Date of Jyotisa Vedanga (2)

Luis Gonzalez-Reimann reimann at UCLINK4.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Mar 17 07:40:32 UTC 2000

Part 2:

So there seems to be agreement on the date of the text (ca 4th c. BCE), but
Sastry believes that it preserves a tradition dating back to when the
winter solstice was at the beginning of zraviSThA.  Pingree disagrees, he
writes (p. 10) that, "We simply do not know where Lagadha would have placed
the beginning of the equal nakSatra DhaniSThA with respect to the fixed
stars, nor do we know the accuracy with which he could have determined the
sidereal longitude of the Sun at the winter solstice.  Since a displacement
of the beginning of the equal nakSatra by some 10 degrees, or an error of
10 days in computing the date of the winter solstice, or some combination
of these two effects is all that is required to bring the date from the
12th century to the 5th century B.C., we should not lend much weight to the
chronological argument.  Furthermore, we must consider that an
intercalation-cycle based on such a crude parameter for the length of a
year as 365 days does not inspire much confidence in the accuracy with
which its author was able or wished to endow the positions of the solstices."

Now, we do not have to agree with Pingree on everything, but his doubts
about accuracy are relevant.  I may also add that we don't know since when
equal nakSatras were used, and if they are not equal we don't know exactly
where their boundaries lie.

Sastry (p. 15) also states that "The system of the VJ is the same as that
taught in the GargasamhitA of the SamhitA period, being the immediate
centuries before Christ and the next following...'  So, once again, we are
in the early centuries BCE.  If the astronomy of the text can safely be
placed in that period, then the position of the solstice is the only
discordant note, and we must look for different possible explanations.  As
far as the GargasamhitA is concerned, Pingree, in a separate study (p.
295), looked at the similarities of its Venus omens and those in
Mesopotamian texts, and concluded that they were probably borrowed from
Mesopotamia.  And Pingree also places the GargasamhitA in the 5th or 4th
centuries BCE. (this second article by Pingree is: Venus Omens in India and
Babylon. in Francesca Rochberg-Halton, ed. Language, Literature and
History: Philological and Historical Studies Presented to Erica Reiner.
American Oriental Society, 1987:293-315).

So Sastry did not demonstrate that the JV belongs to the 14th century BCE.
He draws attention to the stated position of the solstice, and this is,
indeed, something interesting, but one cannot uncritically conclude that
the text dates from that time.  And this was my original comment on this
subject, that we must be careful in these cases about saying something has
been proved or demonstrated, when the issues are not so straightforward.


Luis Gonzalez-Reimann
University of California, Berkeley

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