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GENERAL ARTICLE

Aryabhata and Axial Rotation of Earth .


3. A Brief History
Amartya Kumar Dutta

In th is p a rt o f th e se r ie s, w e sh a ll g iv e a b rie f h isto ric a l a c c o u n t o f so m e o f A ry a b h a t a 's v ie w s . o n a x ia l ro ta tio n o f E a rth , so th a t w e c a n se e h is d isc o v e rie s in p e rsp e c tiv e
Amartya Kumar Dutta is in the Stat-Math Unit of Indian Statistical Instiutte, Kolkata. His research interest is in commutative algebra. Part 1. Aryabhata and Axial Rotation of Earth Khagola (The Celestial Sphere), Resonance, Vol.11, No.3, pp.51-68, 2006. Part 2. Aryabhata and Axial Rotation of Earth Naksatra Dina (The Sidereal Day),Resonance, Vol.11, No.4, pp.56-74, 2006.

In th e p rev io u s p a rts o f th e a rticle, w e m en tio n ed th e fo llow in g sta tem en ts o n a x ia l ro ta tio n o f E a rth w h ich o ccu r in A ry a b h a ty a ([1 ]). . 1 . In a yuga of 4320000 sidereal years, the E arth rotates eastw ard 1582237500 tim es an d the M oon 57753336 tim es. [G tik a 3 ] 2 . T he E arth rotates by an an gle of on e m in ute of an arc in a pr n a (4 sidereal secon ds). [G tik a 6 ] a.

3 . T he rotation of E arth causes the n aksatra din a . (sidereal days). [K a la k riy a 5 ]

4 . Ju st as a person in a boat m ovin g forw ard sees the station ary objects as m ovin g backw ard, ju st so does an observer at L a n k see the xed stars as m ovin g _ a w estw ard. [G o la 9 ] T h e ch o ice o f L a n k a en su red th a t th e o b serv er sees th e _ o rb it o f a sta r a s a v ertica l circle fro m th e ea stern to th e w estern h o rizo n . W e a lso saw th a t sta tem en t 1 im p lies th a t th e p erio d o f ro ta tio n o f E a rth a ro u n d its a x is is 2 3 h o u rs 5 6 m in u tes 4 .1 seco n d s w h ich is rem a rka b ly clo se to th e m o d ern estim a te (2 3 h 5 6 m 4 .0 9 s). F u rth er it g iv es a n ex trem ely a ccu ra te va lu e fo r th e n u m b er o f ro ta tio n s o f E a rth p er lu n a r o rb it (2 7 .3 9 6 4 6 9 3 5 7 2 ) w h ich m a tch es th e co rrect va lu e in 5 0 0 C E u p to sev en d ecim a l d ig its
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Keywords Aryabhatiya, axial rotation, yuga, Manu, kalpa, precession of equinox.

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a n d th e co rrect va lu e in 1 6 0 4 B C E u p to ten d ecim a l d ig its. W e rst b rie y d iscu ss th e tim e-sca le o f 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 y ea rs in S ta tem en t 1 . (F o r m o re d eta ils, see [2 ] a n d [3 ].) Y u g a in A r y a b h a t a .y T h e 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 -Y ea r C y c le T h e cy cle o f 4 3 2 0 th o u sa n d y ea rs is m en tio n ed in th e M a h a b h a ra ta a n d th e M a n u sm rti. T h e ep ic d e n es a . D a iva va rsa (\ Y ea r o f th e G o d s" ) a s 3 6 0 h u m a n (i.e., . u su a l) y ea rs; a n d th en in tro d u ces fo u r yugas { K rta (o r . S a ty a ), T ret , D v a p a ra , K a li { to ta llin g 1 2 ,0 0 0 D a iva a va rsa , i.e., (3 6 0 1 2 0 0 0 = ) 4 ,3 2 0 ,0 0 0 y ea rs d iv id ed in th e . ra tio 4 : 3 : 2 : 1 . T h u s, th e cu rren t K a liy u g a is o f d u ra tio n 4 3 2 ,0 0 0 y ea rs. T h e term s K rta , T ret , D v a p a ra , a . K a li a re v ery a n cien t { th ey a p p ea r ev en in V ed ic litera tu re (lik e A ita rey a a n d T a ittir a B r h m a n a ); m en tio n is y a . a lso m a d e in th e B h a g ava ta P u r n a . T h e 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 -y ea r a. cy cle w a s ca lled m ah yuga o r caturyuga a n d so m etim es a a b b rev ia ted a s yu ga. T h ere w ere ev en la rg er cy cles. F o r in sta n ce, 1 0 0 0 m a h a y u g a s (i.e., 4 3 2 0 m illio n y ea rs) co n stitu ted a kalpa (a lso ca lled \ A D ay o f B ra h m a " ). V a rio u s fa cto rs o f th e en ig m a tic in teg er (4 3 2 0 0 0 0 ) to o h av e sig n i ca n ces in In d ia n tra d itio n s. F o r in sta n ce, in th e V ed ic era , th e eclip tic w a s d iv id ed in to 2 7 n a k sa tra s . a n d th e S a ta p a th a B r h m a n a m en tio n s th e u se o f 1 0 ,8 0 0 a . b rick s fo r th e co n stru ctio n o f th e sa cri cia l re-a lta rs. N o te th a t 2 7 4 = 1 0 8 a n d 1 0 8 4 = 4 3 2 . T h e a ttem p t to u n d ersta n d th e g en esis a n d sig n i ca n ce o f th e g u re 4 ,3 2 0 ,0 0 0 h a s g en era ted sev era l sp ecu la tio n s a m o n g h isto ria n s; b u t th e o rig in o f th e co n cep t o f y u g a rem a in s a m y sterio u s rid d le. W e m en tio n h ere th a t in th e P u r n a s, term s p erta in in g to th e p h y sica l u n iv erse a. a re u sed a s sy m b o ls fo r n a rra tin g in n er p sy ch o -sp iritu a l p rin cip les. T h e p sy ch o lo g ica l a n d sp iritu a l sig n i ca n ces
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The 4320000-year

d m ah yuga or .a r caturyu ga and

cycle was called

sometimes abbrevia-

0 m a h y u g a s (i.e., a
4320 million years) constituted a kalpa (also y ea m illio n called A Day of f B ra h m " ). a

ted as yuga. 1000

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Aryabhatas estimate The Earth rotates 1582237500 times in a yuga.

o f P u r n ic g eo g ra p h y a n d co sm o g o n y a re b ey o n d th e a. sco p e o f th is a rticle.

A n in terestin g fea tu re o f a certa in p h a se o f In d ia n a s tro n o m y, th a t p o ssib ly b eg a n w ith A ry a b h a ta , w a s th e . a d o p tio n o f th e P u r n ic cy cle o f 4 ,3 2 0 ,0 0 0 y ea rs. S o m e a. o f th e la ter a stro n o m ers lik e B ra h m a g u p ta (6 2 8 C E ) a n d B h a ska ra II (1 1 5 0 C E ) u sed th e la rg er cy cle kalpa o f 4 ,3 2 0 ,0 0 0 ,0 0 0 y ea rs! S u ch la rg e p erio d s { w ith th eir m y th o lo g ica l n u a n ces { h av e crea ted m islea d in g im p ressio n s a b o u t a n cien t In d ia n a stro n o m y. A s R o g er B illa rd a d m itted in a n a rticle ([4 ], p .2 0 7 ):

T o tell the tru th, w ith su ch com m on m ultiples of revolu tion s, an d so hu ge periods an d n um bers, the In dian astron om y did look like a pure speculation , a w ordy literatu re displayin g astron om ical elem en ts of pure fan cy. T h u s, a t rst g la n ce, A ry a b h a ta 's estim a te \ T he E arth . rotates 1582237500 tim es in a yuga" m ay a p p ea r a s a g m en t o f m eta p h y sica l im a g in a tio n . B u t, a s w e h av e seen (in P a rt 2 ), it is eq u iva len t to th e su rp risin g ly a ccu ra te sta tem en t: \ T he period of rotation of E arth is 23 hou rs 56 m in utes 4.1 secon ds" . S ig n i ca n ce o f Y u g a in In d ia n A stro n o m y

It a p p ea rs th a t th e m a h a y u g a w a s co n ceiv ed b y In d ia n a stro n o m ers a s a p erio d a t th e b eg in n in g (a n d en d ) o f


In Aryabhat a's system (Gtik 5), 1 Kalpa = 14 Manu and 1 Manu = 72 Mah yuga. a a . Thus, Aryabhat a dened a kalpa to be (14 72 =)1008 mah yugas. a . But the subdivision, followed by most astronomers, is more complicated. Here, 1 Manu a = 71 Mah yuga; and, between two successive manus, there is a sa n d h y (twilight) period a whose duration is same as that of a Krtayuga (i.e., " th of a mah yuga). 1 kalpa is a . formed by 14 manus together with the 15 sandhy s (including one before the rst manu a and one after the last). Thus 1 kalpa = (14 71 + 15 " =)1000 mah yuga. At present, a we are in the Kaliyuga of the 28th Mah yuga of the 7th Manu (called Vaivasvata Manu) a of the Svetavar ha Kalpa. a
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B o x 1 . K a lp a

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B o x 2 . T im e o n a M ic r o c o sm ic S c a le The kalpa of 432 10 % years shows the ancient Indian penchant for large time periods. The Pur nic and astronomy traditions also considered microcosmic time units. In Bh skara II a a (1150 CE), a sidereal day is further subdivided (with suggestive terminology) as follows: 1 naksatra dina = 30 ksana (or muh rta); 1 ks ana = 60 k la; 1 k la = 30 k s t h ; u a a a. . a . . . . . 1 k st h = 18 nimesa; 1 nimesa = 30 tatpara; 1 tatpara = 100 trut i. a. . a . . . Thus, 1 trut i = .
 '$ $

of a (sidereal) day, i.e.,

 !!%#

of a (sidereal) second.

w h ich a ll th e v e v isib le p la n ets (M ercu ry, V en u s, M a rs, J u p iter, S a tu rn ) a lo n g w ith th e S u n a n d th e M o o n , h av e zero celestia l lo n g itu d e; th a t is, a ll o f th em a re sim u lta n eo u sly o n th e g rea t circle th ro u g h th e v ern a l eq u in ox a n d th e p o le o f th e eclip tic. In G a 4 , o n e co m es tik a cro ss th e h y p o th esis th a t, a t th e b eg in n in g o f th e y u g a , a ll th ese p la n ets, to g eth er w ith th e S u n a n d th e M o o n 's a p o g ee, w ere in co n ju n ctio n a t th e v ern a l eq u in ox d u rin g su n rise a t L a n k a . T h u s th e co m m en cem en t o f th e _ y u g a (o r ka lp a ) w a s b a sed o n a stro n o m ica l p h en o m en a p erta in in g to th e p o sitio n s o f th e p la n eta ry b o d ies in th e sk y.

It is lik ely th a t th e m a h a y u g a , o r th e ka lp a , w a s a d o p ted b y In d ia n a stro n o m ers a s a tim e-p erio d { n ecessa rily lo n g { in w h ich a ll k n ow n p la n ets (to g eth er w ith th e S u n a n d th e M o o n ) w ere estim a ted to ex ecu te in tegral n u m b ers o f rev o lu tio n s. In th is co n tex t, w e reca ll tw o fea tu res o f a n cien t In d ia n a rith m etic. F irst, In d ia n s h av e b een co m fo rta b le w ith la rg e n u m b ers rig h t fro m ea rly V ed ic a g e. A s a resu lt, In d ia n a stro n o m ers co u ld e o rtlessly h a n d le a n d rep resen t la rg e in teg ers u sin g th e id ea s o f d ecim a l p la ce va lu e a n d zero . S eco n d , a lth o u g h a n cien t In d ia n s w ere p ro cien t in th e u se o f fra ctio n s a n d d ecim a l rep resen ta tio n o f in teg ers, th ey d o n o t seem to h av e co n ceiv ed o f decim al fraction s
RESONANCE May 2006 61 See, for instance, R C Gupta, Worlds Longest Lists of Decuple Terms, Ganita Bharati, Vol.23, pp.83-90, 2001.
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GENERAL ARTICLE

The adoption of a cycle of 4320000 (or its multiples) enabled Indian astronomers to avoid inconvenient fractions; they could express their findings in plain integers (even if large). For instance, instead of saying that a (sidereal solar) year consists of

{ n o ta tio n s lik e 3 6 5 .2 5 8 6 8 . T o cla rify : th ey u sed co m p o site fra ctio n s lik e ! fro m th e R. g -V ed ic era , th ey k n ew " d ecim a l rep resen ta tio n o f a n in teg er lik e 7 5 ; b u t th ey d id n o t th in k o f rep resen tin g th e fra ctio n ! a s 0 :7 5 . "

in stea d o 36 6 %# "! 

sidereal days, they would rather say that a yuga consists of 1582237500 sidereal days.

T h e a d o p tio n o f a cy cle o f 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 (o r its m u ltip les) en a b led In d ia n a stro n o m ers to a v o id in co n v en ien t fra ctio n s a s w ell a s lo n g ex p ressio n s in v o lv in g y ea rs, m o n th s, d ay s a n d fu rth er su b d iv isio n s; th ey co u ld ex p ress th eir n d in g s in p la in in teg ers (ev en if la rg e). F o r in sta n ce, in stea d o f say in g th a t a (sid erea l so la r) y ea r co n sists o f 3 6 6    % # sid erea l d ay s, o r 3 6 5    % # (m ea n so la r) d ay s, "!  "!  o r 3 6 5 d ay s 6 h o u rs 1 2 m in u tes 3 0 seco n d s, th ey w o u ld ra th er say th a t a y u g a co n sists o f 1 5 8 2 2 3 7 5 0 0 sid erea l d ay s. T h u s, th e sin g le in teg er 1 5 8 2 2 3 7 5 0 0 w o u ld rep resen t th e cu m b ro u s fra ctio n 3 6 5    % # o r th e lo n g ex p res"!  sio n \ 3 6 5 d ay s 6 h o u rs 1 2 m in u tes 3 0 seco n d s" . R e ca ll (P a rt 2 ) th a t in A ry a b h a ta 's sy stem o f n o ta tio n , . th e in teg er 1 5 8 2 2 3 7 5 0 0 b eco m es (in D eva n a g a ri scrip t) a v e-lettered w o rd \ n i ib u n lsk h r" ; th e in teg er 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 _s ... . a tw o -lettered w o rd \ k h y u g h r" ! . A lso reca ll th a t tim e w a s d iv id ed sex a g esim a lly : 1 n a k sa . tra d in a (sid erea l d ay ) w a s d iv id ed in to 6 0 n a d ik a (o r . g h a tik a ); 1 n a d ik a in to 6 0 v in a d ik a ; 1 v in a d ik a in to 6 0 . . . . g u rva k sa ra . T h e n u m b er 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 , b ein g a m u ltip le o f . 6 0 ! , w a s su ita b le fo r ex p ressin g va rio u s estim a tes in in teg ers. In fa ct, th e n u m b er 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 = 2 & 3 ! 5 " , b ein g d iv isib le b y sev era l o f th e sm a ll n u m b ers (lik e 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 16, 18, 20, 24, 25, 27, 30, 6 0 ) o ccu rrin g freq u en tly in a stro n o m y, w a s p a rticu la rly co n v en ien t. T h u s, w h ile rep resen ta tio n o f la rg e n u m b ers d id n o t p o se a n y p ro b lem , th e u se o f la rg e cy cles im p a rted a ex ib ility to In d ia n a stro n o m ers. T h ey u sed su ch cy cles to ex p ress (in w h o le n u m b ers) th e ra te o f m o tio n o f th e p la n ets a n d o th er sig n i ca n t a stro n o m ica l p a ra m eters. (S ee [5 ] fo r d eta ils.) J u st a s o n e n ow red u ces ro u n d in g -o erro rs b y
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in crea sin g th e n u m b er o f fra ctio n a l d ecim a l p la ces (i.e., th e p la ces to th e rig h t o f th e u n it's p la ce { a fter th e d o t m a rk ), ju st so d id th e a n cien t In d ia n s in crea se a ccu ra cy o f a sta tem en t b y in crea sin g th e referen ce tim e in terva l. F o r, la rg er th e tim e-in terv a l, low er th e ro u n d in g -o erro r. F o r in sta n ce, fro m th e m o d ern estim a te o f th e d u ra tio n o f a sid erea l so la r y ea r ([5 ], p .1 7 2 ), \ th e n u m b er o f civ il d ay s in a ka lp a (1 0 0 0 m a h a y u g a )" , ex p ressed a s an in teger, tu rn s o u t to b e 1 5 7 7 9 0 7 4 8 7 0 2 7 w h ich is a m o re a ccu ra te sta tem en t th a n \ th e n u m b er o f civ il d ay s in a m a h a y u g a is 1 5 7 7 9 0 7 4 8 7 " (th e la tter o b ta in ed b y \ ro u n d in g o " th ree p la ces fro m th e fo rm er). S o m e o f th e la ter a stro n o m ers ca teg o rica lly m en tio n ed th a t th e y u g a cy cles w ere in tro d u ced in a stro n o m y fo r co n v en ien ce. T h e K era la a stro n o m er P u tu m a n a S o m a y a ji (b etw een 1 5 th a n d 1 7 th cen tu ry ) cla ri ed in K a ra n a . P a d d h a ti (5 .1 5 ): \ T h e m ea su res o f kalpa etc. h av e b een co n ceiv ed b y th e (a n cien t) a u th o rities d i eren tly, fo r, it is o n ly th e resu lt th a t co u n ts, n o t th e m ea n s." ([2 ], p .7 9 ). T h e a stro n o m ers a lso em p h a sised th a t, irresp ectiv e o f th e co n cep ts a d o p ted , th e co m p u ted resu lts sh o u ld a g ree w ith o b serva tio n s. In a fu tu re a rticle, w e p la n to h ig h lig h t th e In d ia n a stro n o m ers' co n cern fo r a ccu ra cy a n d stress o n p erio d ic o b serva tio n s a n d u p d a tin g o f th e p a ra m eters. B illa rd b eliev ed th a t it w a s A ry a b h a ta w h o in tro d u ced . th e 4 3 2 0 0 0 0 -y ea r cy cle in In d ia n a stro n o m y ([4 ], p .2 2 2 ): N ot on ly did A ryabhata con struct yuga upon such beau . tiful redu ction s of observation s, bu t I m ust add that alm ost certain ly the great astron om er is also respon sible for the very in trodu ction of the yu ga speculation in to m athem atical astron om y. In a n ea rlier a rticle (R eson an ce, V o l.7 , N o .1 0 , p p .1 0 { 2 2 , 2 0 0 2 ), w e h a d d iscu ssed A ry a b h a ta 's in g en io u s tech . n iq u e (G a n ita 3 2 , 3 3 ) fo r n d in g in teger so lu tio n s o f .
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In Aryabhatas system of notation, the integer 1582237500 becomes (in Devanagari script) a five-lettered word the integer 4320000

d \ n i ib u n lsk h r" ; _s ... . ; ... d \ k h y u g h r" ! .

a two-lettered word

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Aryabhatas ingenious technique (Ganita 32, 33) for finding integer solutions of simultaneous linear indeterminate equations of first degree (called kuttaka) was applied by Indian astronomers to various planetary problems (grahakuttakara).

sim u lta n eo u s lin ea r in d eterm in a te eq u a tio n s o f rst d eg ree. T h is a lg o rith m (ca lled k u tta ka ) w a s a p p lied b y In .. d ia n a stro n o m ers to va rio u s p la n eta ry p ro b lem s (g ra h a k u tta k a ra ). It is p o ssib le th a t th is th eo ry o f lin ea r in .. d eterm in a te eq u a tio n s (a lo n g w ith d a ta fro m p la n eta ry o b serva tio n s) w a s u sed b y A ry a b h a ta (o r h is p red eces. so rs) to d eterm in e th e ep o ch w h en a ll p la n ets w ere in co n ju n ctio n . A x ia l R o ta tio n in H isto ry V ed ic a n d P u r n ic L ite ra tu re a. In deed I believe that w hen in tim e to com e the con tribu tion s of In dian an d B uddhist thought are really taken in han d from the poin t of view of n atural scien ce, it w ill be foun d over an d over again that the philosophers of these culture areas have shot their arrow s correctly to the spots that the m oun tain eers of scien ce w ould reach de n itely m uch later on . [J N eedham in `W ithin F ou r S eas' (p.179).]

T h e R. g -V ed a co n ta in s v erses su g g estin g th a t th e E a rth w a s co n sid ered sp h erica l; th e S a ta p a th a B r h m a n a d ea . scrib es th e E a rth a s parim an d ala, i.e., a g lo b e o r a sp h ere. ..
B o x 3 . P r e c e ssio n in A n c ie n t L ite ra tu re There are indications of the knowledge of precession of equinox in the Vedic Samhit and _ a Br hmana literatures ([7] , p. 21; [6] , p.12). According to K D Abhyankar ([3] , pp. 125{ a . 127), the phenomenon was described by the revered ancient astronomer Vrdhha Garga . around 500 BCE but his terminology was not understood by later astronomers. Some historians feel that the great Chaldean astronomer Kidinnu (c. 400{330 BCE) was aware of precession. Precession was discovered in ancient Greece by the great astronomer Hipparchus (190{120 s . BCE). The phenomenon is mentioned by Indian astronomers Visnucandra and Sr . ena .. around 6th century CE and Prth daka Sv mi around 860 CE. Ma~ j ul c rya (also called a n a a . u Mu~ j la) of Uj j ayin was famous in Indian astronomy for his detailed exposition of the na a topic, with accurate estimate of the rate of precession, in his treatise L a gh u m n a sa (932 CE).

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S ev era l sch o la rs h av e p o in ted o u t in d ica tio n s in th e R. g V ed a o f a x ia l ro ta tio n a n d h elio cen tric rev o lu tio n o f E a rth . T h ere a re p a ssa g es in th e A ita rey a B r h m a n a , C h a n a . d o g y a U p a n isa d a n d th e V ish n u P u r n a m en tio n in g th a t, a. . in rea lity, th e S u n n ev er rises n o r sets. R eferrin g to th e p a ssa g e in A ita ry ea B r h m a n a , M M o n ier W illia m s rea . m a rk ed : W e m ay close the subject of B r hm an as by payin g a triba . ute of respect to the acu ten ess of the H in du m in d, w hich seem s to have m ade som e shrew d astron om ical guesses m ore than 2000 years before the birth of C opern icus [`In dian W isdom ', p.35].

See [6], pp.1314; [7], pp.56, 1920; [8], p.28; [9], p.178.
2

In th e S ka n d a P u r n a (I.1 .3 1 -7 1 ), th e E a rth is d escrib ed a. rev o lv in g lik e a bhram arik o r sp in n in g to p ([1 ], p .8 ). a T h e sim ile is p a rticu la rly in terestin g in v iew o f th e p h en o m en o n o f p recessio n m en tio n ed in P a rt 2 (see [3 ], p p .2 1 -2 2 ). A n c ie n t G reece In a n cien t G reece, th e h elio cen tric m o d el h a d b een su g g ested b y A rista rch u s (3 1 0 -2 3 0 B C E ) o f S a m o s. A lessk n ow n fa ct is th a t a x ia l ro ta tio n o f E a rth h a d b een su g g ested b y H era k leid es (a ro u n d 3 5 0 B C E ) o f P o n tu s, a co n tem p o ra ry o f A risto tle, a n d b y E cp h a n tu s o f th e P y th a g o rea n sch o o l. B u t th e th eo ry o f a x ia l ro ta tio n w a s ig n o red in G reece a n d so o n fo rg o tten . It w a s th e sta tio n a ry g eo cen tric m o d el o f A risto tle w h ich p reva iled in E u ro p e. It w a s a d o p ted in P to lem y 's A lm a g est (1 5 0 C E ) w h ich so o n ca m e to b e reg a rd ed a s in fa llib le a stro n o m y fo r sev era l cen tu ries. P o st-V ed ic In d ia n A stro n o m y N o tw ith sta n d in g certa in in cid en ta l, a n d o ften cry p tic, rem a rk s in th e va st m a ss o f th e a lleg o rica l V ed ic a n d P u r n ic litera tu res a llu d in g to E a rth 's m o tio n , th e E a rth a. w a s tra d itio n a lly reg a rd ed a s sta tio n a ry b o th in a stro n RESONANCE May 2006

Axial rotation of Earth had been suggested by Herakleides (around 350 BCE) of Pontus, a contemporary of Aristotle, and by Ecphantus of the Pythagorean school.

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o m y a s w ell a s ritu a listic trea tises. A ry a b h a ty a is th e . rst k n ow n astron om y tex t in In d ia w h ich clea rly m en tio n s th e a x ia l ro ta tio n o f E a rth . It w a s a rev o lu tio n a ry p rin cip le (p u n in ten d ed !) w h ich w a s in sh o ck in g co n tra st to th e im p ressio n o n e w o u ld a cq u ire b o th fro m co n v en tio n a l k n ow led g e a s w ell a s d a ily o b serva tio n s. O n e is rem in d ed o f th e trib u te o n C o p ern icu s b y B ru n o : \ C opern icus n ot on ly m oved the E arth but also set in m otion the m in ds of m en ." F o rtu n a tely, A ry a b h a ta liv ed . in a so ciety w h ere su ch rev o lu tio n a ry v iew s d id n o t risk th e k in d o f p ersecu tio n w h ich b efell S o cra tes, B ru n o o r G a lileo . A ry a b h a ta 's th eo ry w a s lu cid ly ex p o u n d ed b y C a tu rv ed a . P rth u d a ka S v a m (8 6 0 C E ): . b h a p a n ja ra h sth ira h b h u rev a v rty a v rty a p ra tid a iva sika u ~ . . . . u d ay a sta m ay a u sa m p a d ay a ti n a k sa tra g ra h a n a m . .

See [8], p.26, for the original verse and other quotations from ancient Indian astronomers endorsing this theory.
3

T he sphere of the stars is station ary. It is on ly the E arth that is regu larly rotatin g on ce in a day, an d thereby causin g the daily risin g an d settin g of the stars an d the plan ets.!

H ow ev er, th e th eo ry o f a x ia l ro ta tio n o f E a rth w a s n o t


B o x 4 . \ C a l P r th v S th ir B h ti" a . a a

To say that Indian philosophy has led away from the study of nature is to state a gross unfact and to ignore the magnicent history of Indian civilisation.. .. Not only was India in the rst rank in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, surgery, all the branches of physical knowledge which were practised in ancient times, but she was, along with the Greeks, the teacher of the Arabs from whom Europe recovered the lost habit of scientic enquiry and got the basis from which modern science started. In many directions India had the priority of discovery, { to take only two striking examples among a multitude, the decimal notation in mathematics or the perception that the earth is a moving body a . a a in astronomy, { ca l p r th v sth ir bh ti, the earth moves and only appears to be still, said the Indian astronomer many centuries before Galileo. This great development would hardly have been possible in a nation whose thinkers and men of learning were led by its metaphysical tendencies to turn away from the study of nature. [Sri Aurobindo in T h e F o u n d a tio n s o f In d ia n C u ltu re. (p. 67) ]

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a ccep ta b le to m o st In d ia n a stro n o m ers rig h t fro m V a r a h a m ih ira (5 0 5 { 5 8 7 C E ). B h a ska ra I (6 th cen tu ry ), a n a d m irer o f A ry a b h a ta , eva d ed th e to p ic: in h is co m m en . ta ry o n A ry a b h a t a , h e o m itted A ry a b h a ta 's p h ra ses .y . (in G a 3 a n d 6 ) p erta in in g to E a rth 's ro ta tio n s (th o u tik g h h e d id n o t o m it th e d a ta o f A ry a b h a ta fo r th e m o o n . a n d th e p la n ets)! B h a ska ra II (1 1 5 0 C E ) w a s in d i eren t to th e co n cep t o f E a rth 's ro ta tio n a n d p erh a p s scep tica l. V a rio u s d i cu lties w ere ra ised b y th e a stro n o m ers (see [9 ] fo r m o re d eta ils): if th e E a rth w ere ro ta tin g a t su ch a trem en d o u s sp eed , th en a ll b u ild in g s w o u ld h av e cru m b led d ow n , p eo p le co u ld n o t h av e sto o d still, th ere w o u ld h av e b een co n sta n t ea rth q u a k es, etc. L a lla (a ro u n d 8 th cen tu ry ), a n o th er a d m irer o f A ry a b h a ta , a sk ed : .

\If the E arth is rotatin g eastw ard at a very rapid speed, how do birds yin g in the sky return to their n ests (w hich w ould be con tin uou sly shiftin g from their origin al position s)? M oreover, w hy do n ot arrow s, shot tow ards the sky, fall w estw ard? W hy do n ot the clou ds appear to m ove on ly tow ards the w est? If the E arth rotates slow ly, then how can it com plete on e rotation in a day?" " B ra h m a g u p ta (6 2 8 C E ), in p a rticu la r, w a s erce in h is criciticism o f th e th eo ry. O n e o f th e a rg u m en ts o f B ra h m a g u p ta ca n b e p h ra sed (u sin g fa m ilia r u n its) a s fo llow s (v id e [9 ], p p .1 7 6 -1 7 7 ):

Sisya-dhi-vrddhida-tantra (20.42) of Lalla; quoted in [8], p.44; [9], p.174. The text, edited with translation by Bina Chatterji, has been published by INSA, 1981.
4

\A heavy body, w hen fallin g from even the highest peak of a m oun tain , in variably falls at the foot of a m oun tain . T he circu m feren ce of the E arth is 25000 m iles an d the E arth takes 24 hours to com plete a revolu tion on its su pposed axis; hen ce the E arth m oves at over 1000 m iles per hou r or 1 6 ! m iles per m in ute. N ow if a heavy body takes 30 secon ds to touch the grou n d, by that tim e, the E arth has m oved 8 m iles. T herefore, how can the body fall at the foot of the m ou n tain ?" S u ch a rg u m en ts m ig h t a m u se th e m o d ern rea d er. B u t
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When a stone is dropped from the top of a very high tower, its initial eastward velocity is greater than the eastward velocity of the base so the stone actually falls to the east of the vertical line through the point of dropping. This eastward deviation is actually a proof of Earths rotation.

w ith o u t th e cla rity b ro u g h t a b o u t b y th e p rin cip les o f m ech a n ics d ev elo p ed b y G a lileo a n d N ew to n , it w o u ld n o t h av e b een ea sy to u n d ersta n d th e d y n a m ic eq u ilib riu m o f terrestria l b o d ies a n d a d d ress su ch q u estio n s. E v en d u rin g th e 1 6 th cen tu ry, C o p ern icu s d id n o t h av e sa tisfa cto ry a n sw ers to a ll th e rid d les. T h e a rg u m en ts en rich o u r u n d ersta n d in g o f th e ev o lu tio n o f a stro n o m y a n d m ech a n ics.

It is in terestin g to n o te th a t o n e a stro n o m er (P rth u d a ka ) . w h o stro n g ly su p p o rted A ry a b h a ta 's p rin cip le w a s a co m . m en ta to r o f B ra h m a g u p ta (w h o w a s in itia lly a v iru len t critic o f A ry a b h a ta ); w h ile m a n y fo llow ers o f th e . ry a b h a ta sch o o l o f a stro n o m y lik e L a lla { w h o a lw ay s A . p u t A ry a b h a ta o n a v ery h ig h p ed esta l{ criticised h is . th eo ry o f a x ia l ro ta tio n ! T h e a stro n o m ers im b ib ed th e g en era l in tellectu a l ro b u stn ess o f th e era . In sp ite o f th e rev eren ce fo r A ry a b h a ta , h is th eo ry w a s rejected . (th o u g h w ro n g ly in retro sp ect) { o n e ca n n o t fa il to n o tice in th is co n trov ersy th e p reva len ce o f a critica l scien ti c a ttitu d e a n d sp irit o f o p en -m in d ed free en q u iry. In th e co n tex t o f B ra h m a g u p ta 's q u estio n , w e rem in d th e y o u n g rea d ers th a t th ere is, in fa ct, a sm a ll ea stw a rd d ev ia tio n o f a fa llin g b o d y ; b u t it w o u ld n o t h av e b een p o ssib le to d etect su ch m in u te d ev ia tio n s w ith th e tech n o lo g y o f th e a n cien t tim es. T h is d ev ia tio n is ca u sed b y th e fa ct th a t p o in ts w h ich a re a t a g rea ter d ista n ce fro m th e E a rth 's a x is o f ro ta tio n m ov e w ith a g rea ter v elo city th a n th o se n ea r th e a x is. A s a resu lt, w h en a sto n e is d ro p p ed fro m th e to p o f a v ery h ig h tow er, its in itia l ea stw a rd v elo city is g rea ter th a n th e ea stw a rd v elo city o f th e b a se { so th e sto n e a ctu a lly fa lls to th e ea st o f th e v ertica l lin e th ro u g h th e p o in t o f d ro p p in g . T h is ea stw a rd d ev ia tio n is a ctu a lly a p ro o f o f E a rth 's ro ta tio n . It w o u ld p erh a p s n ev er b e k n ow n w h a t p ro m p ted A ry a b h a ta to a ssig n a n a x ia l ro ta tio n to E a rth , h ow ex a ctly .
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h e g o t co n v in ced o f su ch a th eo ry { w h ich h e a sserted so stro n g ly a n d co n d en tly { a n d w h eth er h e h a d in g en io u s a n sw ers to th e va rio u s co u n ter-q u estio n s. A fter a ll, th e th eo ry o f ro ta tio n o f E a rth h a s n o t b een ex p licitly u sed in th e tex t to sim p lify th e m eth o d s o f ca lcu la tio n o r to ex p la in a n y a stro n o m ica l p h en o m en o n (o th er th a n m ov em en t o f sta rs a n d sid erea l d ay ). If w e ta k e o u t h is sp eci c sta tem en ts o n ro ta tio n o f E a rth , th e rest o f A ry a b h a t a rem a in s th e sa m e w h eth er w e ta k e ro ta tin g .y o r sta tio n a ry E a rth .

B u t th ere is n o p h ra se in A ry a b h a t a (a n a lo g o u s to \ k u .y a va rta h " { E a rth 's ro ta tio n { in K a la k riy a 5 ) ex p licitly . m en tio n in g E a rth 's h elio cen tric rev o lu tio n . O n th e co n tra ry, th e so la r y ea r h a d b een a ttrib u ted (K a la k riy a 5 ) ry a b h a ta 's to ravi bhagan (S u n 's rev o lu tio n ). F ro m A .a . cry p tic v erses, it is n o t clea r if th e a u th o r h a d in m in d a n y m o tio n o f th e E a rth in sp a ce in a d d itio n to a x ia l ro ta tio n . T h e n u m erica l d a ta in A ry a b h a t a , ex p licitly .y in v o lv in g E a rth 's m o tio n , p erta in eith er to th e n u m b er o f ro ta tio n s in a y u g a (G tik a 3 ) o r th e ra te o f ro ta tio n (G a 6 ). O n th e o th er h a n d , a s p o in ted o u t in tik ([9 ], p .1 7 4 ), A ry a b h a ta 's v erses G o la 9 (w h ere h e g av e . th e p ictu resq u e a n a lo g y w ith th e m o tio n o f a b o a t) a n d G tik a 3 (w h ere h e listed th e n u m b er o f rev o lu tio n s o f th e S u n , th e M o o n , th e E a rth , a n d o th er p la n ets, in th e sa m e b rea th !), ta k en to g eth er, co u ld ev o k e th e im a g e o f so m e m o tio n in sp a ce (a p a rt fro m a x ia l ro ta tio n ) in th e m in d o f a rea d er. T h is ca n b e seen , fo r in sta n ce, fro m
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T h ere is a n im p ressio n a m o n g sev era l h isto ria n s th a t A ry a b h a ta h a d a lso co n ceiv ed o f th e E a rth 's a n n u a l rev . o lu tio n a ro u n d th e S u n .# F o r in sta n ce, A L B a sh a m w rites: \ F o r p u rp o ses o f ca lcu la tio n th e p la n eta ry sy s tem w a s ta k en a s g eo cen tric; th o u g h A ry a b h a ta in th e . 5 th cen tu ry su g g ested th a t th e E a rth rev o lv ed ro u n d th e S u n a n d ro ta ted o n its a x is, th is th eo ry w a s a lso k n ow n to la ter a stro n o m ers, b u t it n ev er a ected a stro n o m ica l p ra ctice." $

Strictly speaking, both the Sun and the Earth revolve around their common centre of mass.
5

6 The Wonder That Was India, p.493.

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Brahma Sphuta Siddhanta XI.17. The Sanskrit verse also occurs in [1], p.15.
8

th e sty le o f B ra h m a g u p ta 's refu ta tio n (o f th e releva n t p o rtio n o f G tik a 6 ): \ If th e E a rth m ov es th ro u g h o n e m in u te o f a rc in o n e p r n a , fro m w h ere d o es it sta rt a. its m o tio n a n d w h ere d o es it g o ? A n d , if it ro ta tes (a t th e sa m e p la ce), th en w h y d o n o t ta ll lo fty o b jects fa ll d ow n ?" % A m o re tech n ica l b a sis fo r th e sp ecu la tio n th a t A ry a b h a ta m ig h t h av e ta citly en v isa g ed a h elio cen tric m o d el . co m es fro m \g h ro cca " (G a 3 -4 ) { th e p erio d o f M ers tik cu ry a n d V en u s. A s H T h u rsto n rem a rk s& : N ot on ly did A ryabhata believe that the earth rotates, but . there are glim m erin gs in his system (an d other sim ilar In dian system s) of a possible un derlyin g theory in w hich the earth (an d the plan ets) orbits the sun , rather than the sun orbitin g the earth. T he eviden ce is that the basic plan etary periods are relative to the su n . F or the outer plan ets [e.g., M ars, Jupiter, S atu rn ] this is n ot sign i can t: both earth an d sun are in side their orbits an d so the tim e taken to go roun d the earth an d the tim e taken to go roun d the sun are the sam e. T he sign i can t eviden ce com es from the in n er plan ets [i.e., M ercury an d V en u s]: the period of the ghrocca is the tim e taken by s the plan et to orbit the su n . W e m en tio n h ere th a t, in sp ired b y th e id ea s o f P a ra m e va ra (1 3 6 0 -1 4 5 5 ), N la ka n th a (1 5 0 0 C E ) d ev elo p ed a s .. h elio cen tric m o d el fo r th e p la n ets { a sig n i ca n t a ch iev em en t d eca d es b efo re C o p ern icu s. D eta ils o n ev o lu tio n o f N la ka n th a 's m o d el a re d escrib ed in ([1 0 ]). .. A ry a b h a ta h a d ex p licitly sta ted (G o la 5 a n d 6 ) th a t . th e E a rth is sp h erica l. H is co m m en ta to rs L a lla a n d N ka n th a ex p la in ed w h y th e sp h erica l E a rth a p p ea red la . . a s a p la n e. S a id N la ka n th a : \ D u e to th e la rg e a rea , o n e .. d o es n o t feel th a t it is sp h erica l b eca u se w e see o n ly a sm a ll p a rt o f th e E a rth a n d a lso b eca u se o f th e u p s a n d d ow n s o n th e su rfa ce o f th e E a rth ."
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Early Astronomy, SpringerVerlag 1996, p.188.

Not only did Aryabhata believe that the earth rotates, but there are glimmerings in his system (and other similar Indian systems) of a possible underlying theory in which the earth (and the planets) orbits the sun, rather than the sun orbiting the earth. H Thurston

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T ill th e tim e o f R en a issa n ce, th e b elief th a t th e E a rth w a s a p la n e w a s d eep -ro o ted in E u ro p e. A s la te a s th e 1 5 th cen tu ry, th e trav ellers a cco m p a n y in g C o lu m b u s fea red th a t th ey m ig h t fa ll to th e d ep th w h en th ey rea ch th e ed g e o f th e (p la n e) E a rth ! M o d e rn E u ro p e In h is D e R evolu tion ibus (1 5 4 3 C E ), N C o p ern icu s en u n cia ted th e p rin cip les o f a x ia l ro ta tio n a n d h elio cen tric rev o lu tio n . (H e a ck n ow led g ed A rista rch u s, H era k leid es a n d E cp h a n tu s.) G B ru n o (1 5 4 8 { 1 6 0 0 ) w a s a v o cifero u s ex p o n en t o f th e C o p ern ica n th eo ries. S u b seq u en tly telesco p e w a s in v en ted a n d G a lileo u sed it to d iscov er (1 6 1 0 ) fo u r sa tellites (m o o n s) o f J u p iter w h ich g av e a n in d irect b u t stro n g ev id en ce in fav o u r o f C o p ern ica n d o ctrin es. O n th e b a sis o f th e lo n g series o f m eticu lo u s o b serva tio n s o f T y ch o B ra h e (d u rin g 1 5 7 6 -1 5 9 7 ), K ep ler p o stu la ted h is law s o f p la n eta ry m o tio n (1 6 0 9 ). T h ese d ev elo p m en ts p rep a red th e g ro u n d fo r N ew to n 's law s o f g rav ita tio n (1 6 8 7 ) { th e co rn ersto n e o f N ew to n ia n celestia l m ech a n ics w h ere C o p ern ica n th eo ry co u ld n a lly n d a so lid th eo retica l b a sis. D e R evolution ibu s w a s b a n n ed in 1 6 1 6 , G a lileo p ro secu ted in 1 6 3 3 . It w a s in 1 8 2 2 th a t th e R o m a n C a th o lic C h u rch rst o cia lly a n n o u n ced th e a ccep ta n ce o f C o p ern ica n th eo ries. G o eth e rem a rk ed : O f all the discoveries an d the opin ion s proclaim ed, n othin g surely has m ade su ch a deep im pression on the hu m an m in d as the scien ce of C opern icu s. P erhaps n ever before had m an kin d been con fron ted w ith a bolder challen ge, for, how m an y thin gs w ere dispelled like sm oke or fog as a result of his statem en t? E p ilo g u e W e co n clu d e th is a rticle w ith a q u o te fro m R o g er B illa rd 's w o rk cited ea rlier ([4 ], p .2 2 4 ) I w ish ... everybody w ill be able to see w hat w as verily
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Nilakantha (1500 CE) developed a heliocentric model for the planets a significant achievement decades before Copernicus.

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the In dian astron om y, how adm irable an astron om er w as A ryabhata, w hy exactly he is the leadin g gu re of su ch a . history. I hope fu rtherm ore he w ill soon be ackn ow ledged as on e of the greatest astron om ers of the past an d, in con sideration of his rigou r an d probity even w ithin error, as a paragon of scien ce.
Suggested Reading
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] Address for Correspondence Amartya Kumar Dutta Kolkata 700108, India. Email: amartya@isical.ac.in Stat-Math Unit Indian Statistical Institute 203, B.T. Road [8] [9] [10]

K S Shukla and K V Sarma: A rya bh a .ya o f A rya bh a .a , INSA, New e t t Delhi, 1976. G Swarup, A K Bag and K S Shukla (ed): History of Oriental Astronomy, IAU Colloquium 91, Cambridge University Press, 1987. K D Abhyankar, Pre-Siddhantic Indian Astronomy A Reappraisal, INSA Project Report (1998). R Billard,: A ry a b h a t a and Indian Astronomy An Outline of an . Unexpected Insight, Indian Journal of History of Science, Vol.12, pp.207224, 1977. S Balachandra Rao, Ancient Indian Astronomy Planetary Positions and Eclipses, BPRC Ltd,, New Delhi , 2000. K V Sarma, Observational Astronomy in India, University of Calicut, 1990. P R Ray and S N Sen (ed), The Cultural Heritage of India Vol VI: Science and Technology, The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta, 1986. B V Subbarayappa and K V Sarma (ed), Indian Astronomy, Nehru Centre, Bombay, 1985. S R Das, Motion of the Earth as conceived by the ancient Indian astronomers, Bulletin Calcutta Math Society, Vol.17, pp.173-182,1926. M S Sriram, K Ramasubramanian and M D Srinivas, 500 Years of Tantrasangraha A Landmark in the History of Astronomy, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, 2002.

Truth does not pay homage to any society, ancient or modern.Society has to pay homage to truth or die . Swami Vivekananda The Complete Works II, p.84.

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