history of Indian dating system

#1
what were some dates mentioned in indian pre mauryan/ pre ashokan texts, has there been any dating of the specific pre mauryan ruler, i know that jains follow jaina dating and buddhist follow buddha's parinirvana dates but how credible are they, are they mentioned in early buddhist texts which have been dated like pali canon etc? if this is not the case, i think that the first dates mentioned any where in indian subcontinent would be that of ashoka and that the date of 260 BC, date of the eighth year of his reign. what was the contribution of vedas and puranas and other pre mauryan indian texts to the indian dates, is there any date mentioned in these texts which can be used to estimate some chronology? it is usually thought that chronological dates were not mentioned in the indian texts? have they been mentioned in the greek texts in the pre mauryan periods?

Major Rock Edicts - Wikipedia

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Calendar era - Wikipedia

from the wikipedia article it seems like formal dating began in the 4th BC by the Seleucid in 311 BC, while the article mentions greek olympic dates which are dated to 8th BC but didn't start to be used until 3rd BC romans in roughly the same time period, there were lots of calendar eras like persian, indian, greek etc. Indian eras after maurya were the indo greek, scythian/shaka, kushana all foreign and vikrama, gupta, ashoka which were local, so why indian dating followed foreign dates and refused to follow dates for instance mauryan/ashokan, gupta etc?

there are dates like kali yuga, but this date was first mentioned by aryabhatta has kali yuga been mentioned by pre mauryan scholar or a scholar earlier than aryabhatta?, i have also seen some lectures claiming that greeks allegedly have recorded in their history books encountering indians talking about a three thousand year date, must be kali yuga? how credible in this claim?

https://insa.nic.in/writereaddata/UpLoadedFiles/IJHS/Vol31_1_1_AKChakravarty.pdf

this article/journal makes a clear cut statement that dating in india was introduced by ashoka

  1. Azes era - Wikipedia
  2. Yavana era - Wikipedia
  3. Vikram Samvat - Wikipedia
  4. Shaka era - Wikipedia
  5. Buddhist calendar - Wikipedia
  6. Vira Nirvana Samvat - Wikipedia
  7. Kalachuri Era - Wikipedia
  8. Gupta era - Wikipedia
it i strange that vedanga jyotisha mentions calendars and its system but wasnt able to establish a dating system.
 
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#4
just one question regarding saka era/ shilavahana date is that, if shaka era was initiated by the shaka kings and followed in north india, why did the south indians adopted shaka era? shilavahana or satavahana connection makes sense considering it was a south indian dynasty and probably played its role in shaka era and is known for its dating system, otherwise, dont see how shaka era would end up in south india from the north and become so popular much less so in the north itself which followed vikram era according to wikipedia article itself.
 
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Apr 2018
48
Ayodhya
#5
Al Beruni talks about a Sri Harsa era that began 400 yrs prior to the Vikram era (i.e. 458 BC). His description of this king Harsa is that of a very greedy king who searched the seven layers of the earth for wealth, and overtaxed his subjects. That seems strikingly similar to the descriptions of the Nandas in the Greek sources. Hence, this Sri Harsa era may be taken to the Nanda era. We know from a Chalukyan inscription that during the period of the Chalukyas, the Nanda era, Vikram era, and Saka eras were in use. The Jains attribute 155 years to the Nandas. That seems about right, since it gives 303 BC for the start of the Mauryan rule in Magadha (in sync with Greek sources). Some Buddhist and Puranic texts give 2 generations (about 50 years max) to the Nandas, but given that the Kharavela inscription talks about an aqueduct being built in Kalinga in the year 103 of Nanda rule, the reign of the Nandas could not be as short as just 50 years.

So, there we have a pre-Mauryan era.

As far as Ashoka is concerned, I have issues with his dating. Usually, the Antiochus mentioned in major rock edict 13 is taken to be Antiochus II, giving a range of dates from 255 BC - 261 BC for the engraving of the major rock edicts. The lower date (255 BC) is used, along with the assumption that all the major rock edicts were engraved in the 13th year. That gives us a date of 268 BC for Ashoka's accession. However, as Jarl Charpentier has shown, Antiochus II faced revolts from Bactria and Parthia in his reign, thus eliminating any interaction he would have had with the eastern states, like the Mauryans. Ashoka hints at a close relationship with Antiochus in his edicts, and hence Antiochus II is likely not intended. Antiochus I is more likely intended, and that gives us a range of 261 BC - 272 BC for the engraving of the major rock edicts. Hence, Ashoka's accession could have happened anytime between 274 BC and 285 BC.
 
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Oct 2015
988
India
#6
Al Beruni talks about a Sri Harsa era that began 400 yrs prior to the Vikram era (i.e. 458 BC). His description of this king Harsa is that of a very greedy king who searched the seven layers of the earth for wealth, and overtaxed his subjects. That seems strikingly similar to the descriptions of the Nandas in the Greek sources. Hence, this Sri Harsa era may be taken to the Nanda era. We know from a Chalukyan inscription that during the period of the Chalukyas, the Nanda era, Vikram era, and Saka eras were in use. The Jains attribute 155 years to the Nandas. That seems about right, since it gives 303 BC for the start of the Mauryan rule in Magadha (in sync with Greek sources). Some Buddhist and Puranic texts give 2 generations (about 50 years max) to the Nandas, but given that the Kharavela inscription talks about an aqueduct being built in Kalinga in the year 103 of Nanda rule, the reign of the Nandas could not be as short as just 50 years.

So, there we have a pre-Mauryan era.

As far as Ashoka is concerned, I have issues with his dating. Usually, the Antiochus mentioned in major rock edict 13 is taken to be Antiochus II, giving a range of dates from 255 BC - 261 BC for the engraving of the major rock edicts. The lower date (255 BC) is used, along with the assumption that all the major rock edicts were engraved in the 13th year. That gives us a date of 268 BC for Ashoka's accession. However, as Jarl Charpentier has shown, Antiochus II faced revolts from Bactria and Parthia in his reign, thus eliminating any interaction he would have had with the eastern states, like the Mauryans. Ashoka hints at a close relationship with Antiochus in his edicts, and hence Antiochus II is likely not intended. Antiochus I is more likely intended, and that gives us a range of 261 BC - 272 BC for the engraving of the major rock edicts. Hence, Ashoka's accession could have happened anytime between 274 BC and 285 BC.
Era of Sri Harsha:

"His era is used in Mathura and the country of Kanoj, Between Sri Harsha and Vikramaditya there is an interval of 400 years, as I have been told by some of the inhabitants of that region. However in the Kashmirian calendar I have read that Sri Harsha was 664 years later than Vikramaditya. In face of this discrepancy I am in perfect uncertainty, which to the present moment has not yet been cleared up by any trustworthy information." - Alberuni's India, Sachau, London, 1910. Vol. II, Page-5.

There is a confusion about Sri Harsha Era but Mathura and Kannauj has an era starting in 458 BCE. As you say, it should have been been Nanda Era.
 
#7
it is very interesting that just like saka era there are two harsha eras. the new harsha era definitely seems like being related to harshavardhan.

i also would like to add that i just read that mahavamsa which has been quoted for information on ashoka has also mentioned the date of buddha 208 years before the ascension of king ashoka which makes roughly 480 BC which has now been accepted by western scholars as buddha's date of parinirvana. But the issue is it doesnt agree with theravada's own date for buddhist era which is 540 BC

regards
 
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Oct 2015
988
India
#8
Summary of Al-beruni's comments of Eras current in India:

Era of Sri Harsha began in 458 BCE. It is used by people in Mathura and Kannauj.

Vikrama Era began in 57 BCE. In his times (c. 1000 CE) it was used in South India and West India. Vikramaditya's name was Chandrabija as per one book.

Saka Era began in 78 CE. It was named after a king who ruled between Indus River and Ocean. His origin is unclear. Hindus suffered much under him as he forced Hindus to represent themselves as Sakas. The Saka king was killed near Multan by Vikramaditya who came from the east. People were happy and the date became famous. Al-beruni says since there is a long gap between era of Vikramaditya and killing of the Saka king, the conquering Vikramaditya must have been another of the same name.

Era of Valabhas and Guptakala begins in 319 CE. The Valabhas ruled from Valabhi city a little south of Anhilwada (Gujarat). Guptas were wicked and powerful people.

He mentions additional four Eras begun by astronomers which are not so important to us as they have not been used in in inscriptions.

Source: Page 5-7, Ch-49, Vol-II, Alberuni's India, translated by Sachau. London (1910)
 
Oct 2015
988
India
#10
interesting, faxian actually mentions guptas as very nice lenient people. completely opposite, probably the later kings were not so good?

regards
Al-beruni was in somewhere in Sindh (Pakistan) when writing the tradition that Guptas were '"wicked and powerful". This was the area occupied by many foreign tribes, which were forced to pay tribute by Samudragupta (c. 335/350 to c.375 CE ) and finally annihilated by Chandragupta-II (375-415 CE).

'Brihatkathamanjari' of Kshemendra say King Vikramaditya (Chandragupta II) had "unburdened the sacred earth of the Barbarians like the Sakas, Mlecchas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas, Hunas, and others, by annihilating these sinful Mlecchas completely".

After this time, we don't hear of these tribes in Indian history - except Kambhojas and Hunas. Hunas were pushed to Kashmir but after some time their kingship also ended.

So it is okay for people of Sindh to say that Guptas were wicked and powerful. Fahien has neither not named any king nor commented on them. He has described the country & people & their habits in Madhya-desha. The society was orderly & peaceful.
 
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