A War of Times in the Mahabharata?

Artur Karp


Time and space are essential categories of culture. Together, they create the basic system of coordinates within which forms of consciousness related to mythological and religious thinking arise, function, and develop – as represented in art, literature, and science. The specific approach to both these categories in traditional Indian culture is one of its significant features. It stands out from the early tribal cultures preceding it as well as from the neighbouring cultures of the Old World. While presenting the composition of armies taking part in the epic conflict, the Mahabharata determines their numbers in detail and links them to the concepts of good and evil. Although premises exist for seeing in those numerical structures the symbolic representations of opposing ideas of time and, consequently, civilization, their presence has not been analysed so far.

Meaningful results obtained by dividing the armies’ size – 2 405 700 and 1 530 900 – by the numbers specifying the size of the Sun’s and Moon’s periods could not be disregarded. Was these numbers’ particular divisibility deliberate or accidental? Substantial interest was added by the defense of the eleven to seven ratio, unprecedented in the textual tradition known to me.

Those are the questions that form the basis of the research project I undertook. It resulted in an attempt to assign both alliances the defence of dramatically differing time concepts – traditional and modernised.

Słowa kluczowe: Mahabharata, Pandavas, Kauravas, numbers, divisibility, calendars, lunar-solar cycles

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