The experiences and knowledge from our past are recorded in manuscripts which have been handed down to us over several thousand years. The Government of India, through the Department of Culture, took note of the importance of this vast tangible heritage and, in order to preserve and conserve as well as to make access to this wealth easy, established the ational Mission for Manuscripts (NMM). In order to disseminate the knowledge content of manuscripts, the Mission has taken up several programmes such as lectures, seminars and workshops. The Mission has published the proceedings of the above-said programmes under the following series: "Samrakshika" (on conservation), "Tattvabodha" (papers of Tattvabodha lectures delivered by eminent scholars), "Samiksika" (research-oriented papers presented in the seminars), "Kritibodha" (transcribed and edited texts prepared at advanced level manuscriptology workshops conducted by NMM) and "Prakashika" (publication of rare important unpublished manuscripts).
Manuscript Heritage on Astronomy is an outcome of a seminar organized by NMM and the Oriental Research Institute, Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, and is being published as o. 12 of Samiksika series. It carries 0contributions from thirty-eight well-known scholars and scientists of high repute covering varied topics on Indian astronomy and astrology. This trilingual book has seventeen papers in English and twenty-one articles in Sanskrit and Telugu (in Devanagari script).
This volume covers a wide range of topics such as astronomy, astrology, Indian mathematics and mathematicians, astro identities in Vedas, Vedic Jyotisa, contribution of Aryabhatiyam, rituals and religious observances associated with many astronomical developments, methods of disaster predictions, and the application of astronomy in varied contexts among many other topics, revealing the knowledge hidden in our old scriptures.
This volume should invoke the keen interest of many a scholar and should turn out to be of good use to the ongoing research in the field of astronomy and astrology.
Astronomy caught the keen attention of all major civilizations of the past, be it Indian, Greek, Mesopotamian, Egyptian or Roman. India's contribution to this study was enormous and at the same time fabulous. Its well documented legacy started with Lagadha of the first millennium BCE, though there are numerous citations about astronomy in the Vedas, and continued through great scientists like Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Brahmagupta, Bhaskara I and II, Lalla, Sripati, Mahendra Suri, Nilakantha, Somayaji and Acyuta Pisarati across centuries. In the process, we gave some unique contributions to the world in mathematics, physics and philosophy, and unveiled many a mystery about the universe. In addition to the great personalities listed above and numerous titles accredited to them, many of their manuscripts and other "not so famous" scientists' works on astrology are yet to be unveiled and put to scrutiny. The National Mission for Manuscripts is making an untiring and commendable effort to retrieve all such hidden treasures across different topics and is making serious attempts to disseminate such knowledge to the entire world through seminars, conferences, and publications, in addition to various other plans and programmes.
This book Manuscript Heritage on Astronomy is the proceedings of a three-day seminar organized by the National Mission for Manuscripts in collaboration with the Oriental Research Institute of Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati under the supevision of Prof. V.R. Reddy. It saw many an outstanding scholar presenting their papers on varied aspects of astronomy and astrology. The relevance of the astronomical and astrological knowledge is hidden in our old scriptures. Fortunately we have scholars who can still locate and interpret this knowledge to the current generation, enabling the society to inculcate ethical, scientific and moral standards to preserve and sustain our universe.
Sadguru K. Sivananda Murty, in his keynote address has mentioned that pancanga, a religious calendric record of planetary motions, was developed from the purely academic astronomy in India. But in last two centuries different pancangas, containing notable differences in the fixing of a religious event or for observance of religious festival, are creating confusion in people's mind. This situation in the Hindu religion-oriented astronomy has to be sorted out for the benefit of the practising Hindu.
He also brings forth the major difference between the Indian theory and Western theory regarding oscillation of the equinox. He requested the very eminent astronomers present in the conference not to reject the Indian theory, which was propounded by our ancestors, without going through an intensive examination.
Y.V. Subba Rao introduces to us all the towering personalities of Indian astronomy. He meticulously details their theories and inventions, and the uniqueness of their findings. He sketches all veterans from Lagadha to Acyuta Pisarati. He, in another paper, delves into the moving zodiac in ancient Indian astronomy wherein he attempts to show that the astronomers and astrologers including Varahamihira were fully aware of the "precession of the equinoxes". The astrological references can be fully utilized for determining the precise dates of several historical events in the cultural history of India for which the epigraphical and archaeological evidences have not been found.
In his paper K. Ramasubramanian makes one travel through the history of Indian mathematics and its implications in imparting mathematical education. It deliberates on various aspects such as how to construct a square that is n times a given square, how to transform a square into a circle, how did the sulbakaras specify the value of and its expression and approximation.
M.D. Srinivas discusses about the contribution of the astronomers and mathematicians of the Kerala School. According to him, there are about 450 Sanskrit works in the domain, in addition to over 150 in Malayalam. He presents a chronological listing of the important members of the Kerala School and their works, pertaining to a period CE 1350-1850.
Karanapaddhati is a unique work of Putumana Somayaji. M.S. Sriram and R. Venketeswara Pai take us around the continued fractions in Karanapaddhati. Somayaji's concepts of valayupasamhara, alpagunakara and alpahara are well accounted. The moon asserts great influence on time calculations. Karanam L. Ramakumar and Vemuri V. Ramakrishna consider moon as the chronometre for rectification of birth time. They discuss in detail the dasa and antardasa period.
P. Visalakshy talks about how year and time are reckoned in jyotisa manuscripts. It analyses the kacatapayadi, katapayadi, ankapalli, aksarapalli, nannanyadi, vyanjanaksarasamkhyapaddhati, malasamkhya and bhutasamkhya systems.
Vedic suktas link deities with the cosmos. The various mantras of the Vedas figure the deities, their activities and the scope of their application in the sacrifices. C.L. Prabhakar opines that these mantras add up to the knowledge of Vedic astronomy.
According to K. Vasudeva Moorthy, P.B. Raghavaiah and K. Sitaramayya, the Vedic mythologies revolve around the cosmos along with the Milky Way, ecliptic, equinox and solstices in particular and other constellations in general. This mythology and divine descriptions are perfectly synchronized descriptions of the four-dimensional macro-cosmos with the microcosmic individuals. Moreover, this is perfectly astronomical and scientific as far as the spatial temporal factors are concerned. P. Bala Subrahmanyan charts out the significance of Vedic jyotisa in our life.
The astronomy takes into consideration the position of the planets in their revolution around the sun relative to the very distant constellations in the zodiac which are at an enormous distance from the solar system. The zodiacal wheel with all its stars with widely varying distances from the solar system is seen as located on the equatorial plane of the earth. An additional fact of astronomy is, the stars on the zodiac as a rule are having their own proper motions, which may not be relevant to the life and conditions on the solar system significantly.
Whether one is studying our own planet or the planets in the sky, the common man wants to know his own future. There is a dispute and difference of opinion on certain aspects of astronomical calculations among the scholars even today. For this purpose, there is a need to provide a common platform for the scholars and practitioners of astronomy to reflect on the issue.
The last half century has seen materialistic civilization destroying the nature and its eco-balance besides plundering of our planet to exhaust the million-year old accumulations of fusel fuels, minerals, forests, etc. The great question before us is what does the future hold for the human race?
In modern times due to so many reasons, the astronomical knowledge and its samanya jnana are slowly disappearing from the scholarly world. But still there are several scholars who can interpret the ancient texts on astronomy with their multi-faceted genius.
India has one of the largest collections of manuscripts of any civilization in the world. An unknown number of rare and unpublished manuscripts on astronomy are still lying in the various manuscript repositories of India.
The National Mission for Manuscripts under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Government of India, New Delhi has been organizing seminars in different subject areas. Such seminars provide a platform for scholars working in a given discipline to interact, share information, discuss problems encountered by them and then look towards a solution of those problems. Seminars bring together scholars from different parts of the country working in a particular field and provide them an opportunity to share their experiences.
The Oriental Research Institute of Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati has been consistently conducting several national and international conferences, seminars and workshops on different subjects. Recently the Institute successfully conducted a three day seminar on "Manuscript Heritage on Astronomy". More than forty scholars from different parts of India participated and presented their research papers. the seminar attracted not only traditional scholars from Sanskrit field but also scientists like Dr K.L. Ram Kumar, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Mumbai; Dr M.D. Srinivas, Centre for Policy Studies, Chennai; Prof. K. Ramasubramanyam, IIT, Bombay; Dr M.S. Sriram, Dept. of Theoretical Physics, University of Madras, Chennai and many more scholars.
The seminar saw many scholarly presentations. Many outstanding scholars from different parts of India gave valuable suggestions to take this noble task ahead. Herein I especially thank and express my sincere gratitude to Prof. Dipti S. Tripathi, former Director, National Mission for Manuscripts for having extended liberal financial assistance for conducting the seminar successfully.
It is a matter of great pleasure that the National Mission for Manuscripts is bringing out the proceedings of this seminar in a very attractive manner. I feel this publication will be worthwhile and useful to scholars working in the area of Astronomy. And I am also sure that the readers will appreciate the quality and quantity of information housed in the articles.
We look forward to suggestions and active participation of all the readers and scholars to take forward the noble task of preserving and propagating the knowledge contained in the Indian manuscripts heritage.
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