But backtracking into the past can be a sloppy misadventure if you don’t get your calculations right. So Bansal rests his claims on two of his software packages—the Leo Gold and the Palm computer programmes. They can simulate any planetary configuration that has occurred or could occur in time.
All they need is a date. And July 21, 3228 bc, according to Bansal, satisfies every condition described during Krishna’s birth. Krishna was born in the Rohini nakshatra, in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada, on the 8th day of the waning moon at midnight. Bansal says this was enough information for him to nail the date, working backwards from Krishna’s death, which he says occurred at 2 pm on February 18, 3102 bc.
His entire case rests on the accuracy of this date, however. Bansal quotes extensively from the Shrimad Bhagwat and the Shri Vishnu Puranas, old Hindu calendars and the Mahabharata to illuminate the clues he chose to follow. "A shloka in the 38th chapter of the Shri Vishnu Puran, says that Kaliyuga started on the day Krishna died." He unearths another shloka in the Shrimad Bhagwat Purana (part 11, chapter 6) where Brahma himself speaks to Krishna about how old he is. "Brahma says that 125 years have passed since Krishna’s birth; this is just before Krishna plans his death."
Though not empirically verifiable, the advent of Kaliyuga is traditionally taken to be 3102 bc, because all our panchangas or astrological journals maintain that 5,100 years of Kaliyuga had passed before 1999 AD. The belief is supported by mathematician Aryabhatta’s astronomy treatise Aryabhattiya, the Surya Siddhanta, an astronomical text that dates back to 400 AD, and a 5th century inscription from a temple in Aihole.
Deleting 125 years from the date, Bansal figured Krishna was born either in 3327 or 3228 bc. The rest he left up to his software, merely feeding in the planetary configuration that Krishna was supposedly born under, to generate the row of figures that conforms to the epochal moment.
Would astrology have thrown any light on what such an individual may have been like? Outlook asked Bansal to create a birth chart based on the date. His computer churns out 15 pages sectioned under tantalising headings like Love & Romance, Appearance, Personality, and Journeys. With Saturn in his seventh house, he would have been fated to court many women—enter Radha, the gopis and later his 16,108 wives. But since the seventh house was also under the sign of Scorpio, which guarantees a joyful marital life, he’d also have had the power to keep them happy despite having to divide his attentions among them.
An attractive appearance and personality would have come from the exalted moon under the sign of Taurus. Jupiter and the exalted Mercury in the fifth house will have conferred intelligence and oratory skills. Fame and power would have come from Ketu in the 9th house, though it would also have forced him to lead a life away from his birthplace.
Certainly stray statements do conform eerily to Krishna’s attributed qualities. "Endowed with a glowing complexion, you have bright eyes and an enchanting smile." Under personality comes—"You have great fancy for music, moonlight and money". Even the Bhagwad Gita seems to have its origin in his birth chart; it predicts that a person born under this astral spread would have been a great believer in karma who would advise others about karma and noble deeds.
But there are a few adverse planetary configurations to contend with. The chart describes a life of continuous strife, peppered with battles and wars because Rahu, Mars and Venus are in the third house. Due to the location of Jupiter in Leo, he would also have been destined to be estranged from his mother—or mothers in his case.
With plans to announce the results of his research at the Somnath temple during this year’s Janmashtami festival for Krishna’s birthday, Bansal says that even the temple’s priests concur with his findings. "Another pandit, Shri Gyananda Saraswati in Benaras, who will come to the celebration in Somnath, has also come up with the same dates."
At peace with his research, Bansal prefers to turn a blind eye to the long, long line of astrologers, godmen, NASA scientists, mathematicians and writers stretching all the way back to Aryabhatta who have worked on the same thing. They all quote the same scriptures, taking into account some or all of the astral happenings recorded in great detail, especially the ones during the calamitous time of the Mahabharata war, when Krishna was said to have been 90 years old. These include rare astronomical happenings like the solar and lunar eclipse that occurred consecutively in the space of a month just before the war, a fortnight that lasted only for 13 days instead of 15 when the moon was waning, and a comet that burned through the skies. Also, the planetary positions recorded during the Mahabharata war were roughly replicated 36 years later, when Krishna died.
Most scholars prefer to concentrate on the Mahabharata war where a significant cluster of astronomical events occurred, before zooming onto their own set of dates that binds down the life of the eighth avatar of Vishnu in a specific time-frame. But the dates, while drawn from the same source, strain in opposite directions.
At a colloquium organised by the Mythic Society in Bangalore in January last year, dates as wide as 1478 bc to 3067 bc were proposed. Contributors included S. Balakrishna (from NASA, US), using Lodestar Pro software, who proposed 2559 bc as the start of the war. Prof R.N. Iyengar (from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore) brought the event closer historically, suggesting the date 1478 bc, while B.N. Narahari Achar (Department of Physics, University of Memphis, US) after "critically examining" the astronomical events in the Mahabharata pointed to 3067 bc.
Authors like P.V. Vartak push back the date of the Mahabharata much further, to 5561 bc. Swami Prakashanand Saraswati, in his book, The True History and the Religion of India, comes up with the same dates as Bansal does.
Considering that there are 150 astronomical references provided about the characters and events in the Mahabharata in one lakh-odd shlokas, there is little consensus on what information is worth concentrating on. In addition, there is reason to believe that our scriptures "grew" over time, incorporating events of every period. So there is precious little we can attribute collectively to one age. Many scholars in fact wonder if all the references to Krishna in the scriptures refer to one person or whether the Krishna of Vrindavan and the Krishna of the Mahabharata are two different people. But then searching for that mythical date wouldn’t be half as engaging if the process weren’t so complicated. Any wonder that even though the gods have destinies, they prefer we view them through fogged glasses?