Puranic Chronology

  1. Proto historic period upto the end of Dwapara Yuga - before the Vedas and the Puranas were codified by Ved Vyas

  2. Historic Tradition of India - Panchanga, Sambat etc. The age of the universe is stated to be a few billion years

  3. Upper Harappan period after the battle of Kurukshetra. A great civilization fluorished during the long period of relative peace after the battle.

  4. Post Harappan period - Magadh Empire dominated after the decline of the Harappan civilisation.

  5. Emperor Vikramaditya of Ujjain and his successors. In spite of systematic attempts to ignore them they survive in the folk lore and thus public memory.

  6. Bibliography and Appendices

The Original Sources of Ancient Indian History

According to the modern Indian history books Lord Buddha is believed to have been born in the sixth century BC and Chandragupta Maurya is believed to have been the ruler of Magadha Empire soon after the invasion of Alexander in the year 327 BC. There is a common misconception among the laymen as well as the historians that these and the other dates given in the official version of Indian history are proven facts.

However, a careful and critical examination of the sources from which, and the manner in which, these dates have been derived show that these dates are only as true as the creation of the universe in (or around) the year 4006 BC.

Most people including the historians believe that the dates mentioned above and the other dates of Indian history have been derived mainly from archaeological evidences, inscriptions on stone pillars and the accounts of the foreign travelers. But no history can be written from such discontinuous sources. History has to be written mainly from the historical accounts. The modern pioneers of Indian history namely Sir William Jones, Professor Max Muller, Professor Wilson and other orientalists of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century AD knew this and the first sources they looked for Indian history were the scriptures known as Itihasa and Purana such as Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, Vayu Purana, Matsysa Purana and Bhavishya Purana.

The Puranas give the dates of the historical events in Kaliyugabda, Vikram Samvat, Sakabda and other Indian eras still in use at present. From these narrations it is possible to get the dates of all important historical events in the Christian era. This web site gives the chronology of ancient Indian history calculated precisely in this manner.

However, Sir William Jones and the European orientalists of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century AD ran into a serious difficulty in determining the chronology from the Puranas in this manner. It must be recalled that during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries it was firmly believed by scientists and other learned men of Europe that the universe was created around the year 4006 BC.

The theory of evolution suggested by Darwin and the idea of the universe being millions, or even billions, of years old was not accepted by scientists till late nineteenth century. Other learned men of Europe did not accept, or even know, such antiquity of the universe till the twentieth century.The earlier European orientalists could not possibly believe in the chronology of Puranas which places the age of the universe at a few billion years ( in contrast to the accepted age of less than 6000 years ) at the end of the eighteenth century AD.

Their misgivings were strengthened because of the following:

1. The narrations of the events of the first three eras, namely Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dwapara Yuga, in the Puranas appear more mythical than factual, though the narrations of the events of Kali Yuga are purely factual accounts.

2. Most of the narrations of the events after the battle of Kurukshetra are written in future tense. All narrations are made in a mythological language involving the gods (rather unnecessarily) in the events. This could be very confusing to scholars not familiar with Indian traditions.

3. There are some discrepancies in the accounts of the different Puranas partly due to errors in copying, proof-reading etc. including modern printing and partly due to deliberate alterations to suit the purpose of the royal families in whose courts the scriptures were maintained. These could be corrected by comparing the different Puranas as well as the different versions of the same Purana. This could be hardly expected to have been done in an unbiased manner by the early European orientalists who were exploring a field hitherto completely unknown. The later orientalists, like Pargiter, could not do a proper evaluation as they were already biased by the earlier work.

4. Many famous translations, or rather narrations, of the Puranas in the vernacular languages contain accounts much in variation from the original Sanskrit texts from which those are purported to have been derived. Kamban Ramayana, Kritibas Ramayana and Ramcharit Manas of Tulsidas are such examples. In addition there are famous literary works like Abhigyana Shakuntalam, Mudra Rakshasa and Harsha Charita which are more popular but can be very misleading for the purpose of chronology.

Thus the European orientalists like Professor Max Muller and Sir William Jones came to the obvious, but grossly erroneous, conclusion that though the accounts of the Puranas are based on a hard core of historical facts, the chronology is all wrong.Having thus dismissed the straightforward method of determining the chronology of Indian history, the orientalists started looking for other sources including their own conjectures. Sir William Jones actually suggested a chronological table of events starting with the year 4006 BC which he conjectured as the year of creation of Swayambhuba Manu.

This chronological table taken from the Complete Works of Sir William Jones is given in Appendix I. (See part 6 of this web site ) Though most of the modern historians do not know it, the chronology they use is an improved version of the table given in Appendix I.

Professor Max Muller improved upon the work of Sir William Jones by trying to correlate Indian history with Greek history. One ancient event the date of which is well-known in the Christian era is the invasion of Alexander. There is no mention whatsoever of Alexander or anything connected with his invasion in any Purana or any other ancient Indian account including the Buddhist Chronicles. The obvious inference is that the invasion of Alexander did not touch any important kingdom of India. Professor Max Muller then searched the Greek accounts and the narrations of the other classical European writers for the name of any Indian ruler who could be located. One such name is Sandrocottus. He is said to have succeeded Xandramese who was a contemporary of Alexander. Sir William Jones had suggested that Chandragupta of Mudra Rakshasa could be the Sandrocottus of Greek history.

Professor Max Muller confirmed this identification. His main purpose was to arrive at a chronology acceptable to the intellectuals of early nineteenth century. In fact his motives and methods are best described in his own words. In his History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature (Allahabad Edition 1859 A.D) Professor Max Muller writes as follows:

There is but one means through which history of India can be connected with that of Greece, and its chronology be reduced to its proper limits. Although we look in vain in the literature of the Brahmans or Buddhists for any allusion to Alexander’s conquest, and although it is impossible to identify any of the historical events, related by Alexander’s companions, with the historical traditions of India, one name has fortunately been preserved by classical writers who describe the events immediately following Alexander’s conquest, to form a connecting link between the history of the East and the West. This is the name of Sandrocottus or Sandrocyptus, the Sanskrit Chandragupta. We learn from classical writers Justin, Arrian, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Quintus Curtius and Plutarch, powerful king of the name of Xandrames, and that soon after Alexander’s invasion, a new empire was founded there by Sandrocottus or Sandrocyptus.

These accounts of the classical writers contain a number of distinct statements which could leave very little doubt as to the king to whom they referred. Indian historians, it is true, are generally so vague and so much given to exaggeration, that their kings are all very less, if there ever was such a king of Prasii a usurper, residing at Pataliputra, called Sandrocyptus or Sandrocottus, it is hardly possible that he should not be recognized in the historical traditions of India. The name of Chandragupta and the resemblance of this name with the name of Sandrocottus or Sandrocyptus was first, I believe, pointed out by Sir William Jones. Dr. Wilford, Professor Wilson and Professor Lassen have afterwards added further evidence in confirmation of Sir William Jone’s conjecture; and although other scholars and particularly M. Troyer, in his edition of the Rajatarangini, have raised objections, we shall see that the evidence in favour of the identity of Chandragupta and Sandrocyptus is such as to admit of no reasonable doubt.

From this identification, the coronation of Maurya Chandragupta around the year 327 BC was taken as the sheet anchor date for Indian chronology.

Though most of the modern scholars of Indian history do not know it all the dates of ancient Indian history have been arrived at by calculating backward and forward from this sheet anchor date.

It is high time that the modern students and scholars of history discard the chronology based on the creation of universe in the year 4006 BC and rewrite the ancient history of India on the basis of the correct chronology from the Puranas.The purpose of the web site is to provide students and scholars of history the outline of the Puranic chronology supported by archaeological evidences and foreign notices.

For more details get the book PURANIC CHRONOLOGY

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