[Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Birth Date

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Wed May 4 16:39:51 CDT 2011

Dear Sunilji,
Here we go again! I have three points in response to your contentions about dates.
1. The popularly used Vikrama Era begins in 56 BCE (not 57 BC). Whether there was a king named Vikrama ruling at the time, or whether the said Vikrama lived in 457 BC is irrelevant. It is also irrelevant what Alberuni is said to have written. What matters for interpreting dates in the Vikrama Samvat is what the writer of a given record said about these dates. For example, this year is 2011 in the commonly accepted Christian era that is now used world wide. In its origins, this era is supposed to have started with the birth of Jesus Christ. However, today nobody knows for sure exactly when Jesus Christ was born. There are many scholars who doubt if he even existed, historically speaking! Therefore, 2011 is nothing more than a convention. It works for all of us, practically, because the whole world accepts that it works. Just because we all agree that this year is 2011, it does not mean that we all have to agree as to the exact day, time, tithi, nakshatra, vAra, yoga and karaNa of the birth of Jesus Christ. 

Now consider the following hypothetical situation: In the distant future, the world has completely changed, the commonly accepted Christian era is no longer commonly accepted, English is no longer the world language and everybody is commonly following some future calendar. Exactly 1000 years from today, somebody interested in world history and dates determines that Jesus's birth took place 3611 years before his own time. This researcher concludes thus, in order to make a bunch of different points of evidence fit together. Remember this hypothetical future researcher lives exactly 1000 years from today. The same researcher then finds the archives of this list and reads your post below, with the year marked as 2011. Now he goes by his own date for Jesus (3611 years before his own time), the number 2011 as the year on the record of your post and calculates 3611 - 2011 = 1600. He concludes that Sunil Bhattacharjya lived and wrote 1600 years before his own time. He would be totally wrong, no? Why? He overlooks the simple fact that his own calculation for the date for Jesus Christ does not matter an iota for the calendar convention that is being followed today, 1000 years before his time!

That is exactly the mistake you are making when you posit that a historical record that references a king Vikrama should be dated according to your conviction that Vikramaditya lived in 457 BCE. It is a matter of simple addition and subtraction, but you have to add and subtract the right numbers. In the hypothetical scenario above, let us say some other researcher finds other pieces of evidence and correctly concludes that your mail was written 1000 years ago, not 1600 years ago. This second researcher would be totally correct, wouldn't he? It is even possible for this second researcher to say, "maybe the first researcher has some data to concude that Jesus Christ was born 3611 years before our time, yet I disagree that Sunil Bhattacharjya lived 1600 years ago." He would still be quite correct, wouldn't he? Please think about it.
Let me offer a concrete example from current times, not a hypothetical futuristic scenario:
The date given in the original Hindi document of the preamble to the Indian Constitution is Mrigasirsha Sukla Saptami Vikrama Samvat 2006. According to your calculation, because a reference to the Vikrama era should be to some king from 457 BCE, the date of adoption of the Indian constitution would be 2006 - 457 = 1549, i.e. when the British had not even started ruling India!

Taking the accepted starting date for Vikrama era as 56 BCE, we get the date of adoption as 2006 - 56 = 1950, three years after India declared herself an independent nation, free of British rule. We all know that the Indian Constitution was officially adopted on 26 November 1950. This is recent history, well recorded. 
Which calculation is correct? Furthermore, for the purposes of correct calculation of dates, what is more important? The supposed correctness or wrongness of the 56 BC starting date? Or the wide acceptance of 56 BC as the starting year of the Vikrama Samvat? Please think about it!
2. That Vikramaditya was a son of Govinda Bhagavatpada is a completely fanciful story, emanating from the poetic imagination of Ramabhadra Dikshita, a poet who lived less than 300 years ago. The same Ramabhadra Dikshita says that Bhartrihari, Vararuchi and Bhatti (of Bhattikavya fame) were also his sons, along with Vikramaditya. Is this ONE poem, however charming its stories may be, really to be taken a valid criterion for solving problematic and controversial issues of dates in history?
3. With respect to the Sringeri record, there is no purpose served in saying "This statement has to be exactly restated whenever it is mentioned," if one doesn't clear the above and other misconceptions related to this issue. Yes, it has to be exactly restated, provided one knows EXACTLY what is stated in the record in the first place. It does not sit well when such statements are made without knowing exactly what IS stated in the said record. The Sringeri record does NOT say Vikrama Samvat, nor does it even give the name of the king as Vikramaditya. It only specifies the 14th year of a king named Vikrama. You know very well that some historians have taken this as a reference to a southern Chalukya king, while other historians think it refers to the Vikramaditya of the Vikrama Samvat, beginning in 56 BC. All this has been very clearly specified in a letter by a Sringeri Matha official to Swami Tyagananda of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, Chennai. The same letter has also made it perfectly clear that the Sringeri Matha has made this record public, and is not bothered about its varying historical interpretations. Swami Tyagananda has reproduced this verbatim in an introduction to his English translation of the Madhaviya Sankaravijaya, so it has all been a matter of public record for many decades now.
> Date: Wed, 4 May 2011 10:20:24 -0700
> From: sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
> To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Birth Date
> Dear Venkateshji,
> There is a correction. Sringeri record says that Sankara Bhagavadpada was born on the 14th year of the reign of Vikramaditya. This statement has to be exactly restated whenever it is mentioned. The year 57 BCE is not the start of the reign of any Vikramaditya, so 57 - 13 = 44 BCE does not hold good. However there was a famous Vikramaditya (eulogiged by king Purnavarman or Hala) who died in 457 BCE and the Vikrama Era starting from 457 BCE  has been mentioned by Alberuni. This Era was used in Malava and Ujjain area. He was a son of Adi Sankaracharya's guru Govindapada, when the latter was in his purvashram. It is only possible that he reigned from 522 BCE and in his 14th year of reign ie. in 509 BCE Adi Sankaracharya was born. 
> Regards,
> Sunil KB
> --- On Wed, 5/4/11, Venkatesh Murthy <vmurthy36 at gmail.com> wrote:
> From: Venkatesh Murthy <vmurthy36 at gmail.com>
> Subject: [Advaita-l] Adi Sankara's Birth Date
> To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
> Date: Wednesday, May 4, 2011, 3:19 AM
> The famous astrologer BV Raman has given Adi Sankara's birth date and
> horoscope in his book Notable Horoscopes.
> http://books.google.co.in/books?id=sXJ02csFd5kC&printsec=frontcover&dq=notable+horoscopes&source=bl&ots=HVggcAceqm&sig=69-2i0wAN0FuO-K-5LQbLdOrs1g&hl=en&ei=wiTBTZiZGofwrQfq5N3tBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

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