Part IV : Who Ruled North India During Megasthenes’ Visit ? (contd)
According to Puranic evidence, there had expired 1500 odd years after Parikshit, when Mahapadmananda was coronated. Between Parikshit and the Nandas, there were 3 royal dynasties, namely the Brihadratha, Pradyota and Sisunaga families. The ten kings of the Sisunaga dynasty ruled for 360 years, beginning from 1994 BC and ending with 1634 BC At this time, an illegitimate son, Mahapadma-Nanda, of the last Sisunaga emperor, Mahanandi, ascended the throne of Magadha. The total regnal period of this Nanda dynasty was 100 years. After this with the assistance of Arya Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya ascended the throne of Magadha, in the year 1534 BC.
The Mauryas ruled for a total of 316 years, and were replaced by the Sungas. The Kanvas, who succeeded the Sungas, were themselves overthrown by one of the Andhra chiefs, which dynasty reigned for a period of 506 years. Then followed the reign of the Sri Guptas for a period of 245 years, a period also referred to as the (last of the) golden ages of Bharata. It was Samudragupta of the Sri Gupta dynasty, who was known as Asokaditya Priyadarshin. The inscriptions of Asoka belong to this Gupta emperor and not to the Asoka Maurya who came to power 218 years after the Buddha.
Narahari Achar of Memphis University has confirmed several of these dates, including that of the Buddha, using the Planetarium software that has its algorithms based on Celestial Mechanics. The method has established that the Puranic dates are correct based on the sky observations that were recorded by the ancients. This must be regarded as an independent verification since the principles of celestial mechanics were unknown to the ancient Indic.
The Hypotheses Of Sir William Jones
He made the following inferences from the work of Megasthenes, which were in retrospect colossal errors …
That the puranic chronology was completely erroneous.
That the Sandracottus mentioned in Megasthenes’ Indika was Chandragupta Maurya. He based this on two observations of Megasthenesa : one, that Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of two rivers which he wrongly read to be the Sone and the Ganges. There are two wrong inferences made in this statement : a) Megasthenes never mentions Pataliputra, but he uses the term Palibothra as the capital and b) Megasthenes mentions the two rivers as the Ganga and the Erannoboas, which was the Greek word for Yamuna. The equivalent Sanskrit name of Yamuna was Hiranyabahu, as prevailed in those times. While Megasthenes mentions the Sone elsewhere in his work, he clearly does not associate it with Palibothra. But Sir William deliberately chose to associate the capital Palibothra with the confluence of the Sone and the Ganga, and hence read it as Patliputra.
We quote the following passage of Sunil Bhattacharya from his paper :
“Even though Megasthenes had specifically mentioned Sone separately, yet Sir Jones conveniently stated that Megasthenes mentioned about Sone negligently. But there was none in those days to protest against such horrendous accusation hurled at Megasthenes. Present day well-informed historians know that there was indeed the city of Pratisthanpur at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, which was also mentioned by the great poet Kalidasa of the 8th century BCE, in his drama “Vikramorvashiya”. The city of Pratisthanpur was destroyed completely about one thousand years ago by a devastating fire and from that time onward that city has been known as Jhusi (or Jhunsi), a name derived from the Hindi word Jhulasna or “to burn.” Megasthenes stated that in those days all buildings / houses near rivers and the sea were made of wood and Palibuthra, being at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna, was no exception; and that the structures with brick and clay were built only in places far away from the rivers and the sea. Thus it appears possible that the fire destroyed all the traces of the ancient wooden structures, if any of these at all survived till the time of the devastating fire. Jhusi is located towards the east of Allahabad, just across the river Ganga. Archaeologists have found grains and other artifacts in the mounds of Jhusi, which dates back to before the 4th century BCE. The Asoka pillar found in Jhusi had inscriptions of Samudragupta and it was shifted to the Allahabad Fort and the emperor Jahangir also made his inscription on it. The Asoka inscription on it was of Samudragupta, after he had converted to Buddhism and had assumed the name of Asokaditya. All the Gupta kings had their second names ending in “-aditya”. “
After studying the fragments of Megasthenes’ Indika in detail, Pandit Bhagavad Datta offers another similar plausible explanation, and concludes : “Yamuna was flowing thru Palimbothra, known in ancient times as Paribhadra, the capital of the Prassi kingdom. Palimbothra was 200 miles from Prayag on the way to Mathura. The Kshatriyas were known as Paribhadrakas or Prabhadrakas. Their King was Chandraketu. The capital city of Paribhadra was near Sindhu Pulinda, which is in Madhya desa and is today known as Kali-Sindha. The Karusha reservoir was between Sindhu Pulinda and Prayag.”
However, after Sir William’s announcement, notwithstanding the aforesaid facts, Max Mueller anointed the identification of Sandracottus with Chandragupta Maurya and proceeded to declare Alexander’s invasion, and the subsequent visit of Megasthenes, as the sheet anchor of Indian History, neither of which events are of great significance in Indian history.
Troyer did not agree with this conclusion and noted this fact in the introduction to his translation of Rajatarangini of Kalhana. He even communicated his views to Prof. Max Mueller in a letter but did not receive a reply. Max Mueller ignored the objections of Troyer and Colebrook, and hailed the discovery and Sir Jones’ inferences as authentic !
What Does Megasthenes Say About The Kings Who Ruled
He calls Sandracottus the king of the Prassi and he mentions the names of Xandramus as predecessor and Sandrocyptus as successor to Sandracottus. There is absolutely no resemblance in these names to Bindusara (the successor to Chandragupta Maurya) and Mahapadma Nanda, the predecessor.
He makes absolutely no mention of Chanakya or Vishnugupta, the Acharya who helped Chandragupta ascend the throne.
He makes no mention of the widespread presence of the Baudhik or Sramana tradition during the time of the Maurya empire.
He claims the capital is Palimbothra or Palibothra, and that the city exists near the confluence of the Ganga and the Eranaboas (Hiranyabahu). But the Puranas are clear that all the 8 dynasties after the Mahabharata war had their capital at Girivraja (Rajagriha), located in the foothills of the Himalayas. There is no mention of Pataliputra in the Puranas. So, the assumption made by Sir William that Palimbothra is Pataliputra has no basis in fact and is not attested by any piece of evidence. If the Greeks could pronounce the first P in (Patali) they could certainly have pronounced the second p in Putra, instead of bastardising it as Palimbothra. Granted the Greeks were incapable of pronouncing any Indian names, but there is no reason why they should not be consistent in their phonetics.
The empire of Chandragupta was known as Magadha Empire. It had a long history even at the time of Chandragupta Maurya. In Indian literature, this powerful empire is amply described by its name but the same is absent in Greek accounts. It is difficult to understand as to why Megasthenes did not use this name “Magadha” and instead used the word Prassi, which has no equivalent or counterpart in Indian accounts.
The Colossal Error In Indian Historiography
This is indeed a remarkable tale even when viewed from the different perspectives of the Indic and the Occidental. That a person with such a scant knowledge of Sanskrit would have the audacity to rewrite the entire history of the Indian Civilization, based merely on scraps and remnants of a travelogue, written by an individual who is not even highly regarded by more revered Greek historians, is astonishing and bespeaks a degree of hubris that matches the grandeur of the Himalayas. In fairness to Sir William, it must be said that he himself may be utterly surprised at the seriousness with which his speculations were received and subsequently anointed by scholars at home. This is in addition to the great weight that is given to Greek historians’ writing about India, despite their atrocious bastardisation of Sanskrit terms.
And even if Sir William believed he had a good cause to stand by, what of the Indics of the modern era ? Have the Indics taken leave of their senses ? Surely such a sloppy, baseless conjecture would be reason enough to discredit the thesis. The Indics should have cringed when they were told that the undecipherable scrap of paper left of “Indika” was more credible than the Puranas written in a language with very little ambiguity; but such are the depths to which the Indic has sunk. He is apt to believe the words of a conqueror, who is not qualified to tell the story with any degree of accuracy and who is himself qualifying his proposal as something of a speculation, than the words of the great Rishis of yore, who wrote in the precise language of Sanskrit.
There is a palpable sense of frustration when we see that more than 50 years after Independence we still teach the chronology that was erroneously derived from the torn fragments of Indika.
… to be continued
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