Krishna and Arjuna on their chariot at Kurukshetra, 18th century CE painting.

The Epic-Puranic chronology is a timeline of Hindu mythology based on the Itihasa (the Sanskrit Epics, that is, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana) and the Puranas. These texts have an authoritaive status in Indian tradition, and narrate cosmogeny, royal chronologies, myths and legendary events. The central dates here are the Kurukshetra War and the start of the Kali Yuga. The Epic-Puranic chronology is referred to by proponents of Indigenous Aryans to propose an earlier dating of the Vedic period, and the spread of Indo-European languages out of India, arguing that "the Indian civilization must be viewed as an unbroken tradition that goes back to the earliest period of the Sindhu-Sarasvati Valley traditions (7000 BCE to 8000 BCE)."[1]



The Mahabharata and the Rāmāyaṇa are the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India.[2] Together they form the Hindu itihasa.[3] The Mahābhārata narrates the struggle between two groups of cousins in the Kurukshetra War, and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes and their successors. It also contains philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four "goals of life" or puruṣārtha (12.161). The bulk of the Mahābhārata was probably compiled between the 3rd century BCE and the 3rd century CE, with the oldest preserved parts not much older than around 400 BCE.[4][5]

The Rāmāyaṇa narrates the life of Rama, the legendary prince of the Kosala Kingdom. Various recent scholars' estimates for the earliest stage of the text range from the 7th to 4th centuries BCE, with later stages extending up to the 3rd century CE.[6]

The Puranas (literally "ancient, old",[7]) is a vast genre of Indian literature about a wide range of topics, particularly legends and other traditional lore,[8] composed in the first millennium CE.[9][note 1] The Hindu Puranas are anonymous texts and likely the work of many authors over the centuries.[10] Gavin Flood connects the rise of the written Purana historically with the rise of devotional cults centering upon a particular deity in the Gupta era: the Puranic corpus is a complex body of material that advance the views of various competing sampradayas.[11] The content is highly inconsistent across the Puranas, and each Purana has survived in numerous manuscripts which are themselves inconsistent.[10]

The Mahabharata, Ramayana and the Puranas contain genealogies of kings,[12] which are used for the traditional chronology of India's ancient history.



Cyclic time and yugas


The Puranas are oriented at a cyclical understanding of time. They contain stories about the creation and destruction of the world, and the yugas (ages).[13] There are four yugas in one cycle:

According to the Manusmriti (c. 2nd CE),[14] one of the earliest known texts describing the yugas, the length of each yuga is 4800, 3600, 2400 and 1200 years of the gods, respectively, giving a total of 12,000 divine years to complete one cycle. For human years, they are multiplied by 360 giving 1,728,000, 1,296,000, 864,000 and 432,000 years, respectively, giving a total of 4,320,000 human years. These four yugas have a length ratio of 4:3:2:1.[15]

The Bhagavata Purana [3.11.18-20] (c. 500-1000 CE) gives a matching description of the yuga lengths in divine years.

The Kali Yuga is the present yuga. According to Puranic sources, Krishna's departure marks the end of Dvapara Yuga and the start of Kali Yuga,[note 2] which is dated to 17/18 February 3102 BCE,[16][17] twenty years after the Bharata War.[18]

Pre-Bharata War kings and avatars

In traditional Hindu astronomy, seven stars of Ursa Major are identified with the names of Saptarshis

The Puranas, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana contain lists of kings and genealogies,[12] from which the traditional chronology of India's ancient history are derived.[19] Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador to the Maurya court at Patna at c. 300 BCE, reported to have heard of a traditional list of 153 kings that covered 6042 years, beyond the traditional beginning of the Kali Yuga in 3102 BCE.[20] The royal lists are based on Sūta bardic traditions, and are derived from lists which were orally transmitted and constantly reshaped.[20]

Shraddhadeva Manu


The first king is Shraddhadeva Manu, the seventh and current Manu of the fourteen manus of the current kalpa (aeon), the progenitor of humanity. According to the Puranas, the genealogy of Shraddhadeva is as follows:[21]

  1. Brahma
  2. Marichi, one of the 10 Prajapatis ("lord of creation and protector") created by Brahma, and one of the Saptarishis.
  3. Kashyapa, son of Marichi and his wife, Kala. Kashyapa is one of the Saptarishis, the seven ancient sages of the Rigveda[note 3] who are the patriarchs of the Vedic religion, and the ancestors of the Gotras of Brahmins.
  4. Vivasvan or Surya (sun, solar deity), son of Kashyapa and Aditi.
  5. Vaivasvata Manu, the son of Vivasvan and Saranyu (Saṃjñā). He is also known as Satyavrata and Shraddhadeva.

Shraddhadeva had seventy children, including Ila and Ikshvaku, the progenitors of the Lunar and Solar dynasties of the kshatriyas, which play a prominent role in the origin stories of the royal families of the Vedic period.[24] The Mahabharata states that "it is of Manu that all men including Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Sudras, and others have been descended."[25][note 4]

Tentative chronology


The Puranas have been used by some to give a tentative overview of Indian history prior to the Bharata War.[26] Gulshan (1940) dates the start of the reign of Manu Vaivasvata at 7350 BCE.[26] According to Ganguly, the Puranic gives 95 kings between Shraddhadeva Manu (aka Manu Vaivasvata), the progenitor of humanity, and the Bharata War.[27] Dating the Bharata War at 1400 BCE, A.D. Pusalkar (1962) uses this list to give the following chronology:[27]

  1. Pre-flood tradition and the dawn of history
  2. The great flood and Manu Vaivasvata
  3. The period of king Yayāti (c. 3000–2750 BCE)
  4. The period of king Mandhatri (c. 2750–2550 BCE)
  5. The epoch of Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Vishnu (c. 2550–2350 BCE)
  6. The era of Rama, the seventh avatar of Vishnu (c. 2350–1750 BCE)
  7. The period of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu (c.1950–1400 BCE)
  8. The Mahabharata War (c. 1400 BCE)

According to Subhash Kak,

[T]he Indian civilization must be viewed as an unbroken tradition that goes back to the earliest period of the Sindhu-Sarasvati (or Indus) tradition (7000 or 8000 BCE).[1][28]

Puranic Chronology - A new theory of ancient Indian chronology[29]

Bharata War


The historicity of the Mahabharata War is subject to scholarly discussion and dispute.[30][31] The existing text of the Mahabharata went through many layers of development, and mostly belongs to the period between c. 500 BCE and 400 CE.[32][33] Within the frame story of the Mahabharata, the historical kings Parikshit and Janamejaya are featured significantly as scions of the Kuru clan,[34] and Michael Witzel concludes that the general setting of the epic has a historical precedent in Iron Age (Vedic) India, where the Kuru kingdom was the center of political power during roughly 1200 to 800 BCE.[34] According to Professor Alf Hiltebeitel, the Mahabharata is essentially mythological.[35] Indian historian Upinder Singh has written that:

Whether a bitter war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas ever happened cannot be proved or disproved. It is possible that there was a small-scale conflict, transformed into a gigantic epic war by bards and poets. Some historians and archaeologists have argued that this conflict may have occurred in about 1000 BCE."[31]

Despite the inconclusiveness of the data, attempts have been made to assign a historical date to the Kurukshetra War.

Attempts to date the events using methods of archaeoastronomy have produced, depending on which passages are chosen and how they are interpreted, estimates ranging from the late 4th to the mid-2nd millennium BCE.[36] Popular tradition holds that the war marks the transition to Kali Yuga. The late 4th-millennium date has a precedent in the calculation of the Kali Yuga epoch, based on planetary conjunctions, by Aryabhata (6th century). Aryabhata's date of 18 February 3102  BCE for Mahābhārata war has become widespread in Indian tradition. Some sources mark this as the disappearance of Krishna from the Earth.[37] The Aihole inscription of Pulikeshi II, dated to Saka 556 = 634 CE, claims that 3735 years have elapsed since the Bharata battle, putting the date of Mahābhārata war at 3137 BCE.[38][39] Another traditional school of astronomers and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga, Varahamihira (author of the Brhatsamhita) and Kalhana (author of the Rajatarangini), place the Bharata war 653 years after the Kali Yuga epoch, corresponding to 2449 BCE.[40]

Some of the other proposals that have been put forward:

Post-Bharata War


The Vedic Foundation gives the following chronology of ancient India since the time of Krishna and the Bharata War:[web 1][note 5]

Indigenous Aryans - '10,000 years in India'


Indigenous Aryans


The Epic-Puranic chronology has been referred to by proponents of Indigenous Aryans, putting into question the Indo-Aryan migrations at ca. 1500 BCE and proposing older dates for the Vedic period. According to the "Indigenist position", the Aryans are indigenous to India,[46] and the Indo-European languages radiated out from a homeland in India into their present locations.[46] According to them, the Vedas are older than second millennium BCE,[47] and scriptures like the Mahabharata reflect historical events which took place before 1500 BCE. Some of them equate the Indus Valley civilisation with the Vedic Civilization,[46] state that the Indus script was the progenitor of the Brahmi,[48] and state that there is no difference between the people living in the (northern) Indo-European part and the (southern) Dravidian part.[47]

The Indigenous Aryans theory has no relevance, let alone support, in mainstream scholarship.[49][50][51][52][53][54][55]

'10,000 years in India'


The idea of "Indigenous Aryanism" fits into traditional Hindu ideas about their religion, namely that it has timeless origins, with the Vedic Aryans inhabiting India since ancient times.[note 16]

M. S. Golwalkar, in his 1939 publication We or Our Nationhood Defined, famously stated that "Undoubtedly [...] we — Hindus — have been in undisputed and undisturbed possession of this land for over eight or even ten thousand years before the land was invaded by any foreign race."[56] Golwalkar was inspired by Tilak's[note 17] The Arctic Home in the Vedas (1903), who argued that the Aryan homeland was located at the North Pole, basing this idea on Vedic hymns and Zoroastrian texts.[57] Golwalkar took over the idea of 10,000 years, arguing that the North Pole at that time was located in India.[57][note 18]

Subhash Kak, a main proponent of the "indigenist position", underwrites the Vedic-Puranic chronology, and uses it to recalculate the dates of the Vedas and the Vedic people.[58][59][28] According to Kak, "the Indian civilization must be viewed as an unbroken tradition that goes back to the earliest period of the Sindhu-Sarasvati (or Indus) tradition (7000 or 8000 BC)."[58] According to Sudhir Bhargava, the Vedas were composed 10,000 years ago, when Manu supposedly lived, in ashrams at the banks of the Sarasvati river in Brahmavarta, the ancient home-base of the Aryans. According to Sudhir Bhargava, people from Brahmavarta moved out from Brahmavarta into and outside India after 4500 BCE, when seismic activities had changed the course of the Sarasvati and other rivers.[60]

See also



  1. ^ Wendy Doniger, based on the study of indologists, assigns approximate dates to the various Puranas. She dates Markandeya Purana to c. 250 CE (with one portion dated to c. 550 CE), Matsya Purana to c. 250–500 CE, Vayu Purana to c. 350 CE, Harivamsa and Vishnu Purana to c. 450 CE, Brahmanda Purana to c. 350–950 CE, Vamana Purana to c. 450–900 CE, Kurma Purana to c. 550–850 CE, and Linga Purana to c. 600–1000 CE.[9]
  2. ^ The Bhagavata Purana (1.18.6), Vishnu Purana (5.38.8), and Brahma Purana (2.103.8) state that the day Krishna left the earth was the day that the Dvapara Yuga ended and the Kali Yuga began:
    * Bhagavata Purana Part I. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited. 1950. p. 137. (1.18.6) On the very day, and at the very moment the Lord [Krishna] left the earth, on that very day this Kali, the source of irreligiousness, (in this world), entered here.
    * Wilson, H. H. (1895). The Vishnu Purana. S.P.C.K. Press. p. 61. (5.38.8) The Parijata tree proceeded to heaven, and on the same day that Hari [Krishna] departed from the earth the dark-bodied Kali age descended.
    * Brahma Purana Part 2. Motilal Banarsidass. 1955. p. 515. (2.103.8) It was on the day on which Krishna left the Earth and went to heaven that the Kali age, with time for its body set in.
  3. ^ Kasyapa is mentioned in RV 9.114.2, Atri in RV 5.78.4, Bharadvaja in RV 6.25.9, Visvamitra in RV 10.167.4, Gautama in RV 1.78.1, Jamadagni in RV 3.62.18, etc.;[22] Original Sanskrit text: ऋषे मन्त्रकृतां स्तोमैः कश्यपोद्वर्धयन्गिरः । सोमं नमस्य राजानं यो जज्ञे वीरुधां पतिरिन्द्रायेन्दो परि स्रव ॥२॥[23]
  4. ^ Mahbharata: "And Manu was endowed with great wisdom and devoted to virtue. And he became the progenitor of a line. And in Manu's race have been born all human beings, who have, therefore, been called Manavas. And it is of Manu that all men including Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, Sudras, and others have been descended, and are therefore all called Manavas. Subsequently, the Brahmanas became united with the Kshatriyas. And those sons of Manu that were Brahmanas devoted themselves to the study of the Vedas. And Manu begot ten other children named Vena, Dhrishnu, Narishyan, Nabhaga, Ikshvaku, Karusha, Sharyati, the eighth, a daughter named Ila, Prishadhru the ninth, and Nabhagarishta, the tenth. They all betook themselves to the practices of Kshatriyas (warriors). Besides these, Manu had fifty other sons on Earth. But we heard that they all perished, quarrelling with one another."[25]
  5. ^ The Vedic Foundation, Introduction: "The history of Bharatvarsh (which is now called India)'is the description of the timeless glory of the Divine dignitaries who not only Graced the soils of India with their presence and Divine intelligence, but they also showed and revealed the true path of peace, happiness and the Divine enlightenment for the souls of the world that still is the guideline for the true lovers of God who desire to taste the sweetness of His Divine love in an intimate style.[web 2]
  6. ^ The earliest text to explicitly provide detailed descriptions of Krishna as a personality is the epic Mahabharata which depicts Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu.[web 3]
  7. ^ Conventionally dated sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BC.[45]
  8. ^ Conventionally dated 345–321 BC
  9. ^ Conventionally dated 322–185 BC
  10. ^ Conventionally dated 340–298 BC
  11. ^ Conventionally dated c. 320 BC – 272 BC
  12. ^ Conventionally dated c. 230 BC–AD 220
  13. ^ Conventionally dated approximately AD 320–550
  14. ^ Conventionally dated: reign AD 320–335
  15. ^ Conventionally dated 304–232 BC
  16. ^ The Vedic Foundation states: "The history of Bharatvarsh (which is now called India) is the description of the timeless glory of the Divine dignitaries who not only Graced the soils of India with their presence and Divine intelligence, but they also showed and revealed the true path of peace, happiness and the Divine enlightenment for the souls of the world that still is the guideline for the true lovers of God who desire to taste the sweetness of His Divine love in an intimate style."[web 2]
  17. ^ Carol Schaeffer: "Tilak, dubbed the "father of Indian unrest" for his advocacy of violent tactics against British colonialists and inspiration to later Indian Hindu nationalists".[57]
  18. ^ See also Is our civilisation really 10 millennia old? Or are we simply insecure?; Sanjeev Sabhlok (2013).


  1. ^ a b Kak 2001.
  2. ^ Datta, Amaresh (2006). The Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature (Volume Two) (Devraj to Jyoti). ISBN 978-81-260-1194-0.
  3. ^ "Ramayana". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2020-02-18.
  4. ^ Brockington 1998, p. 26.
  5. ^ Austin, Christopher R. (2019). Pradyumna: Lover, Magician, and Son of the Avatara. Oxford University Press. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-19-005411-3.
  6. ^ Brockington 1998, pp. 379–.
  7. ^ "Puranas". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature (1995 Edition). 1995. p. 915. ISBN 0-877790426.
  8. ^ Bailey, Greg (2001). Oliver Leaman (ed.). Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 437–439. ISBN 978-0415172813.
  9. ^ a b Collins 1988, p. 36.
  10. ^ a b Cort, John (1993). Wendy Doniger (ed.). Purana Perennis: Reciprocity and Transformation in Hindu and Jaina Texts. SUNY Press. pp. 185–204. ISBN 978-0791413821.
  11. ^ Flood 1996, p. 359.
  12. ^ a b Trautmann 2005, p. xx.
  13. ^ Rocher 1986, pp. 123–124.
  14. ^ Olivelle 2005, pp. 24–25.
  15. ^ Olivelle 2005, pp. 90, 240 (1.61), 241 (1.70-71).
  16. ^ Matchett, Freda. "The Puranas". In Flood (2003), p. 139.
  17. ^ Yano, Michio. "Calendar, astrology and astronomy". In Flood (2003), p. 390.
  18. ^ Singh 2008, p. 22.
  19. ^ Ganguly 1984, pp. 15–16.
  20. ^ a b Witzel 2001, p. 69.
  21. ^ Francis Hamilton (1819). Geneaolgies of the Hindus: extracted from their sacred writings; with an introduction and alphabetical index. Edinburgh: Printed for the author. p. 89.
  22. ^ Gudrun Bühnemann (1988). Pūjā: A Study in Smārta Ritual. Brill Academic. p. 220. ISBN 978-3-900271-18-3.
  23. ^ Rigveda 9.114.2, Wikisource
  24. ^ Thapar 2013, pp. 308–309.
  25. ^ a b Swami Parmeshwaranand (2001). Encyclopaedic Dictionary of Puranas. Sarup & Sons. p. 638. ISBN 978-81-7625-226-3.
  26. ^ a b Rocher 1986, p. 122.
  27. ^ a b Ganguly 1984, p. 16.
  28. ^ a b Kak 1996.
  29. ^ Mahalanobis, P C. "DSpace at Indian Statistical Institute: New theory of ancient Indian chronology". Retrieved 2022-08-05.
  30. ^ Singh 2006, p. 85.
  31. ^ a b Singh 2009, p. 19.
  32. ^ The Sauptikaparvan of the Mahabharata: The Massacre at Night. Translated by W. J. Johnson. Oxford University Press. 1998. p. 13. ISBN 9780192823618.
  33. ^ Singh 2009, pp. 18–21.
  34. ^ a b Witzel 1995.
  35. ^ Hiltebeitel 2005, p. 5594.
  36. ^ Gupta and Ramachandran (1976), p.246, who summarize as follows: "Astronomical calculations favor 15th century BCE as the date of the war while the Puranic data place it in the 10th/9th century BCE. Archaeological evidence points towards the latter." (p.254)
  37. ^ "Lord Krishna lived for 125 years | India News – Times of India". The Times of India.
  38. ^ "5151 years of Gita". 19 January 2014.
  39. ^ Gupta and Ramachandran (1976), p.55; AD Pusalker, HCIP, Vol I, p.272
  40. ^ AD Pusalker, op.cit. p.272
  41. ^ The Chronology of India: From Manu to Mahabharata ISBN 978-8194321309
  42. ^ Singh 2010, p. Chapter 7, Pp. 202–252, 302.
  43. ^ Koch, Dieter (2015). "Astronomical Dating of the Mahābhārata War" (PDF). p. 395.
  44. ^ Daftari, K. L. (1942). "The Astronomical Method and Its Application to the Chronology of Ancient India". pp. 40–45.
  45. ^ Warder 2000, p. 45.
  46. ^ a b c Trautmann 2005, p. xxx.
  47. ^ a b Trautmann 2005, p. xxviii.
  48. ^ Ramasami, Jeyakumar (21 February 2014). "Indus Script Based on Sanskrit Language". Sci News. Retrieved 2015-09-08.
  49. ^ Witzel 2001.
  50. ^ Bryant, Edwin F.; Patton, Laurie L. (2005). The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. Routledge.
  51. ^ Erdosy (2012). The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity. ISBN 9783110816433.
  52. ^ Bryant, Edwin (2001). The Quest for the Origins of Vedic Culture: The Indo-Aryan Migration Debate. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-513777-9.
  53. ^ Bryant, Edwin F. (1996). Linguistic Substrata and the Indigenous Aryan Debate.
  54. ^ Fosse, Lars Martin (2005). "Aryan Past and Post-colonial Present: The Polemics and Politics of Indigenous Aryanism". In Bryant, Edwin; Patton, Laurie L. (eds.). The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History. Routledge.
  55. ^ Ravinutala, Abhijith (2013). Politicizing the Past: Depictions of Indo-Aryans in Indian Textbooks from 1998–2007.
  56. ^ Gyanendra Pandey (2006), Routine Violence: Nations, Fragments, Histories, Stanford University Press, p.103
  57. ^ a b c Carol Schaeffer (2018). "Alt-Reich. The unholy alliance between India and the new global wave of white supremacy". The Caravan. p. 42.
  58. ^ a b Kak 1987.
  59. ^ Kak 1993.
  60. ^ Sudhir Bhargava (2017). "Brahmavarta, the land of Aryans located". Sanskriti.



Printed sources



  1. ^ the Vedic Foundation, Chronology
  2. ^ a b The Vedic Foundation, Introduction
  3. ^ Wendy Doniger (2008). "Mahabharata (Hindu literature)". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Archived from the original on 2008-05-10. Retrieved 2008-10-13.

Further reading

Indigenous understanding of Puranic chronology
Scholarly studies of Indian history