Occidental difficulty with other civilizations

Indic studies Foundation


Acceptance of Ancient and medieval Indic Epistemes in the sciences of antiquity by the occident


“why does the Occidental have such a great difficulty in recognizing the work of other civilizations

The case of Astronomy

-Kosla Vepa

  1. History of the Calendar

We pick the example of calendrical astronomy or the history of the calendar to illustrate, as a typical example, the extraordinary lengths that the occidental would resort to,  in order to deny the astronomical heritage of India. The design of a Calendar has never been a mathematically elegant exercise. This is so because there are not an exact number of days in either the lunar month or the solar year and there are not an integer number of months, if a month is defined as a period of the moons rotation around the earth, in a year. To put it in pithy terms, these quantities are not commensurate with each other. The need for a calendar was felt very early in recorded history, especially after the advent of river valley civilizations and soon the quest began to predict the regularity of the seasons, in order to  plan ahead  for planting the crops. It was realized that there was regularity in the motion of the heavenly bodies that gave an indication of such repeated occurrences as the seasons. It is for   this reason that the connection between the calendar and astronomy was established at an early stage of human development, beginning with the formation of river valley civilizations. As a result of the lack of exact relationships between integers representing the various periods, the Indic (and others such as the Babylonians) were compelled to develop mathematical techniques suitable or handling large quantities. And the inability to express relationships using merely whole numbers or integers forced the Indics at a very early stage in their development to postulate a decimal place value system, with the use of zero as the number whose value is dependent on its place. The story of the calendar and the development of mathematics and astronomy is indeed a fascinating chapter in the intellectual history of the species, and I trust I can make it as exciting a tale as I discovered it to be during my researches.

It is unfortunate that the Indic role in this fascinating chapter has been largely ignored[1] in most western descriptions of the history of astronomy and time. There hardly exists a history book in Astronomy that does justice to the fact that the ancient Indic left behind a staggering amount of literature   for us to decipher. This is regrettable and as a result, the story within a story of how the occidental tried to suppress and minimize the Indic contribution is equally interesting. We do not propose to be equally as  parochial and churlish as the Occidental has chosen to be,  in his accounts of the history of time and astronomy, and we propose to be equally respectful of the contributions of other civilizations be they Babylonian, Chinese or Inca or African. It is vital to realize that we are not talking about the contributions of a handful of individuals but literally scores of individuals; we attach a table in the appendix to give an idea of the number of contributors in one area alone.

The importance that various civilizations have placed on the faithful transmission of the computational sciences such as mathematics and astronomy is clearly articulated by Otto Neugebauer in the introduction of his classic on ‘The exact sciences of Antiquity’[2]. An extensive quote is in order here;

The investigation of the transmission of mathematics and as­tronomy is one of the most powerful tools for the establishment of relations between different civilizations. Stylistic motives, religi­ous or philosophical doctrines may be developed independently or can travel great distances through a slow and very indirect process of diffusion. Complicated astronomical methods, how­ever, involving the use of accurate numerical constants, requires for their transmission the direct use of scientific treatises and will often give us very accurate information about the time and circumstances of contact. It will also give us the possibility of exactly evaluating the contributions or modifications which must be credited to the new user of a foreign method. In short the inherent accuracy of the mathematical sciences will penetrate to some extent into purely historical problems. But above and beyond the usefulness of the history of the exact sciences for the history of civilization in general, it is the interest in the role of accurate knowledge in human thought that motivates the following studies.’

We are in agreement with Neugebauer, that one does not need a rationale other than the search for an accurate narrative. The search for the truth is an end in itself. We are also in agreement with him on the central role that the history of the mathematical sciences should play and should have played in the development of the history of civilization in general, clearly implying that they have not done so in the past. We have gone into some of the reasons for such a state of affairs later in this chapter.

Neugebauer concedes that independent development of ideas could occur, but he is clearly asserting that such cannot necessarily be the case when it involves complex calculations, and the use of accurate astronomical constants. In those cases Neugebauer asserts that there must have been direct transmission of knowledge. But it is clear that when it comes to India the application of this principle has been very one sided.

Wherever there has  been little dispute about the priority of the Indian invention, (and the Occidental has made every effort  to pare down such instances to an  absolute minimum), he and others of his parampara (notably David Pingree ) have pleaded that there was an independent invention by the Europeans, but in those instances where the reverse was the case, he has unhesitatingly and unequivocally declared that the Indic has borrowed from the West and has assumed that the Indic should not be credited with  Independent invention. He clearly violates his own prescription that such an independent development (in this instance in the west) is very unlikely in the mathematical sciences. The transmission to the east, particularly to India has been assumed to occur even when they have not been able to identify the person or mechanism by which such a transfer occurred. This has been the case in almost every instance in which the Occidental claims that there was transmittal of knowledge from Europe to India. The Occidental clings to this dogmatic belief even when he knows he cannot indicate a single instance where he can identify the person or persons who made the transfer of knowledge. We will allude to this later in the introduction.

Thus, even as great a scholar that he was, Neugebauer succumbs to the prejudice of Euro centrism when he makes the categorical statement that

The center of “ancient science” lies in the “Hellenistic” period, i. e., in the period following Alexander’s conquest of the ancient sites of oriental civilizations (Frontispiece of book). In this melting pot of” Hellenism” a form of science was developed which later spread over an area reaching from India to Western Europe and which was dominant until the creation of modern science in the time of Newton. On the other hand the Hellenistic civilization had its own roots in the Oriental civilizations which flourished about equally before Hellenism as its direct inf1uence was felt afterwards. The origin and transmission of Hellenistic science is therefore the central problem of our whole discussion. “

By so doing he has made an axiom, a postulate of something which he needs to establish. We are somewhat puzzled by the repeated  use  of the term  Hellenistic  by Neugebauer, since most of the scientific developments  took place initially in the little islands of the coast of Asia Minor in present day Turkey , beginning with Thales of Miletus, and subsequently in the mixed civilization of the Ptolemaic Pharaohs at Alexandria. The Greeks of Asia Minor were known as Ionians and of course the Alexandrian Greeks were heavily influenced by the Egyptian episteme and should be regarded as belonging to the Egyptian Darshanas and parampara. In fact Neugebauer seems to contradict himself when he says in one of his footnotes

In our discussions we have frequently used the word “Greek” with no Inherent qualification. It may be useful to remark that we use this term only as a convenient geographical or linguistic notation. A concept like “Greek mathematics”, however, seems to me more misleading than helpful. We are fairly well acquainted with three mathematicians -Euclid[3], Archimedes, and Apollonius -who represent one consistent tradition. We know only one Astronomer Ptolemy. And we are familiar with about equally many minor figures that more or less follow their great masters. Thus what is usually called “Greek” mathematics consists of the fragments of writings of about 10 or 20 persons scattered over a period of 600 years. *It seems to me a dangerous generalization to abstract from this material a common type and then to establish some mysterious deeper principle which supposedly connects a mathematical document with some other work of art.

What Neugebauer says about transmission of Mathematical and Astronomical knowledge resonates very appropriately in the case of the ancient Indic. In order to understand the Indic approach to the challenges faced by the human, one must understand the cosmology and the calendar of the Hindu. The calendar and the cosmos have always played a large part in the consciousness or weltanschauung of the Hindu and he spent a large portion of his observational powers in deciphering the universe around him. In this he was not alone, as we know now that other ancient civilizations, such as the Babylonian, the Egyptian and the Chinese had similar interests and a curiosity about the heavens.  But the answers the Indic came up with were quite prescient for his time, and the resulting numbers were far more accurate than the European world realized or knew, even millennia after the Indic discovered these periodicities.

In the rest of this work, we will prefer to use the adjective Indic more as a Geographic identifier rather than the word Hindu that would subsume considerable work done by Buddhists and Jains in the subcontinent.  As neither of these words was widely used in the ancient era, such a distinction is not of great consequence, while we are mindful of current sensibilities regarding inclusiveness. While there are minor differences between the approaches, these differences are insignificant when compared with work in the same field by others such as the Chinese, Babylonians and Greeks.

2. Study India for the greater part of your life and MINIMIZE The indic endlessly

The extraordinary allergy that the Occidental, with a few notable exceptions, has exhibited to the serious, unbiased,   and scholarly study of the Indic mathematical tradition, and when he has done so, the vehemence with which he has denied the value of these traditions, is astonishing to say the least. In those instances where the Occidental has recognized their value, and has used the resulting knowledge in his subsequent investigations, he has tried his best to assert initially that it was plagiarized from the Greeks and later from the Babylonians,  when the relative chronology of the Indics and the Greeks indicated that such a hypothesis was a non -sequitur. When the Babylonians were discovered as having been the main progenitors, he immediately inferred that the Indic had absorbed this knowledge from the Babylonians.  When such a stance became more and more difficult to sustain, he maintained that it was not autochthonous to the subcontinent but brought in from elsewhere by the largely mythic people called the Aryans. The consistency with which the Occidental has denied the Indic contributions is exemplified in the writings of various Indologists such as Whitney[4], Bentley[5], Moriz Winternitz[6] Albrecht Weber[7], W. W. Rouse Ball, G R Kaye, and Thibaut and continues on till today in the works of David Pingree. To quote Rouse Ball

To quote W W Rouse Ball, the historian of mathematics[8]

“The Arabs had considerable commerce with India, and a knowledge of one or both of the two great Hindoo works on algebra had been obtained in the Caliphate of Al-Mansur (754-775 AD)though it was not until fifty or seventy years later that they attracted much attention. The algebra and arithmetic of the Arabs were largely founded on these treatises, and I therefore devote this section to the consideration of Hindoo mathematics. The Hindoos like the Chinese have pretended that they are the most ancient people on the face of the earth, and that to them all sciences owe their creation. But it is probable that these pretensions have no foundation; and in fact no science or useful art (except a rather fantastic architecture and sculpture) can be definitely traced back to the inhabitants of the Indian peninsula prior to the Aryan invasion. This seems to have taken place at some time in the fifth century or in the sixth century when a tribe of Aryans entered India by the North West part of their country. Their descendants, wherever they have kept their blood pure, may still be recognized by their superiority over the races they originally conquered; but as is the case with the modern Europeans, they found the climate trying and gradually degenerated”

We remind our readers that such a racist sentiment was expressed as late as the beginning of the 20th century, well after the renaissance and the enlightenment.

As we have emphasized, there were exceptions such as Brennand, Playfair, Colebrooke, Sewell, and Bailly.

Even a scholar like James Princep feels constrained to remark that the real interest of the Occidental in matters Indic is generally aroused in those  particular instances, (which I have highlighted in bold) where they  have a more parochial interest. It is also interesting that Prinsep regards the historical narrative of India as largely legend as contrasted with Greece and Rome which are rational. What makes the Indic historical narrative largely legendary and what makes the Greek History rational is not entirely clear.

The initial flush of enthusiasm for the literature in  Sanskrit in the eighteenth century  is  now a dim memory ,  and even amongst astronomers and mathematicians,  the fact that the Bernoullis and Leonard Euler had  knowledge of the Indic contributions, even earlier, is  either forgotten or swept under the rug. This is of course assuming the current crop of philologists have the mathematical savvy to understand these matters.

3. The interest in Germany in Indology

“As long as the study of Indian antiquities confines itself to the illustration of Indian history, It must be confessed that it possesses, little attraction for the general student, who is apt to regard the labor expended on the disentanglement of perplexing and contradictory mazes of fiction as leading only to the substitution of vague and dry probabilities, for poetical, albeit extravagant fable.  But the moment any name or event turns up in the course of such speculation, offering a point of connection between the legends of India and the rational histories of Greece and Rome—a collision between an Eastern and a Western hero—forthwith a speedy and a spreading interest is excited, which cannot be satisfied until the subject is thoroughly sifted by an examination of all the ancient works, Western and Eastern, that can throw concurrent light on the matter at issue. Such was the engrossing interest which attended the identification of Sandrocottus with Chandragupta, in the days of Sir William Jones—such the ardor with which the Sanskrit was studied, and is still studied, by philologists at home, after it was discovered to bear an intimate relation to the classical language of ancient Europe. Such more recently has been the curiosity excited on Mr. Turnour’s throwing open the hitherto concealed page of Buddhist historians, to the development of Indian monuments and Pauranic records.”—James Prinsep., late Secretary of the Asiatic Society.

In other words, this emphasizes what I wrote elsewhere when remarking on the interest that Germans have shown in Indological studies, that the interest of the Occidental in matters Indic, is primarily driven by curiosity regarding his own antecedents. I quote myself;

“In reality this field of study was dominated by German scholars. Interest in Indology only took shape and concrete direction after the British came to India, with the advent of the discovery of Sanskrit by Sir William Jones in the 1770’s. Other names for Indology are Indic studies or Indian studies or South Asian studies. Almost from the beginning, the Puranas attracted attention from European scholars. But instead of trying to understand the Puranas and the context in which they were developed, the Occidental went about casting doubts on the authenticity of the texts, and in fact altering the chronology which they could find in a particular Purana.

The extraordinary level of interest by German scholars in matters Indic is a very interesting narrative in its own right and we need to reflect upon the highlights of this phenomenon. The German speaking people experienced a vast increase in intellectual activity at about the same time that Britain colonized India. We do not understand the specific factors that came into play during this time, other than to remark on the tremendous intellectual ferment that was running concurrently during the French revolution, and the keen interest that Napoleon showed in matters scientific including the contributions of the orient. Clearly the remarks that Sir William made about Sanskrit as well as the high level of interest that he provoked in the Sanskrit language, contributed to the overall sense of excitement. But why was it Germany and not Britain, the center of research on the Oriental contributions. The answer lies in the intense search for nationhood that was under way in Germany during that period. When Sanskrit was discovered, and it dawned on the Germans that the antiquity of Sanskrit was very great, and that Sanskrit and German were somehow related, the Germans suddenly had an answer to the question of their own ethnic and linguistic origins. Sir Henry Maine an influential Anglo Indian scholar and former Vice Chancellor of Calcutta university, who was also on the Viceroys council, pronounced a view that many Englishman shared about the unification of Germany.


From the beginning, the great interest that Germany showed in Sanskrit had more to do with their own obsessions and questions regarding their ethnic and linguistic origins. It had very little or at least far less to do with the origin of the ancient Indic, about whom they had considerably less interest. And yet, that does not stop the proponents of the AIT in India, whose knowledge of European history appears to be rudimentary at best, from asserting that AIT is primarily an obsession of nationalistic Hindus. Such is the fate and the perversion of history that conquered nations can aspire to.”

From, the point of view of the Occidental, this is hardly surprising, and may not even be contested by him, but it is the propensity of the Indic, to grant these studies by the Occidental, uncritical approval and equal if not greater weightage, without sifting through the resulting distortions that they have introduced, that is unconscionable and does not bespeak a scholarly approach to the topic and in the case of history, my contention is that the Indic has paid dearly for it.

                                       5. The reluctance OF INDOLOGISTS in the occident to acknowledge the vedic episteme

The resulting paucity of knowledge and illiteracy on the part of the western scholar on matters pertaining to India was lethal to the understanding of their own history and leaves Occidental historians, the task of explaining why there was no progress in Europe between the time of the Greek contribution to the mathematical sciences and the flowering of the renaissance resulting in the Keplerian paradigm shift, a period exceeding 1600 years. The current understanding  in the Occident of the developments in Mathematics and Astronomy  follow the flowchart indicated in Figure 2 (Figure 1 indicates the situation prevailing till recently). Needless to say our view of the matter indicates, it falls far short of reality

Figure 1 Eurocentric View of the sciences in Antiquity

Figure 2 Modified Eurocentric View of the Sciences in Antiquity

We are compelled to remark that the sudden explosion of knowledge that took place during the renaissance occurred shortly after the Jesuits sent 70 scholars to Malabar in the 1500’s. When it came to reconciling himself with the obvious depth of knowledge of the ancient Indic, the occidental had no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the Indic had borrowed everything from Greece.  But he is more than reluctant to accept that a massive transfer of knowledge took place from India to Europe during the 16th century, even though the evidence is far more compelling. In fact all evidence pointing to such a transfer is completely ignored.  We will remark in passing that there is a palpable difference in the manner in which the Occidental views the transmittal of knowledge, depending on the direction in which the transmittal is alleged to have transpired.

6. Differing standards of Claims for transmission of knowledge

We would be remiss if we did not make the observation about the direction in which knowledge was transmitted. Many have been the individuals from other parts of the world who studied at Indian universities like Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramshila, and Odantipura till the 12th century. It was a rare instance where they would go back and denigrate the knowledge they had so acquired or the land they acquired it from, and in fact went out of their way to eulogize the education they received at these locations which were studded all along the Gangetic valley, but particularly so in Vihara (Bihar). However all this changed during the16th century when the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) sent highly educated (for those days) individuals, the number sometimes exceeding 70 or 80 at times at any given point in time, whose sole purpose was to extract as much information from the people who practiced such skills, like Jyotish Pandit and engage in intellectual property theft. What defines such activity as theft? If the recipient does not acknowledge the source of his teaching then it is fair to call it theft.

There is another oddity, in the obsession that Occidentals have, with their insistence that India borrowed everything from Greece. They cannot point to a single instance of any individual either Greek or Indian who is credited with the transmission. The only fact they refer to is the significant presence of Greeks left behind in Bactria who survived till about a hundred years prior to the Common Era. The claim is usually made that there were several Greek emissaries who could have transmitted this knowledge. But such emissaries are rarely endowed with scientific knowledge, and to expect Alexander or any of his generals to sit down and patiently teach the Indics the intricacies of Greek astronomy is certainly not a realistic scenario, given also that the state of astronomical knowledge in Greece prior to the advent of Ptolemy was moribund. We maintain that in order for transmission to have taken place, either of 2 mechanisms must have existed;

  1. Indic scholars went to Alexandria after it was founded, returned and taught it to others at one of the famed universities of India. While this is entirely possible, it is astonishing that the name of such a learned person would not be available to us. The absence of such an individual in the historical record leads one to believe that this did not happen. There are names of Indics who went to Greece but as far as I am aware we do not have the names of any Indic who returned. It is inconceivable that the author of a major text , during the time period in question, would not have left behind references to his work and association with the Greeks
  2. Learned Greek astronomers came and taught at one of the famous universities of India (Nalanda, Odantipura, Taksashila, and Vikramshila). Again the absence of such an individual in the historical record precludes this eventuality. Note that we have the names of several Chinese and Koreans who came to India during this period. The names of Greeks who were scholars are conspicuously absent. The 2 names that we are familiar with are those of Pythagoras and Apollonius of  Tyana, but neither of them was an astronomer and  neither mentions teaching the Indics any particular subject.  On the contrary their fame as men of wisdom and learning  rested partly on their having spent time in India.

Furthermore a necessary condition for the transmission from Greece to India to  have taken place is that the Greeks must have discovered it at least decades before the  Indians did (and probably earlier) in order to be able to record and disseminate the knowledge in Greece prior to transmitting the knowledge to India .  The currently  accepted chronology of India and Greece precludes such a  possibility. In fact no study of this kind would be complete without a reference to the differing standards by which Occidentals have concluded whether a particular discipline was imported or exported out of the Occident. We quote C K Raju[9]in his monumental work on the philosophical and historical underpinnings of the mathematical sciences. (Page 314)

“However, we have also seen that the standard of evidence is not uniform, but varies with the claim being made. The standard of evidence required for an acceptable claim of transmission of knowledge from East to West, is different from the standards of evidence required for a similar claim of transmission   of knowledge from West to East. Thus there is always the possibility that similar things could have been discovered independently, and that western historians are still arguing about this, even in so obvious a case as that of Copernicus. Finally we have seen that this racist double standard of evidence is not an incidental error, but is backed by centuries of racist tradition, religious exhortations by Popes, and by legal interpretations authoritatively handed down by, say the US Supreme Court.”

Priority and the possibility of contact always establish a socially acceptable case for transmission from West to East, but priority and definite contact never seems to establish an acceptable case for transmission from East to West, for there is always the possibility, that similar things could have been discovered independently.

“Hence to establish transmission we propose to adopt a legal standard of evidence, good enough to hang a person for murder. Briefly we propose that the case for any transmission must be established on the grounds of

1. Motivation,

2. Opportunity,

3. Circumstantial evidence and

4. Documentary evidence.

The importance of epistemological continuity has been repeatedly stressed above by Raju; any such claim, he emphasizes, must also take into account

5. Epistemological issues.

The cognitive dissonance resulting from incomplete understanding of epistemological issues and maintaining epistemological continuity, is almost a certain indicator that the technology has been plagiarized from elsewhere

Examples abound, especially when it comes to areas such as Mathematics, Astronomy and Linguistics and the discovery of the origin of scripts. In particular we cite the instance of David Pingree’s PhD thesis titled “Materials for the Transmission of Greek astrology to India”. Notice he does not ask whether such a transmittal ever happened. That is a given, a hypothesis that need not be proven. This is another example of a circular argument. Assume the answer that there was a transmittal, in the initial hypotheses, merely because there was probable contact however, tenuous that may be, and then claim that it is an incontrovertible fact.

The conventional wisdom in the West was that the Jesuits were sent to convert the Indics to the Christian faith and as a byproduct teach them the finer points of the occidental civilization. In reality it turns out, they were sent to learn a whole host of topics such as navigation, mathematical techniques including trigonometry, and the Indian approach to calendrical astronomy. In short the Jesuits embarked on a systematic study of the Indic episteme, since it was obvious that the Indics had made considerable advances, which the Jesuits were quick to realize were far in advance of their own.  We are in the process of chronicling the study of those individuals who in turn studied India or studied subjects in which the Indics had great proficiency, beginning with ancient Babylon to the British, primarily to understand the role that India and the Indic episteme played in the renaissance of Europe. While there is nothing here that can be regarded as being morally reprehensible, one wonders why there was the extreme reluctance to admit that they learned from others too. In this, one has to concede that the Arab scholar during the heyday of Islam observed a higher degree of ethics than his brethren in the Occident, because he never exhibited the slightest hesitation in attributing to the Indic the episteme that he had learned from him.

Typical of the stance of the Occidental is the attitude of the late Professor David Pingree who occupied the only faculty position that I am aware of on the History of mathematics in the western world at Brown University. On the one hand, Professor David Pingree, spent most of his entire professional career studying Indian texts and manuscripts. He compiled and catalogued a comprehensive bibliography of all materials available on the computational sciences in India. The work was so voluminous, that the net result was a 5 volume compendium which he appropriately termed the Census of the Exact Sciences in Sanskrit (CESS), a massive amount of literary work that could never be replicated from what we know today to be the corresponding output from Greece. Yet he kept insisting that India lacked the astronomical tradition necessary for the development of these techniques.[10] Typical of his statements is one where he remarks that ’both the Brahma Paksha and the Arya Paksha schools of Astronomy, seem to have antecedents in Greek astronomy’.[11] He is unable to assert with any modicum, of certainty that such a transmission happened. Yet he keeps insisting that such a transmission happened

To those who defend Prof Pingree, I have a simple question to ask. Why did Prof Pingree spend his precious time cataloging the CESS in India, especially when he was vociferously proclaiming that India did not have an Astronomical tradition? He hints at the answer to this, by saying that historians have had to rely on disparate and often desperate sources to decipher what the Greeks knew. In other words, he makes the assumption that the Greeks had a rich tradition in astronomy despite the paucity of materials attesting to such a tradition, whereas the Indics, who had a voluminous literature on the topic, should nevertheless be decreed as having no tradition in astronomy. The obvious non-sequitur inherent in such a stance, seems to escape the notice of most people, and even if it does not, the attitude seems to be to let this massive misrepresentation continue as long as it is not challenged   It is unfortunate that such blatantly racist views go unchallenged, especially by the people most  affected by this massive lie..

We view the study of history and philosophy of science as central to the understanding of any civilization and its ethos.  We were pleased to discover that Neugebauer2 made a similar statement regarding the utility of studying   history of the mathematical sciences; hence we make no apology for the emphasis on science, and especially on Astronomy in our own studies of the Indic peoples. Such an emphasis has been lacking in the past partly because major advances in the sciences, that have the potential to be of use in the study of history, have occurred only recently in the last 100 years and partly also because it has been difficult to find individuals who have proficiency In more than one discipline, such as Astronomy and Archaeology. It is our expectation that Archaeo Astronomy will become a field of study on its own right and ameliorate this situation to some extent, but the larger question remains as to why till hitherto, there have been so few studies of the Mathematical traditions of the Indic peoples , interwoven into the  general studies of history.

A good example of what we are about is the story of the

7. Heliocentric vs Geocentric Paradigms

A word is therefore in order about the manner in which we construct the models of the universe. It is only in the last 500 years, or even less, that we have shifted unambiguously to a heliocentric view of our Solar system. This step was a major paradigm shift for the human species. But this does not mean that the Geocentric models that were constructed in the past were wrong or that they were an obstacle to further progress. Nor does it mean that the ideas leading inexorably to a heliocentric  model, such as the realization that the earth rotates about  its own axis , did not occur to those who were capable enough  to visualize the consequences (Aryabhata and Aristarchus come to mind).  It simply means that the species had not evolved to the point where it could appreciate the consequences of the heliocentric model.

A coordinate system that is geocentric is extremely useful for describing the map of the sky, if for no other reason than, that it is the way we see the universe around us. Still, it is pertinent to remind ourselves that the planet earth is only one of the planets of the Sun which is an insignificant star (among billions of others) in one of the spiraling arms of the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn is one of millions of Galaxies.  The sheer vastness of the universe in which the planet earth is an insignificant tiny spec, should be a deterrent  to taking ourselves too seriously, much less kill each other for some imagined slight or grievance. It is the consequence of the heliocentric system that forces us to re-examine our role and purpose in the Shiva Tandava that is a quintessential metaphor for the vast cosmic drama that we are so privileged to be a part of. Aryabhata makes mention of the rotation of the earth about its own axis, and since such a rotation would explain the apparent movement of the planets and other objects in the sky, he was tantalizingly close to an explicit statement regarding the heliocentric nature of our solar system.  But as I have emphasized, humanity was not ready to begin the long march to unshackling itself from the self imposed mental Gulag of dogmatic thought processes as well as the realization of the potential to free ourselves from the cocoon of the solar system.

The idea did not ‘catch fire’ and did not cause a paradigm shift  in the manner in which people viewed themselves either in  a terrestrial frame or  otherwise. Without the accompanying revolution of thought, such a statement is without impact and hence is of little significance from the point of view of further progress. After all, Aristarchus is reputed to have postulated a heliocentric system as well and the same remark applies to him also.

By contrast, the Copernican revolution was a major event in the history of the human species and caused a veritable explosion in the sciences. All we are asking is that the Indic contribution be recognized as a significant portion of the total effort. Certainly the Ancient Indic deserves better than to be completely ignored in any narratives of the history of Astronomy[12],[13]

We wish to make it clear that we are not trying to establish priority in every field that the Indic may have made contribution, but it also does not make sense to ignore the contributions of the Indics merely because they fell prey to the colonialist urge to plunder and lost control of their own history and should pay for this lapse for all time by never correcting the historical narrative;

It is time that the Indic challenges the Eurocentric descriptions of the development of various sciences and technologies. The main motivation for doing so is not merely to claim precedence in the discovery of various episteme where appropriate, but also to establish the legitimate place of the Indic civilization within the diverse family of ethnicities and weltanschauungs that comprise the sum total of the human experience. We owe this much to the Giants who came before us and bequeathed such a rich legacy., By the time we are done we are confident that the name of Yajnavalkya[14] will be well known at least amongst Astronomers as the man who determined that there is  a 95 year synchronism between the rotations of the earth and its moon and that he knew this from the strong traditions of observation  that were already established by his time.


Appendix:    Index of Indic Savants in the computational sciences from antiquity

Acyuta Pisarati (c. 1550 CE-1621 CE)

Apastambha, author of Sulva Sutra, circa 2000 BCE

Aryabhata (476 CE – 550 CE.)

Aryabhata Ia (author of Aryabhata Siddhanta)

Aryabhata lb (author of Aryabhattiyum of Kusumapura) Born in Asmaka,, A1b = or not=A1a

Aryabhata II ( 9

AsuraMaya or Mayaasura (author of Suryasiddhanta_)

Bakshali Manuscript

Baudhayana ( 2000 BCE)

Bhaskara I ·


Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura (1874- 1936), author of the Graha granita’dyaya commentary on Siddhanta Sironmani,

Bhartrihari, considered to be the father of semantics

Bhaskara (1114-c. 1185)

Bhaskara 1(629 CE of Vallabhi country)

Bhaskara II (Bhaskaracharya son of Maheshwara)

Bhattotpala of Kashmir (966 CE)

King Bhoja, author of Rajamrganka, , coronation during 646 CE

Bhishma Pitamaha, author of Paitamaha Siddhanta ?, Paitamaha Siddhanta is incorporated in Dharmottarapurana, and not available elsewhere

Bhutivesnu son of Devaraja, circa 14th century CE? ,commentary on AB


Brahma ( author of Bahma siddhanta ), same as Brahmagupta· ?

Brahmadeva son of Chandrabuddha 1092 ce

Brahmagupta (c. 598-c. 670) , son of Jisnugupta , author of BrahmaSphuta Siddhanta

Brihaddeshi ·

Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao ·

Cangadeva ( 1205)

Chandraprajnapati, ? 5”’ century BCE ,author of

Chakradhara , 1550-1650,(Godavari),Yantra-cintamani,Quadrant

Chandrasekhara Simha or Chandrasekhar Samanta (are they the same — yes)) 1835 CE

Chintamani Diksita , 1736-1811,Golananda (1800)               Misc.

D. K. Ray-Chaudhuri ·

Damodara, son of Parameswara and guru of Nilakantha Somasutvan also wrote Bhatattulya

Dasaballa (son of Vairochana) 1055 CE

Deva (Deva Acharya) , wrote Karana Ratna


Ganesha Daivajna I (1505 CE son of Lakshmi and Kesava))

Ganesha Daivajnya II (great grandson of Ganesha Daivajnya 1(1600 CE)


Gangesha Upadhyaya ·


Govinda Bhatta

Govindaswami (c. 800-850)

Halayudha (fl. 975)

Haridatta (circa 850 CE) wrote Grahachara Nibhandana

Harish-Chandra ·

Hema , 15th cent. ,(Gujarat),Kasa-yantra, Cylindrical sundial.

Hemachandra Suri (b. 1089)


Jaganath Pandit (fl. 1700)

Jagannatha Samrat ·

Jayadeva (1000 CE)

Jayant Narlikar ·

Jyesthadeva of KERALA (circa 1500 CE?)

Kakalaka Bhatti (1530 Saka)  wrote Siddhanta Tatava viveka

Kamalakara (1616) alt.1610 CE, son of narasimha (belongs to Daivjnya

Katyayana , Author of Sulva Sutras

Kesava Daivajna

Kodandarama (1807-1893) of the Telugu country alternate (1854CE ) son

Krishna Daivajna




Lakshmidasa , son of Vachaspati Misra

Lakshmidasa Daivajna

Lalla son of Bhatta Trivikrama

Latadeva , pupil of Aryabhata lb

Lokavibhaga (Jaina text)

Madhava (son of Virupaksha of the Telugu country)

Madhava of Sangramagama in Kerala (1340 to 1425 CE )

Mahadeva (son of Bandhuka)

Mahadevan, wroteVenwaroham

Mahadeva son of parasurama,

Maharajah Sawai Jai Singh , 1688-1743,Yantra-prakara,Yantra-raja-racana ,Misc.,Astrolabe

Mahavira (Mahaviracharya) ( 850 CE)

Mahavira , founder of Jainism, author of Surya prajnapati and

Mahavira of the Digambara sect

Mahendra Suri (1349 CE)

Mahendra Suri, pupil of Madana Sun , (1370 CE)

Malayagiri, Jain Monk from Gujarat , author df Surya prajnapati

Malikarjuna Suri , 1178 CE, name suggest Telugu country


Manjula (930 CE)

Mathukumalli V. Subbarao ·

Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri ·

Munishvara · (17th century) author of

Nagesh Daivajnya (son of Shiva Daivajnya) (1619 CE)

Narasimha Daivajna (son of Krishna Daivajnya) 1586 CE

Narayana Pandit (fl. 1350)

Narayana (c. 1500-1575)

Nilakantha Somayaji or Nilakantha Somasutvan (1443 CE to 1543 CE) of Kelallur,son of Jatavedas, Bhatta, following the Ashvalayanasutra of the Rig Veda            

wrote Āryabhatīyabhāsya, 1977 (Available in Library of Congress) Trivandrum series. Pupil of Parameswara’s son, Damodara, advocate of DrgGanita system

Nisanku – son of Venkataknishna Sastri (source, sourcebook KVS)

Padmanabha son of Narmada (same as Parameswara?) 1400 CE,author of Yantra-Kiranavali developed an instrument ,Astrolabe, Dhruva-brahmana- yantra,

Panduranga swami

Panini ·

Paramesvara (1360-1455 CE) alt.1380 — 1460 CE,a Namputiri of Vataserri in Kerala, founder of Drgganita school




Prabhakara (pupil of Aryabhata I, 525 CE?

Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis ·

Prashastidhara (fl. 958)

Pruthudakaswami (fl. 850)

Putumana Somayaji (c. 1660-1740)

Raghunath Raj

Raj Chandra Bose ·


Rama Daivajnya , sonn of Madhusudhana Daivajnya


Ranganatha son of Narasimha Daivajnya (1643 CE) . commentary on  Surya Siddhanta

referred to as son of Padmanabha (1417 CE) are they one and the same

Saamanta Chandrasekhar Simha (see also Chandrasekhar Sinha)

Sankaranarayanan  (869 CE) wrote Sankarnarayaneeyam

Sankara Variyar (1500 — 1600 CE) pupil of Jyeshtadeva

Sankara Varman (fl. 1800)

Sarvadaman Chowla ·

Satyendra Nath Bose ·

Shreeram Shankar Abhyankar ·

Somaswara circa 11 century CE

Sridhara (fl. 900)


Srinivasa Ramanujan ·

Sripati (son of Nagadeva, 999 CE)

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar ·

Suryadeva Yajwan (1191 CE of Gangaikonda Cholapuram in Tamilnadu)

The Daivajna Family — The Bernoullis of India

Trikkantiyur –

Udaya divakaran (1073 CE), commentator of the Laghu Bhaskariya

Umaswati (fl. 150 B.C.E.)

Varahamihira (son of Adityadasa) , (c. 505-c. 558)


Venkatesh Ketkar

Vateshvara (904 CE), author of Vateshvara Siddhanta ,follows Aryapaksha and Saurapaksha


Vijay Kumar Patodi ·

Virasena ·

Virasena Acharya

Virupaksha Suri of the Telugu country

Vishnu Daivajnya (son of Divakara Daivajnya) same as Visvanatha?

Visvanatha Daivajna (son of Divakara Daivajna) 1578 CE

Yajnavalkya (author of Satapatha Brahmana and Brihat Aranyaka U)

Yallaiya (1482 CE of Skandasomeswara of the Telugu country)


Yatavrisham Acharya

Yativrsabha  (Jain monk, 6th century )



[1] See for instance, James Evans, The history and practice of ancient astronomy, Oxford University press, NY,

[2] Otto Neugebauer “The exact Sciences of antiquity” first published in 1957 by Brown university press, republished by Dover publications, New York, NY, in 1967

[3] It is important to remind our self that Euclid is a very elusive character in Greek history and it is not known with any degree of certainty whether such a person really existed and even less is known about his chronology. See the work of CK Raju

[4] American Indologists. One of Salisbury’s students at Yale, William Dwight Whitney (1827-1901) went on to become a distinguished Sanskritist in his own right having studied in Berlin under alleged German scholars as Bopp and Weber. One would have thought that to become a Sanskritist , one should study under the great masters and pundits of India. But like Weber ,  Whitney became one of the principal detractors of the notion that anything worthwhile came out of India especially in the field of Astronomy. Whitney became a full professor of Sanskrit language and literature at Yale in 1854, wrote his classic Sanskrit Grammardot_clear (1879) and was the doyen of Indologists of his period. Like many who considered themselves expert in Sanskrit, it is doubtful he could ever chant a single sloka in his life or was capable of conversing or writing a decent  essay in the Sanskrit language . This raises the question of the credentials needed to call oneself a Sanskritist. What should be the minimum competency that one should demonstrate before one calls oneself a Sanskritist.  American Indologists have generally toed the line that Whitney first pursued and have not deviated from the Eurocentric, presumably because racial considerations predominated above all else. One wonders why in the face of such contempt for a people , these gentleman continued to study the heritage of the Indic people. The answer lies in their assumption that Sanskrit was not autochthonous to the subcontinent but was brought into India by the mythical indo European or as they were known then by the name Aryans. They not only appropriated the Sanskrit heritage as their own but denied that it was native to the geography of the Indian subcontinent. This is a direct consequence of the loss of control by the Indics of their own historical narrative. No civilization or peoples can afford this luxury, if they wish to retain the authentic narrative of their own heritage  See also Whitney (1874) and Whitney (1895)

[5] “John Bentley: Hindu Astronomy, republished by Shri Publ., Delhi 1990, p.xxvii;” By his [Playfair’s] attempt to uphold the antiquity of Hindu  books against absolute facts, he thereby supports all those  horrid abuses and impositions found in them, under the pretended
sanction of antiquity. Nay, his aim goes still deeper, for by      the same means he endeavors to overturn the Mosaic account,      and sap the very foundation of our religion: for if we are to believe in the antiquity of Hindu books, as he would wish us, then the Mosaic account is all a fable, or a fiction.” So this is the argument that prevailed. Hindu astronomy could not be believed not because it was flawed, but that it would overturn the orthodoxy of the Christian church. So much for the scientific temper of western scholarship and their much vaunted blather about the importance that they attached to the scientific approach and the love of proof they inherited from the Greeks. In doing so, the Occidental chose to abandon all  pretence of scholarship and with few exceptions preferred to succumb to their own prejudices

[6] In 1925 The Professor of Indian Studies at the German University of Prague, Moriz Winternitz (1863-1937), denounced Schopenhauer for his admiration of the Upanishads with the following words – ‘Yet I believe, it is a wild exaggeration when Schopenhauer says that the teaching of the Upanishads represents ‘the fruit of the highest human knowledge and wisdom’ and contains ‘almost superhuman conceptions the originators of which can hardly be regarded as mere mortals…’ On the subject of the Vedas, Winternitz had this to say -‘It is true, the authors of these hymns rise but extremely seldom to the exalted flights and deep fervor of, say, religious poetry of the Hebrews.’ Not even scholars seem to be immune to the quality of lack of graciousness when it comes to recognition of the work of other cultures and civilizations that seems to pervade the Occident.

[7] The famous German Indologist Albrecht Weber (1825-1901) was a notorious racist whose German nationalistic tendencies were thinly veiled as works on Indian philosophy and culture. When Humboldt lauded praise upon the Bhagavad-Gita, Weber became disgusted. His immediate response was to speculate that the Mahabharata and Gita were influenced by Christian theology –‘The peculiar coloring of the Krishna sect, which pervades the whole book, is noteworthy: Christian legendary matter and other Western influences are unmistakably present…’

[8] W. W. Rouse Ball in ‘A short account of the History of mathematics’ Dover Publications,1960, (originally appeared in 1908, page.146

[9] C  K Raju “Cultural Foundations of Mathematics”, Centre for Studies in Civilizations(PHISPC), Pearson Education, 2007,page 313. It is my opinion that this is a landmark  publication on the civilizational uniqueness of  the Indic contributions , juxtaposed with the philosophy of the history of science.  It should be read in entirety by every educated person interested in  these matters and particularly by the Indic population

[10] David Pingree ‘The recovery of early Greek Astronomy from India”, JHA, vol. vii (1976), pp.109-123

[11] David Pingree ‘Bija corrections in Indian astronomy’ JHA, vol.xxvii, (1996), pp.161-172

[12]Evans, James, “the History and Practice of Ancient Astronomy”, Oxford University press, 1998, ISBN 0-19-509539-1. The curious aspect of this book which is an excellent  account of the history of western astronomy, is that, there is not the slightest curiosity, expressed in the book  as to the contributions of the Indics

[13] History of Astronomy: An Encyclopedia (Garland Encyclopedias in the History of Science, Volume 1) (Library Binding) by John Lankford (Author) “American astrophysicist and science administrator…”

[14] Yajnavalkya in the Satapatha Brahmana

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