Overview for History of Astronomy in India
The study of astronomy in India is as ancient as her civilization. Indian subcontinent is one of the few culture areas in which an unbroken tradition in astronomical research has been maintained from the prehistoric to modern times. Thus the rudiments of the concept of a stellar zodiac which we find fully developed in the Vedic Samhitas and Brahmanas appear in some of the seals of the Indus Valley Civilization. This early interest in astronomy is further reflected in the recognition of jyotisa as one of the six Vedangas or auxiliary sciences whose mastery is indispensable for a proper understanding of the Vedas. The History of Astronomy in India opens with three chapters surveying in detail the primary source materials, - in Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, and the secondary sources representing studies in European languages. The subsequent chapters are devoted to specialized aspects of Indian astronomy such as the astronomical thinking of the Indus Civilization and the Vedic times, of the post-vedic period prior to the appearance of astronomical siddhantas. The astronomy of the siddhantas has been discussed in detail through such topics as the yuga system, the computation of mean and true longitudes, eclipses and parallax, precession of equinoxes, phases of the moon, rising and setting of planets and stars, and their conjunctions. The correct reckoning of the time being the central feature of astronomical research, a chapter was devoted to the history of the development of calendars in India. The observational astronomy whose importance was recognized quite early has been represented by two chapters, - one on instruments and the other on observatories. Methods of modern European astronomy started attracting the attention of Indian astronomers from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, while the nineteenth century witnessed the growth of infrastructure for astronomical work in the form of telescopic and spectroscopic observatories and the twentieth century a new breed of theoretical and observational astronomers making fundamental contributions in optical, radio and x-ray astronomy. These endeavours are outlined in the last two chapters. One special feature of astronomical research in India throughout its long history has been the recognition of, and the emphasis on, its international character leading to fruitful exchange of ideas with neighbouring civilizations. The History of Astronomy in India was published by the Academy in 1985 in which a large number of experts had contributed. The volume became quite popular and quickly went out of print. However, the edition was released hurriedly at the time of an International Seminar on History of Astronomy in Delhi and as such contained some unavoidable slips and errors. In view of its growing demand, the Indian National Commission for History of Science felt that a revised edition be brought out with the help of original contributors after removing most of its shortcomings.
S.N. Sen (Editor)
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K.S. Shukla (Editor)
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