras use it later.

Like his dismissal of Paaninii, Hiltebeitel’s opinion on the dating of Dharmashaastras is similar – they have to be post-Ashokan. He follows Olivelle (1999) [10] who places “Apastamba first, in the early 3rd century B.C.E. and thus roughly contemporary with or even prior to Ashoka’s edicts; Gautama second, in the mid-3rd century B.C.E.; Baudhaayana third in the mid-2nd century B.C.E.; and Vasistha last, bringing us down to the 1st or 2nd century C.E.” (fn. 10, p-124)

Hiltebeitel endorses this opinion: “These bardic oral versions could not have been about dharma to anything near the extent that the epics in their archetypal written forms are about it, since both texts speak of dharma in ways that show them participating in Dharmashaastric discourses that, if Patrick Olivelle is right, as I believe he is, cannot be traced back earlier than Ashoka or the early Mauryas.” (p-123-4)

In other words, Dharma as Dharmashaastrik Discourses “cannot be traced back earlier than Ashoka or the early Mauryas,” implying, they originated in “early Mauryan” time or in Ashoka’s time.

Now, Hiltebeitel’s “earlier than Ashoka or the early Mauryas” is a very tricky time-span. If we take the “early Maurya” upper end, Hiltebeitel already Deconstructs his Thesis because then Dharmashaastrik Discourses is pushed back to Kautilyan times, which is akin to his admitting Mahabharata’s pre-Ashoka presence, given Mahabharata mention in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

Now, if we take the lower end – Ashoka?

Hiltebeitel’s Thesis is now deconstructed by none other than Ashoka himself!

For example, departing from his earlier boastfulness, in Pillar Edict 7, Ashoka says: “"It occurs to me that in the past kings desired that the people might grow through the promotion of the Dhamma.”

Well! Ashoka himself gives away his copyright of Dhamma. It is strange and clearly smacks of Agendalogy that still some of our Indologists would insist on making Ashoka the first Dharma-King!

Now, which Dharma-Kings is Ashoka referring to here?

His Edicts do not give the answer – well, he was such a Gunadhar Putra that he did not even acknowledge his grandfather and father’s contribution to the building of the Magadhan Empire. However, by Common Sense if we allow ourselves this much that Ashoka had ‘read’ Kautilya’s Arthashastra, then these Kings must be the Kings of yore that Kautilya mentions. And who are they?

Not mentioning all, it will suffice here that they are – Indra of RgVeda (I count him as an Ancient Ideal because like him Ashoka wants to be parent of his subjects; sabe munishe pajaa mama – is actually RgVedic Indra-Ideal), Janaka, Yudhishthira, and Janamejaya.

We have two well-known Dharma-Kings here – Janaka and Yudhishthira – Ashoka’s “past kings (who) desired that the people might grow through the promotion of the Dhamma.”

No, I have no doubt that Ashoka wanted to model himself after Janaka and Yudhishthira – Janaka prominent in Shatapatha Braahmana and Buddhist Jaatakas (some of which are surely pre-Ashokan or his contemporary; for example Cuula-Janaka-Jaataka No. 52) and Yudhishthira in Mahabharata – and mentioned by Panini and Kautilya’s Arthashastra.

Coming back to Dharmashaastras, the date given by Kane [11] is: Gautama 600 to 400, Apastamba 450 to 350, Baudhaayana 500 to 200, and Vasishtha 300 to100, all BCE

Haraprasaad Shashtri too opines: “Gautama Dharmasuutra one of the oldest Suutras on Dharma speaks of Mimamsa.” (p-25)

Just as Hiltebeitel inclines to a post-Ashokan Dharmashaastra, I incline to pre-Ashokan Dharmashaastras. However, for the time I would not incline – I would not need to incline.

Whether we accept Kane or not, Olivelle himself has admitted that apart from Apastamba the other Dharmasuutras have various alterations made at later times. [12] Hiltebeitel skips this information.

Once a possibility, always a possibility! If Dharmashaastra could have been altered, their Present forms could be altered forms as well, pointing to an even Past Form.

Thus, Kane is probably right about Gautama Dharmasuutra, and it is thus possible that even Bauddhaayana Dharmasuutra and Vashishtha Dharmasuutra might be earlier to Apastamba Dharmasuutra of the Present Form.

Leaving aside the latter prospect (I am not going by it), Gautama and Apastamba Dharmasuutra give the most liberal concept of Dharma – the Dharma of violating Dharma by sheer Individual Power. They are Dharmavyatikramah as Gautama Dharmasuutra suggests (1.1.3), and indicators of courage and greatness (drshto dharmavyatikramah saahasam ca mahataam). AApastamba Dharmasuutra states same ( and calls such person ‘Tejo’ who incur no sin on account of their greatness (teshaam tejo.vizeshena pratyavaayo na vidyate –

This is an interesting use of the word Teja – usually associated with Agni.

We may remember that in Vana Parvan, Draupadi has been constantly invoking Yudhishthira’s Manyu first, and then his Teja. Draupadii herself is hailed by Dhrtaraashtra as Teja’s Self (yajnasenasya duhitaa teja eva tu kevalam, 3.228.9c).

When the Pandavas and Draupadii are leaving for exile, Vidura advises them that they should accumulate in them all Power of different Gods like Indra, Yama, Varuna, and Kuvera; they should accumulate Teja from Suuryamandala (tejaz ca samagram suuryamandalaat, 2.69.17c). Thus, when Draupadii invokes Yudhishthira’s Teja, she is not only reminding him (and Pandavas) of Vidura’s words, but also invoking his Suurya-aspect. She is also invoking Yudhishthira’s Higher Sattva Guna thus; Vyasa says Sattva Guna creates Teja (sattvam hi tejah srjati, 12.231.14c), and Bhrgu tells Vasumaan-Janaka that One can acquire Upaaya (Strategy/Policy) with Natural Teja (tejasaa zakyate praaptum upaayasahacaarinaa, 12.297.22a); patience and firmness (Dhrti) are the root of his accomplishment for this life and the other (iha ca pretya ca zreyas tasya muulam dhrtih paraa, 22c).” Dhrti, sharing same root with Dharma, and expressed in same Boat-metaphor (e.g. 12.309.16-7) is also Dharma. Suurya-like Teja is an essential quality of an Ideal Kshatriya King (tejasaa suuryasamkaazo, 1.94.12c). Sanatakumaara says (in Maarkandeya’s narrative and discourses to Yudhishthira) that just as Suurya dispels darkness and ignorance with his Teja among Gods, similarly, the Ideal King on Earth dispels grave Adharma (3.183.26) [13] Shantanu is hailed as tejasaa suuryasamkaazo (1.94.12c). Significantly, Yudhishthira is hailed as Mahaatejaa when he ascends Svarga (18.3.8c).

The Pandavas, Kunti, and particularly the four Krshnas are indisputable Dharmavyatikrama as evident from their life-story (like Niyoga not in adherence to ‘rules’ like smearing ghee on the body; Bhiima’s earlier ‘marriage/live-together’ than his elder brother with sanction of Yudhishthira and Kunti; Pandavas and Draupadii polyandrous marriage etc). It is thus reasonable to believe that Gautama Dharmasuutra coined the term Dharmavyatikrama after them.

One example: when Uluupii tries to convince Arjuna of a Sexual Relation, she mentions both Dharma and Vyatikrama together (yadi vaapy asya dharmasya suukshmo 'pi syaad vyatikramah, 1.206.28a). Arjuna’s relation with Uluupii is indeed an act of Dharmavyatikrama because it is more a live-together than a marriage sanctioned by Vedic rites.

Hiltebeitel’s argument that “These bardic oral versions (of Raamaayana and Mahabharata) could not have been about dharma to anything near the extent that the epics in their archetypal written forms are about it,” sounds absurd because RgVeda uses the word Dharma 81 times; Shatapatha Braahmana speaks of Dharma-Indra King (clear model of Janaka and Yudhishthira), and in Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad, Dharma is regarded Kshatriya of Kshatriyas. Paaninii too uses the word – Dharmam carati (4.4.41) – that gives us an idea why Kunti tells Arjuna to follow Draupadii's footsteps (Kunti tells Arjuna to follow Draupadii's foot-steps [draupadyaah padaviim cara, 5.88.79c; 5.135.19c, and Nakula says he would follow her foot-step (2.68.45a); in RgVeda the Rishis follow the trace of Vaak by Sacrifice - yajnena vaacah padaviiyamaayan (10.71.3)]

This is an important reference to me that the Mahabharata Panini knew had Draupadii's more Active Role – later confirmed by Ashvaghosaa’s Buddhacarita.

And Dharmashaastrik Discourse too is not unique in the ‘Epics.’ We have them in King Janaka’s court in Shatapatha Braahmana and Brhadaaranyaka Upanishad. Indeed as I shall show later, Ashoka actually fashions himself after King Janaka – the Ideal Grhastha King.

Olivelle finds these dates of Dharmashaastras proposed by him “still . . . reasonable,” but “inclined now to place them somewhat later.” Recently, he writes, “The very creation of a Brahmanical genre of literature dedicated to dharma was possibly due to the elevation of this word to the level of imperial ideology by Ashoka” (fn. 10, p-124)

Hiltebeitel of course seems to endorse this view, and I cannot but note again that it is again the same tendency of Indology to place everything post-Ashoka! The Ashokal Complex!

As we have seen, this Theory falls flat by Ashoka’s own admission of previous Kings with similar Dharma-Ideology.

Now, even if we go by Hiltebeitel’s “Shishta-argument,” (that is, Zishta is mentioned by Patanjali and Mahabharata), it does not hold good because even if we accept “Apastamba first, in the early 3rd century B.C.E. and thus roughly contemporary with or even prior to Ashoka’s edicts,” there is a problem here!

Apastamba already knows the word Zishta and even connects it with Dharma ( Thus, if Apastamba being “pre-Ashoka” or “roughly contemporary with or even prior to Ashoka’s edicts” knows Shishta-Dharma, therefore it is pre-Patanjali too; therefore, the question of Patanjali’s Shishta-matching with Mahabharata does not arise.

Hiltebeitel says about Patanjali – “Patanjali, who knows Mahabharata names and something of a story…”

As evident from his choice of words – “something of a story” – Hiltebeitel has already formed a Pre-Programmed Script about Patanjali’s Mahabharata reference.

Now let us see what Patanjali knows – what “something of a story.”

1.3.1. Patanjali’s Mahaabhaashyaa: Mahabharata

Patanjali mentions Kamsa-Bhakta and Vaasudeva-Bhakta, and Kamsa’s death [14] by Vaasudeva [15]; Ugrasena, Vrshni, Vaasudeva, Baladeva, Nakula-Sahadeva, and Bhiima [16]; Vaasudeva [17]; Samkarshana and Krshna (sankarshanadvitiiyasya balam krshnasya vardhataam iti) [18]; Janaardana (katham janaardanah tu aatmacaturthah eva iti) [19]; Kezava, along with Raama [20]; Yudhishthira and Arjuna (yudhishthiraarjunau) [21]; Paandu and Pandava [22]; Pandava [23]; Karna and Karna-Putra [24], and Satyabhaamaa. [25]

With Patanjali mentioning “minor characters” too, does this appear like “something of a story”?

Patanjali mentions Paancaala and Videha [26]; Magadha and Mathuraa together [27]; Mathuraa and Paataaliputra together [28]

As Haraprasaad Shashtri says, Patanjali was “full of Paataaliputra” (p-45), yet, “Mathuraa was still more splendid than Paataaliputra.” (p-44) One reason, I suggest, is Patanjali’s fascination for Krshna.

Patanjali’s references show that not only does he have Mahabharata in mind, but also definitely a well-composed form of Mahabharata.

I will offer here two “proofs” in support of my statement.

Patanjali quotes a Shloka - kaalah pacati bhuutaani kaalah samharati prajaah [29] - “the often quoted verse of the Mahabharata” pointed out by Haraprasaad Shashtri (p-47) – as found exactly Only at 1.1.188a. Now, this is said by Ugrashravaa Sauti – therefore, Outside Vyasa or Vaishampaayana’s frame – therefore, a later adage to Original Mahabharata - and with clear hint of Rotation of Wheel – Yugas (kaalah samkshipate sarvaah prajaa visrjate punah, 1.1.189c). It is also mentioned elsewhere (but not verbatim) at - 12,217.39c (kaalah sthaapayate sarvam kaalah pacati vai tathaa) said by Balii to Indra; 12,220.84c (so 'yam pacati kaalo maam vrkshe phalam ivaagatam) by Bhiishma to Yudhishthira/Pandavas; 12.231.25a (kaalah pacati bhuutaani sarvaany evaatmanaatmani) and 12.309.90c (svakarmanishthaaphalasaakshikena; bhuutaani kaalah pacati prasahya) by Vyasa to Shuka; and once in Anushasana Parvan only with the phrase - kaalah pacati bhuutaani (13,134.057d@015_2275) in vulgate.

Now, ‘Hiltebeitel “urges” that the Mahabharata “must have been written over a much shorter period than is usually advanced . . . by ‘committee’ (Kirste 1902, 7 and 9) or ‘team’ (Dumézil 1968, 238), and at most through a couple of generations.” (p-xxv) [30]

If Patanjali preceded the time of that ‘committee’ or even was contemporary (for argument’s sake – taking Hiltebeitel’s lower end date for him in 150 BCE), how could he already know Mahabharata and even the Central Philosophy of Mahabharata, even a Shloka?

Significantly, the phrase is mentioned only in Adi Parvan (verbatim), Shaanti-Parvan, and Anushasana Parvan (if we take the vulgate). The first of these two mentions must have been composed in Patanjali’s time, then. And it is only the vulgate that comes post-Patanjali – may be in Hiltebeitel’s time-frame – 150 BCE - 0. Since, Ugrazravaa Sauti’s words are now located during Patanjali, taking account of Yuga reference there, we must also push Yuga Purana further back! In other words, Yuga Purana precedes Anushasana Parvan (some parts, at least).

The Yuga Purana version of Mahabharata might then be the same Mahabharata that Panini knew and Patanjali knew, more so because Yuga Purana version gives importance to some “minor characters” that Patanjali too does.

Now, if the outer frame of Ugrashravaa Sauti is pushed back to Patanjali’s time, the Original Mahabharata has to be even earlier – giving us an explanation why Panini knows Mahabharata in Oral Form, if not in Written Form.

Now, my second proof.

Patanjali constantly mentions Mathuraa and Paataaliputra/Magadha together, suggesting a Cultural link, mostly through rivalry. This rivalry could be Political, just as much it could be Religious.

Patanjali once compares the hostility between groups - the orthodox Brahminic (Astika) groups, versus the heterodox, nAstika groups (Buddhism, Jainism, and atheists) like that between a mongoose and a snake. [31]

Nakula against snake naturally remind of Nakula of Pandavas opposed to snake-Kauravas. Leaving this apart, Patanjali’s this Imagery of Mongoose and Snake is of particular interest on another count.

We have seen, Hiltebeitel accepts that Anushasana Parvan is 150 BCE.

Now, in Anushasana Parvan, while narrating his visit to Shiva for a son (to be born as Shamba), Krshna describes an asylum of Shiva full of diverse ascetics of diverse manners – clearly evoking the Imagery of a Dharma-Samanvaya – with the same Imagery: “I desired then to enter that asylum. Verily, that asylum was honoured and adored by the deities and all high-souled beings, by Siva and others, O Bharata, and by all creatures of righteous acts. Thus addressed, it stood in all its beauty on the breast of Himavat, like the lunar disc in the firmament. The mongoose sported there with the snake, and the tiger with the deer, like friends, forgetting their natural enmity, in consequence of the energy of those ascetics of blazing penances and for their proximity to these high-souled ones.” (kriidanti sarpair nakulaa mrgair vyaaghraaz ca mitravat / prabhaavaad diiptatapasah samnikarshagunaanvitaah, 13.14.42)

In drawing parallel to Krshna’s Imagery and Patanjali’s Imagery, I am here following Hiltebeitel’s Methodology of drawing parallel of Gaargya reference in Anushasana Parvan and Yuga Purana.

Is Patanjali influenced by Anushasana Parvan, or is Anushasana Parvan influenced by Patanjali? Either case Deconstructs Hiltebeitel’s Thesis.

In former case, Anushasana Parvan becomes an earlier Text than 150 BCE (Hiltebeitel’s deadline), or even if it is located in 150 BCE, the Mother-Text must be further Ancient (Anushasana Parvan could not have been composed earlier than Adi Parvan etc). And in the prospect of the latter, Patanjali already knows Mahabharata – corroborated by my first proof - which in any case, he knows.

The inevitable question is: In what way is Hiltebeitel etc. breaking “New Pathways,” or breaking away from 200 years of Western scholarship vis-à-vis Mahabharata?

It seems to me, instead of “breaking” new grounds, some Indologists are actually “joining” the once-agenda of the East India Company – the phenomenon of Old-Wine-in-New-Bottle; and I cannot but add, the Wine now is refined by improved Agendalogy.

Respected readers, what do you think?

In the next part, I will discuss how Panini does not provide us “minimal information” but actually “maximum information” on Mahabharata – provided we are open to modify our Methodology a bit. I will also discuss on what Hiltebeitel says about Mahabharata as Itihasa. And in the part after that, I will show that Ashoka is an over-hyped Myth – (that is not to demean his greatness, but to suggest that his Dhamma had a Political Dimension too – that is, his Dhamma was also Political-Dhamma) - a Creation and Construction of certain Indologists and politicians alike (both of India and abroad) who want to establish a false rupture between Hinduism and Buddhism, or distort history with a Perception like pre-Ashoka and post-Ashoka.


[1] All quotes of Bamkim Candra Chattopaadhyaaya from Krshnacaritra, Bankim Rachanabali, Dvitiya Khanda. Sahitya Samsad, 1390 (Bengali)
[2] The Minor Rock Edicts were the earliest records issued by Ashoka. According to Pillar Edict-VI (Rampurva Text), Ashoka began to issue Edicts relating to Dharma 12 years after his coronation in 269 BCE – that is, in about 257 BCE.
[3] “The Heracles, who according to the current report came to India is said, among the Indians themselves, to have sprung from the earth. This Heracles is especially worshipped by the Sourasenians, an Indian nation, in whose land are two great cities, Methora and Cleisobora, and through it flows the navigable river Jobares.” (Arrian’s Indica. 8)
[4] KAZ01.6.01/ vidyaa vinaya.hetur indriya.jayah kaama.krodha.lobha.maana.mada.harsha.tyaagaat kaaryah //
 KAZ01.6.02/ karna.tvag.akshi.jihvaa.ghraana.indriyaanaam zabda.sparza.ruupa.rasa.gandheshv avipratipattir indriya.jayah, zaastra.anushthaanam vaa
 KAZ01.6.03/ krtsnam hi zaastram idam indriya.jayah
 KAZ01.6.04/ tad viruddha.vrttir avazya.indriyaz caaturanto api raajaa sadyo vinazyati
 KAZ01.6.05/ yathaa daandakyo naama bhoja? kaamaad braahmana.kanyaam abhimanyamaanah sa-bandhu.raashtro vinanaaza, karaalaz ca vaidehah
 KAZ01.6.06/ kopaaj janamejayo braahmaneshu vikraantah, taala.janghaz ca bhrgushu
 KAZ01.6.07/ lobhaad ailaz caaturvarnyam atyaahaarayamaana?, sauviiraz caajabinduh
 KAZ01.6.08/ maanaad raavanah para.daaraan aprayacchan, duryodhano raajyaad amzam ca
 KAZ01.6.09/ madaad dambhodbhavo bhuuta.avamaanii, haihayaz caarjunah
 KAZ01.6.10/ harshaad vaataapir agastyam atyaasaadayan, vrshni.samghaz ca dvaipaayanam iti
 KAZ01.6.11ab/ ete caanye ca bahavah zatru.shad.vargam aazritaah
 KAZ01.6.11cd/ sa-bandhu.raashtraa raajaano vinezur ajita.indriyaah //
 KAZ01.6.12ab/ zatru.shad.vargam utsrjya jaamadagnyo jita.indriyah
 KAZ01.6.12cd/ a
mbariishaz ca naabhaago bubhujaate ciram mahiim //
[5] KAZ01.6.08/ maanaad raavanah para.daaraan aprayacchan, duryodhano raajyaad amzam ca
[6] Pizuna’s praise for Duryodhana for winning Dice Game - KAZ08.3.41/
dyuute tu jitam evaaksha.vidushaa yathaa jayat.sena.duryodhanaabhyaam" iti (Kautilya refutes this: KAZ08.3.42/ naity kautilyah //
 KAZ08.3.43/ t
ayor apy anyatara.paraajayoastiiti nala.yudhishthiraabhyaam vyaakhyaatam //
tad eva vijita.dravyam aamisham vaira.anubandhaz ca //
[7] KAZ14.3.43ab/ "
balim vairocanam vande zatamaayam ca zambaram /
 KAZ14.3.43cd/ nikumbham narakam kumbham tantu.kaccham mahaa.asuram
 KAZ14.3.44ab/ armaalavam pramiilam ca manda.uluukam ghata.ubalam
 KAZ14.3.44cd/ krshna.kamsa.upacaaram ca paulomiim ca yazasviniim

[8] Chapter I, “Determination of forms of Agreement; Determination of Legal Disputes” in Book III, “Concerning Law,” of the Arthasastra of Kautilya. End of the fifty-eighth chapter from the beginning.
[9] Little is known about Pingala himself. In Indian literary tradition, he is variously identified either as the younger brother of Paanini (4th century BCE), or as Patanjali, the author of the Mahabhashya (2nd century BCE). According to Ashokavadana, Pingala was Ashoka’s Guru.
[10] Patrick Olivelle, Dharmasuutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India, (Oxford World Classics, 1999)
[11] Kane, P.V. (1973). History of DharmaZãstra. Poona: Bhandarkar Oriental research Institute.
[12] Patrick Olivelle, Dharmasuutras: The Law Codes of Ancient India, (Oxford World Classics, 1999), p.xxvi
[13] 03,183.026a aadityo divi deveshu tamo nudati tejasaa
 03,183.026c tathaiva nrpatir bhuumaav adharmam nudate bhrzam

[14] (P_3,1.26.6) KA_II,34.14-36.21 Ro_III,92-97
[15] (P_3,2.111) KA_II,118.22-119.7 Ro_III,268-269
[16] (P_4,1.114) KA_II,256.2-257.15 Ro_III,559-601
[17] (P_4,2.104.2) KA_II,293.8-299.5 Ro_III,674-683, and P_4,3.98) KA_II,314.10-13 Ro_III,714
[18] (P_2,2.24.4) KA_I,425.14-427.5 Ro_II,714-719 {50/101: "May the might of Krishna accompanied by Samkarshana increase!"
[19] (P_6,3.5) KA_III,143.2-8 Ro_IV, 585-586 {9/11): "Janardhana with himself as fourth" (Krishna with three companions, the three possibly being Samkarshana, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha)
[20] (P_2,2.34.1) KA_I,435.18-436.14 Ro_II,744-746 {21/25}
[21] (P_2,2.34.2) KA_I,436.15-437.7 Ro_II,746-747, and (P_8,1.15) KA_III,370.20-371.2 Ro_V,319
[22] (P_1,1.50.4) KA_I,122.21-123.16 Ro_I,372-373 {17/25}
[23] (P_2,2.24.4) KA_I,425.14-427.5 Ro_II,714-719 {49/101}
[24] (P_6,3.73) KA_III,168.22-169.8 Ro_IV,642-643 {2/13}
[25] (Pas_10.1) KA_I,6.14-7.7 Ro_I,27-30 {19/33}, and (P_1,1.45) KA_I,111.2-112.17 Ro_I,342-346 {23/49}
[26] (P_1,4.1.1) KA_I,296.2-10 Ro_II,297-298 {11/17}
[27] (Zs_1.2) KA_I,16.19-19.8 Ro_I,60-69 {107/109}
[28] (P_1,1.57.1) KA_I,141.24-144.17 Ro_I,421-431 {126/134}, (P_1,2.1.1) KA_I,191.2-192.12 Ro_II,3-7 {54/54}, (P_2,4.7) KA_I,474.7-11 Ro_II,848 {4/9}, (P_7,2.62) KA_III,298.14-299.4 Ro_V,143.2-144.5 {36-37/38}, and (P_8,2.84) KA_III,417.6-14 Ro_V,419 {7/14}
[29] (P_3,3.167) KA_II,167.9-12 Ro_III,366 {10/10}
[30] Hiltebeitel, Rethinking the Mahaabhaarata, p-20
[31] Romila Thapar, Interpreting Early India. Oxford University Press, 1992, p.63

More by :  Indrajit Bandyopadhyay
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