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Astronomy In Ancient India

Astronomy developed concurrently with mathematics as a complement to religious obsessions in the past. Both met the requirements of objectivity and subjectivity.

Astronomy evolved from magical observations of the sky above to systematic observation and discussion, and finally to scientific investigation and interpretation, resulting in a complex field that is both effective and widely used. Astronomy developed from religious interpretations of the movement of stars and planets and developed into a popular pastime throughout history.

What are the sources to understand the history of 'Astronomy'?

Astronomical information is primarily derived from the Vedic scriptures, Jain literature, and siddhantas (texts), as well as efforts in Kerala.

Certain seals from the Indus Valley period are believed to contain information about the knowledge of the early inhabitants as well as the direction of certain clearly inspired monuments.

Major Observatories

The observatories of Jantar Mantar, built by Jaipur's Sawai Jai Singh, are a must-see.

Five such structures for time measurement and astronomical calculations are located in New Delhi, Varanasi, Jaipur, Mathura, and Ujjain. These astrolabes from the eighteenth century are significant for scientific and architectural reasons.

Sawai Jai Singh commissioned these massive stone structures in order to provide accurate astrological tables. The Jaipur observatory is home to the world's largest sundial, which features a 90-foot-tall projecting arm (the gnomon). Because the astronomical table was extremely precise, and in some cases more precise than modern western tables, the Jantar Mantars' measurements were quite impressive for their time.

This table was dubbed the Zij Muhammad Shahi in Persian and Sanskrit. Time was determined by examining the shadows cast by the core straight walls on the curving walls beyond. Sundials were used for religious and practical purposes, as well as to forecast the weather and provide other information.

Astronomy In Vedas

The Samhitas are texts that contain hymns, charms, invocations, and sacrificial formulas. They are derived from the four Vedas.

  • The Rig Veda (the Book of Devotional Verse)

  • The Yajur Veda (the Book of Sacrificial Formulae)

  • The Sama Veda (the Book of Chants)

  • The Atharva Veda (the Book of Mysticotherapeutic Priestcraft)

Their emergence follows a lengthy oral transmission period following their organisation in the four Samhitas.

The Rig Veda and Atharva Veda songs make reference to the lunar calendar's maintenance. The Moon was historically regarded as the "month-maker" (maakrt).

Numerous indicators of autumn equinox awareness exist, all of which are connected to:

  • Aditi (which corresponds to Pollux, longitude 113°)

  • Daksha (Vega, longitude 284 degrees)

  • Rudra (Betelgeuse, longitude 88 degrees)

  • Rohini (Aedebaran, 69 degrees of longitude).

The shifting longitudes are caused by the precession of the equinoxes. These details aid in determining the composition dates of the works.

  • The Yajur and Atharva Vedas exhibit a distinct calendrical awareness; several sacrifices, such as the Gavam Ayana, are of varying durations to correspond to the Sun's daily cycle.

  • The day was divided into three, four, five, or fifteen equal divisions for ceremonial purposes, each with its own distinct name.

  • Apart from the twenty-seven stars that begin with Krttika, these Vedas mention five planets and give two of them specific names: Jupiter (Brihaspati) and Venus (Vena).

The Taittriya Brahmana extols the virtues of nakshatravidya (nakshatra = stars, vidya = knowledge) and affirms unequivocally that this field has students.

Jain Literature

The Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit writings are comprised of fragments and oral traditions drawn from the Punva Jain scriptures. This recasting was undertaken by the Svetambara sect, resulting in the publication of 45 or 50 volumes. Following are the fundamental texts:


These are connected to rituals, legends, and doctrines. Sthananga and Bhagavatisutra are two of the angas that deal with astronomy and mathematics, respectively.

Other sutras include Acaranga, Sutrakrtanga, Samavayanga, Jnatrdharmakatha, Upasakadasa, Antakrtadasa, Anuttera-aupapa-tikadasa, Prasna-Vyakarana, Vipakasutra, and Drstivada.


These are also twelve in number, with Suryaprajnapati, Candraprajnapati, and the seventh part of Jamudvipaprajnapati all devoted to astronomy.

The second section of Jambudvipaprajnapati is devoted to the study of time, from asankhyata ('incomprehensible minuscule time') to sirsaprahelika, or millions of years.


Eleven essays are linked together in this collection.


These nine volumes contain both monastic and civil law.


  • Certain mathematical and astronomical truths are contained in the first of the four Mulasutras—Uttaradhyayana, Avasyaka, Dasavaikalika, and Pinda-inryukti.

  • The Culikasutra is a two-part treatise on astronomy and mathematics. It is divided into two sections: Nandisutra and Anuyogadvarasutra.

The Jain response literature is represented by works such as Umasvati's (185-219 A.D.) Tattvarthadhigama Sutra on astronomy and cosmology, Yati Vrsabha's (473-609 A.D.) 7000-verse Trilokaprajnapati, Chapter 27 of which is devoted to astronomy, and Padaliptacharya's (based on the Suryaprajna Pad)

The Universe's Geographical Center

Mount Meru was regarded as the axis of the Earth's centre, while the latter was regarded as a stationary planet. These two elements, along with stars, planets, continents, rivers, oceans, and mountains, are from Jambudvipa (lit. "rose-apple country").

  • Mount Meru represents the primordial inner essence that gives birth to everything (or reality) and has a spiritual significance.

  • Mount Meru is depicted in the centre of Jain literature's cosmic images, with the twelve months, planetary cycles, and the motions of the sun and moon depicted on the outermost boundary.

  • The Polar Star is depicted directly above Mount Meru in this illustration.

The Siddhantas: Source of Astronomical Knowledge

From the eighteen early siddhantas composed by Pitamaha, Surya, Vyasa, Atri, Vasistha, Kasyapa, Parasara, Narada, Garga, Manu, Marici, Lomasa (Romaka), Angiras, Bhrgu, Paulisa, Cyavana, and Yavana, only five passages have survived.

Surya's, Vasistha's, Pitamaha's, Paulisa's, and Romaka's siddhantas are included in Varahamihira's Panchasiddhanta (578 A.D.).

Later siddhantas reflected significant advancements in astronomy; they were far more precise, and calculations were far more precise and straightforward than before.

Kerala's Astronomy

Kerala's astronomers adopted Aryabhata's system when they instituted in Tirunavay in 683 A.D. to establish the Parahita system of computation. This new strategy was a refinement of the previous one. Haridatta's Grahacaranibandhana and Mahamarganibandhana were critical manuscripts. However, it was discovered over time that the observations did not correspond to the Parihata system's estimated conclusions.

Numerous other literary works on astronomy were written during this time period, utilising the parihita and Drk systems. These were referred to as Karana literary works.

Vakyas are the mnemonics used by both systems to generate a wide variety of astronomical tables. Vararuci's book Candravakyas, for example, contains the moon's daily longitudes for two hundred and forty-eight anomalistic months. For example, other vakyas provide the daily lunar longitudes for 3031 anomalistic months.

Astrology in India

Astronomy played a significant role in the development of Indian astrology, which is likely the world's oldest system of astrology. This is in stark contrast to the western approach. In Indian astrology, visible constellations in the sky are extensively used. As a result, the chart is diametrically opposed to that used by western astrologers. Indian astrology is based on the date, location, and time of a person's birth.

Jyotishis, or Hindu astrology, is one of the six sciences of Vedanta. The Sanskrit term is derived from the Sanskrit word jyotis, which means "light, brightness" and, in the plural, "heavenly things, planets, and stars."

Jyotish is frequently regarded as the instructional portion of the Rig Veda, which explains why it is referred to as Vedanga or the "body portion" of the Vedas.

The Basic Principles of Vedic Astrology

Everything is connected in Vedic astrology. An individual's karma or fortune is determined by a predetermined cosmic plan. Individuals are souls developing in a specific body at a specific time and place; their existence is a reflection of the greater totality into which they are born.

The moon is accorded greater importance in Vedic astrology than the sun. The moon is a metaphor for the mind; it is a perceptual agency and thus plays a significant role in an individual's interactions with their environment. In Indian culture, connections and compatibility are highly valued, as many aspects of life require relationships.


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