Indian Inscriptions and Eclipses lecture by Prof.Subbarayappa

December 28, 2011

I was fortunate to attend the Prof.K.V.Sarma Endowment lecture  by Prof.B.V.Subbarayappa in Orient Research Institute ,Univerity of Madras.  The topic was ‘Indian Inscriptions and Eclipses’. It was well formatted and excellently delivered lecture.

A study was conducted under TIFR Achaeo Astro project about  eclipses in Indian inscription  was done. The highlights from his talk

1. Rig veda mentions about eclipse

2.Panchavimsa brahmanas mentions eclipse

3.Ramayana mentions

4.Mahabarata has reference to two eclipses in the same month  – one solar and one lunar

Aryabhatta deals with eclipses, however it was Varahamihira who gives full explanation about eclipses.

Generally there was not superstitious ideas in Indian Astronomical texts about eclipses, on the contrary it was call Punya Kala and donations were done.

Earliest inscription is a pallava copper plate grant belonging to 440CE.

An inscription(copper plate) date Kalachuri era 880 (1128 CE)  is very interesting. Astronmer Padmanabha was granted a village by King Ratnadeva for correctly predicting the occurrence of eclipse.

Several astronomers over a period of 6 centuries have written about astronomy and eclipse. Surprisingly all the texts deal the subject in the same methodology, indicating specific schools for training in astronomy (these astronomers were from different parts of our country)

They study was conducted on about 22000 inscriptions – about 12000 sanskrit, rest Kannada and Telugu. Tamil inscriptions about 33000 are not yet studied. The study reveals

1.  Reference starts from Gupta period

2.  1400 inscriptions refer to eclipses

3. 81 duplicates/triplicate (i.e two inscriptions refer to same eclipse but by different donor/place)

4. One eclipse in 1054 CE is mentioned in 5 inscriptions (again different donor/place)

5. 1324 Unique eclipses – 736 lunar rest solar

6. 195 difficult to get exact date

7. 830 exactly matches with date arrived at using modern calculation

8. 246 of them could not get exact date due to various reason

In his opinion no other culture has kept recording for such a long period.

But surprisingly the supernova occurred during 1054CE is not mentioned in any inscription or text. Chineese and Arabs have recorded it.

On the whole it was a fantastic lecture.