Varahamihira, author of Brihadsamhita

According to scholars, the documented history of jyotisha begins with the interaction between the Indian and Greek cultures during the indo-Hellenistic period. The documents available are Yavanajataka and the Brihadsamhita. Both are in Sanskrit. Yavanajataka is the versification of the Greek Sayings by Sphujidhvaja, done in the 2nd century AD.  The term 'yavana' denotes something of Greek origin. Brihadsamhita is the masterpiece of Varahamihira, the 6th century Indian astrologer and astronomer. One of the early champions of Indian astrology, Varahamihira was an astronomer, astrologer, author of a couple of significant books and a scholar of wide ranging knowledge. The Brihadsamhita, his masterpiece, is an acclaimed storehouse of astronomy, astrology, mathematics and several other subjects of similar significance. The book contains 4000 stanzas in its 100 chapters.

He lived in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. There has been another opinion that he was originally from Magadha of Uttar Pradesh from where he migrated to Ujjain. Another claim goes that he was the son of Adityadas, who migrated to India from Iran and that he was born in 499 AD. Several other years of birth had also been pointed out. Al Baruni, the traveler noted that Varahamihira belonged to 5-6 centuries. However, 505 AD has been generally accepted by scholars as his year of birth.

Adityadas, his father was a scholar and he taught his son all the deep lessons in the Vedas. And the son acquired knowledge following the footprints of his father. Brihadsamhita mentions the names of several astronomers of the times, but the works of some of them have not been traced up so far. Some of the names mentioned are Pitamaha (Paitamaham), Surya (Sauram), Pulisa (Paulisam), Vasishta (Vaasishtam), Romaka (Romakam). Of these, Pulisa is explained as Paulus Alexandrinos, the Greek Astronomer; and Romaka is said to be one with some Roman connection. The theses of the above five were summarized into one work and was called 'Panchsiddhantika' (Five Siddhantas) which contain142 stanzas in 18 chapters. Of the five siddhantas only one – the Surya Siddhanta - has survived over the onslaught of time. Varahamihira postulates that the earth is a globe and it is the centre around which the Sun, the moon and other planets move. This thesis does not agree to what Aryabhata (of 476 -556 AD, the great Indian mathematician who wrote 'Aryabhatiya') theorized that the earth was not standing still, but moving. Varahamihira, his contemporary, was the leading critic of Aryabhata. Horashastra, one of the works of Varahamihira, is an anthology of the earlier masters such as Vishnugupta, Devaswami, Siddhasena, Jivasharma, and Yavana. Yogayatra, Vivahapatala, Saamasamhita, and Vaatakanika are some of his works other than the Brihadsamhita.

The day after…
Astrology knows no limit. As human mind too does. The classical period of human culture slowly evolved into the scientific culture and the breathtaking revolutions it has led so far has made tremendous advances to human civilization. Astrology, which had been pooh-poohed as a pseudoscience played a substantial role in advancing astronomical knowledge as well as mathematical, medical and psychological knowledge in that it too has been watching the luminous objects in the sky in its own way and under its own calculations. The fact that the Sun and the Moon can have its own impact on the life on our planet is no justification for the superstitious belief in horoscope and astrology. The fact that the Sun is the giver of light and warmth and the bringer of the day and night upon the earth is no justification for the so-called Rahu and Kethu casting evil impact on the life of humans on the earth. But even scientists of top ranks do have their faith in astronomers and horoscope writers. Marriages are arranged if only the horoscopes agree. Functions are held if only the Rahu does not stand in the way. In spite of the fact that there is no scientifically proven basis for the astrological and horoscopic decisions or predictions, even scientists die for it. And a lot of research is being done now on the efficacy or otherwise of astronomy even in the 21st century. Superstitions are not dying, and in fact it is spreading with a vengeance. . Religions play a great role in this. Science and scientific methods are not the end all, it is argued. Humans are not able to understand much of what is available in the nature. And therefore, if the horoscope and astrology give people a sort of mental peace or comfort, what is wrong in it, ask supporters of the practice of astrology.