You are here: Sri Vaishnava Home Page : Bhakti List : Archives : October 1998


From: sudarshan (
Date: Fri Oct 23 1998 - 09:56:46 PDT

Dear Sri.V.Chandrasekaharan,

Thank you for your interesting questions viz.

"We know that solar-centric theory was established only around
14th century (by Copernicus, totally disproving Ptolemy's geo-centric 
theory which was till then held correct for over 10 centuries).
   My questions in this regard are,
o Around what time did 'navagraha deity worship and the associated
  navagraha Agamas' get defined in Hinduism? Is this earlier than the 
  solar-centric theory?
o Are there any mentionings of navagraha deities in our literatures?
  Does Hindu jOthisham have any recordings of how the planets 
  were located by our ancestors without aid of any equipments?
o Are there any significant descriptions about Earth and other 
  grahams going around Sun in our ancient literatures?"

Here are a few references I have come across and which perhaps answer the

Prof.A.L.Basham writes in his "The Wonder that was India" as follows:

"For the purposes of calculation the planetary system was taken as
geo-centric, though Aryabhata in the 5th century suggested that the earth
revolved round the sun and rotated on its axis; this theory was also known
to later astronomers (in India).... The precession of the equinoxes was
known and claculated with some accuracy by medieval astronomers, as were
the lengths of the year, the lunar month and other astronomical constants.
These calculations were reliable for most practical purposes and in many
cases more exact than those of the Graeco-Roman world. Eclipses were
forecast with accuracy and their true cause understood."

It is clear that long before Copernicus (16th centuryAD), Indian
astronomers like Aryabhata and VarAhamihira had spoken of the heliocentric
system. Nobody was burned at the stake for this!

Aryabhata, it is said, suppported his heliocentric theory through a special
mode of "nyAya" (logical reasoning) called,"lAghava-gaurava nyAya".
"laghu", they say, means light, small-built etc. and "lAghava" is an
adjectival form of "laghu". The antonym of "laghu" is "guru" whose
derivative is "gaurava"; and "guru" we know means "big" man, a great
"AchArya" or "weighty" personage. If an "AchAryA" is "guru" the "sishya"
must then surely be "laghu", isn't it? The disciple in terms of knowledge
and stature is certainly "light-weight" as compared to the "guru"! So he
circumambulates the Master as a mark of humility. Thus that which is
"laghu" invariably revolves around that which is "guru". This is stated to
be the "lAghava-gaurava nyAya", according to which the "laghava" earth
circumambulates the "gaurava" sun! Aryabhata here combined, they say,
science with "sAstrA-ic" belief.

In ancient Vedic learning, "jyotisha" is said to be one of the 6 "vedangAs"
or "sadangA-s" --- the other five being, as you may already know, "siksa,
vyakarana, chandas, kalpa and nirukta". 

"jyotisha" -- vedic astronomy -- is considered to be the science of the
celestial bodies. It is hailed as the "nayana-anga" of the Vedapurusha ie.
that "by which the blind are enabled to feel their way around" or that by
"which very distant objects that elude the "eyes" can be nevertheless be
seen". "pratyaksham jyotisham sAstram". Just as we need eyes to be able to
discern objects in "distant space", we need "jyotisha" to perceive objects
in "distant time" (the configurations of constellations several years ago
in the past or into the future).

The vedic seers used the science of "jyotisha" to determine the time for
performance of various rituals.

"jyotisha" is said to consist of three parts and hence it is known as
"skandha-trayAtmakam" viz. "siddhanta", "hOra" and "samhitA". Sages like
Garga, Narada and ParAsara are said to have written treatises (samhitAs) on
this matters.

The "siddhAnta-skanda", it is said, deals with arithmetic, trigonometry,
geometry and algebra.

Arithmetic is known in "jyotisha" as "vyakta-ganita".
"Avyakta-ganita" is algebra.
"jya" in Sanskrit means "the earth" and "miti" means "to measure". Thus the
word "jyamiti" in "jyotisha" which means "measurement of earthly space for
sacrificial purposes". Thus, linguists also say, did the word "geometry"
evolve from the Sanksrit "jyamiti"!

All the above are parts of the science of "jyotisha" --- vedic astronomy!!

One of the greatest "vedic" "jyotisha" exponents was BhAskarAchArya who
lived 800 years ago and who wrote "LilAvati" --- which deals with complex
algebraic equations in a unique way. The problems and answers are stated in
the form of stories and verses!! (How I wish there is an English
translation of this!). He also wrote about the positions and movements of
heavenly bodies using complex mathematical modelling in another book
called, "siddhAnta-siromani".

Varahamihira lived 1500 years ago. He wrote a book called "brhajjAtaka"
which is all about scientific astrology.

Aryabhatta who is famous today as the author of "aryabhatta-siddhanta" also
lived 1500 years ago and dealt with many aspects of astronomy and

All the above "siddhanta-s" are based on Vedic "jyotisha" sciences which
clearly stated that there are 7 'grhA-s' or planets ( 5 planets, the moon
and the sun). Rahu and Ketu were known as "chAya-grhAs"(shadow planets)
since their orbits are the opposite of the sun and the moon.

The vedic texts clearly subscribed to the heliocentric model of the
planetary system. It is said that a passage in the "aitareya brAhmaNa"
declares,"THe sun remains still and it is the earth that goes round it. It
is only because the earth revolves round the sun that it seems to us that
the sun rises in the east every day and sets in the west. The sun neither
rises nor sets."  

Now the "hOra-skanda" part of "jyOtisha" deals with the relationship
between the positions and movements of the planets and the destiny of man.
The vedic seers through empirical evidence, mathematical calculations and
the power of spiritual instinct (siddhi) were able to prove that the
condition of man and human society corresponds to the changes in the
position of the nine "grahA-s". A human being does not enjoy happiness all
the time; nor sorrow all the time. This is attributed in part to the
planetary movements by "jyotishA=sAstra". The course of the planets
governing our life is in accordance with our karma. So says the
"hOra-skanda" of the "jyotisha" "anga" of the vedas.

I am not able to tell you  how and when the worship of the "nava-grahA-s"
originated in Vedic tradition.I have to do a bit more personal research
into that question. However if anyone else on the list can shed light on it
we will all be grateful.

But I do know that the following is the table of "graha" benefits that the
truly faithful believe in:

                surya         --- health                        brahaspati 
----  begetting noble son
               chandra      ---  fame                          sukra       
----   obtaining a noble wife
                angAraka   ---  wealth                       sanaiscara  
--  removal of afflictions and misery
                budha       ---  intellect                      rahu       
   ---  strength
         ---   association with noble souls

The above is beautifully described in a little Sanskrit Poem which is a
favourite of mine :

       ArOgyam prada-dAthu may dinakaraha chandrO yashO nirmalam
          Bhumim Bhumi-sutha-ha suDhAm-shu-tanaya-ha pragnyAm gurur-gOravam
      kAnya-ha kOmala-vAg vilAsamatulam mandhO mudam sarvadA
          rAhur-bAhu-balam virODha-shamanam kEthu-hu kulassyOn-nathim II