Rama, His wife Sita and brother Lakshmana were to live in the forest, Vanavasa, as a part of their 14 year exile. While they were roaming in the Dandakaranya forest, Surpanaka, the sister of the mighty Rakshasa King, Ravana, the king of Lanka, sees Rama and takes a liking to Him. Wanting to marry Rama, she proposes to Rama. Rama not interested in her advances, suggests she propose to Lakshmana, His brother, who also rejects her proposal.
The spurned woman Surpanaka, then turns violent and goes to attack the demure Sita. Lakshmana, who had accompanied Rama and Sita, to guard them while in exile in the forest, cuts off the nose of the intruding Surpanaka, as was the norm of punishment in vogue then for adultery or improper advances. More on this can be found in our book ‘Ramayana in Lanka’ in the Bharath Gyan Series.
Lakshmana chopping off Surpanaka’s nose
Surpanaka, immediately rushes to her brothers Khar and Dushan who lived in the nearby forest, to engage Rama and Lakshmana in a fight, to avenge her nose cut.
Khar and Dushan advance towards Rama for a fight. A wordy duel precedes their fight.
The conversation of the wordy duel, gives us very interesting insights into the sky configuration for that day, the solar eclipse that was to occur then and the array of planets that were visible in the afternoon sky, during the eclipse period.
Khar tells Rama –
“I want to say many things about my prowess but I would not, because if in the meanwhile sunset occurs, there would be a break in the battle.”
– Ramayana: 3.29.23
Rama and Lakshmana, fighting Khar and Dhushan
Khar wants to speak about himself more, but says, he has to resist himself, as he wants to start the fight before the premature sunset due to the eclipse that was to start.
The description of the Solar Eclipse is given in the following texts as:
“When Khar moved with his army towards Rama for the battle, a red coloured evening appeared to be descending all over.”
– Ramayana 3.23.1
“The Sun was covered by a dark coloured disc that had red coloured corners.”
– Ramayana 3.23.3
“Although it was daytime, it started appearing to be evening.”
– Ramayana 3.23.9
“The Sun was caught by Rahu because of which the Sun lost its glow and brightness.
Various animals and birds started making noises as if was dusk.”
– Ramayana 3.23.12
“In the middle of his army, Khar was looking like Mars in the middle of the planets in the sky.”
– Valmiki Ramayana
The pointers we can draw from the above sloka are:
- Planets, visible to unaided eyes were from the East to West – Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter.
- Mars was in the middle of this chain.
- Rarely, all the planets are in the day sky.
- Rarer is Mars in the middle of them.
- The occurrence of a solar eclipse at that time makes it absolutely unique.
These are some of the rarest of the rare astronomical events, which got recorded because of their uniqueness. Mars is rarely seen in the middle of a planetary alignment.
Sky chart for the day of Eclipse at Panchavati – 7th October 5077 BCE
The Sky Chart shows the configuration at 2.00 p.m. with the Latitude/Longitude for Panchavati, Nasik, the place where Surpanaka’s nose was chopped off by Lakshmana.
The Sky chart shows that a Solar eclipse on 7th October 5077 BCE, did indeed reach maximum coverage at Panchavati at 15.10 hours tallying well with the literature.