Luis Arnold Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at
Fri May 17 21:10:42 UTC 1996

On Fri, 17 May 1996, Girish Beeharry wrote:

> Hi,
> >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.
> Yes, I know a bit about the borrowed Greeks words. 

> Another astronomy related question that is intriguing is the following: 
> consider the words bhaaskara, bhaanu, shani, guru, jagata.
> bhaaskara & bhaanu probably just mean that the sun shines.
> I think 'shani' means slow, no? In this case, this is striking, in an 
> astronomical context. Saturn is the slowest of all the planets visible to the 
> naked eye (if one discounts Uranus which is at the limit of naked eye 
> observability and which was discovered using a telescope).
> guru means heavy and Jupiter is the heaviest of all the planets.
> jagata is formed by the reduplication of gam, I think, and so could mean 'that
> which is moving or rotating'.
> Another interesting, but non astronomical word, is hR^idaya. To take and to 
> give is exactly what the heart does to blood, no? 
> What I would like to know is whether this is just a fanciful idea and if its 
> not, then do the above words appear, in Sanskrit literature, before or after 
> the relevant discovery in Europe? This could give a clue as to the 'absorbing
> nature' of paNDitas! :-)
> Many thanks beforehand for your comments.
> Bye,
> Girish Beeharry 
Guru, as the name of the planet Jupiter, is surely not intended to mean 
heavy, but, rather, important, it is BRhaspati, the preceptor of the 
gods, and so the equivalent of Jupiter/Zeus.  That shani means slow is 
surely connected to the fact that it is the slowest of the planets known 
in antiquity. This, in itself, does not establish who first discovered 
that it was the slowest, but it was part of the astronomical/astrological 
knowledge transmitted from the mediterranean to India. In fact, it is an 
important part of the astrological symbolism of Saturn, as the one who 
establishes limits, and is associated with patience, perseverance and 

As for jagata, which I suppose you mean as the rotating earth, the word 
jagat means something that moves, that is alive.  So it also means people 
or animals.  It probably means the earth by extension, that is, the 
place of the living.  Trying to read into it the knowledge of the earth's 
rotation is highly speculative.


Luis Gonzalez-Reimann
University of California, Berkeley

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