Bhaskaracharya : Astronomer Mathematician

Bhaskaracharya was a sage genius, born in Shak Era 1036 (1114 AD), who wrote the seminal work Siddhanta Shiromani when he was just 36 years old. It’s a work of great scholarship, presenting detailed astronomical facts and astounding mathematical solutions sans theory. The work stayed as an acknowledged reference for about 700 years and the facts therein started being rediscovered in the West almost 500 years later. Its proposals may have since been improved upon but they remain uncontradicted to this day.

The entire work can be read here. I really am not qualified to introduce its serious content and the details it covers. It starts with an invocation saluting the “Supreme Being” and sets the stage with a conversation between the Knowledge-Soul projected by the Sun and the latter’s devotee, Maya, who had prayed for knowledge of astronomy. The science is thence presented pronto, without ado, with amazing clarity, exhaustively and patiently communicated step by step, topic by topic, with pauses for do-it-yourself familiarity, coverage review and recap, until the phonomenon, involved methodology or instrumentation being considered is completely elucidated.

It is complex science, deep and principled, that the text lyrically explains. Its 13 chapters and hundreds of topical items indexed at the end truly boggle the mind, coming from an era when the Christian world was entering into its medieval, darkly vicious phase and the Islamic scourge was spreading fast and wide with barbarity and trails of massacre, plunder and destruction, and long lines of uprooted slaves.

After waxing poetically on “six seasons” in Chapter 12, the author introduces himself at end of the work, before serving the “appendix.” He writes of his village in the Sahyadri ranges, his father who taught him, and his own education. He mentions, “I have studied eight books of grammar, six texts of medicine, six books on logic, five books of mathematics, four Vedas, five books on Bharat Shastras, and two Mimansas.”

Astounding, to look at the knowledge “Bhaskar” acquired in about 30 years of studentship ! Mastering each of the Vedas, medicine texts, Shastras or Mimansas is in itself a lifelong vocation. He however calls himself a poet and in all probability subscribed to Vedanta school of thought, living in accord with its evolved beliefs and values system.

Salutations, many humble salutations to you, Acharya !

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