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By Pidaparty Purna Satya Hariprasad, India
comes from well known Jyotish family in Andhrapradesh. Ancient Hindu Astronomy is in his family for the last 16 generations. His father ‘Daivajna Bhushana’, ‘Ganita Kalanidhi’ and ‘Bharati Theerthopadhyaya’ late Sri Pidaparty Krishnamurty Sastry was well known not only in Andhrapradesh but across India. In 1934 2nd Karnataka Astronomical Conference was held under the patronage of the then Maharaja of Mysore – on scientific system of Panchanga calculation and compilation. His views were accepted and acknowledged by the then President of the conference Sir Vepa Ramesam, Judge of the Madras High Court. Hariprasad’s father studied Hindu Astronomy under the able guidance of Mahamahopadhyaya Muralidhar Jha in Varanasi in 1920s. His father’s guru was a student of ‘Mahamahopadhyaya’ Sudhakar Dwivedi. Hariprasad’s father designed and installed a Sundial near Satyanarayana Swamy temple in Annavaram, East Godavari in 1943. Although Hariprasad changed over to the English system of education at the age of 17, he designed and installed another Sundial in Ashram Public School, Kakinada in A.P. in 2007 and one more near Sri Venkateswara Swamy Devasthanam in Dwaraka Tirumala near Eluru A.P. in 2010. He has adequate knowledge and skill not only to design and install Sundials of many designs but also rectify those damaged or showing wrong time, for one reason or the other, such as Samrat Yantra in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, or Sundial on Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari or in Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad etc. Hariprasad is available at email id: firstname.lastname@example.org
yana-amsa – „Ayana‟ in Sanskrit means movement or change in position however infinitesimally small it is; „Amsa‟ means a part or a small part however infinitesimally small it is. „Ayana-amsa‟ is used traditionally and conventionally in Indian Astronomy to represent „movement of „Vishuvaths‟. Vishuvath is „Equinox‟ in English. Therefore „Ayana-amsa‟ is „Precession of Equinoxes‟ in English. Vishuvaths are points of intersection of Celestial Equator and Ecliptic. Equator (Bhu-madhya Rekha), when extended / enlarged till it intersects with Ecliptic, is known as „Celestial Equator‟. Ecliptic is „Kranthi Vrutha‟ i.e. Orbit of Sun. These points of intersection are therefore imaginary, but assumed great significance in Indian Astronomy. There are two Vishuvaths – Points of intersection – one in the North and the other in the South. One in the North is known as „Vasantha Vishuvath‟ or „Vernal Equinox‟ and the other in the South is known as „Sarath Vishuvath‟ or „Autumnal Equinox‟. See picture below.
Courtesy: www.shiftoftheage.com These Vishuvaths or Equinoxes keep moving. This movement is known as „Precession‟. This topic became a centre of controversy for a variety of reasons and it is still a hot topic for discussion among the traditional scholars who are concerned about the subject. Eight questions that confound their minds may be as follows: Was the concept of „Precession of Equinoxes‟ known to ancient Indian Astronomers? If yes, since when it was known? Is the precession due to movement / trepidation of „Equator‟ or „Ecliptic‟? What are the contributory factors for the trepidation? What were the rates of precession as estimated or known to different Indian Astronomers from time to time? What is/was the effect of precession on the duration of a year or vice-versa? Is the rate of precession per year constant? What were the different rates of precession, as were known to the community? Is the precession or movement of equinoxes circular or pendular? When was the „zero‟ point (of Ayana-amsa) for precession of equinoxes? What is the current status? Is it possible to verify the accuracy of the current status? A serious attempt is made to collect and place in this paper, all the material known to the author of this paper and known to the author to be available.
Let us deal with each question in the same serial order.
1. Was the concept of precession of equinoxes known to ancient Indian Astronomers? If yes, since when was it known?
here is enough evidence to show in ancient Indian scriptures that the concept was known to Indian Astronomers since Vedic times and that Ecliptic was fixed resulting in no movement. In reality it is the trepidation of the Equator which results in „Precession of Equinoxes‟. Gravitational forces acting on the earth‟s rotation cause trepidation of Earth‟s axis and therefore Equator. “Iyanah krishne dasabhih sahasraih avathamindrah” - 8-96-13 Rigveda Meaning: Indra (Vishuvath) moves 15 x 10 x 1000 = 150,000 times in one „Kalpa‟ (4,320,000,000 years). i.e. in one Mahayuga (4,320,000 years) vishuvath revolves 150 times. „Kalpa‟ is equal to 1000 Mahayugas. [Many Western Astronomers, such as Whitney, were of the opinion that „Kalpa‟ and „Mahayuga‟ was a creation by Indian Astronomers of recent origin, such as Aryabhata, in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. They were possibly ignorant of this quote from Rigveda.] “Thrinsath-kruthyo yuge bhaanam chakram praak parilambathe” - Sloka 9, Thriprasna-adhikara, (3rd adhyaya) – Surya Sidhantha Meaning: There form 30 x 20 = 600 right angles. i.e. Vishuvath makes a full circle by moving backwards 150 times in one Mahayuga. The word „Praak‟ means backwards. This gives us 28,800 years to complete one revolution. Duration of terrestrial year may thus be obtained as 365.2422 mean solar days. Duration of sidereal year may be obtained as 365.2564 mean solar days. In Vedas, accepted and respected interpretations confirm the following synonyms: „Vasanta vishuvath‟ = „Agni‟ „Sarath Vishuvath‟ = „Indra‟ Sun‟s entry (Ravi sankramana) into Karkataka (Cancer) = „Mitra‟,
Sun‟s entry into Makara (Capricorn) = „Varuna‟. „Vishuvath chalanam‟ = „Agastya chara‟ In Vishnupurana, it was stated that Dhruva did penance (Tapas). Lord Vishnu was pleased and rewarded his penance stating that „Saptarishi Mandalam‟ would revolve around Dhruva once every 26,000 years. (Source: „Nakshatramulu‟ a book by Gobburi Venkata Ananda Raghava Rao). The age of Vishnupurana is not known. The story confirms that the movement of precession of equinoxes is circular and that it takes 26,000 years to complete the cycle. How close is the number to the scientific estimate today! One can safely conclude that the ancient Indian Astronomers were well aware of the concept of „Precession of Equinoxes‟.
2. Is the precession of equinoxes due to trepidation of „equator‟ or „ecliptic‟?
nce again, there is enough evidence to show in ancient Indian scriptures that the Ecliptic is fixed resulting in no movement. In reality it is the trepidation of the Equator which results in „Precession of Equinoxes‟. Gravitational forces acting on the earth‟s rotation cause the wobbling of Earth‟s axis and therefore trepidation of Equator. Sathapatha Brahmana (2.1.2) reading: "Ekam dve threeni chatwariti vaa anyaani nakshatranyathaita eva bhuyishtha yat krittikaa Etaa ha vai praachyai diso na chyavante sarvaani ha vaa anyaani nakshatraani prachyaih disaschyavante" confirms that there is no movement in the group of stars called Krithika from the East. This implies that the Ecliptic is not moving and is static. It is therefore the trepidation in Equator. Nakshatreshti (an ancient book) confirms that Krithika star is the first star and Bharani star is the last star. In Vayupurana and Matsyapurana it was mentioned that Vishuvath Punyakala occurred when Ravi (Sun) was in Krithika star and Moon was in Visakha star.
There are other sources such as Mahabharatha referring to Bheeshma‟s choice of date for his death, Garga Mahamuni‟s statements, Varahamihira in Brihatsamhitha (in III-1) etc.
It is the trepidation in the Equator but not in the Ecliptic, which is responsible for Ayanaamsa or Precession of Equinoxes. Then the next question is what are the factors contributing to the trepidation? Some of the factors attributed to trepidation are: The Earth is not round. Inclination of axis of the Earth Gravitational forces acting on the Earth, the Sun and the Moon
3. What were the different rates of precession of equinoxes estimated by various Indian astronomers from time to time?
nnual precession of Equinoxes was estimated/calculated by different ancient Indian Astronomers differently at different times. The following are some selected figures with brief explanations: 60”.0 per year Ganesh Daivajna in Graha Laghava 1520 A. D. Satananda in Bhaswathi 1099 A.D. Though Ganesha‟s estimate was 60”, it was actually 58”.10 based on estimated duration of a year 365.25856 days. 59”.9 per year Bhaskaracharya II 1108 A. D. Munjala 932 A.D. Though Bhaskaracharya II, estimated 59”.9 as given by Munjala, actually arrived at 57”.55 using duration of a year as 365.25843 days.
57”.615 per year Chandrasekhar Singh
54”.00 per year Surya Sidhantha at least 2,165,111 years old (500 A.D. according to Western Astronomers). Though it is known to be 54”.00 per year, it works out to be 58”.68 per year using duration of a year as 365.25875 days. 50”.0 per year Varahamihira 505 A.D. 50”.2388 per year Newcomb 1687 A.D. 46”.5 per year Parasara 46”.3 per year Aryabhata 476 A.D. 50”.27 per year Calendar Reform Committee 1955 A.D. Source: Proceedings of 2nd Karnataka Astronomical Conference, Mysore – 1934 (except the last item) (It may be noted that Calendar Reforms Committee‟s recommendations are close to Varahamihira and Newcomb.)
4. What is/was the effect of precession of equinoxes on the duration of a year or vice-versa?
et us look at the duration of a year as estimated by various ancient Hindu Astronomers or in respected texts: Days 365
Romaka Sidhantha* 365 Paulisa Sidhantha* 365 Brahmagupta Sidhantha 365 Brahmasphuta Sidhantha 365 Aryabhateeyam 365 Dwiteeya Arya Sidhantha 365 Prathama Arya Sidhantha 365 Surya Sidhantha* 365 6 Paitamaha Sidhantha* 365 V B Ketkar‟s Jyotirganitham 365 Calendar Reform Committee 365
5 6 6 6 6 6 6 12.6 8 6 5
55.2 12.0 12.148 12.148 12.50 12.508 12.56 34.28 9.16 48.768
Source for above data with the exception of last two: Proceedings of 2nd Karnataka Astronomical Conference, Mysore - 1934 Vedanga Jyotisha, whose author is unknown, was transmitted for the benefit of mankind through Lagadha Mahamuni. (There is a view that it was authored by Lagadha Mahamuni. But upon close reading “Lagadhasya Mahatmanah” does not give that interpretation). This is the oldest Hindu Astronomical Text (full text not available – only some portions are available).
Surya Sidhantha is the second oldest text after Vedanga Jyotisha - Author is unknown. It was gifted for the benefit of mankind through Mayasura by Surya Bhagwan towards the end of Krita Yuga i.e. at least 2,165,111 years ago - if it was in this Mahayuga. It is not known, in which Mahayuga it was gifted. We are currently passing through 28th Mahayuga. Duration of Mahayuga is 4,320,000 years. Western Astronomers dated SURYA SIDHANTHA as not > 1500 years based on information available to them in various sources. [Moral: We only know what we know. We do not know what we do not know. We refused to believe that something may exist beyond what we know. “Kupastha Mandukam” – a frog in the well] *Varahamihira‟s Panchasidhanthika is dated 505 A.D. Varahamihira who assembled five Sidhanthas is 505 A.D. Five Sidhanthas namely Paitamaha, Vasishtha, Romaka, Paulisa and Surya Sidhantha cannot be dated 505 A.D. V B Ketkar‟s Jyotirganitham is dated 1937 A.D. Calendar Reform Committee‟s report is dated 1955 A.D.
What is this „duration of the year‟? This is the time taken by the Sun to travel from the time it leaves one Vishuvath, say Vasantha Vishuvath or Vernal Equinox, to the time it reaches the same Vishuvath or Equinox located at a slightly different location due to precession. This is known as „'Terrestrial year‟ or „Savana year‟. Presently it is estimated at 365.242199 days or 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes 45.9936 seconds. Equinox moves in a direction opposite to the direction of Sun‟s movement on the Ecliptic. Therefore, Rate of annual precession of equinoxes and the duration of the year are inversely proportional to each other.
5. Is the rate of precession per year constant? What were the rates of precession known to the community?
nnual Rate of Precession is not constant year after year. Changes noticed by modern scientists are as given below: 50”.279 per year 50”.256 per year 49”.835 per year 49”.391 per year in 2000 A.D. in 1900 A.D. in 0000 A.D. in 2000 B.C.
Source: Report of the Calendar Reform Committee
6. Is the precession or movement of equinoxes circular or pendular?
here is a belief that the movement is pendular. The movement is believed to be within a range of 54⁰ i.e. 27⁰ on either side. This is based on four verses 9, 10, 11 and 12 in Triprasna Adhikara in Suryasidhantha reproduced below:
Trimsath kruthyo yugo bhanam chakrath prak parilambathe, Thatgunath bhudenairbhakthath dyuganath yadavapyathe Verse 10: Thaddostrighnadasasthamsaa vijne ayanabhidhah, Thathsanskruthath grahath kranthi chayacharadaladikam Verse 11: Sphutam driktulyatham gacheth ayane vishuvathdwaye Prak chakram chlritham heene chayarkath karanagathe Verse 12: Antharaamsairadhavruthya paschath seshaih thathadhike Evam vishuvathee chaya swadeshi ya dinardhaja Dakshinothara rekhayam sa thatra vishuvath prabha
Asiatic Society, Calcutta (Kolkata) published a book “Suryasidhantha” in English by A. K. Chakravarty. It is supposed to be a Research Publication. In pages 113, 114 and 115 he commented on this topic as follows: “…. The language is cryptic, the principle is contradictory to the text itself and the results obtained are erroneous. These errors could be easily detected by gnomon shadow. It is now believed that these verses were interpolated in the text in a later period. Such interpolations are not uncommon…….” Sathapatha Brahmanam (2.1.2) quoted earlier in response to Question 2 also supports the contention that movement is circular and not pendular. “Group of stars under the title “Krithika” are always on the East and are close to the Ecliptic. In times of Sathapatha Brahmana this group of stars was close to 0⁰ Latitude. Principal star in the Krithika group is 36⁰ away from the beginning of Ashwini group of stars. If the movement is pendular, this cannot happen.” Says Dr S Madhavan, Astronomer from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India. The difference between the durations of Driksidha „Nirayana‟ sidereal year (per modern observations) and sidhanteeya „Nirayana‟ solar year (per SURYA SIDHANTHA) gives us a difference of arc 8”.5. This difference gets added to annual precession every year. (Please see the comment below 54”.0 annual precession). That means 50”.27 + 8”.5 = 58”.77 which is not in conformity with visible reality. Surya Sidhantha contains „Bhaganas‟. Bhaganas and Julian days are the same. These Bhaganas give us the annual precession at 54”. Therefore these Bhaganas are incorrect and the validity of 54” is questionable.
7. When was the zero point (of ayanaamsa) for precession of equinoxes?
Some of the guestimates are given below: 388 B.C. - Cheiro 317 B.C. - D Davidson 255 B.C. - G Massey
125 B.C. - Thierens 213 A.D. - C Fagan 285 A.D. - N. C. Lahiri/Calendar Reform Committee 291 A.D. - K P Krishnamurty 490 A.D. - Bhaskaracharya II 498 A.D. - Sepharial 499 A.D. Suryasidhantha, Brahmasidhantha, Somasidhantha, Laghu Vasisthasidhantha, Vridha vasisthasidhantha, Ganakananda, Thatvaviveka 505 A.D. - Varahamihira There is no basis to confirm that any one of them is correct or wrong. They are based on the estimate of annual precession of equinoxes by respective Astronomers. They can at best be their best guess, because annual precession of equinoxes was not constant in the past and therefore, by logic, in the future as well. It is futile to dwell on this issue. It is not of great consequence.
8. What is the current status? Is it possible to verify the accuracy of current status?
s on 1st April 2012, cumulative Precession of Equinoxes was 24⁰ 01‟ 57” as given by Positional Astronomy Centre at Kolkata. The Centre is now continuing the traditions established by Calendar Reform Committee. Annual Precession, as determined by this Institution is 50”.27.
I believe it is possible to verify and establish the accuracy through the Satellites and NASA.
1. Ancient Indian Astronomers were well aware of the Precession of Equinoxes.
2. Precession is caused by trepidation of Equator and not of Ecliptic. The trepidation is mainly due to gravitational forces acting on the Earth. 3. Annual rate of precession is not constant. Therefore it is possible only to guess, and not accurately determine, date of „Zero‟ Ayana-Amsa. 4. Precession of Equinoxes is Circular and only Circular. 5. Until it is proved otherwise, cumulative precession as on 1st April 2012 is 24⁰ 01‟ 57” and annual rate of precession is 50”.27. They are in conformity with Newcomb, Varahamihira and Calendar Reform Committee. References and acknowledgements: Rig-veda Vedanga Jyotisham Surya Sidhantha Surya Sidhantha – Asiatic Society, Kolkata Vishnupurana Nakshatramulu Sathapatha Brahmana Nakshatreshti Vayupurana Matsyapurana Mahabharatha Brihat-samhitha – Varahamihira Proceedings of 2nd Karnataka Astronomical Conference – 1934 Report of Calendar Reform Committee V B Ketkar‟s Jyotirganitham
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