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Panchasiddhantika: The Astronomical Work of Varaha Mihira

Panchasiddhantika: The Astronomical Work of Varaha Mihira


Item Code: IDH607

by G. Thibaut

Paperback (Edition: 2011)

Chaukhamba Sanskrit Series Office
ISBN 8170800005

Language: [Sanskrit Commentary and English Translation]
Size: 8.8" X 5.8"
Pages: 105
Price: $35.00   Shipping Free
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Publisher's Note

It has been a widespread misconception that ancient Indians, though cultivated Philosophy and Literature from a very early period and excelled almost all the ancient civilized nations in respect of those two departments of knowledge, but utterly neglected the search for truth in the world of matter, and hence made no considerable progress in field of physical sciences. It is needless to say that the above misconception is partly due to ignorance, sometimes deliberate too and partly to utter negligence of India's scientific literature by modern Indologists in home and abroad. Proofs to establish the fact that Indians occupied, till the 12th century A.D. the foremost place in the field of Mathematics the exact science and its logical corollary Astronomy, are not far to seek.

In spite of very many endeavours to prove that Indians received their preliminary lessons in Mathematics and astronomy from foreign preceptors, it is now not much difficult to prove that Indian Mathematics and Astronomy had a thoroughly indigenous origin. The foregoing statement is made with no pretention to deny the foreign influences, especially that of ancient Greece on later systems, and that influence may unhesitatingly be admitted as a result of normal give and take which was quite possible when two great culture as came closer to each other.

Unfortunately very few definite and decisive records have come down to us to show the origin and development of the earlier phase of Indian Mathematics and Astronomy but the ancient tradition is conspicuously present in later works. In course of time, several schools of Astronomers rose to prominence, as early as 4th-5th Centuries A.D, a few of which were directy influenced ;by and indebted to foreign thinkers, others strictly followed the ancient tradition, Five of such schools are much as Paitamaha, Vasistha, Paulisa, Romaka and Gaura. There was, of course, much conflict of thought among the different schools and some of the eminent authors unfortunately indulged in criticizing and refuting other schools, much more than they laboured to expound their own way of calculation. Under this state of things Varahmihira, the celebrated astronomer of India commands and unique place as he was able to offer in the present work Pancasiddhantika an impartial and scientific exposition of all the more important forms of astronomical doctrines which were current in his time, and at the same time, he was quite capable of taking purely intellectual interest in examining the various more or less perfect methods which may be applied to the solution of scientific problems.

The above importance of the Pancasiddhantika in the study of Indian Astronomy led Dr. G. Thibaut to whom every educated Indian should be grateful for the strainous work he performed to restore and elucidate many technical texts of ancient Indian literature, to publish an edition of the said work. This edition containing the well-edited text, a Sanskrit Commentary by Mm. Saudhakar Dvivedi, English Translation and exhaustive Introduction embodies the products of both German Industry and the thoroughness of Indian Brain in the Field of learning and research.

The present generation of scholars is almost deprived of the opportunity of having even a cursory glance over the aforesaid beautiful edition of such important a text, due to its extreme unavailability over the half of a century, and hence, we considered it to be a part of our solemn duty i.e. service to the cause of Indian learning, to reproduce it in its accurate form before the interested reading public.

It is fervently hoped that this new publication will enjoy the same patronization in the hands of the scholars, as the previous volume in the series did.



There is some reason to fear that the feeling of anyone who may examine in detail this edition and translation of Varaha Mihira's astronomi- cal work will, in the first place, be wonder at the boldness of the editors. I am indeed fully conscious that on the imperfect materials at our disposal an edition in the strict sense of the word cannot be based, and that what we are able to offer at present deserves no other name but that of a first attempt to give a general idea of the contents of the Panchasiddhsntika, It would, in these circumstances, possibly have been wiser to delay an edition of the work until more correct Manuscripts have been discovered. Two consider- ations, however, in the end induced us no longer to keep back the results, however imperfect, of our long continued endeavours to restore and elucidate the text of the Panchasiddhantika. In the first place we were encourageo by the consideration that texts of purely mathematical or astronomical con- tents may, without great disadvantages, be submitted to a much rougher and bolder treatment than texts of other kinds. What interests us in these works, is almost exclusively their matter, not either their general style or the parti- cular words employed, and the peculiar nature of the subject often enables us to restore with nearly absolute certainty the general meaning of passages the single words of which are past trustworthy emendation. And, in the second place, we feel convinced that even from that part of the Pancha- siddhantika. which we are able to explain more is to be learned about the early history of Sanskrit Astronomy than from any other work which has come down to our time.

Imperfect and fragmentary as text and translation are, we may assert at any rate that, in our endeavours to overcome the quite unusual obstacles; which the corrupt and bare text of the Panchasiddbantika opposes to the interpreter, we have spared no trouble. The time and thought, devoted to the present volume, would; I may say without exaggeration, have amply sufficed for the editing and explaining of twenty times the amount of text presenting only normal difficulties. This I mention, not of course in order to extol what we have been able to do, but only as an excuse for what we see ourselves obliged to leave undone.

Next to the lamentable state of the text as appearing in the two Manu- scripts at our disposal, the greatest disadvantage under which we laboured was the absence of a Commentary. Commentaries can be hardly done with- out in the case of any Sanskrit astronomical work; much less so, when the text, as that of the Panchasiddhantika, describes many mathematical proceases more or less diverging from those commonly employed. Commentarie probably . existed formerly, and possibly exist even now; but we have failed to procure any. The Commentary published in the present volume is an entirely original composition by my Collaborator. A mere translation of the text with notes would, indeed, have sufficed for the European reader; we however, wished to make the results of our labour accessible to Paedits also, who understand no English. And a full tika giving full demonstrations in the ordinary Hiudu style will, in many cases, be useful to the European student also.

The right hand' columns of the text give the emended text; the left hand columns. the text of the better one of our two Manuscripts which We thought advisable to exhibit in extenso. Some remarks on the Manuscripts and the mode of emendation of the text will he found at the end of the Introduction.

As this preface is signed hy myself only, I may, I think, here acknowledge-in a somewhat more explicit way than the mere association ot names on the title page is capable of doing-the great obligations under which I am to my collaborator Pandit Mahamohopadhyaya Sudhakara Dvived. His constant assistance was altogether indispensable to me, and all the more welcome as among the Jyautishas of my acquaintance I know of no other, fully equal to work of this kind and at the same time equally ready to devote himself to a task which in certain aspects is so entirely unremunerative. I may express the hope that the Pandit, who is already so well known for his efforts to spread a knowledge of modern higher Mathematics among his countrymen, will continue to devote a part at least of his learning and talents to the elucidation of the ancient history of science in this country.

I further wish to express my best thanks to the Bombay Government and to Professor R. G. Bhandarkar, who with great liberality have allowed me the use, for lengthened periods of time, of all those Manuscripts in their charge which I required for the present edition. Nor must I omit to record my obligations to Professor G. Buehler to whose activity, when in charge of the search for Sanskrit Manuscripts in parts of the Bombay Presidency, we are indebted for the discovery of the two Manuscripts on which this edition is based.


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