Home > History, India > Anything on Ancient Observatories?

Anything on Ancient Observatories?


Is there a common thread between these?

https://twitter.com/#!/KVSarmaJ/status/168668078203351040

https://twitter.com/#!/KVSarmaJ/status/168712032315650048

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In modern Afghanistan-Uzbekistan region, at Ai Khanoum  – meaning ‘Moon Lady’ in Uzbek, was a remarkable archaeological find. This site was handled by King Zahir Shah, and excavated by Daniel Schlumberger, Director of a French archaeological team in Afghanistan. An extensive settlement, was excavated and quite a few gold and silver artefacts were recovered.

Another interesting find were two sundials, calibrated and indexed to the Indian city of Ujjain and to the city of Syene in Egypt .

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  1. Kumar Iyer
    February 16, 2012 at 7:37 am

    WHAT ABOUT SUN TEMPLES IN GAYA,BIHAR- SURYA PAHAR, ASSAM- KUMBAKONAM, T.NADU- ARASAVILLI,A.P- MULTAN, PAKISTAN. WHAT IS THEIR NEARNESS TO TROPIC OF CANCER

  2. February 16, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Distances as per Great Circle route – traveling East to West.

    Point 1: Goalpara (26.17°N, 90.62°E)
    Point 2: Konark (19.53°N, 86.08°E)
    Distance: 872.4 km

    Point 2: Konark (19.53°N, 86.08°E)
    Point 3: Unao (25.58°N, 78.6°E)
    Distance: 1021 km

    Point 3: Unao (25.58°N, 78.6°E)
    Point 4: Modhera: (23.58°N, 72.13°E)
    Distance: 690.9 km

    But the distance between longitudes may be more relevant. Will feed that in also.

  3. February 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Another interesting purpose of these structures is that they built a Surya deva in the temple on whom the first rays would fall on the day of equinox. But the point is, why build huge temples in line with astronomical happenings just to make the rays of sun fall on the idol. It would anyway happen even if there was no temple and if the idol was present at that point.

  4. February 16, 2012 at 1:11 pm
    It appears that these temple complexes were set up for multiple purposes.

    1. To attract patrons: Since Indian education, research, learning was largely driven by private sector – and not State patronage, these temple complexes were used to attract the yajaman.

    2. Indian astronomy was based on 27 nakshatra , 12 rashis, 9 grihas - which were marked by different planetary bodies moving at different speeds. Hence, in preparing janampatri, latitude and longitude are essential.

    3 By having these temples in a belt, notings on movements in the skies could be used on pre-determined dates, which would be a few hours apart, to get a series of readings. Like take reading on day of uttarayan in Goalpur, Konark, Gaya, Unnao, Multan, Modhera – and see at what speed the different planetary bodies move.

    4. Now combine these readings with Pythagorean geometry (which some historians say, Pythagoras learnt from India) – and you can start projecting distances.

    5. So, within 15 days, some chelas would start moving within temple complexes – coming with their readings, and taking readings from other centres.

    6. A few weeks later, you can repeat this cycle – and refine formulae, test, and solidify a calculator.

    7. At another level, these light-n-shade ‘tricks’ would also attract others, who were users of this data for crops, marriages, weather projections, travel, etc.

    8. Hence the practice of consulting an astrologer before any activity. The could predict weather, climate, seasons, rain, heat, distances, travel time, etc.

    9. Remember that GMT was synchronized to Indian sunrise – because the European calendar systems were notoriously unreliable. What modern astronomers have achieved with billions of dollars and great machines was done with simple ideas and brains 2-4 thousand years ago. Modern science has found near zero knowledge – except proved India and Babylon right.

  5. February 16, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    “GMT was synchronized to Indian sunrise – because the European calendar systems were notoriously reliable” Please explain this point.

  6. February 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm
    12 midnight – is a meaningless point in time. What happens at 12.00 midnight? Nothing. Except that the modern Christian calendar moves ahead by one day.

    What is the trigger for this date change? Nothing.

    12.00 noon would have been logical. Sunrise, sunset, anything would be logical. 12.00 midnight is completely arbit.

    So why?

    Because the Indian calendar moved one day ahead 5:30 hr ago at sunrise – and to get a fix they synchronized their time with IST. The Julian calendar used in Europe till a few centuries ago, was a crude lunar calendar – incapable of anything. The modern calendar is only slightly better – but again it is uni-dimensional. Solar year.

    The Indian calendar synchronized multiple moving bodies and created compensatory mechanisms by which accurate predictions could be made.

    For instance, Diwali moves in a solar year by as much as 25 days. Nearly a month. Yet it coincides always with the end of monsoon for that year. Now, remember the onset of monsoon varies by a couple of days – which is predicted by the onset of ‘mrigah‘, as per Indian calendar. But the end of rains is not a constant date.

    According to the Indian calendar, towards the end of the month of Jhyestha, when the constellation of Mriganakshatra is sighted, we begin to see the first signs of the rains. via Discussion Forum.

    Have you heard of wet Diwali in the plains? Check with your grand-parents, Have they had a wet Diwali? The modern met department takes a multi-million super computer to predict weather. The Indian calendar did it with palm leaves.

  7. February 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Sorry for the delay response. Day job :)
    So, I would like to first point out that, the distance of each of the 4 places from the ToC on the same longitude matters as according to @digirak, every degree tilt of the Sun matters.
    In this regard, I calculated distance of each of the temple locations from ToC on the same longitude. The values are like this:

    Distance from ToC:
    Unao: 238.7Kms
    Modhera: 16.31 Kms
    Konark: 434 Kms
    Goalpara: 304.3 Kms

    Konark is the farthest.
    On St. P T Barnum’s point that these temples were supposed to attract scholars for studies, but places like Takshasila, Nalanda were not quite Sun Temples.

  8. February 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    And to talk about Arasavalli and Konark, they both would be even farther from ToC. They might have been established as a part of Aditya worship. But in this regard, since St. P T Barnum already invoked the notion that “astronomical and environmental observations could have been the objective”, I would like to point out a temple with similar importance called “Gavi Gangadhareswara Temple” in Bengaluru. Recently, some scientists have found out that there is astronomical significance to this temple. Link: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-neighbourhood/article2851966.ece

    So could it be that there are several of these temples which were also astronomical observatories (lost, destroyed or simply ignored)?

  9. February 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I am sorry thats just wrong. So 12 midnight is exactly when the sun would be in opposition to your latitude. In other words 12 midnight is exactly the same thing as 12 noon except that its happening on the other end of the hemisphere.

    The Julian calendar was a luni-solar calendar.

    The Indian calendar is purely a lunar calendar, it appears that there were some sun related events, like Sankranthi which are also woefully wrong as of now.
    Sankranthi is basically the northwards motion which starts on the 21st-22nd December. This is actually noticable, but we never bother to do it. So the harvest festival roughly corresponds to Sankranthi which is ok as of now because it works.

    “GMT is synchronized with Indian sunrise”No its not. Am really sorry but its no. GMT is based on the latitude line of Greenwich. When its 12 noon in Greenwich the sun is exactly at the meridian in Greenwich.

    Also let me explain the half degree variance. So roughly the degree of latitude corresponds to the degree of movement of the sun. So if you are off in latitude, the sun would be off by the same amount in celestial latitude(also called right ascension) so if you are 5 degrees of the ToC then on the 22nd of June the sun would not be in the zenith(directly above ur head) but 5 degrees off directly above your head. This would be roughly 10 sun-distances off the zenith. Observable? Yes certainly

  10. February 17, 2012 at 11:26 am
    I am sorry thats just wrong. So 12 midnight is exactly when the sun would be in opposition to your latitude. In other words 12 midnight is exactly the same thing as 12 noon except that its happening on the other end of the hemisphere.

    So, what is happening at 12:00 midnight?

    12:00 noon has the sun at its zenith. So for a day to start at 12 noon would be logical too. What happens at 12:00 midnight. These days, date change at 12:00 midnight is possible due to precise clocks. How was it done in Europe, say 300 years ago, when clocks were imprecise. Or say 600 years, when any kinds of clocks did not exist?

    The Julian calendar was a luni-solar calendar.

    The Julian calendar tried to be like the Indian calendar – but didn’t work. Obviously, it didnt work, because it needed the Indian decimal system for calculations.

    Remember that the Indian decimal system came to Europe via Genghis Khan’s Mongol armies. Initially outlawed, the Indian decimal system started getting used only in 16th century – sparking off the 400 years of technology and science boom in the West.

    Gregorian calendar worked because it was simple – track the sun.

    The year in Indian calendar system works on multiple dimensions – and synchronizes with the solar year pretty closely in cycles of 8 solar years.

    The Indian calendar is purely a lunar calendar, it appears that there were some sun related events, like Sankranthi which are also woefully wrong as of now.
    Sankranthi is basically the northwards motion which starts on the 21st-22nd December. This is actually noticable, but we never bother to do it. So the harvest festival roughly corresponds to Sankranthi which is ok as of now because it works.

    First, there is no one Indian calendar system.

    Second, even today, without official approval, two Indian calendar systems are used. The Vikram Samvat and Saka Samvat. And to reconcile these two systems, for common festivals and observances. there is a nifty conversion algorithm.

    The Indian time keeping system uses a structure of 27 nakshatras (star constellations), 12 rashis, nine grahas (5 planets), sun and moon, plus two additional mathematical devices – Rahu & Ketu.

    are mathematical points of calculation. Imagine the path of the sun across the sky as a great wheel in the heavens. This path is called the solar ecliptic. Now imagine a similar path of the moon as it makes its monthly journey across the sky. Where the moon’s path crosses the sun’s path at the top of the circle is called the point of Rahu, and 180 degrees to the south, where these two lines again intersect is called Ketu. In modern astronomy these points are called the north and south lunar nodes. Hindu astrology considers these points to exert influence over life and so they are considered two important points of influence. They are, consequently, part of the Nava Grahas. Neither the sun, the moon, Rahu or Ketu are planets, nor does the word graha mean planet in the same sense that we understand the world planet today, and so this is why it is incorrect to call the Nava Grahas nine “planets.” In Hindu mythology Rahu and Ketu chase the sun and the moon across the heavens, and from time to time, swallow them up and cause a solar or a lunar eclipse. In fact, Rahu and Ketu do play a role in eclipses because it is only when the sun and the moon align at the points of Rahu and Ketu, the north and south lunar nodes, that an eclipse can take place.

    Rahu and Ketu, the two mathematical devices enabled India to pioneer predictions of lunar and solar eclipses.

    “GMT is synchronized with Indian sunrise”No its not. Am really sorry but its no. GMT is based on the latitude line of Greenwich. When its 12 noon in Greenwich the sun is exactly at the meridian in Greenwich.

    OK, so how was day change on GMT done 600 years ago?

    You are giving the modern explanation – but how did this evolve. Now what was the Western system?

    The Indian system I have described.

    Also let me explain the half degree variance. So roughly the degree of latitude corresponds to the degree of movement of the sun. So if you are off in latitude, the sun would be off by the same amount in celestial latitude(also called right ascension) so if you are 5 degrees of the ToC then on the 22nd of June the sun would not be in the zenith(directly above ur head) but 5 degrees off directly above your head. This would be roughly 10 sun-distances off the zenith. Observable? Yes certainly

    But, of course.

    These Sun temples scattered across India, were used for (I am speculating) taking time measurements at different places, on the same ‘time’ – an astronomical trigger, say sunrise and sunset.

    So, if the sun is used as a constant, then the other nakshataras and griha will move at varying speeds, you have readings, combined with 12 rashis, which can then be used for refining time and calendar systems.

    Remember the beginning of what is called the differential calculus were made in India. When time tends to be zero.

  11. February 17, 2012 at 11:38 am
    Sarmaji – Your question is a good question.

    But as we now know, there were not 4 Sun temples, but more than 15 major temples. Across India.

    And as much as I know – and I can think, there is no relevance or importance of sun temples across the ToC.

    But consider, the Indian time-keeping and calendar system works on local time – and not a central time (like GMT, IST, UTC) etc., it needed local astronomers to observe and track the 27 nakshatras, 12 rashis, nine grahas, (incl. the sun and the moon).

    My feeling is that these observations were then exchanged, collated, recorded, matrixed, understood – and then the various astronomical calculation systems were corrected.

  12. February 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    That sounds interesting way of putting it. I must quickly add here why I think your argument holds water. In Panchangam writing, scholars have differences across the spectrum.

    They share notes in regular meets to correct biases and discuss contradictions. This can be observed especially during samskara ceremonies and setting Muhurtam.

    When setting muhurtam for my marriage, an interesting question popped up. East Godavari scholars and Hyderabad scholars agreed on one time. But EG scholars said “it should be +18 minutes” to add for difference between EG and Hyd. Hyd scholars said “it should be -18 minutes”. Their arguments were based on how “sun rise” was calculated in EG and Hyd. It was interesting to see how they arrived at a common ground and discussed contradictions in each others’ arguments.

    The feeling while watching all this happen during preparation for marriage ceremony was great. I mean, look at the scholarly brilliance and scientific temper for someone who might not even have heard of “Galileo”! I am quite sure these kind of discrepancies were there in the past too. Your arguments does have a lot of importance in that regard.

    In a different context, one question I have is “what do you think is the reason why Shourya worship slowly vanished despite having such an inquisitive scientific temper associated with it?”

  13. February 17, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    digirak (@digirak) :
    The Indian calendar is purely a lunar calendar, it appears that there were some sun related events, like Sankranthi which are also woefully wrong as of now.

    Says who? The so called lunar calendar is actually a Luni-solar calendar ie, the month is based on the sun. Thats the reason why we have leap month (adhika masa) and Zero month (shunya masa). If there is Sun’s transit between between two new moons then its a normal month, if there no sun’s transit between two new moons, its considered leap month. If there are two sun transits between new moons, its considered zero month. You should learn basics first before you come shooting from the hip!

  14. February 18, 2012 at 4:17 am
    But EG scholars said “it should be +18 minutes” to add for difference between EG and Hyd. Hyd scholars said “it should be -18 minutes”. Their arguments were based on how “sun rise” was calculated in EG and Hyd. It was interesting to see how they arrived at a common ground and discussed contradictions in each others’ arguments.

    Now, this surprising.

    If astrologers in Houston and Hyderabad were discussing, it can be understood. But between Hyderabad and East Godavari (about 600-700 km)? Does this point towards complete lack of travel, exchange of info among these jyotish-shastris?

    But then we are to blame. After having nothing but contempt about jyotish-shastra, can we expect these poor Brahmans to remain motivated?

  15. February 18, 2012 at 4:21 am
    Actually more than luni-solar.

    It actually even takes other star constellations into account. Like I have pointed out below, how the appearance of mrigaah in jyestha predicts the onset of monsoons.

  16. February 18, 2012 at 4:43 am

    In a different context, one question I have is “what do you think is the reason why Shourya worship slowly vanished despite having such an inquisitive scientific temper associated with it?”

    Festivals, and worship practices have changed.

    India has a huge layer of folk religion practices, based on gram-devatas, and kul devatas. This was overlaid with a more ‘secular’ Vedic religion of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh – (I am speculating here).

    In modern times, Ganesh Chaturthi, which was a small festival, became huge in Maharashtra, when BG Tilak started to use this festival for political purposes.

    The exchange of sona-rupa leaves at Dushehra, I presume, started when Raghu of Raghuvansh, did the world’s first Quantitative Easing by making sona leaves as currency.

    I would imagine that Holi and Dandia-and-Garbha will become important as the shortage of brides starts looming on the Indian horizon, due to India’s adoption of population planning ideology.

    I was reading a write up by a Shukla Brahman, who was giving his community’s version of its origins and spread. Supposedly, they came from Magasthana, in modern Iran, (the original town of Megasthenes, the Persian writer in Greek). Magasthana is also the source word for Magi and magic. Magi, remember, are also the mentioned as the three wise men, who came to visit child Jesus when he was born.

    Iran was then eelam - as far as Babylon (Bab-eelam) and till about Julius Caesar’s time, even in Latin, Arabia was illam. This is the Tamil word for home, homeland. In Telugu, illu still means home. The entire Levant was in the grip of Tamil based languages. Then suddenly around, 1500 BC-500 BC, we see Elamite Empire disappear, the Rise of Assyria, and Iran started using Sanskritic old Persian language.

    And these Shukla Brahmans, as this account goes, were the main pundits in Sun worship. How well does this account sit with archaeology, history, anthropology, I have not verified or cross-checked.

    But, there you are …

  17. February 18, 2012 at 8:19 pm

  18. April 30, 2012 at 11:55 pm

  1. October 8, 2012 at 6:33 am

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