mhcrxlc at mhcrxlc at
Fri May 17 17:11:34 UTC 1996

Narahari Achar writes:

>Lance 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
>So is "Samrata-Siddhanta", an 18th century translation of Ptolemy. Can one
>conclude that no astronomy existed in India prior to the 18th century?

It would do, if we had no prior mention of astronomy.

>Astronomy (and of course astrology) has been a part of Indian society since the
>vedic times. It has been a living tradition which has existed continuously all
>through the ages.

I referred above to 'later Indian astronomical ideas' i.e. the many
elements that are precisely not attested in early literature.

>The concepts of Nakshtras, tithis, rasis, planets, precession
>of the equinoxes,the days can all be found in the vedas and is certainly older
>than the vedas. There has been a continuous stream of astronomers and their
>works throught the ages,contributing to the pool of knowledge. VedAnga
>jyotisha,sUrya prajnApti, AryabhatIya,Pancha siddhAntika,lIlAvati,have
>incorporated the sidereal astronomy of the vedas. One can not simply discount
>the earlier references quoted in the SiddhantAs, because they are not available
>now and attribute every thing to the Greeks.

Depending what you mean by the 'vedas' only some of the above are genuinely
present in the early texts.

We can, I think, be pretty sure of the Greek source of many developments.

>>I wonder if the reason people sometimes find this offensive is the
>>appropriation of the Greeks as somehow 'European'.

>and that every thing else is inferior.

That would be going too far. Nonetheless the Greek achievement within a
very short space of time is impressive.

>In the end it does not really matter who discovered what, because those who
>really discover truth are "rishis", even if they are "yavana". Time and space
>are of not much consequence. But, modern scholarship is hung up on historic
>dates, and if it can not find information regarding dates, it becomes very
>jittery. All kinds of theories are spun, arguments in favor of one or the other
>of these theories are hurled. All that effort can be spent more usefully in
>understanding the ideas.

I couldn't agree with you about this. Both the historical and the textual
are important for scholarship. Dating is very important for understanding
many things in this area.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency sometimes to adopt a policy of 'shoot
the messenger' because the results of scholarship are unpalatable.

Lance Cousins

Email: mhcrxlc at

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