Astronomy in India

  • K. V. Sarma
Reference work entry

Astronomy in India, as it was in other ancient civilizations, was interwoven with religion. While the different facets of nature, the shining of the sun, the waxing and waning of the moon, and the alternation of the seasons all excited curiosity and evoked wonder, religious practices conformed to astronomical timings following the seasons, equinoxes, solstices, new and full moons, specific times of the day and the like. In the Vedas, the earliest literature of the Hindus, mention of professions such as Gaṇaka (calculator) and nakṣatra‐darśa (star‐gazer), and the mention of a branch of knowledge called nakṣatra‐vidyā (star science) are illustrative of the fascination that the celestial bodies exerted on the Vedic priests.

The Vedas and their vast ancillary literature are primarily works of a religious nature, and not textbooks on astronomy. Still, they inform about the astronomical knowledge, mainly empirical in nature and often mystic in expression, which Vedic Indians possessed and...

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  • K. V. Sarma

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