Manadeva Samvat: an investigation into an historical fraud.
Nullius in verba Don't take anybody's words for granted. Motto of the Royal Society, London
There is no Manadeva II, King or Feudatory
Between Ganadeva (Samvat 479-487) and sivadeva I (Samvat 512-535) there is no king named Manadeva. Although the gap is of about 25 years, there is no trace of "Manadeva II" in Mangal Bazar, Patan inscription of Bharavi, dated Samvat 492, nor in Desabhattarika's sankhamula inscription, dated Samvat 495. Had there been an outstanding king, able to found an epoch era with a name, Manadeva, this era should have been used, by sivadeva I, in his Visnupaduka Phedi inscription of Samvat 512. At least, Jayadeva II's Pasupati inscription dated Samvat 157 should have mentioned him if there were an illustrous king able to found an epoch era which Jayadeva II himself had used.
"Manadeva II" in the Nepalavamsavali, Kirkpatrick, Levi etc., is clearly a result of scribal error which has been handed down to all the 19th century Bhasavamsavalis. This is quite clear from the comparison of the details mentioned about Ganadeva in the Gopalarajavamsavali and of "Manadeva II" in Nepalavamsavali, i.e., Ganadeva>Manadeva>Manadeva. Based on Kirkpatrick's summary of the Nepalavamsavali, Levi wrote,
Between Udayadeva and Ganadeva (Gunakamadeva), the Vamsavalis place Manadeva II, under this reign Nepal suffered for three years from a terrible drought; Manadeva brought an end to it by offering all his treasures to Pasupati. The Vamsavali of Kirkpatrick alone registers this tradition (Levi, 1905 Vol II: 121).
This conclusion of Levi is based on the following summary by Kirkpatrick, in his "Historical Sketch of Nepal",
Maun Deo (the 2nd) 45 in whose reign Nepal was afflicted during three years with a severe drought, which ceased on the Rajah's propitiating the god Pusputty by an oblation of all his reaches (1811: 260).
This summary by Kirkpatrick, in turn, is based on the following entry in the Nepalavamsavali,
Raja srimanadeva varsa 45//tena pasupatibhattarakaya varsa trayam navristih vrstiakarsanamna kosam maniyuktamca dattavan// (folio 5b lines 3-6)
This entry in NV is based on the misreading of the following entry in the Gopalarajavamsavali,
Rajasriganadeva varsa 45// tasya rajyem nepalabhumi varsatrayam anavrsti varisovrsti akamksanaya kamanenah sripasupatibhattarikaya mahanaga nirjityah tasya maniyukte ganadeva nama kosa kritam pradhokitam tatprabhavat mahavrsti kritam praja sukhi bhavati// (folio 21a line 4- 21b line 1)
At least from that point onward, the contamination of the Vamsavali tradition goes on uninterrupted. Beginning with Pandit Gunananda's (A.D. 1829) work (Wright, 1877), to the Vamsavalis compiled in the 1890s, most of them invariably insert a king named Manadeva as a son of Udayadeva, between Udayadeva and Ganadeva (or the chronicler's Gunakamadeva). In Siddhiman Simha Basnet's work (dated A.D. 1878), published under the title Rajabhogamala (the National Archives Cat. No IV 332, another copy in Leo E. Rose collection in the Berkeley Campus, University of California), this insertion is visibly done with the help of a correction mark at the bottom of folio 45a line 13, where the King's name is corrupted to Raja Mamdeva with a rule of 53 years. In the Kaiser Library, there is an interesting vernacular chronicle (No 9/1276) offered to General Kaiser by Pandit Ramnath Calise of Mahottari. Here King Manadeva is recorded as the son of Udayadeva, with 25 as reginal years. Similarly, another text of Bhasa Vamsavali (last record A.D. 1877) in our personal collection has the following entry,
srimanadeva, years of role 45. On hearing the former story of Vir Vikramaditya Sen, the King re- introduced the Vikram Samvat all over the eastern and western dominions and made it famous everywhere. (folios 91- 92)
Nearly the same text appears in the Bhasa Vamsavli Part II edited by Lamsal (1966:1) where the King appears as Raja Nandadeva, with only 13 years' rule. Since every well- to- do family in Nepal has a copy of such chronicles the contamination went on multiplying with every new copyist, almost ad absurdum.
Manadeva Samvat: A Bogus Interpolation in the Text
"Mandevabda 304" is clearly a bogus interpolation in both the British Museum copy and the National Archives copy of Sumatitantra. There the interpolation, a faint line in a later hand inserted at the bottom of the page, is all too evident. The correction mark, a hamsapada at the top as well as at the bottom of the line 5 following the punctuation mark which concludes the line ending in raja kramenatu, is clearly visible. The post--colophon stray folio has "Manndevsya rajyabda 304' by a recent scribe. In the British Museum copy, this is a prose line in the midst of verses in Anustubha metre. Probably, it is an elaboration of a verse similar to the modern Surya Siddhanta, Chapter I:23 which enjoins that
In the present twenty- eighth, Age, this Golden Age is past : from this point, reckoning up the time, one should compute together the whole number. (Burgess, 1860/1997: 13.)
As Sumatitantra is a tantra, its six ways of calculating ahargana (literally, total number of mean civil days elapsed since the beginning of the Kali) begins from the start of the Kali Yuga, expressing the expired years of the Kali as "bhavisyam sampravaksami kalikanca yathakramam" i.e. "introducing the future Kali years in a sequence."
sankaranarayana (ca. A.D. 825-900) of Quilon, in Kerala, rose to eminence through his commentary on Laghubhaskriya, and later appointed chief court astronomer of Ravivarman of the Cera dynasty of Kerala. He quotes a verse from acarya Sumati in his Vivarana on Laghubhaskariya (dated A.D. 869), in connection with lunar and solar eclipses, ten years before the so-called Manadeva Samvat 304. This line is clearly an interpolation in the Sumatitantra texts. These texts give the mean positions of the planets of mid- night of Saturday/Sunday, March 20/21, 505 A.D. in Avanti.
The Sumatitantra gives an R- Sine Table with 90 divisions of a quadrant, one for each degree of the arc. It is sometimes accurate up to the 12th decimal place (e.g., 889 for 15[degrees], 1790 for 30[degrees], 2431 for 45[degrees]" 2977 for 60[degrees]) whereas for other degrees the text only gives round figures by ignoring decimal points lower than 0.50, (e.g., 3321 for 75[degrees]). Most classics on Indian astronomy dated before Vatesvara (b.800 A.D.) give 24 Sines for a quadrant, with the value of Radius= 3438. This is so in Paitamaha Siddhanta, Aryabhata I, Brahmagupta, Lalla, and modern Surya Siddhanta. The Sines for Other degrees can, of course, be derived on the basis of the 24 Sine tables, and smaller decimal points are inevitable if lesser arcs are taken as units. Varahamihira, on the other hand, gives Sines for a radius of 120 with 225" seconds as interval. As the table differs from all others, including the one given by Varahmihira, the text of Sumatitantra seems to be infested with interpolations by later hands.
Of the two available copies of the text, the copy in the National Archives is by three different hands, copied for the second time, as mentioned clearly in its colophon. In the British Museum copy, there are a number of folios with lines erased, added, and the whole folios erased after having copied them. A number of folios are also blank. A number of folios are post-colophon, such as 121a-b, 122a-b, 123a-b. The folio 124a-b has no corresponding equivalent in the National Archives copy. At the end of it comes another colophon which dates the text to 16 days later. The first colophon dates the text on Samvat 476 Pausa sukla 9; the second one dates on Samvat 476 Pausa Krsna 10. There are 124 folios in this recension. All folios are numbered in letters consecutively on the left hand side and in numerals on the right hand side.
In the National Archives copy, on the other hand, there are 152 folios; folio 13a 13b are missing, and after 15a there are 3 folios which are unrelated to the context. Upto 143b folio there is consecutive numbering--first in letters upto folio 62b, then in decimal numerals up to the end. Decimal numbering is also used in the main text. This corrupt and contaminated manuscript is copied at least by two different hands on two different kinds of palm.
Unlike the popular Caitradi expired saka (computed from Tuesday, March 3, 78 A.D.) the so- called "Manadeva Samvat" is none other than Karttikadi current saka which is to be computed from Thursday, October 18, 76 A.D. Karttikadi saka was also prevalent in Saurastra. It is referred to by Bhaskara I (A.D. 550-629) in his aryabhatiya-bhasya ( folio 127 of the transcript from the two manuscripts in Malayalam script in the collection of the Government Library of Oriental Manuscripts, Madras, No R- 14850 ). First used by Amsuvarma and his successors, it is a lokakala, with 500 dropped from the total current year. saka Samvat, the astronomer's era par excellence, too, was a lokakala, begun with the figure for century left out in computation. Al-Biruni notes,
Common people in India date by the years of a centennium which they call samvatsara. If a centennium is finished, they drop it, and simply begin to date by a new one. This era is called lokakala i.e., the era of the nation at large. But of this era people give such totally different accounts, that I have no means of making out the truth. (Sachau, 1910, II; Chapter XLVIII.)
All current eras begin 1 year before the expired one. In Karttikadi samvat, Karttika comes before Caitra whereas in Caitradi samvat. Caitra comes before Karttika. Only five months are common to both the systems i.e., Karttika, Margasirsa, Pausa, Magha, Phalguna, whereas uncommon ones are Caitra, Vaisakha, Jyestha, asadha, sravana, Bhadra, and asvina. So the conversion of one era into another is not such a simplistic addition/subtraction arithmetical operation as made of it by some "authorities" (See Bhandari, Purnima 103, VS 2058 Pausa, pp 2-13).
Amsuvarma, most likely under the influence of Harsa Samvat which is also Karttikadi, current, and amanta, began to use the then prevalent era with 500 left out since year 529. So far, in the last 144 years, we have not found a single inscription dated between Samvat 1 to 28. Nor is there any reasonable argument for launching an epoch era with Samvat 29. Obviously, Amsuvarma just dropped the figure for hundreds and used the current epoch era. Several scholars had speculated such a possibility as early as Bhagwanlal Indraji (1885:45). Amsuvarma makes it more than clear when he installs a gold repousse kvaca image of Garudanarayana at Cangu where the date is mentioned as
Om ekatrimsattme varse vartamane svasamsthaya maghasuklatrayodasyampusyena saviturdine
The late Dhanavajra Vajracarya as well as his guru, the late Pandit Nayaraja Pant, was both unable to interpret the correct meaning of the words vartamane and svasamsthaya because both believed in the so-called "Manadeva Samvat." They thought that the words qualified the kavaca, set up at present, rather than the epoch era. The current epoch years are qualified with words such as pravartmane or vartamane whereas expired ones are prefixed or followed by words such as gate, atite, pratite, yute etc. (On the subject of current year and expired year and their conversion, (See Sewell and Dikshit 1896:40; Pillal, 1922: 52-53; Ketkar, 1923: 18-19)
When Franz Keilhorn calculated 200 Vikrama Samvat inscriptions with weekdays from India and 29 Nepala Samvat inscriptions with weekdays from Nepal, he found that some are verifiable as current years and others as expired ones, while a number of inscriptions, both from India and Nepal, have irregular dates that cannot be verified ( Kielhorn, 1890, January: 20-40; June:160-187, and November: 354-374; September: 1888,. 246-253 )
Of the 29 Nepalese-inscriptions with weekday, examined and computed by Kielhorn, 4 have years mentioned as expired. The words used are gate, prayate, yate, yute, 19 have expired years without any appellation; and 2 are dated according to current year, without mentioning this. Others were irregular ones. In the ease of the Vikrama Era, of the 200 inscriptions Kielhorn examined, 50 have irregular dates: some are regular by one siddhanta, irregular by another; some dates are doubtful readings; some are with a wrong weekday; some will work only if the immediately following year is taken into consideration. Some tally only if the preceding year is considered. Some work with amantamana others with purnimantmana; both also have Southern and Northern variety. All these variations in dating the inscriptions are dated in the Vikrama Samvat.
It will, therefore, be a naive generalization if we assume that in all the Licchavi inscriptions, particularly with intercalation, the dates are all regular, uniform, and absolutely flawless renderings and readings. Not all the inscriptions are uniformly preserved. There is a serious problem of illegible and variant readings by different epigraphists--both in the case of numerals and ligatures (e.g., where Gnoli read Ganadeva, Dhanavajra reads Gangadeva, in Capaligaon Inscription, dated Sara. vat 489 sravana sukla 12). In some inscriptions or documents the same epoch year may be expired whereas in others they can be verified only as current years. This task is made less than surmountable by the fact that of the 200+ Licchavi inscriptions, only 2 have weekdays.
The current year begins with month 1 year 1, whereas the expired one begins with 0 year, day 1 of month 1 and becomes year 1 and month 13th in the 13th month only. As most inscriptions in Nepal or India do not explicitly mention whether the given year is current one or expired one, the only way to ascertain a given date is to compute all the available elements of pancanga, i.e, tithi, vara, naksatra, karana, and yoga, if they are explicitly mentioned in an inscription. As Pillai puts it,
The weekday is the crucial test in the vast majority of verifiable Indian dates and in the absence of a weekday, an Indian date is usually pronounced unverifiable; unless there is an eclipse on that date. Where we have a date that merely gives a tithi, a naksatra, and a year without the week- day, we say that the day cannot be verified, i.e., proved free from the probability of error, because every year must contain such a tithi, and such a naksatra, we cannot assert with any degree of confidence that the year- data is free from error (Pillai, 1922: 4-5).
Or as Ketkar puts it,
Citations about Samvatsaras, months, tithis are not sufficient for the determination of a date. Details about the era: whether the samvat is current at the Mesadi or at date; whether the date is expired or current; whether Caitradi or Karttikadi, whether the date is derived from the Surya Siddhanta or Arya Siddhanta, these details should be clearly and fully made out before commencing the calculation. These are the uncertainties that often beset the work of an epigraphist (Ketkar, 1923:80-81).
Unfortunately for us, there are only two documents from ancient Nepal, one the gold repousse inscription dated Current Karttikadi Samvat 31 Magha sukla 13 Sunday when the Moon was in Pusya naksatra (verified by Regmi, 1983: 268, for Sunday, February 4, 608. A.D.); the second one, a colophon dated Expired Karttikadi Samvat 301 Vaisakha sukla 7 Sunday, while the Moon was in Pusya Naksatra and the Yoga was Siddha (verified by Petech, 1984:29 for Sunday 13, 878, A.D.; wrongly verified for Sunday April 23, 878 A.D. by Regmi, 1983: 268; but rightly verified by himself for A.D. 878 April 13, Sunday on p. 23) We believe that these two documents with weekdays were verified by the two historians by using Pillai's tables (1911/1922). We have also cross- checked both the dates by using Jacobi, 1892, Sewell and Dikshit, 1896, Ketkar, 1923, and Sewell, 1926. Except for a small variation of a few ghatikas and palas, their verifications are found as correct ones.
Of all the newly found Licchavi inscriptions, just a little over a dozen in the last 33 years, none has a weekday. Even if all other elements of Hindu calendar are mentioned, such as naksatra or muhurta as in Cafigu Inscription of Manadeva, dated Samvat 386 Jyestha sukla Pratipad, Abhijit muhurta, with the Moon in the Rohini naksatra, its date cannot be verified as totally free from error, because such astronomical conjunctions are not rare. So the late Pundit Nayaraj Pant's claim that he successfully calculated the date of this inscription on the basis of Jyautisa vedanga does not carry any significance. Similar claims had been made in the past by other authorities using different siddhantas, and epoch eras.
For instance, Shankar Man Rajvamsi calculated these two Licchavi documents with weekdays by using his own theory of a Licchavi Era founded 22 years before the founding of saka Era in 78 A.D. He came out with the following startling results: A.D. 442 April 27 Monday for Manadeva's Cangu inscription, A.D.584 February 19 Sunday for the Amsuvarma's repousse inscription, and A.D. 854 April 6 Sunday for the colophon of the Sausruti Samhita Sahottaratantra. He claimed that all the elements given in the inscription and the colophon match perfectly well with his own theory of the Licchavi Era founded in A.D. 56 and Amsuvarma Era founded in A.D. 552.(Rajavamsi: 1970:43-47.). In his magnum opus. NR Pant himself wrote,
In the past, all have claimed that they had verified the date in the Cangu inscription of Manadeva. Such date occurs 6-7 times within a century. So it is clear that conclusions cannot be drawn on the basis of such computations of dates (NR Pant et al., 1987:556).
The Tibetan Text does not Mention "Manadeva II"
Among the so- called four evidences in support of the "Manadeva Samvat," the Tibetan text does not mention Manadeva at all. On the contrary, bSo nams rtse mo (A.D.1142-1182) mentions that Amsuvarma counted years from saka 438 (probably a misinterpretation for 498, resulting out of misreading candra for randhra, because candra also means 3), and 242 years after the appearance of Amsuvarma, King Khri gtsugs lde btsan (Ral pa cen) came to power. The relevant quote from the text is the following:
The Buddha entered womb in the fire- rabbit year and was born in the iron-dragon year. He got the perfect enlightenment in, the water- tiger year and entered Nirvana in the process of beginning the earth- mouse year (2133 B.C.). 137 years later, King Nanda appeared. This account occurred in Tarkajvala (=Toh.3856). After 800 years from this King, Candragupta appeared. 132 years after him, King sudraka appeared. After him, counting years, when 274 years passed by, the Nepalese continued to count years after it, and still after 438 (498 ?) years, King Amsuvarman appeared. After him, by counting years, when 242 years passed by, it reaches King Khri gtsugs lde btsan's reign. (bSod names rtse mo: 1968: folio 315b line 1- folio 316a line 4.)
Instead of lending support to "Manadeva Samvat" this chronology completely falsifies it. Among Tibetan historians, there is a controversy as to when Ral pa cen actually came to power, in A.D. 814 (The Blue Annals by gZon nu dpal, compiled in A.D. 1476-78), or in 817 (Bod kyi rgyal tabs, compiled by Gras pa rgyal mtshan, in A.D.1545), or in A.D.823 (Chos b'yung, compiled by Buston, in 1322). The short chronology is based on the Buddha's Nirvana in the year 2133 B.C. bSo nams rtse mo says that he noted down the chronology from the colophon of the Tibetan translation of Vavaviveka's (ca.450 A.D.) Tarkajvala done by Atisa and Jayasila (Nag lo cha ba). It cannot, however, be traced in the T'angur, dbu- ma No 3856= Toh (or mDo Edition XIX 2 K 96/5256/19- 4- 7 on folio 40B7-329B2).
In Tibet, prior to the adoption of the system based on Kalacakratantra, derived from the 60- year cycle of Jupiter, there was a calendar named mekha- gya- tsho (Skt. agni.- ambara- abdhi, i.e., 403). As Levi puts it,
the word is a compound of numeral symbols: me, the fire, expresses 3; kha, the space, 0; gya- tsho, the lakes, 4; melcha gya tsho signifies 403. Read according to the Indo- Tibetan method, me kha gya tsho signified 403, and 403 deducted from AD. 1025 would then be A.D. 622. But I have already more than once pointed out to what extent these expressions in numerical symbols lend themselves to inversion of figures. If one rephrases the hypothesis as Kha me gya- tsho one will read 430 instead of 403. It is the very date I was led to by astronomical calculation to the year A.D. 595 as the epoch year of the Thakuri Era (Levi, 1905: II: 154).
Levi refers to one of the fundamental rules of Indian chronology, ankanam, vamto gatih, according to which the figures rendered by indicative words are to be counted backward, but the Tibetan historical tradition began to adopt this tradition only since mid- seventeenth century. So we have to calculate the numeral nominals according to the sequence of the given words. It would have resulted in (A.D. 1025- 304) A.D. 622- the date of founding of Hijri Era (July 15, 622 A.D.). That date would have upset Levi's own theory.
Petech's Puppet Theory
The authenticity of this theory is just as doubtful as Luciano Petech's own "puppet theory". He claims that Amsuvarma launched this epoch era by placing on the throne a puppet of his- - - a "Manadeva II." In his own words,
In 576 Amsuvarman, then the man behind the throne, installed a puppet of his, Manadeva, followed later by Gunakamadeva. Both are mentioned in Kirkpatrick's vamsavali as the immediate predecessors of sivadeva ... Then sivadeva was placed on the throne. But in 606 he was deposed or died, and Amsuvarman began to rule without a puppet king, employing (or starting) the era of his first protegee Manadeva.... The Manadeva of 576 was the first Buddhist king (Petech, 1961:230).
Why would an ambitious regent use his puppet's epoch era is none too clear to us. In the whole Indian sub- continent there is hardly any evidence of a feudatory under a paramount ruler launching an epoch era.
Nayaraj Pant's Vintage Theory : Mahasamanta Manadeva II
The above theory is as good as Nayaraj Pant's vintage theory that "Manadeva II," the Imaginary founder of the epoch era, was a powerful mahasamanta, not a king.
In A.D. 576, when the reigning Kings were too weak, the chief feudatory (mahasamanta) Manadeva II, took power in his own hands and also founded an epoch era. This epoch era is known as Manadeva Samvat Its use continued for 300 years (Pandey and Pant, 1947:13-14).
The Ranguru's Theory: Epoch Era of Manadeva I
Similarly, the late Hem Raj Pandey thought that the epoch era mentioned in Sumatitantra was founded by Manadeva I. "The Rajaguru was of the opinion that this Manadeva for whom he supplied the date from the manuscript was the Manadeva of Cangu Narayna and that it proved a Manadeva Era which was the era used by Amsuvarma'--a theory which Kashi Prasad Jayaswal politely turned down (1936:36).
Distorting these historical facts, Nayaraj Pant and his school enlist the name of Hemraj Pandey as the first proposer of the so- called "Manadeva Samvat". Clearly, he was not proposing a Manadeva II; he was proposing Manadeva I as the founder of a new epoch era in saka 498/A.D. 576.
The Historian- Laureate's Theory : the Non- existent Rupavarma
Almost similar is the nature of the late Historian-Laureate Kharidar Baburam Acarya's theory that Manadeva Samvat was founded by Amsuvarma in the memory of his father, Rupavarma who probably belonged to the royal line of Vrsadeva! (Acharya, 1949.8). He continued to believe in this theory in his essay on "Nepal's Relations with China and Tibet," where he wrote,
In Nepal, upto A.D. 576, all political power was controlled by the Abhiras. In this very year Rupavarma took the support of a Licchavi prince born in that family and suppressed the Abhiras. Around A.D. 587 Amsuvarma became a ruler succeeding the Licchavi prince. In A.D. 606 the coronation of Amsuvarma took place, and he founded a new epoch era beginning from A.D. 576. (Acarya, 1956:8- 9).
Acarya fails to explain why Amsuvarma did not launch his epoch era from Year 1. We are kept in dark about what happened during the interval of Year 1 and 28. In an interview he gave to Professor T.R. Vaidya, the late Dhanavajra Vajracarya, Basudeva Tripathi and Churamani Bandhu, on April 23, 1970 at his residence, Acarya says,
In Samvat 528 Amsuvarma came to power. After that for the convenience of computation, he dropped the century figure 5 and continued with number 28 and so on (Sharma, Vajracarya and Thakur, 1973:24-25).
Acarya names the Samvat used by Manadeva and his successors as, Kosanu Samvat and the one used Amsuvarma and his successors by dropping the century figure "Later Kosanu Samvat". Thus, in complete defiance of Acharya's views as well as Hemraj Pandey's view, Nayaraj Pant and his school enlist both Baburam Acharya and Hemaraj Pandey as the copropounders of the so- called "Manadeva Samvat". The Pants have been hitherto cashing in on this concocted historical fraud. These distortions of facts were solely motivated by the urge to prove all other scholars wrong and himself and his school alone as right in everything they publish.
Pandit Nayaraj's Theory of "Mandeva Samvat"
While there is such a disappointing confusion among eminent scholars, NR Pant boldly wrote in the Preface to their edition/transcription of the Sumatitantra,
Sumatitantrasyopalambhadamsuvarmadibhih prayuktah samvatsaro manadevasamvatsara iti naipalaka vidvamsah svicakruh. (Pant et al. 1978:27). As attested in the Sumatitantra, the Manadeva Samvat used by Amsuvarma and his successors is accepted by all Nepali scholars. This is only a happy conclusion arrived at by a mahavidyavaridhi.
While we were working on a facsimile edition of the Gopalarajavamsavali in 1984, we realized the need of verifying Manadeva II Samvat for preparing an acceptable chronology of the Licchavis. (See Vajracarya and Malla, 1985: 235). Vajracarya already had doubts about a Manadeva II, so that "it is somewhat inconvenient to call this epoch era as Manadeva Samvat. But we have not been able to ascertain what happened during the time between saka samvat 498 and 512" (Vajracarya, 1973: 299-300). Although both the editors had reservations on this issue, we let it go. In a couple of later publications as well, we saw no need to check the sources, particularly the Tibetan, because we took the words of a well-known Tibetologist and those of N.R. Pant for granted. Now we realize how wrong both of us were in assuming that there was a "Manadeva II" who launched an epoch era in A.D. 576! This paper is only a small prayascitta for this big mistake.
Historical Facts and Sumatitantra's Figures
The British Museum copy of the Sumatitantra has the following lines,
Jato duryodhano raja kalisandhyam pravartate/ Yudhisthiro maharajo duryodhanastayopi va// Ubhau rajau sahasre dye varsantu sampravarttati/ Nandarajyam satastanca scandraguptastatopare/ Rajyankaroti tenapi dvatrimsaccadhikam satam/ Raja sudrakadevasca varsasaptabdhi casvinou// sakaraja tatopascadvasurandhra kritantatha/ Ityate bhasitammahyam jnaya raja kramena tu// Sesa yutasca krta ambaragni 304 sri manadevbda pryujyamana etani pinda kali- varsamahuh// (Folio 2b- 3a)
The above text has been transcribed, translated, and interpreted differently by different Nepali and foreign historians of Nepal, depending upon how, for instance, one translates the word, sampravarttate. Yet the fact remains that not a single of the figures for the six epoch eras mentioned in the Sumatitantra--(Yudhisthira 2000, Nanda 800, Candragupta 132, sudraka 247, saka 498, and Manadeva 304) matches with the known historical facts. In the first place, it is not clear from the various translations of the word sampravartte whether these figures refer to the duration of the rule of a king (as the text intends?), or of the dynasty (as Petech thought), or of the use of the epoch year (as the Pants think). If the intention was to specify the duration of a King's reign or rule (as suggested by candraguptastatopare// rajyankaroti tenapi dvarimsaccadhikam satam//), i.e., thereafter Candragupta will rule for 132 years, then it is clearly a pious fabrication. Jayaswal, who first published this text in 1936, claimed,
It is clear that the author of the chronology took chief reigns as landmarks, and not always eras. There were Yudhisthira Era, Nanda, and saka Eras, but there was no Chandragupta Era, there was no Sudraka Era. There is no trace of an Era of Manadeva I (Jayaswal, 1936:42).
If the intention of the scribe was to indicate the duration of an epoch year, implying that saka Samvat will last up to 498 only, clearly saka Samvat continued to be used in Licchavi inscriptions from Samvat 512 to 535 by sivadeva and to Samvat 536, side by side with the so- called "Manadeva Era" by Amsuvarma.
As known to modern historians, much of ancient Indian history before the invasion of Alexander the Great (328-326 B.C.) is mostly a core of hard facts surrounded by a thick pulp of disputable interpretations of the extant literary and archeological sources. Mahapadma Nanda, the founder of the Nanda dynasty, ruled between ca. 362- 320. B.C. Candragupta Maurya, between ca. 321-298 B.C. The Satavahan dynasty, founded by King Simuka, ruled between ca. 50 B.C. to 250 A.D. sudraka, the founder of Andhra Dynasty, ruled between ca. A.D. 350-400. The Scythian Kusanas or sakas, used at least three different eras. The first one was founded in 123 B.C., using Macedonian months and Greco- Chaldean method of date recording. In the first three centuries of their rule, the sakas used the old era with hundreds omitted. But they also began to use Indian months and Kharosthi script. The classical saka era, starting from Tuesday, March 3, A.D. 78, is nothing but the old saka era, starting from 123 B.C. with 200 omitted, so that the year 1 of Kaniska is year 201 of the old saka era, though the qualification, salivahana, is attached to it much later. This epoch year itself is a lokakala, an abridged one for saka 201. Jayaswal, who first published the Sumatitantra chronology was not too sure of its historical relevance because,
The year for the commencement of the Nanda- Rajya was hopelessly wide off the mark. The dates for the commencement of the Maurya kingdom and the Satavahana kingdom are short by about 22 years. (Jayaswal, 1936:42)
In Licchavi Nepal, saka era continued to be used, with the figure for the centuries omitted, till the beginning of Nepala Samvat. (For early Indian Chronology and Calendar, See R. Morton Smith, "Ancient Indian Chronology," Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 77 No. 2 (1957), pp. 276-280; Van Lohuizen de Leeuw, The "Scythian" Period Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1949; M.N. Saha, "Different Methods of Date Recording in Ancient and Medieval India, and the Origin of the saka Era", Journal of the Asiatic Society, Letters Vol. XIX No 1, 1953; Etienne Lamotte, Histoire du Buddhisme Indien. Des origins a l' Era saka. Louvain: Institut Orientaliste de l' Universite de Louvain, 1958, and David Pingree, "A Note on the Calendars Used In Early Indian Inscriptions." Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 102 No. 2 (1982), pp. 355-359).
From the Beginning of the Kali to the Composition of the Text
Although it is a tantra based on mathematical astronomy, the framework of the Sumatitantra is puranic. M.R. Pant's excavation of a brahmarisi, named Sumati from among the mourners lined up at the deathbed of Bhismapitamaha in the Mahabharata War is laudable on its own, but its use to defend the puranic veneer of the text is rather unfortunate. The puranic bias of the text is evident, not only from the opening verses, but also from its history, cosmogony, and geography.
The main function of the chronology planted in the Sumatitantra appears to be to add up to the total years lapsed between the beginning of the Kali Yuga (i.e., Friday 17/18 February 3101 B.C.) and the imagined date of composition of the text in question. The total comes out to be 3981 years, mainly to facilitate the computation of the ahargana. The historical use of these figures is virtually nil because these figures are based on the Puranic lists of various dynasties of the Kali Yuga. Despite Pargiter's (1913) admirable patience in attempting to reconstruct an acceptable chronology out of these Puranic lists, there is a virtual chaos among various puranas and upapuranas. For example, Matsya Purana says that Mahapadma Nanda ruled for 88 years whereas Vayu Purana says that he ruled for 28 years. Pargiter, (1922:287) assigns 80 years to the Nandas, and Sumatitantra claims that the Nandas ruled for 800 years. No sensible historian can take these figures too seriously. However, N.R. Pant was so credulous about the authenticity of these figures that he quotes the Sumatitantra to give the date of Candragupta Maurya ! (See his Hindu Siddhanta- Jyautisa ra Greek Siddhanta Jyautisako Tulana (1990: 10). This is only an example of N.R. Pant's sanguinity and complete uncritical faith in his sources. It is not for nothing that R.G. Collingwood wrote in his classic, The Idea of History, saying, "In so far as an historian accepts the testimony of an authority and treats it as historical fact, he obviously forfeits the name of historian; but we have no other name by which to call him." (1941:252).
Nepala samvat was founded, not in the imaginary year 304, nor in saka 802, as implied by Sumatitantra, but on Karttika sukla Pratipad of current Samvat 303, i.e., Karttkadi current saka 803, i.e., on Tuesday, October 20, 879 A.D. On that day, the Moon was in the Anuradha Naksatra for 20 hours and 23 minutes after the mean sunrise in Kathmandu, and sovana Yoga continued between lunation 1481-1852. After the mean sunrise in Kathmandu, the sukla Pratipad tithi lasted for 22 hours 8 minutes. This date is 7 months later than the beginning of Caitradi expired saka 801. Levi (1905, II:181-183) speculated that it was also a lokakala, with 800 left out because the Nepalese thought that the number 8 was inauspicious.
The verses in the Sumatitantra, giving different fictitious numbers for different rulers, or eras, or the duration of a dynasty must have been an elaboration by a Nepali scribe, with a smattering of Jyautisavidya, upon the original verse which probably gave a plain formula to arrive at the time duration between the beginning of the Kali and the composition of the given Karana, not dissimilar to Chapter I Verse 23 of new Surya Siddhanta which explicitly enunciates: atah kalam prasankhyaya sarikhyamekatra pindyet, i.e., add up all the past years between the present and the beginning of the Kali Yuga. At any rate, the figure 802, to be added or deducted from Nepala Samvat to get an integer with saka Samvat, is only a round figure for 801 year 7 months. This was necessary for all pancanga- makers as well as for astronomers--the saka era being the standard era in use among astronomers in India and Nepal.
A Likely Copyist: An Hypothesis
On the basis of a preliminary digital scanning of the manuscripts copied by Jayasihamalla Varman and the British Museum copy of the Sumatitantra, one is tempted to believe that these figures were added by the copyist Jayasihamalla Varman of Nhola Vihara, in Patan because he was also the author of Sumati- karana, the transcriber of Khandakhadyaka (Cat III Vi 52, dated NS 470 Bhadrapada 2-3), Brhajjataka (Cat. Vi 262, dated NS 471 savana sudi 4/5), Bhojadevasamgraha (dated NS 472 Karttika Krsna 5/6), and probably also of Jyotirajakarana in the National Library (No 699 Vi 30, dated saka 1304/ A.D. 1382, copied by a later hand in NS 543 Bhadra sukla 10/A.D. 1423.). Assuming such high-flown virudha as bhagnarajasthapanartha// lubdharajagajankusa/ saranagatavajrapanjara he also copied some literary texts such as Hariscandropakhyana, Mahiravanavadha, and Dharmagupta's Ramankanatika.
The Equation of Kanyaadvipa with Nepalamandala
The late Pandit Nayaraj believed that the author of the Sumatitantra gave the latitude of his country as 27 degrees and its longitude as 1 ghatika and 58 pala (47.2 minutes East of the Prime Meridian). If N.R. Pant was right then he was so only if Kanyadvipa or Kaumaridvipa, Kanyakhanda or Kanyakhyah was a mythical name for Nepal. However, nowhere ha the text the name of the country Nepala is mentioned. On the contrary, in a chapter on triprasnadhikara (Time, Place, and Direction) Sumati says that of the nine divisions of Bharatavarsa,
Kanyadvipa lies to the south of Mount Meru and on its southern end lies the Malaya mountain; there flows the fiver Lavanasru, i.e., salty waters. It is ruled by King Bhujagasana. At its foot lies Lanka, the home of demons, with walls and archways made of gold, studded with various wonderful metals. (Folio 48b verses 6-7 in the British Museum copy) Vatesvara (b. A.D. 880) writes in his Siddhanta, Lanka (then northwards) Kumari, then Kanci, Manata, Asvetupuri, then northwards, the sveta mountain, thereafter Vatsyagulma, the city of Avanti, then Gargarata, Asramapattana, Malvanagara, Pattasiva, Rohitaka, Sthanvisvara, the Himalayan Mountains and lastly Meru, ... (these are situated on the, prime meridian). For these places correction for longitude is not needed. (VS 1.8. 1-2 in Kripa Shankar Shukla's translation).
sripati, (ca. A.D. 999) in his Siddhanta-sekara (II:995-996) lists the following places as lying on the prime meridian,
Lanka, Kumari, Kanci, Panata, Sitadri, sadasya, Vatsagulma, Mahismati, Ujjayini, Pattasiva, Gargarata, Rohita, Sthanisvara, Sitagiri, and Sumeru.
Do these geographical descriptions fit Nepal? Certainly not, nor is Nepalamandala ever considered as the Prime Meridian in Indian astronomy.
What N.R. Pant had done with the Stumati's text, in the name of emendation, is an indefensible act of convenient rewriting: N.R. Pant had rewritten the text to suit his theory,
Kanyakhandaikabhagasya dhrtavarnaaasramasthiteh/ Nepaladronyabhikhyasya desasyaasya visesatah// (Pant et al. 1978:14; 1987:128).
For the following in the Sumati's text where there is no mention whatsoever of the Nepal Valley :
Visesena pravaksyami kanyadvipasya niscayam.
The Sanskrit-Nepali Comprehensive Dictionary published by Mahendra Sanskrit University, defines Kumarikakhandam (based on the Skandapurana) as the terrestrial division which was given as a share to the daughter of King satasrnga, after having divided the earth among eight sons of his (Pandey, 2000:306).
No known text or dictionary of place- names, puranic or otherwise, calls Nepal the Kanyadvipa or Kaumaridvipa, Kumarikhanda or Kumarikhyah. According to Apte's Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Kumarikah is the name of the southern extremity of the Indian peninsula, cf., the modern name Cape of Comorin (1957: 583).
If this is so, then the whole point of N.R. Pant's argument that Kanyadvipa, Kumaridvipa, Kanyakhanda is the Nepal Valley and that its latitude is 27 degrees North of Equator and 1.58 ghatika East of Ujjayini stands as unfounded.
Why would acarya Sumati call his country Kanyadvipa or Kaumaridvipa, a son of euphemism for a country when Nepal was an already known placename by the time of Samudragupta (A.D. 335-374) in India, or Vasantadeva A.D. 504-530) in Nepal, not to mention the references in the classical Indian texts of great antiquity such as Krsna- Dvaipayana Vyasa's Mahabharata, Kautalya's Arthasastra, or Bharata' Natyasastra or Varahamihira's Brhatsamhita. Nepala, certainly was not an unknown place- name at that time, nor was it a taboo word among the astronomers in the sub- continent (Malla, 1984b:63- 69). If by any chance, Kanyadvipa or Kaumaridvipa is Nepal, why cannot, for instance, the eastern region of Tibet be Kanyadvipa because a 7th century Chinese source, Fa-iouen- tchou- lin, the famous Encyclopedia of Buddism compiled and completed by Tao- cheu, in 668 A.D., notes the following about Strirajya,.
Lately the orders of the (Chinese) Empire faded out of the Kingdom (of Nepal), and spread elsewhere in distant lands. Now, it is dependent on Tu- fan (Tibet). On the east, the Kingdom of Women is adjacent to Tu- fan." (Levi, 1900/1987: 60-61)
The Latitude and Longitude are of Kanyadvipa, not of Nepalamandala There are scores of cities which lie 27 degrees North of Equator or 47.2 minutes East of a given Prime Meridian. In calculating the longitude of so-called Kanyadvipa, the NR Pant resorts to an equally odd expediency : he mixes up the figures from two different authorities, Varahamihira (A.D. 550) and Laksmipati (A.D. 1758-1831) to arrive at the desired longitude of 47.2 minutes East of Avanti. Varahamihira's longitude for Varanasi, as computed from Alexandria, is 9 ghatika, and for Avanti/Ujjaini, 7 ghattika and 20 pala (9.00-7.20= 1.40=100 pala.). To these figures, N.R. Pant amputes Laksmipati's longitude for the Nepal Valley (19 pala for the Nepal Valley) to arrive at 2 ghatika or 120 pala. All this quibbling with figures to suit one's theory was totally unexpected of 'a renowned mathematician,' considered by some of his admirers as "the Socrates of Nepal." Not dissimilar is his misleading calculation of the colophon of Samvat 301, where he added 1 to Samvat 301 and made it Samvat 302 by a stroke of the pen for Vaisakha Saptami in a Karttikadi year (Pant et al. 1987:19; 125-135).
Sumati was not a Nepali
Nayaraj Pant claimed that Acarya Sumati composed his tantra in Nepal. In the wake of the nationalistic fervor of the 1960s, similar "nationalist" claims were also made by Pandit Buddhisagar Parajuli in his introduction to Brhatsucipatram, Vol. I (1960: gha) He wrote that both Gavastidipa and Tamradvipa were in Kasthamandapa because the cara-prana (addition or subtraction of ascensional differences, between the meridian and a given latitude) for Mesadi 6 rasis in the Sumatitantra are identical with those given by astrologers in Nepal. He also claimed that the Sausruti- samhita- Sahottaratantra of Samvat 301 was copied during the reign of Manadeva I (Parajuli, 1966:19-21). Similarly, a year later, Lamsal (1967), an acarya in Indian astronomy, wrote that the Sumatitantra is the pride of Nepal and that it was written at the time of Manadeva I and that the Mesadi cara-prana i.e., ascensional differences or corrections for Mesadi 6 rasis given in the text are identical with those used by Nepalese astrologers. However, Lamsal carefully compared the astronomical constants given in the Sumatitantra with those given in Varahamihira and other authorities, including the modern ones, mainly based on Sengupta's Introduction to Burgess' translation of the Surya Sihhhanta (1935/1997:VI-LI). He noted that the corrupt copy we have in the National Archives cannot be the original one as it is so full of linguistic lapses. He also says that its astronomical parameters are based on ancient Surya Siddhanta, and that the text is of uncertain age as Sumati has ignored the precession of equinoxes. Notwithstanding his wild claim that the original text was written in Nepal after the founding of Manadeva I's epoch era, Lamsal's paper is a simple concise introduction available in Nepali to the theoretical base of Sumati. In less than 5 pages he succeeds in conveying his views on the text for which Nayaraj Pant took 60 odd pages! If that was the intellectual situation in the 1960s in Nepal, what could one expect of the copyists of the Bhasa Vamsavalis in the 19th century or of the Sumatitantra- scribe in the 14th Century Nepalamandala?
We have given these details also because modern- minded specialists in Indian Astronomy are equally misled by false clues based on hearsay. For example, Kripa sankar sukla, in his edition of the Surya Siddhanta with Paramesvara's commentary, contends that
The old Surya Siddhanta continued to be studied in certain parts of India in some form or other till the end of the tenth century. About 800 A.D. an astronomer named Sumati of Nepal wrote two works on astronomy one entitled Sumati-tantra and the other entitled Sumati- karana. In one of the opening verses of the first- mentioned work, Sumati writes: "This work, called Sumatitantra, has been extracted from the Surya Siddhanta like clarified butter from milk." It shows that Sumati based his Tantra on the Surya Siddhanta. The astronomical constants used by Sumati agree with those ascribed by Varahamihira to the Surya Siddhanta. It, therefore, seems that Sumati based his work on the same Surya Siddhanta as was available to Varahamihira. The other work, as the name implies, is a calendarical work. The works of Sumati show that in the end of eighth century A.D. the old Surya Siddhanta was considered by the astronomers of Nepal to be an important work on astronomy and its elements were used by them in the construction of the Hindu calendar. Sumati received wide publicity and his works traveled to the south as far as Travancore. Shankaranarayana, who belonged to Quilon in Travancore, in his commentary on Laghubhaskariya of Bhaskara I mentions the name of Sumati and quotes a verse from his work. This commentary of Shankarnarayana, it may be mentioned, was written only 69 years after the composition of the Sumatitantra. (K.S. Shukla, 1957:27-28).
Yet another specialist in Indian sciences, H.J.J. Winter of Exeter University in the UK has contributed a chapter to A.L. Basham's A Cultural History of India (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1975). The following paragraph by him is obviously based on K.S. Shukla, 1957,
According to Sumati (A.D. 800) whose work was known both in Nepal and in Kerala, and who wrote his Sumatitantra and Sumati-karana on the basis of an earlier version of the Surya siddhanta, it provided the essential elements used by Nepali astronomers in their construction of the Hindu calendar. Evolving during the period between A.D. 628 and 966, the later version gained greatly in popularity, especially in the twelfth century when Bhaskara II quoted from it and Mallikarjuna Surii wrote commentaries on it, first in Telegu then in Sanskrit. (Winter, 1975:153.)
While this quotation ably summarizes sukla, neither of them seems to have really gone critically to the texts by Sumati. The date given by both for Sumati, i.e., A.D. 800 is based on the misreading of the colophon of the British Museum copy. Bendall (1902:193-194), not only misread vasu randhra krta as vasu candra krta, i.e., 418 for 498, so that saka 418+78--A.D. 496+Manadeva Samvat 304--A.D. 800. He had also misinterpreted the title of the text as Sumata Mahatantra.
Latadeva's Surya Siddhanta
The Surya Siddhanta that forms the theoretical basis of Sumati is the ardharatrika paksa of Aryabhata I as it was modified by his immediate pupil Latadeva in the light of Aryabhata's ardharatrika system. In his Indika, Al-Beruni (A.D. 1030) says that Latadeva was the author of the Surya Siddhanta (Sachau: Vol. I: 153).
Sengupta, too, believes that, "the old Surya Siddhanta was made up- to-date by replacing the old constants in it by new ones from Aryabhata's midnight system.... The date of original Surya Siddhanta becomes 384 A. D. It came from the asura or Babylonian sources. (Sengupta, 1935, p.xl). Nearly all of its astronomical constants are shared by Brahmagupta's Khandakhadya, I,1, 8- 13; II, 1-5, and Bhaskara I's Mahabhaskariya (See Kuppana Shastri's edition, Madras, 1957). The epoch of this ardharatrika version of Surya Siddhanta is midnight of 20/21 March 505. However, in Chapter IX of Varahamihira's Pan casiddhantika, there is an evidence of an earlier Surya Siddhanta using noon epoch, and slightly different parameters for the mean motion of the Sun, the Moon, lunar apogee and ascending node. Neugebaur and Pingree think that it is the work of Latadeva- -- the sarvasiddhanta guru, i.e., the teacher of all scientific astronomy (O. Neugebaur and D. Pingree, 1970:13).
Sumatitantra: A Contaminated Text
The Sumatitantra, in the form we have it today, cannot be the original text. Otherwise, how can "Manadeva Samvat" 304 or A.D. 880 be mentioned in a text that is nearly three hundred years old in origin? Its language betrays the fact that it has already passed through the hands of generations of not- too-learned scribes and copyists. It is not an unusual process for anonymous Sanskrit texts to become an inclusive or "composite text" with contaminated deposits at different layers. The best example is the present Surya siddhanta which "became a composite growth from about 400 A.D. to 725 A.D. from the evidence of its star tables" (Sengupta, 1935: xxix). It has been subject to correction, emendation, and modification from time to time, and the present Surya Siddhanta is the latest redaction of the work which assumed the present final shape and size between A.D. 628- 966. In fact, the earliest date given for the text is A.D. 285. The dates of its three substantive revisions, as it were, are A.D. 285, 500 and 570 (Saha and Lahiri, 1992/1995).
Petech (1984:12 footnote No. 3), however, claims that the Sumatitantra, in its main portion, (was) "compiled not after 850 A.D." He does not explain what he meant by "the main portion" from among its five chapters and a sixth incomplete one. We do not know how he had come to that conclusion.
Can Sumatitantra be Dated?
Is it, then, possible to date the Sumatitantra on any scientific basis?
The late Pandit Nayarij Pant believed that it can be dated on the basis of whether or not it gives a rate for the precession of equinoxes (ayanamsa). The Earth is not a perfect sphere, nor is its axis a perndicular one. A continuous receding of the sidereal Zodiac, at the rate of 1 degree in 72 years, is caused by the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon on the central bulge of the Earth with a declined axis. It means that if the Vernal Equinox in 1997 is on March 21st, seventy- two years later it will be on March 20th N.R. Pant claims, "how much precession is given in a text, or whether it is mentioned or not, enables us to determine the age of the text" (Pant et al,, 1978b: 137). Or, "There is no mention of the precession of equinoxes in the Sumatitantra. Therefore, it was composed in the Licchavi age before the knowledge of the precession of equinoxes became common among the astronomers" (Pant et al., 1983:19).
Some ancient astronomers in India, including Varahamihira, believed that the sidereal Zodiac was moveable and that its movement was oscillatory and that such a movement was also ominous and inauspicious.
However, no ancient Indian astronomer before Munjala (A.D. 932), makes an explicit mention of the rate, nor of the concept of precession as such. Though the original work containing his views on the topic is lost there is only a reference to it in Bhaskara II's Vasanabhasya - - a self-commentary on Siddhanta- siromani (A.D. 1150). In that text, he writes that precession is what was known as krantipata (i.e., the intersection of the ecliptic and the equinoctial circles) in earlier works. He says that the earlier acaryas did not mention it because it was too negligible during their time. (Commentary on the verses 17, 18 and 19 of SS in the Golabandhadhikara). Similarly,
From a stanza of Visnucandra (A.D. 578), quoted by Prthudakasvami (A.D.864) in his commentary on the Brahmasputasiddhanta, it appears that this subject was dealt with in the old Surya Siddhanta. (p. 38). According to the (new) Surya Siddhanta, the precessional motion is likened to liberation or oscillation of the equinoxes about a fixed point. According to this theory, the equinoxes, like the pendulum, at first move eastward, reach the maximum amplitude and then move westward. The maximum eastward deviation is 27 degrees whence the annual rate works out to 54 seconds as against the modern value of 50.25 seconds. (Jaggi, 1990:75-76).
David Pingree, one of the foremost Western authorities on Indian Mathematical Astronomy, published a terse treatment on the topic of ayanamsa with the title "Precession and Trepidation in Indian Astronomy before 1200 A.D," in the Journal for the History of Astronomy, Vol 3 (1972), pp. 27-35. He shows that there were three different accounts of it in the astronomical works before A.D. 1200: 1. trepidation with 27" x 2= 54" seconds, 2. trepidation with an amplitude of 59.9" seconds, and 3. the third account gives simple precession.
The Year of Zero Degree Precession and its Annual Rate
There is no unanimity of scholarly opinions on the exact date of zero degree precession, nor on its annum rate. The initial year of zero degree precession is considered to be A.D. 285 by the Calendar Reform Committee of India (1955). Cyril Pagan, a Western advocate of the Sidereal Zodiac as against Western Tropical Zodiac, believed that the Zero degree precession coincided with A.D. 213. K.S. Krishnamurti, an Indian specialist in Oriental Astronomy, thought that in the year 291 A.D., the precession of the equinoxes was Zero. The current Sarya Siddhanta gives A.D. 499 as the year of zero degree trepidation; Munjala in his Laghumanasa gives A.D.527 as the year for zero degree precession, Bhoja (A.D. 1042) gave A.D. 522, Damodara, A.D. 420, and Pillai, A.D. 533.
Not only that there is such a diversity of opinions on the initial year, there is also no uniformity of opinions on the rate of precession. Munjala thought that it was 59.9" seconds or nearly 1 minute of the arc whereas the modern Surya Siddhanta gives an oscillation rate of 54" seconds, i.e., 27" eastwards and then 27" westward. Modern astronomers since Newton give 50.25" seconds as the annual rate of precession.
We cannot, therefore, date an astronomical text simply on the basis of the presence or absence of a reference to the precession of equinoxes.
The Incidence of the Word ayanamsa in Sumatitantra
Pandit Nayaraj Pant believed that the Sumatitantra was written some time during the three centuries between A.D. 576-879, between the so-called "Manadeva Samvat" and Nepala Samvat because Sumati does not mention the precession or its rate explicitly anywhere in the text. The first mention of ayana-calana (the shifting of equinoxes) occurs in Vatesvara-siddhanta (A.D.904) but he says that the astronomer who knows his spherical trigonometry should calculate his own precession rate. (VS II:25). Thus, in the British Museum copy, on several folios of the Sumatitantra, there is a mention of the word, ayanamsa. In the Chapter on the True Motions of the Planets, there occur the following lines
Desantaranadi yojana 160 bunajya yojana 9600 bhaga 28812 viksepakranti ayanansanca tena karayet (folio 24b)
In the Chapter on Lunar Eclipses, we have the following lines
aksajyakarme guna 1561 bhaga 3438//ayanamsncakarme guna 1398 bhaga 3438// (folio 85b)
In the Chapter on Solar eclipse, we have the following lines:
Sparsa madhyanta purvena ayanamsanca sadhayet/ Aksasutrantathaivanca parilekhani karayet// (folio 107b) grasadi madhyanta divakaresu/ kramena rasitryasamyutesu sadabhuttaresatkhapareca yamyam krantijyamaniya yathaiva purvvam. bhanoyanamsammiti laksayitva/ sasparsa madhya grahananta kale// pratyaya nadimasu pinda kuryat sumnyakhatirthena vibhakta labdham (folio114b) grasadi madhyanta kramayanamsa//aksayanamsau samadik yutamtau yojitam (folio 124b)
The longitude of a planet for any given moment can be calculated by using a standard pancanga. Nirayana (sidereal) longitude plus ayanamsa gives the sayana (tropical) longitude of the planet. However, the moot question here is: how come that the word is undeniably there in the text of Sumatitantra if there were no related concept embedded in it? Can we have the word without the related concept in any discourse? No, certainly, not; unless the word is, like the words in nonsense verse or Alice in the Wonderland, semantically vacuous.
Do We have the Whole of Sumatitantra Text?
Both the copies of the Sumatitantra end abruptly; the last 13/14 lines in the British Museum copy are missing from the copy in the National Archives, and in their stead there is a stray folio with only 7 lines, and it is numbered 162a (?) which follows folio 143b. This indicates the plain fact that there are at least 20 folios misplaced in the National Archives. However, it has some tables (folios162a-166b), giving the gigraha (epicycle) figures for each degree of the Planets-Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. On folio 165b we have a table for Krantikhanda (Sine for Declination), Lagna (Rising Point of the Ecliptic), and Trigavadi (Three Transformations) for each of the 90 degrees of the quadrant. There are also 3 additional folios without page numbers, which give the summary of mean motions etc. as enunciated in the main text. Then comes the colophon. It dates the text, copied for the second time, on Nepala Samvat 495 Pausa sukla 13. All the above Tables are missing in the British Museum copy. In that copy, the last 18 lines end abruptly with
Evante kathiyinatra saptapatalakani ca/yakramova ...
after which comes all of a sudden the colophon. The copyist seemed to have thought that the following descriptive section on the saptapatala (seven circles of the Hell) is not of day-to-day relevance. The first colophon has the following date: //svadadricatvah saha vatsareva masa bhava pausa sita navammvam i.e., NS 476 Pausa sukla 9....
In the National Archives copse, the supplementary folios 11a,-b, 12a,-b, 13a- and b appear to represent what are folios 121a,-b, 122a-b, 123a,-b, 124a and ban the British Museum copy. In both copies these folios have little direct connection with the main running text, but they try to show the saka Samvat calculations in the context of Nepala Samvat. As such, these portions appear to be unsuccessful attempts at textual modification, amputation or interpolation.
Although all the topics enumerated at the beginning of the text in the Chapter I on the Mean Motions of the Planets are covered by the copies we have, we do not really know whether the copies we have contain the whole of the Sumatitantra. Above all, there is no star--table or a Chapter on Naksatras (asterisms), had there been one it would have made the dating of the text a less serious problem. However, the Sumatitantra (folio 20a-b) gives the mandocamsa i.e., planetary longitudes for the higher apses in degrees, pertaining to the Equation of the Centre. These astronomical parameters are identical with those of Mahabhaskariya, VII:25-28a and Khandakhadyaka. The patamsa or (longitude of ascending nodes of the Planets in degrees since the beginning of the Kali) given in the Sumatitantra (Folio 48a) are identical with those given in Mahabhaskariya (VII. 9-10). Similarly, Viksepa (the Celestial Latitude of the Planets) is given in folio 48a. All these astronomical constants are of about A.D. 505.
The following verse cited by sankaranarayana (A.D. 825-900) in his Vivarana on Laghubhaskariya (IV: 15-16) from Acarya Sumati, does not occur in the chapters on eclipses or elsewhere in the text,
Pracyam na ravergrahanam, varunyam capi sitakiranasya/ pracyam vrnoti candram vrnoti suryah tathaparatah//
Of the usual 500 verses in 14 chapters of the Surya Siddhanta, the Sumatitantra contains only six. We cannot, therefore, date the text simply on the basis of a single criterion, i.e., the presence or absence of any explicit reference to the annual rate of precession. The original text of the old Surya Siddhanta, as summarized by Varahamihira (and modified by Latadeva) in Chapters I, IX, X, XI, XVI and XVII of the Pancasiddhantika, is no longer available. What we have in that book is only a modified version of the original theory. It is a great pity that the eminent team of editors/transcribers of the printed Sumatitantram (1978) did not have access to the British Museum copy, and they did all the so-called "emendations" without consulting the earlier copy (N.R. Pant et al., 1978, Preface: 28). This is in total defiance of elementary principles of textual criticism.
The Intercalated Months in the Inscriptions: Can these be a Criterion for Identifying the Epoch Era Used in the Licchavi Inscriptions?
The late Pandit Nayaraj Pant's book, Licchavisamvatko Nirnaya, (1987) was awarded the Madan Puraskar for Vikram Samvat 2043, and several national medals and prizes decorated him thereafter. Madan Mani Dixit, a distinguished Nepali writer on his own right, and also the then ViceChancellor of the Royal Nepal Academy, may not have had sufficient time to read the book, nor to grasp its methodological premises and framework. However, he wrote that the book was "a masterpiece of scientific reasoning--a work of great importance" (all harmless, but potentially vacuous, adjectives such as Mahan, Vigil, Vaijnanika were merely piled up on the author and/or his books by most of the writers cOntributing to the volume or volumes without anyone critically assessing the theoretical or methodological bases). "It is such an important book that had not yet been written by any Nepali, then or now Therefore, Nayraj Pant is the tallest Nepali," wrote Dixit in his Foreword.
In A.D. 2000, the late Pandit Nayaraj Pant was also honoured with an Honorary Doctor of Letters (mahavidyavaridhi i..e. "a-vast-ocean-of-knowledge" degree by Tribhuvan University. The "experts" who evaluated his work, such as Madan Mani Dixit, must have known the field better than we do. The fact, however, remains that Nayaraj Pant based his "conclusions" in the book on the following three shaky and disputable bases,
1. The chronology given in the Sumatitantra, with reference to the epoch era used by Manadeva and his successors, on the one hand, and Amsuvarma and his successors, on the other hand;
2. The Intercalated Month/Expunged Month Tables prepared by Chatre (1860) or by Sewell and Dikshit (1896), and
3. A corrupt Nepalese manuscript on assorted topics dated NS 525 Marga Krishna 3 (Tuesday Nov. 30, 1404), but of no age.
With the help of these three tools N.R. Pant and his team set out to refute the views of ten other historians from France, India, and Nepal, in pp. 183540 of their magnum opus, only to conclude by "mathematically proving" that there was a "Manadeva Samvat" founded in A.D. 576. Since the second set of inscriptions are dated in the so-called "Manadeva Samvat", thus runs their argument, "the earlier inscriptions must have been dated in saka Samvat because all historical events tally well." Neither of these conclusions is an example of "scientific reasoning."
More than a century ago, in the Gujarati version of his work Bhagwanlal Indrajt (1880) had interpreted the epoch era used by Manadeva and his successors as saka era, and the era used by Amsuvarma and his successors as Harsa Era founded in A.D. 606. At the behest of his English translater, Georg Buhler, he changed his view and re-interpreted it as Vikrama Era in the English version of his work (see Buhler's Preface to Bhagwanlal Indraji, 1885). Twenty-three years later, Levi (1908) evaluated the available evidence before him and conjectured the possibilities of saka era being used in Licchavi inscriptions. In 1945, R.C Majumdar, (revised in 1959 and published in 1961: 47-49, under the title "The Eras of Nepal") considered the epoch era in early Licchavi inscriptions to be saka and the era used by Amsvarma to be saka with 500 left out. Echoing Majumdar's views, nearly forty years ago, D.C. Sircar (1965) wrote:
The inscriptions of Manadeva and his successors, including the earlier records of Amsuvarman are dated in the saka Era (Sircar, 1958: 886, Note 1). But the later epigraphs of Amsvarman and his successors, probably bear dates in the saka Era minus 500, i.e., saka 501 = Year I of Amsuvarman's reginal reckoning (Sircar, 1965:271).
Although he merely gave a new name to saka Era, Baburam Acarya already concluded in 1971 that the the epoch era used by Amsuvarma is none other than the earlier era in use with the numeral for century dropped. In his brief paper published in the Gorkhapatra for September 2, 1972, "Amguvarmako Samvatma eka Vicar," Historian Bhuwanlal Pradhan, agrued for the possibility of Amsuvarma using saka Samvat 527, 528, 529 as 27, 28, 29. "There is every possibility that he computed the day 1 of Samvat 529 as the day 1 of his Samvat 29," wrote Pradhan in his little noticed paper (Pradhan, 1972: 7).
We have, of course, no infallible criterion to test these views of eminent historians or any other views, for that matter, because, as we have discussed earlier, out of more than 200 Licchavi inscriptions, only 2 are with weekdays. Even for these two scanty pieces of available evidence, historians have given different A.D. equivalents. The time difference between the two documents is 270 years. Without any exception, all the newly found inscriptions do not have weekday in their dates. There are, however, 11 inscriptions with interacalated months. Pandit Nayaraj Pant and his now defunct school believe that these intercalated data can be used to verify the epoch era in use in Licchavi inscriptions. The following are the epigraphic data:
(Samvat 3)98 ? prathama-asadhe-sukladiva 12, from Budhanilakantha, Visnupaduka phedi. Shankar Man Rajvamsi read the last figure as 5, Dhanavajra and his colleagues as 6; during the six-years of his fifteen year tenure as a member of the Royal Nepal Academy, NR Pant finally decided that the last figure is neither 5 nor 6, but 8!). Samvat 435 Dvitiya--Pause sukladiva 5, from Patan, Bahalakhu Samvat 449 prathamasa(dha) sukladasamyam, from Kisipidi Samvat 479 Dvitiya asadha, from Brahma Tole, Kathmandu Samvat 487 prathamasdhasukladwitiyayam, from Devapatan Samvat 517 prathamasadhasukladivadvadasyam from Dharmasthali Samvat 519 prathamapausasukladivadvadasyam, from Satungal Samvat 31 dvitiyapousasuklastamyam, Bhaktapur, Inayaco Samvat 34 prathamapausasukladvitiyayam, Patan, Sundham Samvat 536 dvitiyapausasuklapancamyam from Gokarna. Baluva, Pancasatasamadhikesamvatsarasatadvaye prathamasadhamasasya dvitiyadivase, i.e., Samvat 250 prathamasadha 2, from Motitar, Patan
Evidently, in Licchivi Nepal, an ancient system of intercalation was observed in its luni-solar calendar based on mean reckoning. The differences between mean reckoning and true reckoning may vary from a minimum of 7 hours 18 minutes to the maximum of 14 hours 12 minutes in the ending moment of a tithi--the most important factor in Indian chronology. It is a system unattested in civil calendar anywhere else in the Indian subcontinent, then or now. According to this system, when a sankrant is missing in any synodic month within an ayana, the last month of the ayana was intercalated, i. e., the first month was called prathama--and the following intercalated one, dvitiya--The intercalated month is either asadha in the middle of a five-year cycle or Pausa at the end of it. This general nile is, however, violated by a number of Licchavi inscriptions such as the inscriptions dated Samvat 517 and Samvat 519 where we have two intercalations within a gap of 16 months, or by Pausa intercalation both in Samvat 31 and Samvat 34 at a gap of 36 months and in Samvat 536 at a gap of 24 months. Normally, an intercalated month coincided with the 31st lunar month in a cycle of 62 synodic months. So the irregularity of intercalation at the gap of 36 synodic months seems to have been adjusted by an intercalation at the gap of 24th month in the Samvat 536 inscription. Thibaut surmised that, "the mistake was corrected at irregular times-when too great deviations between the real beginning of the season and the traditional chronological calculation made this necessary." (1899:23) Though the ancient Nepali civil calendar begins from the Karttika sukla Pratipad, the initial five-year cycle was computed from Magha sukla Pratipad of A.D. 76. In the Brhatsamhita (VIII: 27) Varahamihira, says,
When Jupiter rises in the month of Magha, having arrived at the first portion of Dhanistha, then commences the first year of the 60-year cycle, by name Prabhava, auspicious to living beings.
"Clearly, the cycle is held to have begun in 76 A.D. with Jupiter at the beginning of naksatra Dhanistha in the month of Magha. According to a statement in the Paitamaha Siddhanta (Chapter XII, Stanza 2 of the Pancasiddhantika), a five--yearly yuga began in A.D. 81 (expired saka 2 = A.D. 81) which is exactly 5 years after A.D. 76 (Deb,1931, 271-283).
Pandit Nayaraj Pant believed that the intercalated data from Licchivi inscriptions can be used for the verification of Licchavi epoch era. On Wednesday September 16, 1981, he issued a two-page handout published by the Royal Nepal Academy, consisting of a table on "the Epoch Era Used by Amsuvarma and His Successors," where he used the chronology of the Sumatitantra to verify the two inscriptions with intercalated months (our No. 8 and No. 9) and two documents with weekday, dated Samvat 31 and Samvat 301. This table is reproduced on pages 29-30 of Pant et al., 1987. He showed in a tabular form how only his view was correct and those of other seven historians were wrong. Their book, (should anyone call it a book because there is a cover on it?) Licchavisamvatko Nirnaya (1987) written in collaboration with Devi Prasad Bhandari and Keshav Chandra Neupane, is just an enlarged verbal tour de force based on that classic handout. However, as we have seen above, there are only two possibilities or variables in intercalary months: it is either Pausa or asadha for as many as twelve months of any year.
One cannot verify these data with the help of Sewell and Dikshit's Tables (1896) because they are based on Arya Siddhanta, Caitradi, current saka year using mean reckoning. On the other hand, the tables prepared by Kero Laksmana Chatre, Grahasadhankosthakam, first published in a Marathi monthly, Jnanaprasaraka Vol I, No 12 (1860), reproduced happily since by many scholars such as Nayaraj Pant, without checking, are not of much use either. Chatre's tables are based on the new Surya Siddhanta using true reckoning based on Caitradi expired saka. They cannot be of much relevance in the study and interpretation of Licchavi inscriptions because we have no record of expunged month before Nepala Samvat 577. Besides, for saka 532, Chatre's Tables give the month of Karttika as both adhika masa as well as ksaya masa. This is just impossible because the same month cannot be both ksaya and adhika masa. There are more than a dozen such instances of expunged Karttika and Marga months in Chatre's tables. According to true reckoning, Pausa can never be an intercalated month. It can only be an expunged one.
On the above three debatable bases, Nayaraj Pant et al. conclude that the epoch era used by Manadeva and his successors was saka era and the epoch era used by Amsuvarma and his successors was "Manadeva Samvat" which they claim as was founded in saka 498/A.D. 576. With the help of such a methodological framework, N.R. Pant tried to refute the views of all other historians, covering about 400 pages of his book. As Petech had once put it rather bluntly,
The Bharadvaja system utilized two months only for intercalation. (It) was used in medieval Nepal, and it prevailed also at this early period. This system is a lineal descendant of the Jyotisa Vedanga. (In this system), whenever one of the first six lunar months contains no sankranti, whichever that month may be, it is always asadha which is duplicated as an intercalary month; when one of the last six lunar months contain no sankranti, whichever that month may be, it is always Pausa which is duplicated as an intercalary month.... The fact that Bharadvaja system is followed in these inscriptions precludes all possibilities of utilizing the intercalation for determining the starting point of the era, as it has been attempted again and again since the time of Levi. Beyond this point we cannot go. By no Siddhanta, by no system, with no era, can we get intercalations at the intervals (attested in Licchavi inscriptions). Petech 1961:229-230).
Adhimasa Sutra: Which Version is Authentic?
Intercalation is an occasional adjustment in the luni-solar calendar so that divergence between a purely solar calendar and a purely lunar calendar is minimized. At least, during the early Malla period, the astrologers seemed to have vacillated between the two systems of time reckoning. A tangible evidence of it is the so-called adhimasasutras as found in the Dharmanirnayatithisarasangraha (Cat.I 1634. 11, folio 21b-22a NGMPP No. B 33/20).
There is no acceptable and satisfactory translation of the corrupt text of the off-quoted Adhikamasaprakarana of the Dharmanirnayatithisarasamgraha (DNTSS), first published by Petech in 1958. Its origin or textual source is unknown and obscure as Bharadvaja and Narada are not too well known astronomers with a siddhanta of their own. Both are, however, mentioned by Varahamihira in the Brhatsamhita (Kern, 1916: 95-96-103). Dealing with several topics the text, of which the verses form a very small part, is dated NS 525. Although it is a palmleaf manuscript, paleographically, it is not older than the late sixteenth century. At least, it is not written in Bhujimmola script. Consisting of seven and a half verse, the chapter enunciates the views of Narada based on Caitradi lunar months, the first half starting from Spring equinox and latter half starting from Autumn equinox. Bharadvaja's views are based on Maghadi solar year, the first half starting from winter solstice, the second half starting from summer solstice. However, the translation and interpretation of the last verse, in particular, is problematic and controversial. This will be evident from a comparison of Petech's and Shankar Man Rajvamsi's translation of the verse:
Adhimasa yadaanasta ra (a)yane dye sucintayet/ Dvirasadho dvipausasca bharadvajasya vacanam yatha//
which Petech translates as
The intercalary months, if they (wise men) consider well, the two half years of the non-existent (samkranti, are) a second asadha and a second Pausa, according to the precepts of Bharadvaja (Petech, 1984, p. 14-15).
It is difficult to guess what Petech may have meant by the above enigmatic sentence. Rajvamsi, on the other hand, translates the verse as the following--a translation clearly influenced by the modern practice based on true reckoning:
When there is an expunged month in an ayana then in both the ayanas both asadha and Pausa are intercalated (Rajavamsi, 1973:11).
In the Sumati Siddhanta, (Kaiser Library No 82, palmleaf, 69 folios in Bhujimmola script, with entries from N.S. 456-573 / A.D. 1336-1453), unfortunately so poorly transcribed by Pant et. al. 1978, there are at least three different versions of the adhikamasasutra. On folio 13 / 34, we have a two-stanza-text. It begins with a Newari sentence: 1a tamneya thathyam jurom, i.e.,this is how months are intercalated : the first half of the year begins with makam-rasi(solar Magha) and ends with mithuna-rasi (solar asadha). If the transition of the Sun is missing in any one of these lunar months within uttarayana, then the month of Pausa is intercalated. The second haft of the year begins with karkata rasi(solar sravana) and ends with dhanusa rasi (solar Pausa). If the transition of the Sun is missing in any of these lunar months in daksinayna, then the month of asadha is intercalated. This part of the text ends with a Newari statement iti la tamneya prapati thathyem jurom//O//It may roughly be translated as the following:
This is the tradition of intercalating months.
However, on folio 3a there are still other versions of the sutra. It begins with, adhikamasaka sutram, iti. And then goes on to enunciate the views of Narada. He stipulates that if the transition of the Sun is missing between the synodic months of Caitra and Bhadra, then the month of asadha is intercalated. If the transition of the Sun is missing in any month between the synodic month of asvina and phalguna, then the month of Pausa is intercalated. Then a disturbing statement in Newari comes:
la tamneya thva patha pramanana tana tu jiva jurom nhstho pathana majiva//O// Caitradi tyadi thva pathana malva 1a tamneh thathyem jiva jurom.
A tentative translation of this stilted medieval Newari statement into English would perhaps be the following : "This textual proof for intercalation of months is correct; the earlier one is not. The correct version is the one that begins with Caitradi etc". We must not forget that the Nepali civil calendar begins from Karttika sukla pratipad. So far so good. Then on folio 3a the text has yet another version. It begins with Mesa rasi (solar Vaisakha), ending the first half of the year with kanya rasi. (solar asvina). If there is no transition of the Sun in any of the above lunar months, the month of asadha is intercalated. The latter half of the year begins with Tula rasi (solar Karttika) and ends with the Sun in Mina rasi (solar Caitra). If there is no transition of the Sun in any of these lunar months, the month of Pausa is intercalated. At the end, again, comes a caveat in Newari which says: "The intercalation of months has been written down. Months have to be intercalated according to this textual evidence." Now we are at once in a state of confusion on which of these different versions was intended as the authoritative textual evidence. The version one of the sutra has purely solar months with the first half beginning with the Sun's entry in the Makara rasi and the second half beginning with the Sun's entry into Karkata rasi. In second version of the sutra in the Sumati Siddhanta, representing Narada's precepts, the first half of the year begins with the lunar month of Caitra and it ends in Bhadra which leads to an intercalation in asadha. The second half begins with asvina and ends in Phalguna. If the transition of the Sun is missing in any of these synodic months it will lead to intercalation in the month of Pausa.
These versions are, again, different from the one given in a brief table in the Sumatikarana, a paper manuscript in the National Archives (I 1173/B 356/16). On folio 23a of t nunciating an asadha intercalation in Uttarayana and Pausa intercalation in Daksinayana. All these divergences in textual recensions are reduced by Petech, 1984 to two versions only: hat manuscript, we have a Maghadi year based on the rasi system indicated by numerals, eNatrada's precepts based on a Caitradi year and Bharadvaja's precepts based on ayana. He generalizes these recensions in the Sumati Siddhanta, as "a parallel text" which merely gives the same version "in terms of solar months". This simplification of the textual evidence may be because Petech was unable to consider and interpret the significance of Newari caveat.
The crucial question is: which of these distinct as well as conflicting versions of the adhikamasasutra was followed in Licchavi Nepal,? or did different versions prevail during different periods ?--it would just be impossible to decide because only two months, Pausa and asada, were intercalated. It would be a senseless assumption to believe that in Licchivi Nepal there were no astronomical disputes between rival schools of the Royal Astrologers or village astrologers on when to observe an intercalated month--in Pausa or in asada Whenever it is observed, an intercalated month disrupts, not only the ritual life, but also the secular timeframe of a society. Both sacred and secular life of the common people are affected by an intercalated month. Therefore, historical notes from the Later Malla period have a number of entries for dates when disputes among astrologers took place. Even today, notwithstanding the learned interceptions of the Pancanga Nirnayaka Samiti, there are fierce and vocal disputes among the astronomers/astrologers on when to observe the Mahanavami, Vijayadasami, or Laksmi Puja, or Govardhana Puja, on whether to follow one system as against others. Newspaper columns are at times full of angry rejoinders from one another, all citing smrtis, sutras, sastras, and, of course, nibandhas. Most of the current pancangas are based on diverse sources, as diverse as Ganesa Daivajna (b. 1507), Makaranda (ca. 1438), Ramabhatta's (1600) Ramavinoda and Ketkar (1878). This may be one of the several reasons why the four different houses of astrologers, representing diverse siddhantas (?) or branches of astronomy assemble at a resting place near the palace to decide upon the auspicious moment for the Chariot Festival of the Lord of Bunga.!
Confessions as Conclusions
Evidently, there is no connection between a system of intercalation and an epoch era in use just as there is no germane connection between the Vikrama Era and the intercalation system we follow now. The very fact that the same ancient system of intercalation was continued both during the Licchavi Period and the Early Malla Period, even after the founding of Nepala Samvat, shows that there can be no inalienable connection between an epoch era and a system of intercalation. On the basis of intercalation, say, in the month of sravana it is all but impossible to tell which epoch era was used in a document dated Samvat 2054 if such a document were to be unearthed a millennium or two later by archaeologists. With such dubious premises and tools as the adhimasaprakarana of the Dharmanirnayatitihisarasam-graha, (DNTSS), there is no wonder if N.R. Pant's 640--page book ends with the following disappointing confessional statements;
1. No use has been made of the astronomical calculations from the Sumatitantra; only its historical essence has been fully used in this work (p. 566). (Does Sumatitantra, then, contain some historical secrecy unrevealed so far?)
2. As the second epoch era has been verified, the first epoch era cannot be any other than saka. This is almost certain, but it has not been proved mathematically (p. 571).
3. No matter whichever Samvat one considers, no matter howsoever one computes one is not able to verify the intercalated months mathematically (p. 572). (By using adhimasaprakarana of the DNTSS, ? or adhimasasutras of the Sumati Siddhanta?)
4. In Vedanga Jyautisa, the months of Pausa and asadha alone are intercalated. As such a system of calculation based on saka era is given by Varahamihira, one tends to believe that in Manadeva's time, Vedanga Jyautisa was prevalent (p. 572). (Then why don't we also say that Vedanga jyautisa, not any other well- known siddhantic texts such as Brahmagupta's Khandakhadyaka (A.D. 665) and satananda's Bhasvati- Karana (ca. A.D. 1099), prevailed in Nepal till NS 576? Till then no month other than asadha and Pausa was intercalated.)
5. One cannot interpret all the (49) verses of Vedanga Jyautisa, nor are there any examples available. There is a wide diversity of opinions among the explicators. We seemed to have found some examples (of the use of the system), but one cannot be too sure to speak authoritatively. (p.573) (Which of the three versions of Vedanga Jyautisa are we talking about, the rg version with 36 verses, or Yajusa version with 49 verses of which only 30 are common to the rg version, or Atharvana version with 162 verses, including the 93rd arca clearly enumerating all the 7 Varas with their presiding deities? Pant et al. 1987 quote 8 verses on the computation of days, ayana and intercalation from Yajusa version and 9 verses on tithi and karana from the Atharvana version.)
6. So far I have not myself understood the meaning of (all the 36 or 49 verses of) Vedanga Jyautisa, let alone teaching it to others. There is no authoritative ancient exegesis on Vedanga Jyautisa. When will I be able to make out the meaning of Vedanga Jyautisa with the help of Siddhanta siromani? (p. 575). (See sivaraj Acarya Kaundinnyayana's Svadharmasamdesa No 4, pp. 15-19, 2001 for an incisive criticism of N.R. Pant's readings).
Coming as they do at the end of the book and its 36- page "Concluding Chapter" these statements are a surprising revelation, particularly in a book entitled Licchivisamvatko Nirnaya. authored by the progenitor of the Itihasa Samsodhana movement, with the assistance and collaboration of knowledgeable historians such as Mahes Raj Pant, Dines Raj Pant, and, of course, Gyanmani Nepal, whose last-minute rescue operations gave the semblance of a book to this unseemly compilation of talks, tables, translations and contributions of assorted writers. As a matter of fact, in all sanguinity, the title of the book should have been Licchavisamvatko Annyola (Confusion in the Views about Licchavi Era). The sum and substance of the 640- page book may be summarized in a few sentences. Nearly a similar conclusion had already been reached by Petech in 1961, a conclusion which he rephrased in just four brilliant lines:
The dates with intercalary months found in the Licchavi inscriptions hitherto published have only asadha and Pausa. But they cannot be verified by any known system, the medieval Nepalese not excluded The question ought to be the subject of a special study. (Petech, 1984: 20. Footnote 1)
Although it was in use for ritual purposes for more than a millennium, Lagadha's Jyautisa vedanga, "containing an inaccurate scheme for intercalating two synodic months in every five years, was probably never used to regulate a civil calendar in India, where the beginning of each month was expected to coincide as closely as possible with the sunrise which follows the true conjunction of the Sun and the Moon" (Pingree, 1982:355; also Pingree, 1973:1-12).
An intercalary month, or adhimasa, was from time to time added to the normal twelve months of the year, presumably in order to make the beginnings of the sun's ayanas fall in the correct months. Even after observing two intercalated months in every five years, there would still be a whole month's discrepancy between solar calendar and lunar calendar in every 40 years. "Despite the efforts of many scholars to prove the contrary, no systematic intercalation scheme can be attributed to this period" (Pingree: 1978:535.).
The Final Dismal Leap in Logic
The most unnerving "conclusions" one comes across in the whole book by Pant et al. are the following unbelievable high jumps in logic. The quotations are all from Pant et al., 1987: 179- 180. Unless specified otherwise, all English translations in this paper are by me,
1. The dates in Amsuvarma's and his successors' inscriptions can be verified only with the help of the chronology given in the Sumatitantra. (As we have seen, this chronology has no basis in historical facts just as its geographical descriptions are of no use at all).
2. Amsuvarma was the first one to use weekday in inscriptions. (Except in one inscription, he did not use weekday, nor did his successors for the next 270 years. The use of the weekday cannot be a watershed for dividing the Vedanga and Siddhantic systems of astronomy in India, and there is nothing else in Amsuvarma's inscriptions to do so in Nepal. All the presiding deities of seven weekdays are enumerated in the Atharvana Jyautisa, arca 93rd).
3. Both Sumati and Amsuvarma were the devotees of siva. (That does not prove that the Sumati system was followed by Amsuuvarma. Although he styled himself as the one who was "favoured by the grace of the feet of Lord Pasupati," he did not exercise any discrimination among saiva, Vaisnava, sakta, and Baudha religious foundations).
4. Amsuvarma was the one who started to compute time according to Sumatitantra in Nepal. (There is no evidence for the use of the Sumatitantra in Licchavi period. The system of asadha /Pausa intercalation is propounded, not only in Vedanga Jyautisa, it is common to Paitamaha Siddhanta (where the 5-year cycle began from A.D. 76 when both the Sun and the Moon were in Dhanistha Naksatra. (Alpha Delphini) on Magha sukla Pratipad tithi), in Drona's Smrtismuccaya , and Jain Surya Prajnapti. Astronomer Bharadvaja, whose views on intercalation at the end of an ayana held sway in ancient and early medieval Nepal, was still in vogue in early medieval Nepal Valley during Nepala samvat ca. 132-570 (A.D. 1011-1449) This tradition was probably abandoned or replaced by other systems based on true reckoning since NS 577 only)
5. The author of the Sumatitantra called his country Kanyadvipa because Varahamihira considered that among all the nine climes of Bharatavarsa, the Varnasrama system prevailed only in Kanyadvipa. (Both Sumati and Varahamihira were talking about Kanyadvipa, wherever it be, not about Nepal).
6 As Amsuvarma considered himself an adherent of arya-maryada (i.e., the four stages of Hindu life and the caste system, among other things) he was the one who constructed a pancanga according to the Sumatitantra in Nepal. (There is no inherent connection between a society's adherence to the varna system and Sumatitantra. No social system has to follow one in order to follow the other. There is nothing unique in the inscriptions of Amsuvarma to arrive at such a conclusion because most ambitious rulers in aryavarta, including Maharaja Jang Bahadur Rana, made exactly similar claims. The arya- maryada was only an ideal to which the ruling elites in Jambudvipa wished to approximate their social realities. In Nepal, where even after two millennia of Hinduisation, more than half the population still follow animism and faith- healing, The Constitution of Nepal, 1991 defines Nepal as a Hindu Kingdom, since it is ruled by the Shaha Monarchy which is an adherent of Aryan culture! (See Thapar, 1978.)
Pant devotes 420 pages (pp. 180-540) of the book to refute the views of ten other historians who held different views, including one of his own star disciples, regarding the epoch era used in ancient Nepal. The main burden of the work is to prove everyone, other than N.R. Pant and his ardent disciples, wrong. To anyone who is familiar with the elementary principles of Indian/Nepalese epigraphy or of Indian astronomy, or ancient Nepali history, this is a most bizarre exercise in pedantry based on the assumption that the 11 intercalated epigraphic data can be used for verifying the epoch year of the era used in early Nepal. Because of the use of mean reckoning and the Bharadvaja system of intercalation it is all but impossible to do so by using the adhikamasaprakarana of the DNTSS, or the Sewell tables, or Chatre tables, or the Sumatitantra chronology. As history, the book by Pant et al. contains nothing new, and as astronomy it has ended as a futile exercise leading to inconclusive confessions, happily oblivious of modern researches in Indian astronomy accomplished in India and in the West.
External Evidence: The Chinese and Tibetan Sources
There are, however, some kingpins and key chronological landmarks, mainly culled from external sources which serve as indispensable signposts for determining the chronology of early inscriptions from Nepal. The travelogue of Hsuen Tsang (A.D.629-645) refers to Amsuvarma as the late, wise, learned, and famous rider who had also composed a work on sabdavidyasastra. Based on various accounts of the Chinese missions to India and Nepal during A.D. 643-657, the references to Nepal contained in the T'ang Annals, both the old and new editions, and the brief reference to Nepal contained in the Dun Huang Chronicle are of invaluable help. The last inscription we have of Amsuvarma is dated Samvat 44 Jyestha sukla and the first inscription we have of Udayadeva has Samvat 45 asadhakrsnadvadasi. So Amsuvarma must have passed away between Jyestha Krsnapaksa of Samvat 44 and asadha suklapaksa of Samvat 45. If we calculate these dates with an epoch- year of A.D. 76 and consider Amsuvarma's years as a lokakala, i.e., Samvat 44 = Samvat 544, then it works out as A.D. 620. This does not contradict Husen Tsang's observation about Amsuvarma as "the late ruler."
Similarly, the Dun Huang Chronicle records that in A.D. 641 (the year of the arrival of the Chinese Princess Wen Shing Kon- jo), Yu- sna- kug--ti (Visnugupta) was killed (bkum), and Na- ri- ba- ba (Narendradeva) was installed the King (rgyal phor bchug) with the help of T'u-fan (Tibet) where he was in political asylum after the overthrow of his father, Udayadeva, by his own brother, Dhruvadeva. (See Bacot, Thomas, and Toussaint, 1940:12; also Spanien and Imeda, Paul Pelliot No 1288, 1979). We have Bhimarjunadeva-Visnugupta's inscription upto Samvat 65 Phalguna sukla 2. The first inscription of Narendradeva is dated Samvat 67 Pausa sukla 2. So any time between Phaguna sukla 3 to Samvat 65 asvina 30, Visnugupta must have been killed in the battle with Narenradeva. In A.D. 643, when the Chinese mission, headed by Li Y-Piao, visited Nepal, Narendradeva was already on the throne of Nepal. The date Samvat 65 is equivalent to A.D. 641. (565+76= 641). As the major source of political chronology, the limitations of ancient Nepalese inscriptions are that they do not ordinarily mention such important historical landmarks and political upheavals. Here the Tibetan and Chinese sources are a great relief to fill up the gaps in our knowledge of ancient Nepalese political and cultural history. It was Levi (1905-8) and Petech (1958/1984) who first published and analyzed these materials.
Where Did Sumatitantra Come From?
Wherever Sumatitantra may have been written, it certainly was not in Nepal by a Nepali astronomer. Notwithstanding the mid 7th century Chinese compliments for the Nepalese (saying that they were "clever in the art of the Calendar-maker or they understand fairly well calculation of destiny and researches in physical philosophy"), whenever the Sumatitrntra was compiled it certainly was not in "Manadeva Samvat "304.= A.D. 880 ! The Sumati texts were, in all likelihood, brought to Nepalamandala, from Simraungarh. So many texts on Indian sciences, particularly Astronomy, seem to have arrived from there. (See Vrhatsucipatram Vol. 1, which include, among others, Spujidvaja' Yavanajataka, in engraved devanagari on palmleaf, Varahamihira's Yogayatra in Gupta script on palmleaf, Somayaji Saryadeva's Commentary on sripati, palmleaf in engraved devanagari, Kalyanavarma's Saravali, palmleaf in engraved devanagari, the commentary on the Surya Siddhanta by Maithila-vajapeya-somayaji-sricandesvara acarya in Maithili script, Brahmagupta's Khandakhadyam, palmleaf in engraved Ancient Nagari). They may have been brought from Kamataka, South India where Indian Astronomy continued to thrive till very late in the day. The practice of naming the solar months as Mesa Masa, Vrsa Masa etc is prevalent in Kerala, Kamataka, Mithila, and Bengal. It is from that route that the Sumatitantra, Sumati Siddhanta, and Sumatikarana too must have entered the Nepal Valley. The arrival of the entourage of learned scholars from Smiraungarn, following the Muslim ravage of the city, may have been a principal factor for the transmission of these texts. As the Dowager Queen-regent, Devaladevi (1326-1366), the wife of Simarungarha's ruler Harasimhadeva, ruled for forty years almost single-handed in Bhaktapur, her maternal home town. Among the several aspects of the Maithil culture assimilated by the Nepal Valley thereafter, one may very well be the arrival of the Siddhanta Jyautisa of diverse schools.
There are a large number of astronomical texts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford donated as a bequest by Candra Shumshere Rana. This holding is at present being catalogued by Professor David Pingree of Brown University, USA. Part I of this catalogue came out from Oxford in 1983. There are some 320 manuscripts on Astronomy/Astrology (some of these are in palmleaf in Maithili/Bengali script) in the Asha Archives which have already been digitalized and scanned. So far not a single siddhanta text or a tantra text composed by a Nepali astronomer has been discovered. The Nepalese astrologers merely adapted some of the texts brought here to their own needs, at times producing their own Sarini or Karana, such as the one dated NS 582, in which the integers between Jyotiraj's karana and Sumurti (i.e., Sumati karana) are spelt out both in word numerals as well as in numerals. The more competent of them ventured to write commentaries, such as Balabhadra's on satananda's Bhasvati, Laksmipati's on Mahegvra's Vrttasatakam, Kulananda's on Varahamihira's Mihiraprakasa, and Devidatta Pant's on Makaranda.
The Relevance of Amsuvarma's Gokarna Inscription
A firm evidence for the lokakala is Amsuvarma's inscription from Baluwa village in Gokarna, dated Samvat 536 dvitiya pausa sukla pancami, found in March 1990 by Shyam Sander Rajvamsi, a promising epigraphist at the Department of Archaeology, HMG Coming as it does after Amsuvarma's inscriptions dated Samvat 29, Samvat 30, Samvat 31, Samvat 32, Samvat 34, and before his Taukhel inscription of Samvat 37, this inscription as well as sivadeva I's Jyabahala inscription dated Samvat 535 sravana sukla saptami are the most tangible evidence of the fact that there was only one epoch era in use in Licchavi Nepal. The "the so-called Manadeva era" Coy the way, this is Petech's phrase used in his thoroughly, revised Second Edition of Mediaeval History of Nepal, 1984:12) is only a iokakala (abridged) form of the Karttikadi current saka which has to be computed from Thursday, October 18, 76 A.D. The Gokarna inscription of Amsuvarma has finally sealed the fate of the late Naya Raj Pant's favourite theory that there was a powerful feudatory called "Manadeva II" because there is the so-called Manadeva Samvat. That might be why Dines Raj Pant wrote "the swan-song" of their theory in the following words:
The inscription from Gokarna Baluva also sheds some new light on the history of Licchavi period; new facts will be known about Amsuvanna.... However, this inscription sheds no light on the epoch eras in use in Licchavi period (Dines Raj Pant, 1997: 3)
D.R. Pant jumps to such a desperate conclusion because in Chatre's tables for the expired saka 535, there is an intercalation attested in Bhadra, or in Sewell's table for current saka 536, in asvina. Both should, according to Bharadvaja's precepts as enunciated in the adhimasaprakarana of the DNTSS result in Samvat 536 asadha intercalation. In the Amsuvarma's inscription from Gokarna, however, the intercalated month is Pausa. Unfortunately, neither the late N.R. Pant nor his disciples felt any need to verify, the texts of the adhimasaprakarana to find out how malay different versions are enunciated in Sumati Siddhanta. The fact that in the Gokarna inscription the intercalated month is Pausa, not asadha, does not, in any way, prove "mathematically" that there was a King named Manadeva II in Licchavi Nepal who founded the so-called "Manadeva Samvat" in saka 498.
This was a sad finale of N.R. Pant and his inmates' 57-year old dismal enterprise and intellectual somersaults to prove "mathematically" that there was a feudatory or King called "Manadeva II" because Sumatitantra (OR 3564, NS 467; NGMPP No-B20/23, NS 495), Harivamsa NGMPP No. E6959; E 338/8 E 339/1, NS 775), and, of course, Jatakajya (NGMPP No E 2051/16, NS 802) colophons mention a "Manadeva Samvat". Parodying what Engels once wrote about Hegelian dialectics, it seems the late N.R. Pant, an acarya in Siddhanta Jyautisa, made ancient Nepali history "walk on its head." (1)
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|Author:||Malla, Kamal P.|
|Publication:||Contributions to Nepalese Studies|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2005|
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