Force-fitting of evidence in the making of Indian History
In the previous article, “Flawed Sheet Anchors of Indian History”, I discussed the implications of shifting the reign of the Imperial Guptas from fourth to second century BCE to fourth to sixth century CE. Even though we do not have a continuous written record of ancient Indian history, the historical characters had a chronological order that would be garbled by such a shift. If we consider the bits and pieces of information available to us from archaeological, epigraphical, literary, and numismatic sources as parts of a giant chronological puzzle, then historians are bound to force-fit the puzzle pieces into places where they don’t belong.
The biggest example of this force-fitting is in regard to the tradition related to the Emperor Vikramāditya. According to Indian tradition, Emperor Vikramāditya was the greatest hero of ancient India. He had crushed the Śakas, who had dared to invade India. He was a paragon of virtue, his generosity was legendary, and he was a great patron of the arts. There were nine gems, people with extraordinary skills in their field, in his court. Two of these gems were Varāhamihira, astronomer par excellence, and Kālidāsa, poet par excellence. The Vikrama era, still in use in India, was instituted to commemorate the death of Emperor Vikramāditya in 57 BCE. The love and respect that Emperor Vikramāditya commanded from Indians grew over time and he became the hero of a number of fables, as described in the Vetālapañchaviṃśati (popularly known as Vetāla Pachīsī), Siṃhāsana-dwātṛiṃśikā (popularly known as Siṃhāsana Battīsī), and Śuka-saptaśatī (popularly known as the story of a parrot and a mynah).
However, modern history denies the very existence of Emperor Vikramāditya in 57 BCE. Varāhamihira has been placed in early sixth century CE based on the misinterpretation of the Śaka era. While Varāhamihira counted his time from the Cyrus Śaka era beginning in 550 BCE (as his forefathers had migrated to India from Persia in the wake of the devastation brought to Persia by Alexander), historians have simply refused to accept the existence of a Śaka era older than the Śalivāhana Śaka era beginning in 78 CE. Kālidāsa has been made the court poet of Chandragupta II Vikramāditya, who ruled between 376-415 CE. In the astrological text, Jyotirvidābharaṇa, supposedly written by Kālidāsa, the time of writing of this text is given as 3068 Kali, which is 34/33 BCE. This makes Kālidāsa a junior contemporary of Emperor Vikramāditya. Since this piece of evidence does not fit into the narrative created by modern historians, they have conveniently labeled Jyotirvidābharaṇa as a forgery. They have yet to explain why their Vikramāditya should be placed in the fourth-fifth century CE, while the Vikrama era counts its beginning from 57 BCE. Since they need to have someone in 57 BCE to account for the Vikrama era, they have forced on us an itsy-bitsy ruler named Azes as the founder of the Vikrama era :
“Azes (Aya in Kharosthi) was another powerful Śaka ruler in the Northwest who initiated a dynastic era beginning in 58/57 B.C., which later became identified with the so-called Vikrama era still used in South Asia.”
Ironically, this petty ruler Azes was a Śaka ruler, whereas, according to Indian tradition, Emperor Vikramāditya, is known as Śakāri – the enemy of the Śakas! We might as well ask our modern historians why the era of Azes is not called the Azes era. Why would it be called the Vikrama era? This strange and inexplicable sleight of hand by historians has to be challenged and shown for it is: an untenable act of a deliberate manipulation of historical records. According to recent research by Falk and Bennet , the Azes era did not start in 57 BCE. This has created a strange situation for modern historians, as they have to come up with another ruler now to whom they can attribute the establishment of the Vikrama era.
Another major example of the force-fitting of evidence is that of the dating of Gautama Buddha. According to the Hindu Purāṇas, Gautama Buddha lived during the 19th century BCE as . This is based on the assumption by the writers of the Purāṇas that Kaliyuga started in 3102 BCE. When colonial era historians started to piece together the history of India, they considered the date of birth of Buddha to be 1027 BCE as reported by Sir William Jones in 1788 CE . This date was based on Chinese sources. The date of birth of Buddha was revised subsequent to the identification of the Indian king Sandrokottos from Greek accounts with Chandragupta Maurya by Sir William Jones in 1793 CE . Most of the modern historians place the birth of Buddha in the sixth century BCE (sometime between 567-563 BCE) and his death in the fifth century BCE (sometime between 487-483 BCE). Since Indian and Chinese dates are too early, modern historians have argued that Ceylonese/Sri Lankan dates are more reliable. It goes against common sense that the place farthest from the birthplace of Buddha would have preserved the most authentic date of his birth! The fact is that the Ceylonese texts “Dīpavaṃśa” and “Mahāvaṃśa” were written in the fourth century and fifth to sixth century respectively. These texts, in turn, are based on texts that are no longer available. There is simply no reason for Ceylonese texts to be more reliable than Indian, Chinese, and Nepalese texts.
Modern historians have calculated the date of the Buddha from the date of Aśoka Maurya. Since the date of coronation of Aśoka Maurya was fixed at ~268 BCE, based on his identification with Devānāmpriya Priyadarśī, historians searched for texts for the date of the Buddha that would be consistent with the date of Aśoka’s coronation. They found in Ceylonese texts that coronation of Piyadassi took place 218 years after the death of the Buddha. Working backwards, historians calculated the date of the death of Buddha at ~486 BCE and his birth 80 years earlier at ~566 BCE. However, the same Ceylonese texts that mention 218 years between the death of Buddha and coronation of Piyadassi also say that the Buddha died in 544/543 BCE. If we take that date as reliable, then the coronation of Aśoka Maurya took place 218 years later in 326/325 BCE, which is around the time of the invasion of India by Alexander. This will make Aśoka Maurya the contemporary of Alexander instead of his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya. So we are being told by historians that Ceylonese texts are the most reliable regarding the dating of Gautama Buddha while these texts give the dates of Buddha’s life and death that are completely irreconcilable.
Moving Gautama Buddha from the 12th century BCE to the sixth century BCE has resulted in a cascading effect that has resulted in the denial of many historical figures their rightful place in history. The most prominent name among these luminaries is Ādi Śankarāchārya, who was one of the greatest intellectuals India has produced. As we know, he was the greatest proponent of the Advaita Vedānta philosophy. According to traditional sources, Ādi Śankarāchārya lived between 509-477 BCE. However, according to modern historians, Ādi Śankarāchārya lived between 788-820 CE. This is based on Ādi Śankarāchārya quoting Buddhist logician Dharmakīrtti verbatim. The real reason the traditional date is not acceptable to modern historians is that Ādi Śankarāchārya could not be the contemporary of Gautama Buddha. If the time of Buddha was several centuries before the currently accepted date, then the objection to the traditional date of Ādi Śankarāchārya can be worked out.
At this point, it will be reasonable to ask if the Imperial Guptas should be placed at a time when the Mauryas were said to be ruling, then who ruled at the time when the Imperial Guptas were said to be ruling? The Imperial Guptas have been force-fitted in their current place in history by shifting the Kuṣāṇas backward in time, and shifting the Vallabhī and Gurjara dynasties forward in time. History books since the colonial times have taught that the Kuṣāṇa emperor Kaniṣka-I was the founder of the Śalivāhana Śaka era, which started in 78 CE. However, Kaniṣka was a Kuṣāṇa and not a Śaka. Modern historians have justified this by saying that the term Śaka was used by Indians for any foreigner. However, Professor Harry Falk has recently shown that according to the text Yavanajātaka by Sphujidhvaja, the Kuṣāṇa era started 149 years after the Śaka era, i.e. in 227 CE . This means that currently the Kuṣāṇas occupy a place 149 years before their actual time.
The time of the Gurjaras is currently calculated based on the assumption that they were using Kalchuri/Chedi era with a starting date of ~248 CE. However, there is documentary evidence of the existence of three inscriptions of the Gurjaras in which the Śaka era has been used. These inscriptions occur on three plates identified as Bagumrā, Ilāo, and Umetā plates by Bühler in a paper written in 1888 CE . These inscriptions were declared forgeries by colonial era historians and now their existence itself has been erased. The two parts of Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Volume 4 [8-9] are supposed to list and present all inscriptions belonging to Early Gurjara rulers, whether considered genuine or forged, but the inscriptions of Bagumrā, Ilāo and Umetā plates are not found in this volume. When we take into account the evidence of Bagumrā, Ilāo and Umetā plates, we find that Gurjara rulers are shifted forward from their actual time by about 170 years.
The time of Vallabhī rulers is currently calculated based on the assumption that they were using the Vallabhī era with a starting date of 319 CE. The Alina copper plate inscription of Śilāditya VII was written in the year 447, which places the last Vallabhī ruler Śilāditya VII in 766 CE using the Vallabhī era . According to numerous Rajput genealogies, the great Bappa Rawal was a direct descendant of Śilāditya VII and was separated from him by eight generations. This will make the great Bappa Rawal roughly 200 years posterior to Śilāditya VII. Showing scant regard to native accounts, current historians place Śilāditya VII chronologically after Bappa Rawal. This has completely muddied the well-preserved traditions of Mewar and the genealogies maintained by the Rajputs. When we date Vallabhī rulers using the Śaka era, we find that they have been shifted forward from their actual time by about 240 years. Dating the Vallabhī and Gurjara rulers using the Śaka era not only does justice to the Rajput traditions maintained under extremely trying conditions, but also provides the background for the epic battle of Korūr, a battle that has been currently erased from the history books.
- Srinivasan, D. M. (2007). On the Cusp of an Era. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, page 71.
- Falk, H. and Bennett, C. (2009). Macedonian Intercalary Months and the Era of Azes. Acta Orientalia, Vol. 70, pages 197-216.
- Venkatachelam, K. (1956). Age of Buddha, Milinda & Amtiyoka and Yugapurana. Ghandhinagara/Vijayawada, India: Bharata Charitra Bhaskara, page 17.
- Jones, W. (1807 reprint). On the Chronology of the Hindus. Asiatick Researches or Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal, Vol. 2, pages 111-147. (Article was written in January 1788.)
- Jones, W. (1793). The Tenth Anniversary Discourse. Asiatick Researches or Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal, Vol. 4, pages xii-xiv.
- Falk, H. (2001). The yuga of Sphujiddhvaja and the era of the Kuṣāṇas. Silk Road Art and Archaeology, Vol. 7, pages 121-136.
- Bühler, G. (1888). Gurjara Inscriptions, No. III: A New Grant of Dadda II or Prasantaraga. The Indian Antiquary, Vol. 17: pages 183-201.
- Mirashi, V.V. (editor). (1955a). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. IV: Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi era. Part 1. New Delhi, India: Archaeological Survey of India.
- Mirashi, V.V. (editor). (1955b). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. IV: Inscriptions of the Kalachuri-Chedi era. Part 2. New Delhi, India: Archaeological Survey of India.
- Fleet, J. F. (1888). Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. III: Inscriptions of the Early Guptas. Calcutta, India: Government of India, Central Publications Branch, pages 171-191.
Disclaimer: The facts and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. IndiaFacts does not assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article.