Dating

L.S.Cousins mhcrxlc at dir.mcc.ac.uk
Fri May 17 11:07:46 EDT 1996


Girish Beeharry writes:

>>>Narahari Achar writes:
>>>Part of the reason, in my opinion, is that there are many people who believe
>>>(like David Pingree) that many fundamental ideas of astronomy in India were
>>>borrowed from out side.
>
>> L.S.Cousins writes:
>>Surely this is beyond serious doubt. We have a least one text still extant
>>which is essentially a translation from Greek and there is no evidence for
>>most later Indian astronomical ideas earlier than the period of major Greek
>>influence.
>
>The verses of the vedas have to be recited at specific times, dates and proper
>conjunctions of the grahas for them to be most effective. This is done even
>nowadays.  Are you saying that the period of major Greek influence occured
>before the R^igveda was composed (not the time of writing it down), say?

Certainly not.

>Was
>there a Greek astrology as developed as that in India? The tantrikas determine
>the timing of their various aasanas/puujaas etc in a similar fashion. What do
>the tankrika paNDitas have to say about how timing is determined in the various
>ceremonies?

There was certainly no such Greek astrology in the second millennium B.C.
when the earliest Vedic texts were presumably composed. If it had a
non-Indian source, that would be Babylonia where a type of astronomy
existed long prior to the Vedas. (We do not know what astronomical ideas
were current in or developed in the Indus civilization.)

The point here, however, is that Greek astronomy is more advanced than
earlier Mesopotamian astronomy (but perhaps not that of Babylonia
contemporary with the Greeks or at least not certainly so). Later Indian
astronomy contains those advances and includes even a number of Greek loan
words.

>Even if all the ideas were borrowed from the Greeks, it still does not answer
>my original question. Why do people not look into the whole business of dating
>texts etc using astronomy when records of eclipses must be extant for a long
>period of time? It is an 'objective' way to go about dating and one even gets
>an idea of the error inherent in the method.

Unfortunately, your 'must be extant' is simply not the case. I am not sure
what the earliest specific record (that survives) of an astronomical event
is in India but it must I think be at least A.D. and is no help at all in
dating the earlier history.

>Of course, the views held by Pingree et al might be just a cultural bias. What
>do the knowledgeable people have to say on this?

I don't believe anybody who has looked at Pingree's work  and understood it
could possibly make such a claim. As regards the 'et al', I agree that some
of the earlier scholars were affected by the prejudices of their day. But
then practically everyone is affected by the prejudices of their day. It is
the measure of their achievement that, despite that, much of what they did
stands uncontestable.

Lance Cousins

MANCHESTER, UK
Email: mhcrxlc at dir.mcc.ac.uk






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