[Q]jyoti.h'saastra - what is "catarchic"?

Allen Thrasher athr at loc.gov
Fri May 17 19:54:09 UTC 1996

	I must express a revervation as to what Birgit Kellner says in the message
quoted below on using Greek or Greek-derived terminology in discussing
Indian jyotihsastra.  Certainly the Sanskrit terminology ought not to be
omitted, but the case of jyotihsastra is different from that of grammar,
philosophy, and other fields where the two civilizations developed their
Wissenschaften in isolation from one another.  Even if one discounts the
evidence that Indian astronomy/astrology is profoundly indebted to
Babylonian and Greek counterparts, many if not most of the concepts are
shared or similar.  For this reason to use terminology of Greek origin is
one might argue to reflect accurately the fact that it's a body of
knowledge that is in large part shared across several civilizations.  In
addition, in pursuing a sort of ethnic purity of terminology one risks
putting the research off into a exoticist, "Orientalist" corner in which
there is on the one hand _the_ history of astral science and on the other
the history of _Indian_ jyotihsastra.  In discussing the closely related
field of Indian mathematics, would scholars recommend, and do they in
fact, routinely eschew the use of international mathematical terminology
for the near-exclusive use of Sanskrit (or Prakrit) terms?

Allen Thrasher
athr at loc.gov

The opinions expressed do not represent those of my employer.

On Fri, 17 May 1996, Birgit Kellner wrote:

> At 12:54 1996-05-17Dominik Wujastyk, you wrote:
> >
> >Gary and I were discussing some of David's writing at the weekend, and
> >Gary made the very good point that David takes it for granted in much of
> >what he writes that the reader is thoroughly familiar with the content of
> >Otto Neugebauer's book _The Exact Sciences in Antiquity_.  It's a
> >reasonable assumption too, in my view.  If someone is interested in the
> >history of Indian astral sciences, it should go without saying that they
> >would read generally about the history of astronomy in the ancient world,
> >and Neugebauer's book is a classic in this area.  It is also rather short
> >(though meaty), which is always nice in a technical book. :-)
> If someone writes a "history of Indian literature"-volume, which I take to
> be a general survey of the literature of a certain genre, it is very likely
> that some people use it to get a first glimpse of a field they are
> interested in. I would, for instance, perceive it as rather odd to find
> ancient Greek terms of grammar in a history of vyaakara.na-literature -
> terms which are not used anymore, and terms which are left unexplained. I
> would also perceive it as out of place if an author of a book on the history
> of _pramaa.na_-literature made liberal use of technical terms used in
> Ancient Greek philosophy (of such terms which have vanished from common
> knowledge in the course of history). Certainly, not only astronomers would
> be interested in a history of jyoti.h'saastra. (And, wasn't there supposed
> to be a difference between astronomy and astrology? :))
> Anyway, thank you for the reference. And: Would there, by any chance, be a
> Japanese translation of the revered Neugebauer-book? 
> Birgit Kellner
> Department for Indian Philosophy
> University of Hiroshima

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list