Two popular images defined India as an exotic destination in the sixties. They were the nail of bed and snake charmers. The Nail of bed drew the attention of westerners, once again, a decade back, this time as a therapy. The New York Times ran an article about this trend in 2014. During the colonial era, Britishers living in India experienced thrill upon encountering an ascetic sitting on bed of nails. However, sitting on a nail of bed has never been a common custom among Indians. On the other hand, Indians know a popular story about the nail of bed. This story goes back several millennia in the collective memory of India. The Mahabharata text documents in detail the incidents surrounding the decision of the great warrior Yogi Bhishma to lay on a bed of arrows while awaiting his death.

Bhishma, the great warrior Yogi had received a boon during his youth to chose the time of his death. In his ripe old age, he fell down from his chariot, with mortal injuries, in the great war. He choose a bed of nails and awaited for the right time to drop his mortal body. As a great Yogi, he had great insight into the connection between the time of death and the nature of the following birth. Bhishma knew that he had taken birth because of a curse. He did not want a prolonged chain of births on the planet. The Sapthami day, when the moon is in her 7th waxing phase in the month of Magha would be the right guaranty for this. Such a combination occurs now in late February when the moon is in close proximity to Aldebaran.

Archeoastronomy markers in the Mahabharat

The combination described above is revered in India as the Ratha Sapthami day. The following day is called Bhishma Ashtami in the memory of an enlightened warrior and his life of sacrifice. The record of Ratha Sapthami in the Mahabharata is an archeoastronomy marker. Together with a few other such markers in this text, researchers and archeologists are today able to affirm the time of the great War in India.

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