It may be widely regarded as the universal book of wisdom, but there’s one truth even its strongest proponents, the RSS, can’t seem to fathom: When was the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest books, composed?
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat attended a meeting organised by the Jiyo Gita Parivar and other Hindu religious groups last week that said the Gita was composed 5,151 years ago, but the history wing of the RSS pegs the age of the sacred text two years later at 5,153 years. Swaraj attended the closing session on Sunday and called for the Gita to be named the national book.
“We do not want to dispute them as they are a cultural body but if they consult us we will tell them that our calculations based on historical facts show the Gita to be 5,153 years old,” Bal Mukund, national organising secretary of the Itihas Sankalan Yojana, the history wing of the RSS, told HT.
How did the Itihas Sankalan Yojana arrive at that date? Simple, it based its calculation on the wheel of time.
“Kalyuga began on February 18, 3102 BC,” says Mukund. “The Mahabharat began 36 years before Kalyuga near the end of Dwapar, meaning 3139 BC. The sources we have used are the Mahabharat, the Brahmavarta Purana and others. These texts also show the position of the stars (grah-dashaa) and we have been able to locate the exact dates based on these.”
The Itihas Sankalan Yojana says it is a professional historical body. Its website says it was registered in 1994 -- “5,096 years” into Kalyuga -- though its work began in 1978. Kalyuga is the last of four yugas in the Hindu concept of cyclical time.
Other Hindu groups have a more bizarre explanation. Former Bajrang Dal convenor Prakash Sharma elaborates on the yugas. “One human year equals one day of the gods. One year of the gods is 360 human years. One cycle of four yugas – Sat, treta, Dwapar and Kalyuga – is 12000 years of the gods or 43,20,000 human years,” he says. “Satyuga is 17,28,000 years long, treta 12,96,000 years long, dwapar 8,64,000 years long and Kalyuga 4,32,000 years long.”
Veteran historian DN Jha, however, disagrees with both dates, saying the Gita cannot be dated in this manner. According to him, the Gita is an interpolation within the Mahabharat, which itself developed over centuries and while some historians place the Mahabharat at around 900 BC, it is difficult to place a precise date.
However, Sharma has a different take: “Why should Western chronology be followed to date the Gita? Our own systems have to be used to date our texts.”