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CHAPTER VARAHAMIHIRA

Daivajna Varāhamihira (Devanagari: वराहिमिहर; fl.123 BCE), also called Varaha, or Mihira was an Indian astronomer,
mathematician, and astrologer who lived in Ujjain was the son of Aditya Dasa. He is considered to be one of the nine
jewels (Navaratnas) of the court of legendary king Vikramaditya (thought to be the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II
Vikramaditya). Though little is known about his life, in one account he supposedly hailed from South Bengal, where in
the ruins of Chandraketugarh there is a mound called the mound of Khana and Mihir. Khana was the daughter-in-law of
Varaha and a famous astrologer herself. Modern Shakadvipi brahmanas, esp astrologers, regard Varaha Mihira as their
ancestor, although there is no ancient documentary proof in favour of this belief.
CONTENTS
• When did he iive

• Works
o Pancha-Siddhantika
o Brihat-Samhita
• Western influences
• Some important trigonometric results attributed to Varahamihira
• Notes

EXTERNAL LINKS
WHEN DID HE LIVE
In order to decipher the period in which he lived , we have marshalled the following facts

In the Panchasiddhantika27 there occurs the following sloka28


साि वेद सं ं शाककालमपा ट चऽै शादौ ।

अार्िमते भानौ यवनपरेु सौा िदवसाे
sapt¡¾vi v£da sa¯khya¯ ¾¡kak¡lamap¡sya ¿a caitra ¾ukl¡dau |
arddh¡stamit£ bh¡nau yavanapur£ saumy¡ divas¡dy£

Meaning
Sapta – seven, ¡¾vi – two, Veda – four (makes 427), S sa¯khya¯- Reckoning or counting from ,
¾¡kak¡lam – Saka era, Apasya – Having left , completed, caitra – caitra month, ¾ukla – the Briogth or light half of the
lunar month, ¡di – Beginning , primordial, arddh¡ - half, ¡stama – setting, bh¡nau – sun, yavanapur£ - the city of
Yavanapuri, Saumya- Buddha – the planet mercury, Divasa - day

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Panchasiddhantika, (1) Edited with Sanskrit Commentary. - and Eng. Translation by G. Thibaut and
Mahamahopadhyaya S. Dvivedi, Reprint, Motilal Banarsidas, 1930, reprint Cosmo publications,2002, 8th sloka of the
first adhyaya, page4 of the English translation , pages in the book are not consecutively numbered
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I am indebted to the work done by ML Raja in unearthing these important facts in his monograph on Aryhabatta
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Deduct the number of years 427 of the Saka era elapsed, (i.e. deduct 427 from the number of years in Saka era,for
which we are calculating the Ahargana – the ahargana is analogous to the Julian day count at the beginning of the
bright half of Chaitra , when the sun has half set at Yavanapuri at the beginning of Wednesday. This means that Varaha
Mihira compiled the Panchasiddhantika in the 427th Year of the Saka Kala
This leaves us the task of deciphering thebeginnning of the Saka era. However , loosely speaking there are 3 Saka eras
which were in use during that time

The Sakanripa Kala year of King Kurash II(Cyrus) son of Kambujia (Cambyses) of the Aryamanush or HaxaManish
dynasty of Parasikam (Persia)
The Vikram saka year (57 BCE)
The Salivahana Saka year (78 CE)

In order to deduce this we need to refer to the other work that he wrote , the Brihat Samhita, 3rd sloka of the 13th
Adhyaya (Chapter)

आसघास ु मनु यः शासित पृ यिु िरे नृपतौ ।

षट ् िक पण्चियतु ः शककाल राज्ञ ।।
¡sanmagh¡su munaya¦ ¾¡sati p»thv§¯ yuddhi½¿hir£ n»patau |
½a¿ dvika pa³cadviyuta¦ ¾akak¡lastasya r¡j²a¾ca ||

The Seven sages (Ursa Major – the Great Bear) were stationed in the Asterism Magha, when King Yudhistira was ruling
the earth . The commencement of the Saka era took place 2526 years after the regnal period of that monarch.

We know that Yudhishtira of the Pancha Pandava won the Mahabharata war during (3102 +_ 36) and then ruled for 36
years up too 3102 BCE. Twenty five years after Kaliyuga began , when, Yudhishtira left the world in 3076 BCE. (the
starting year of the Saptarishi calendar or the Laukika or Kashmirabdham) the Saptarishi Mandalam was in the Magha
constellation, as per the astronomical data,and Varahamihira states that the Saka era he is refering to started 2526
years after this, which puts us at 550 BCE. So the Saka era he was talking albout must have been The Sakanripa kala of
King Kuru (Kurush) of Persia. So now we are ready to determine the date that Varaha was talking about as being 550-
427 = 123 BCE.. The Sakanripa kala did’nt find much usage after the Persians lost control of the territories they had
gained during the reign of Kurush. This sloka from the Brihat Samhita is mentioned also in Kalhana’s Rajatarangini. The
Rajatarangini was written in 1148 CE, This quote occurs in the 56th sloka of the 1st Taranga.
The confusion regarding the different Saka eras was created by the British , by their hopeless mangling of the
chronology starting with the Misinterptretation of the Greek synchronism29 where they concluded that Megasthenes
was the ambassador to the court of King Chandragupta Maurya, whereas he was most likely an ambassador to the
court of the Gupta empireAccording to the British chronology, According to their chronology, the Vikram Saka is
named a fter a King who ws not yet born

WORKS
Pancha-Siddhantika
Varahamihira's main work is the book Pañcasiddhāntikā (or Pancha-Siddhantika, "[Treatise] on the Five [Astronomical]
Canons) dated ca. ? gives us information about older Indian texts which are now lost. The work is a treatise on
mathematical astronomy and it summarises five earlier astronomical treatises, namely the Surya Siddhanta, Romaka
Siddhanta, Paulisa Siddhanta, Vasishtha Siddhanta and Paitamaha Siddhantas. It is a compendium of native Indian as
well as Hellenistic astronomy (including Greek, Egyptian and Roman elements).[1]
The 11th century Arabian scholar Alberuni also described the details of "The Five Astronomical Canons":

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Vepa, Kosla The Pernicious Effects of the Misinterpreted Greek Synchronism in Indian history” Presented at the ICIH
2009, Available in Souvenir Volume
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"They [the Indians] have 5 Siddhāntas:

• Sūrya-Siddhānta, ie. the Siddhānta of the Sun, composed by Lāṭa,
• Vasishtha-siddhānta, so called from one of the stars of the Great Bear, composed by Vishnucandra,
• Pulisa-siddhānta, so called from Paulisa, the Greek, from the city of Saintra, which I suppose to be
Alexandria, composed by Pulisa.
• Romaka-siddhānta, so called from the Rūm, ie. the subjects of the Roman Empire, composed by
Śrīsheṇa.
• Brahma-siddhānta, so called from Brahman, composed by Brahmagupta, the son of Jishṇu, from the
town of Bhillamāla between Multān and Anhilwāra, 16 yojanas from the latter place."[2]

Brihat-Samhita
Main article: Brihat-Samhita
Varahamihira's other most important contribution is the encyclopedic Brihat-Samhita.
Varahamihira also made important contributions to mathematics. He was also an astrologer. He wrote on all the three
main branches of Jyotisha astrology:

• Brihat Jataka - is considered as one the five main treatises on Hindu astrology on horoscopy.
• Daivaigya Vallabha
• Laghu Jataka
• Yoga Yatra
• Vivaha Patal
• His son Prithuyasas also contributed in the Hindu astrology; his book "Hora Saara" is a famous book on
horoscopy.

WESTERN INFLUENCES
It is a facile assumption that Occidentalists make based on phonetic similarity to the words Rome
and Paul that the Romaka Siddhanta should be translated as the "Doctrine of the Romans" and the
Pulisa Siddhanta should be regarded as the "Doctrine of Paul" . But the Pulisa siddhanta looks a lot
like another siddhanta of Indian origin and talk about Yugas and timescales that are nowhere else
to be seen in any greek document of that vintage. Furthermore the author of the Romaka
siddhanta is frequently mentioned as one Srisena. It is assumed that his work is based on Roman
rather than Greek sources. But there is no valid reason for doing so since there is no evidence that
the Romans had anything to teach the Indians .
A remark in the Brihat-Samhita by Varahamihira says: "The Greeks, though impure, must be
honored since they were trained in sciences and therein, excelled others....." ("mleccha hi yavanah
tesu samyak shastram kdamsthitam/ rsivat te 'p i pujyante kim punar daivavid dvijah" (Brihat-
Samhita 2.15)).But it is a definite leap in faith to assume he was equating Yavanas with Greeks,
There are sufficient reasons as we have said already to assume that Varahamihira was not referring
to Greeks when he was talking about Yavanas . See for instance
http://www.scribd.com/doc/13298002/Yavanas-Are-Not-Greeks
SOME IMPORTANT TRIGONOMETRIC RESULTS ATTRIBUTED TO VARAHAMIHIRA

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He not only presented his own observations, but embellished them in attractive poetic and metrical
styles. The usage of a large variety of meters is especially evident in his Brihat Jataka and Brihat-
Samhita.
1. ^ "the Pañca-siddhāntikā ("Five Treatises"), a compendium of various schools of Indian
astronomy including the Arya Paksha, Surya paksha and the Brahma paksha. In 5 sections,
his monumental work progresses through all aspects of Indian astronomy. 2. E. C. Sachau,
Alberuni's India (1910), vol. I, p.153

VARAHAMIHIRA’S QUOTES ON ASTRONOMY
V mentions various aspects of astronomy, that an astronomer should have command of , in order to qualify as an
astronomer. He must know the divisions of the heavens and the skies and of time , in ages, years, half years, seasons, ,
months, , half months. He must know there are 4 kinds of months, solar , civil, sidereal, and lunar, and how it happens
that there are added months and subtractive days. He must be able to explain in what respect the reckoning after solar
time shows similarity or difference compared with lunar, sidereal and civil reckoning of time and to what use each of
these is adopted or not. And when there is a discrepancy between the siddhantas, he must be able to prove
experimentally, by means of the agreement between the shadow and the clepsydra, between observation and
calculation, at what moment the sun has reached the soisticial point, at how many ghaiikas the sun enters the prime
vertical. He must know the cause of the swift and slow motion, the northern and southern course and the moving
mean epicycle of the sun and other planets. He must tell the moment of commencement and separation, the direction,
measure, duration, amount of obscuration, colour and place of the eclipses of the sun and moon, also the future
conjunctions and hostile encounters of the nine planets. He must be skilful in ascertaining the distance of each planet
from the earth expressed in yojanas; further the dimensions of their orbits and the distance of the places on earth in
yojanas. He ought to be clever in geometrical operations and in the calculation of time in order to determine the form
of earth, the cycle of the circuit of the asterisms etc., the depression of the pole, the diameter of the day, circle, the
ascensional differences in time, the rising of the signs, the gharikas corresponding to the shadow of the gnomon and
such like processes.”
Varahamihira also expressed his views regarding the various debated questions of his time. Regarding the shape of the
earth, he wrote:

“All things which are perceived by the senses are witness in favor of the globular shape of the earth, and refute the
possibility of its having another shape”
Regarding the positions of the objects on the surface of the earth and its natural attractive power, he said, “Mountains
rivers, trees, cities, men and angels, all are around the globe of the earth. And if Yamakoti and Rum (cities) are opposite
to each other, one could not say, one is ‘low’ in relation to the other, since the ‘low’ does not exist. How could one say
of one place of the earth that it is ‘low’, as it is in every particular identical with another place on earth and ‘one place
could as little ‘fall’ as any other. Everyone speaks of himself with regard to his ownself. ‘I am above and the others are
below’, whilst all of them are around the globe like the blossoms springing on the branches of a Kadamba tree. They
encircle it on all sides, but each individual blossom has the same position as the other, neither the one hanging
downward, nor the other standing upright. For the earth attracts that which is upon her; as it is the ‘below’ towards all
directions and heaven is the ‘above’ towards all directions.”
VarAhamihira, however, regarded the earth as an immovable sphere fixed at the centre of the universe, around which
the sun, the moon, and other planets revolved. If the earth had motion, he wrote, “A bird would not return to its nest
as soon as it had flown away from it towards west.”
In later times, Alberuni expressed his opinion of Varahamihira as follows: “VarahAmihira seems sometimes to side with
the Brahmanas to whom he belonged and from whom he could not separate himself. On the whole, his foot stands
firmly on the basis of truth and he clearly calls out the truth.”

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