Category: ancient cultures

South India Neolithic sites – A training ground for budding astronomers?

A few megalithic sites of South India are enigmatic. Besides they do not fall into the widely accepted idea that small groups of primitive people living close to a town settlement lived here. Instead they suggests two things. Firstly, the megalithic primitives were curious about astronomy!. Secondly, they were able to construct observation structures to study the movement of the stars. Besides, they achieved this with the most rudimentary tools available to them. First, they chose natural slopes at the best angle. Then they created view lines to the horizon with the help of stones and menhirs. Surprisingly, these megalithic astronomers preferred sloped viewing angles to avoid atmospheric extinctions. Certainly, fog and other obstructions can cause the extinction of star light. Finally, the careful placement of taller menhirs at the top of the slope and the smaller ones at the bottom suggest superior planning skills.   There appear to be multiple sight lines to observe the same astronomical event at

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How the Panchang had to be whacked back into shape…

Tiruvallur, a town near Chennai, Tamil Nadu was a center of Panchang makers and likely Astronomy in the past. Many do not know why and what the Panchang makers rectified in the recent. Let us explore both these. European sailing expeditions in the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries faced severe impediments because of poor nautical maps. Therefore, the Spanish, Dutch, French and British kings offered huge prize money for anyone who could produce reliable navigational charts. Consequently, a few Jesuits scholars traveled to India to study the Hindu Panchang system. They had heard of the use of ready made tables in the subcontinent to produce accurate calendars. Besides these tables were based on local “longitudes”. The longitude basis of these tables was of value to the Jesuits. The information which the Jesuits gathered was valuable to European astronomers. For example. the Famous astronomer Cassini consulted the famous Siam Table.  Some other astronomers used tables from Krishnapuram and Tiruvallur tables. These three

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Gandharvas, Schumann Resonance and Brain Rhythms

Popular Hindu literature describes Gandharvas as semi-divine beings. It depicts them with musical instruments. Coincidentally, the Upa-Veda (subsidiary Veda) text for the classical Indian music is the Gandharva Veda. In principle, Gandharvas, like the Devatas (divine beings), are not physical entities. A Gandharva is a vibratory energy which is responsible for a certain phenomenon in existence. Specifically, Gandharvas are behind the phenomenon of resonance. The Gandharva principle is behind any peak sensual experience in the human nervous system. Similarly, Gandharvas are known in popular stories as amorous. Stories in the Vedas connect Gandharvas with Soma. Soma is a Devata who is closely associated with exhilaration in the human psyche. Though lacking a physical body, a Gandharva, for example, can enjoy the thrill within the nervous system of stage a performer. Young people aspire for the thrill of being a rock star. Without a doubt, enthralling a large audience is a talent. However, not every talented singer or a performing artist

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A memory experiment from 4000 years ago

The Chandogya Upanishad text of the Vedas contains an interesting dialogue between a teacher and a student. In this episode, the teacher explains the connection between food and the subtle aspects of life in the body. Certainly, everyone knows about the gross aspects. Firstly, the body uses nutrients from food and forms the cells such as our muscles, tissues and bones. Further it excretes the gross wastage. First, the teacher explained this to his students. Further, he explained the subtler aspects of food. Subtler aspects become the energy of the mind, intellect and memory. However, one student had a doubt about food being responsible for the mind. He felt that mind is merely an abstraction. This student expressed his doubt to the teacher. Strangely, in response, the teacher sent him to fast for fifteen days. The young student protested that he may die without food. The teacher told him to drink water during the fifteen days. He sent him on

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Did Harappans celebrate the Punjabi festival of Lohri?

Jan 13th 2016 is Lohri, the end of winter festival according to the Punjabi calendar which was introduced in the 1st century BCE. Tradition considers Lohri to be the longest night of the year with the day following it being Winter Solstice. Let us apply some astronomy to guess the time when Lohri was celebrated for the first time.. Most of the Panchang calendars in India, like the Punjabi calendar are calibrated against the monthly full moons and the monthly transitions of Sun from one one constellation to the next. In other words, these calendars contain Lunar months and Solar Months. The first day of the solar month with the name Makara would have coincided with the Winter solstice around the third century CE. The ancient astronomers in India were aware of the astronomical phenomenon called “Precession” and precisely timed Vedic fire rituals to the Winter Solstice. Ancient Indians knew that the winter solstice day slips a day with respect

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Sacred Spots – Hindu worship sites before the popularity of temples

Ramanuja, a Vaishnava master from the fourteenth century was an expert in Pancharatra books . These books discuss worship procedures which are prevalent for millennia in the Indian subcontinent.  Worship practices in temples in Tamil Nadu had deteriorated into confusion. Consequently, Ramanuja took up the study of Pancharatra texts  with a view to bring structure in temple practices.  Psychologists understand now that human can relate more easily with the world of forms than the world of pure abstractions. Centuries earlier, Pancharatra texts recognized this basic tenet of human psychology. Ultimately, any form of worship is related to the supreme divine who is formless.  However, the center piece of any temple worship is a representation of this formless divine. Pancharatra texts suggest five distinct representations., or modes of invoking the powers of the formless into relatable structures. The first mode is the “Sthandila“. This refers to a small piece of land which is worthy of holding the divine presence, momentarily. Per this rule, Vedic priest construct

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Rishi Saunaka more important than Veda Vyasa to Max Muller?

Only a few people know the value of the commentaries of a 13th century scholar by the name Sayana or Sayanacharya. European translators could make no progress without his works. However Max Muller, the reputed translator of the Vedas, hardly credits Sayana. What was the reason? Secondly, Max Muller is the original proponent of the, now discredited, Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). However, Sayana’s work provides a list of key literary figures from an earlier millennium. Max Muller and other early Indologists had to explain the existence of their works to add credibility to AIT. One among them is Saunaka, the author of the unique Rig Veda index. He is a key literary figure to determine when the Vedas were written! Rig Veda Index of Saunaka Saunaka was a contemporary of Veda Vyasa. He compiled an exhaustive Rig Veda index, or the Anukramani. He indexed every line and every verse in the Vedas. In addition, he indexed them three ways, namely,

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Mantra to Idol – The 2 face, 3 leg, 7 armed Agni

Vedas, especially the Rig Veda celebrates Agni as the foremost. Agni Purana is one of the eighteen main Puranas. However, we find only a very few iconic forms for Agni in temples. Firstly, Agni features in one of the hands of the Dancing Shiva statue. Secondly, the aura of Devi or Bhairav are shaped like fire or Agni. Thirdly, Agni appears as the Shiva Lingam in the famous temple of Arunachalam. Is there any other carving which captures the description of Agni in the Vedas?  Surely, temple culture is a replacement for the Yagna traditions from the earlier times.  An iconic representation of Agni We find an unique iconic representation of Agni in the Gavipuram cave temple. This temple is in the midst of the bustling city of Bangalore. The carving of Agni at the entrance to the cave here is rare. We see four horns, two faces, seven hands and three legs in this carving. Certainly, this iconic representation per

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Baudhayana's instruction

The star gazer Bhodayana?

Today, mathematicians are aware of Rishi Baudhayana. This is because his Sulbasutra text predates the works of Pythagoras by several centuries. Hindus follow Baudhayana’s prescription for Vedic Samskara are even today. There is much clarity in his prescription. Because of this, even families who otherwise follow the Sutras of Rishi Apastamba borrow procedures of Baudhayana. Pundits chant the Udagashanti mantras, a grouping of mantras created by Baudhayana. Besides, these mantras are important in rituals such as Upanayanam and wedding. A section of the Udagashanti mantras highlights the importance of observing the rising sign in the east. Narayana Iyengar mentions this in his paper. His paper (Indian Journal of the History of sciences) mentions astronomical observations in India in the 2nd millennium BCE. In addition, the paper notes that the Sanskrit Pundits wrote commentaries on these mantras, as late as the 11th century. These commentaries bring a different context to the observation of the Heliacal rising of stars. In summary, such commentaries are

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What does Brahma have to do with Collapsing Quantum Systems?

Does Brahma dream the universe? If Creation exists only within the mind of Brahma, can it not dissolve like a dream? Is this similar to a collapsing quantum system? Let us review these two ideas. The popular idea among scientists is that human intelligence is an accident. A certain biological evolution created the power of thinking in the human brain. Consequently, everything in nature and in the cosmos is like a machine. Machines work on one principle, namely, the cause-and-effect principle. However,  Sir James Jeans, made a striking discovery. He says that the discoveries in Physics suggest the universe to be less of a machine and more of a great thought. The core elements of mechanical philosophy began in the Cartesian era, in the late 16th century. The idea that “I exist because I think” is slowing waning. Consequently, the older idea of the mind being the creator and the governor of the realm of matter is reviving. Sanskrit literature celebrates

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