A quite recent article in Zee News, claimed that researchers had found the exact date of birth of Lord Rama.
The article can be faulted in many ways (it is a journalistic, not a scientific article). However the actual date proposed and the method used to arrive at it are indeed worthy of examination.
It is common in early Vedic literature for verses to be dedicated to describing in great detail planetary positions at the time of important events. Valmiki’s Ramayana gives a very accurate description of planetary positions at the birth date of Rama. Accordingly, when Lord Ram was born, the Sun was located in Aries, Saturn was in Libra, Jupiter and the Moon was shining in Cancer, Venus was seen in Pisces while Mars was in Capricorn. It was the ninth day of the increasing phase of the moon in the lunar month of Chaitra.
Modern scholarship up until quite recently has not paid much attention to these descriptions. Recently these detailed planetary descriptions have been used to calculate dates using a computer program. Essentially, software can compute dates at which all the described planetary positions would occur simultaneously. For Rama’s birth, this would be January 10th 5114 BCE.
Could the planetary descriptions have been inserted in later?
Despite any other additions to the Ramayana which may have taken place (more than one version exists of the Valmiki Ramayana with some variations), the actual descriptions of planetary positions are always the same, and according to the researchers the original source of these descriptions could only be someone who actually viewed the planetary positions and recorded them as an eye witness, and later these same descriptions were incorporated into the Ramayana. According to one of the researchers, Pushkar Bhatnagar, these planetary positions are impossible to manipulate or compute backwards or forwards without very complex software. And the positions would not recur for thousands of years.
I am not suggesting we all unquestioningly accept these findings, but it is certainly worthy of examination with an open mind. If you are intrigued or wish to find out more about this, you may wish to read the book “Dating the Era of Lord Rama”, which is written by Pushkar Bhatnagar, and provides an in depth discussion of the findings. For the sake of balance I would also draw your attention to an attempted critique of Bhatnagar’s work.
My personal thoughts on the historicity of Lord Rama and the Ramayana
My personal view is that Rama was indeed a mighty historical figure, who left a great imprint on humanity. However, I would not accept the Ramayana in its entirety as history, although I believe that it has a historical core. Clearly, the historical story of Rama was adopted by a great writer (Valmiki), who was probably a contemporary of Rama, as a vehicle for various teachings, which formed the Valmiki Ramayana. Many other authors adapted the Ramayana and indeed the liberalness of the Indian literary tradition meant that anyone was free to write the Ramayana as per their individual vision and imagination (however it is the Valmiki Ramayana which generally is looked upon as original and authentic).
My faith and devotion to Lord Rama is not the faith in a historical figure, but a divine archetype of the calm, controlled, compassionate and protective aspect of the divine cosmic consciousness (brahman). For an insight into the spiritual, symbolic and cosmic interpretation of the Ramayana which is arguably more important than history alone, I recommend the book “Oracle of Rama” by David Frawley.
Related article: Lord Rama – History & legend