The dating of the Mahabharat and the Ramayan is a puzzle that refuses to yield a simple answer. Conferences after conferences have been held in India and abroad for historians to arrive at a consensus, which has remained elusive so far. Although it may interest the hobbyist historian or the lay reader only in passing, it is serious business nonetheless. For it has deep implications on the very worldview promulgated by the dominant schools of academic history.
Koenraad Elst, the Belgian historian with a phenomenal grasp of Indian (and world) history favours the mainstream consensus that the Mahabharata war and other historical events described in the text took place sometime in the second millennium BCE. His view is based on a combination of archaeological, literary and other corroborative evidence. Others, like Narahari Achar with more ‘traditionalist’ leanings, place it near 3000 BCE or thereabout. However, Neelesh Oak’s analysis of the astronomical information available in the text, corroborated by geological, seismic and climatic data that has now emerged, pushes the date further back to the sixth millennium BCE, a good four thousand years ahead of the mainstream academic consensus. The disagreement is even starker in the case of Ramayana as Nilesh places it way back in antiquity in the 14th millennium BCE, more than 10,000 years apart from the mainstream consensus.
In this debate, held in the winter of 2016 in New Delhi, Dr. Elst and Nilesh take time off from their respective touring schedules in India to sit and talk to each other, in an attempt to arrive at some convergence of views or at least, to understand each other’s arguments better.