Astronomical Instruments in India

  • Yukio Ōhashi
Reference work entry

Astronomical knowledge in India can be traced back to the Vedic literature (ca. 1500–500 BCE), the earliest literature in India, but no astronomical instrument is mentioned there. Naked eye observations of the sun, moon, and lunar mansions were carried out. It is not clear whether five planets were observed or not.

There is a class of works called Vedāṅga, probably composed toward the end of the Vedic period, which is regarded as auxiliary to the Veda. It consists of six divisions, including Jyotiṣa (astronomy) and Kalpa (ceremonial). The Kalpa further consists of four divisions, including Śulba (method of the construction of the altar). The earliest astronomical instruments in India, the gnomon and the clepsydra, appear in the Vedāṅga literature.

The gnomon (Sanskrit: śaṅku) is used for the determination of cardinal directions in the Kātyāyana‐śulbasūtra. A vertical gnomon is erected on a leveled ground, and a circle is drawn with a cord, whose length is equal to the height of the...

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2008

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  • Yukio Ōhashi

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