Antiquity and Continuity ... (Part 5)

           Antiquity and Continuity of Indian History : Part 5
                (From Swayambhuva Manu to Gupta Dynasty)

                       by Dr. Prasad Gokhale

12. Chandragupta, the Sandrocottus
13. Ashoka Priyadarshi
14. Gautam Buddha
15. Mahaveer Jain
16. Aadi Shankara

12. Chandragupta, the Sandrocottus

Modern history tends to put Buddha around 500 B.C. This date
apparently comes from the assumption that Chandragupta Maurya,
Sandrocottus of the Greek records, was the contemporary of
Alexander, who is known to invade India in 325 B.C. However, the
Greek chronicles are strangely silent on the names of Chanakya
(Chandragupta's Guru) who managed to install the Maurya on the
Magadha throne, Bindusar (his son) and even Ashoka (his grandson)
whose empire extended far wider than that of Chandragupta. The
empire of Chandragupta, also known as the Magadha empire, was very
powerful and had a long history but is nowhere mentioned by the
Greeks. Even Buddha bhikkus and the flourishing religion of the
Buddha are not mentioned in their literature. This imbroglio has
been challenged by various scholars and is precisely summarized by
K. Rajaram (in "A Peep into the Past History, Seminar Papers",
Madras, 1982), "There are difficulties in calculating the date of
the coronation of Asoka .. In the first instance, the very
identification of Sandrokotus with Chandragupta Maurya is
questioned. In the second one, the date of the death of the Buddha
has not been fixed accurately and therefore, the date of Asoka
based on it cannot be accurate." Indeed, the Sandrocottus of the
Greeks was not a Maurya.

The Greek records mention Xandramas and Sandrocyptus as the kings
immediately before and after Sandrocottus. These names in any way
are not phonetically similar to Mahapadma Nanda and Bindusar, who
were the predecessor and successor of Chandragupta Maurya,
respectively. However, if Sandrocottus refers to Chandragupta
"Gupta", the Xandramas reckons to be his predecessor Chandrashree
alias Chandramas and Sandrocyptus to be Samudragupta. The phonetic
similarity becomes quite apparent and also, with the assistance of
other evidence, confirms the identity of Sandrocottus to
Chandragupta Gupta. 

In the Puranic and other literature, there is no allusion anywhere
to an invasion or inroad into India by foreign peoples upto the
time of Andhra kings; and the only person who bore the name similar
to Sandrocottus of the Greeks, and who flourished at the time of
Alexander, was Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty, who established
a mighty empire on the ruins of the already decayed Andhra dynasty
and existing 2811 years after the Mahabharat War, i.e.,
corresponding to 328 B.C. His date is currently placed in the
fourth century A.D., which obviously does not stand. It is also
interesting to note that the accounts in the life of Sandrokotus of
the Greeks, and the political and social conditions in India at
that time, match to those of in the era Chandragupta Gupta. With
this observation, it is therefore that the Greek and Puranic
accounts unanimously agree on the issue of the identity
Chandragupta Gupta and Sandrocotus.

The ten kings of Shishunaga dynasty ruled for 360 years, beginning
from 1994 B.C. and ending with 1634 B.C. At this time, an
illegitimate son, Mahapadma-Nanda, of the last Shishunaga emperor,
Mahanandi, came to the throne of Magadha. The total regnal period
of this Nanda dynasty was 100 years. After this, with the
assistance of Arya Chaanakya, Chandragupta Maurya ascended the
throne of Magadha, and that is in year 1534 B.C. This date can be
arrived and confirmed using many independent accounts.

13. Ashoka Priyadarshi 

This misplaced identification of this Sandrocottus with
Chandragupta Maurya, which also is considered to be the "sheet
anchor" of Indian chronology, has led to further chronological
fallacies in the dating of Ashoka Maurya, the grandson of Maurya-
Chandragupta. This Ashoka supposedly became a Buddhist as is
confirmed from a variety of inscriptions and rock edicts found. It
is interesting to note that these edicts are summoned in the name
of one "Devanam Priyadarshi Raja" and the name Maurya Ashoka is
nowhere mentioned. This identification of "priyadarshin" with
Maurya Ashoka was entirely based upon Ceylonese Buddhist
chronicles. However, as admitted by Wheeler and V.A. Smith,
undeserved credit is given to ceylonese records which have been
nothing but a hinderance of ancient Indian history. Also, the
Buddhist histories recorded centuries later create a good deal of
confusion in the genealogies and family of Ashoka. It is therefore
very difficult to get a confirmed statement from these annals.

The names of kings found on Ashokan inscriptions namely, Amtiyoka,
Tulamaya, etc. are ascribed to distant lands (Syria, Egypt, etc.).
It is known that the kings mentioned bordered Ashoka's own lands.
These alien kings are definitely not what they are construed to be.
According to Agarwal, "In the Piyadassi inscriptions, the five
names which are believed to the of the Greek kings are of the Jana-
rajyas of the very country beyond the Indus." (Age of Bharata War,
Delhi, 1979). Amtiyoka was a Bharatiya prince ruling Afghanistan
around 1475 B.C., which then appears to be the approximate date of
Priyadarshi Ashoka: the grandson of Maurya Chandragupta. It should
also be noted that there is also no evidence of the time when these
edicts were inscribed.

Maurya Ashoka is known be respectful and supportive of Brahmana and 
Shramana, equally alike and favoured none, as known from the Girnar
rock edicts. Also, he is not recorded to have become a follower of
Buddha, and nowhere it appears that he erected great stupas and
vihar. Then the question of the Ashoka who had embraced Buddha's
path arises. Kalhan's Rajatarangini (1.101-102) provides details of
one Ashoka of the Kashmiri Gonanda dynasty who is said to have
freed himself from sins by embracing the faith of Gotama Buddha and
by constructing numerous Vihar and Stupa and by building the town
Shrinagari with its 96 lakhs of houses resplendent with wealth. He
was a peaceful ruler who had lost all his land and wealth because
of his innate pacifism. This description of Gonandiya Ashoka
matches with one of the inscriptional Ashoka. 

However, according to Hultzsuch opinion, the major rock and pillar
edicts differ in tone and message from those of the 8 minor rock
inscriptions. Strangely enough, all 26 inscriptions appear to be
carved out during the same period. If studied and analyzed
carefully, a compelling inference needs to be drawn. The edicts
with the proclamations in morality belong to Maurya Ashoka (1482-
1446 B.C.) and those on the conversion of Buddhism are those of
Gonanada Ashoka (1448-1400 B.C.).

Now that the correct identifications of Sandrocottus of the Greeks
and Ashoka of the inscriptions are determined, it is therefore
possible to bring about the datelines of Lord Buddha's life.

14. Gautam Buddha

Modern history tends to inform readers that Gautama was born around
550 B.C. and died after about 80 years. Kota Venkatachalam, writes
in his book "The Age of Buddha, Milinda and King Amtiyoka and Yuga
Purana" that, "Due to his wrong identification of Maurya
Chandragupta as the contemporary of Alexander, the history of
Bharat has been shifted by 12 centuries (and) it is the
Chandragupta of the Gupta dynasty who belongs to 327-320 B.C."
Thus, due to the confusion in pinpointing properly the "sheet
anchor" of Indian history, Lord Buddha's antiquity has been
underestimated by about 1200 years. Now that Chandragupta Maurya
reigned in 1550 B.C. (instead of 325 B.C.), the time when the
latter flourished can be calculation to be around 1850 B.C.
(instead of 550 B.C.).

All the Puranas and another historical compilation titled Kaliyug-
rajavruttanta, profess to describe the Magadha royal dynasties
starting from the Bruhadratha to the Andhra lineages, after which
the Magadha empire disintegrated. It is known from the Bhagavad
Puraan that Buddha was 23rd in the Ikshwaku lineage. However, the
list of Ikshwaku kings are not available. In order to determine the
date of Siddharta (Buddha), it is necessary to find the
contemporary kings in the Magadha genealogy. According to different
accounts, the Buddha was a contemporary of Kshemajita, Bindusar and
Ajatashatru, the 31st-33rd kings of the Shishunaga dynasty. The
Buddha was 72 years old when the coronation of Ajatashatru took
place, that is in 1814 B.C. Going backwards, the date of Buddha's
birth becomes 1887 B.C. Since he lived for 80 years, the Buddha
must have left the body in 1807 B.C.

This date can also be confirmed by purely referring to astronomical
calculations, and what is correctly and exactly obtained as the
date for Buddha's nirvana is 27-3-1807 (Sathe, Age of Buddha). This
date also explains the possibility of the existence of Buddhism in
the second millennium B.C., as was rejected earlier. The
astronomical computations of the indologist-astronomer Swami
Sakhyananda suggests that the Buddha belonged to the Kruttika
period, i.e., in between 2621-1661 B.C. In his book "Chronology of
Ancient Bharat" (Part4.Chap2), Prof. K.Srinivasaraghavan states the
approximate time of Buddha to be 2259 years after the Bharata War
(3138 B.C.). which turns out to be 1880 B.C.

Thyagaraja Aiyer in his book "Indian Architecture" observes," Here
lies Indian Sramanacharya from Bodh Gaya, a Shakya monk taken to
Greece by his Greek pupils and the tomb marks his death about 1000
B.C." If the Buddhist monk went to Greece in 1000 B.C., then the
Buddha must have lived at least a few centuries earlier. Somayajulu
places Chandragupta Maurya in the 14th century B.C (ref: Dates in
Ancient History of India). This puts the Buddha three centuries
earlier, i.e., in the 17th century B.C. A brief chronology of the
events in Buddha's life:Born in 1887 B.C., Renunciation in 1858
B.C., Penance during 1858-52 B.C and Death in 1807 B.C.

There are various other calculations and evidences which point to
the 1800 B.C. date. However, it is believed that, at least for this
article, the presentation made above suffices to convince and
ascertain the date of Buddha. After determining these dates, the
time location of yet another savant of ancient India, Mahaveer,
becomes easy.

15. Mahaveer Jain

The chronological frame of the last theerthankar of the Jainas is
a matter of debate among scholars since only a few arbitrary
references are available. The Jaina tradition holds that Mahaveer
left this world 15 years after the death of Bhagawan Buddha (1807
B.C.), i.e., in 1792 B.C., and since Mahaveer lived for a span of
72 years, he must have been born in 1864 B.C. The Pauranic and
other traditions also give dates that are somewhat nearer to the
above date. The Buddha and Jaina Mahaveer were, perhaps, the last
of the teerthankaar's of their respective sects. Indeed, there is
much confusion among their traditional accounts on the dating of
all these earlier prophets and any convincing datelines could not
be asserted. 

Incidently, the Buddha and Jaina, the great Kashtriyas, have been
all along considered to be separate religions contradicting in
thought and character from the main body of Vedic or Hindu
philosophies. This has led to an historical analysis proposing a
confrontation, in words as well as on the battle-field, between the
relevant sects and Vedic peoples. However, this is totally
incorrect. Buddha never found any new religion nor his teachings,
in the form of arya-ashtangamarga or the eight-fold path, were in
antithesis to the Hindu thought. What Buddha or Mahaveer preached
was existent for ages before their time. They attempted to stop the
killing of animals being wantonly sacrificed in rituals. Buddha was
born a Hindu, lived as a Hindu and left the mortal coil as a Hindu.
The extent of the Vedic culture is broad enough to accept, maintain 
and cultivate on itself different thought and modes of worship.

Buddhism had reached a very decadent stage in the next 1000 years,
that is, during the time when Aadi Shankara was born. Shankara
refers to the Buddhist thought in his commentaries of the Brahma
Sootra only to refute them by elaborate arguments. The date of
Shankara, as per the current chronology, is maintained to be 788-
820 A.D. However, since the "sheet-anchor" is displaced backwards
by about 12 centuries, it is apparent that the date of Shankara
would be recalculated to be around 600 B.C.

16. Aadi Shankara

The current date of Shankara, i.e, 788-820 A.D. was first derived
from a manuscript found at Belgaum. This date also was agreed with
the internal evidence evinced from the works of Shankara himself.
However, as years rolled on, a variety of dates were calculated.
The verse found in the manuscript of Belgaum also appears in the
treatise Shankara Digvijaya Sara (SDS), a summary of Brihat Shakara
Vijaya (BSV), written by Sadananda. Although, BSV gives a date of
509 B.C., SDS mentions a date of 788 A.D. It is therefore clear
that Sadananda gives Shankara's date relying on some other source.
Since the verse in both the Belgaum manuscript and SDS appears to
come from the same source, which itself could be unreliable. Also,
the date of 788 A.D. is in conflict with traditional dates, that
is, those held by the Mathas found by Shankara himself. However,
the 788 A.D. dateline was accepted, since all traditional accounts
of Indian history, including the Puraan, were conveniently
considered to be worthless of any historical content, and were

Numerous compositions with the title "Shankara Vijaya" describing
the exploits of Shri Shankara are available, five of which confirm
one date, four do not mention any date at all and only one gives
the date of 788 A.D.(Antarkar's thesis, BORI). One written by
Chitsukhacharya, a childhood companion of Shankara from the age of
5, can be considered to be authorative. M.R.Bodas in his
"Shankaracharya aani tyancha sampradaaya" published in 1923 gives
the date of Chitsukhacharya as 514-416 B.C. As he was 5 years elder
to Shankara, the latter's date comes to be (514 - 5) 509 B.C.
Chitsukhacharya's "Brihat Shankara Vijaya" states that Shankara was
born Vaishakha Shukla Panchami in the constellation and lagna of
Dhanu, in the year Nandana of 2593 Kali, i.e, (3102 - 2593) in 509
B.C. This date was also calculated by Prof. Upadhya in his book
"Sri Shankaracharya". This tallies with the dates assigned and
maintained in the lists of Aacharyas maintained in the
establishments at Dwaraka (490 B.C.) , Jyotirmath (485 B.C.), Puri
(484 B.C.) and Sringeri (483 B.C).

On the basis of "Shankara Satpatha", the late Narayana Shastri of
Madras wrote a book titled "Acharya Kaala" in which the date 509
B.C. has been derived to be Shankara's date of birth. The Keraliya
Shankara Vijaya also provides a verse with astronomical details of
Shankara's birth. This verse also verifies the unmistakable 509
B.C. dateline. A chronogram relating to Aadi Shankara and appearing
in Prachina Shankara Vijaya is quoted by Atma Bodha gives the 509
B.C. date. This chronogram is supported and corroborated by Jina
Vijaya, a Jain scripture, even though it is outspokenly hostile to
Shankara. Jina Vijaya gives the date of Kumarila Bhatta (557 B.C.),
who was senior contemporary to Shankara by 48 years.

It is stated in the Nepal Rajavamshavali that "Aadi Shankara came
from the South and destroyed the Buddha faith" and this occurred
during the reign of Vrishadeva Varma (Kali 2615 to 2654), i.e.,
during 487 B.C. to 448 B.C. (Chronology of Nepal History,
K.Venkatachalam). The date of Vrishadeva is again confirmed
relating Harsha Shaka (457 B.C.) from Alberuni's accounts. In his
"Short History of Kashmir", Pt. Gavshalal writes, "The 70th ruler
in the list of Kashmir Kings, Gopaditya (417-357 B.C.) founded
agraharas and built temples of Jyeteshwara and Shankaracharya".
That Shankara must have visited Kashmir before 417 B.C. then
becomes quite obvious.

The observations and references stated above sufficiently and
unmistakably prove that Aadi Shankara was born in 509 B.C. His
life-span of 32 years was that of a superhuman in which he
travelled to all parts of Bharatvarsha, spreading the thought and
philosophies of Vedic wisdom and strength. He removed the
confrontations existing between the followers of different modes of
worship presenting a message of unity among all - finally departing
from his earthly abode in 477 B.C.

[ Continued in Part 6 ]