« PreviousContinue »
ples of astronomy. M. le Gentil, to try the extent of his knowledge, gave him some examples of eclipses to calculate, and amongst others, one of a total eclipse of the moon, of the 23d of December, 1768. Seating himself on the floor, he began his work with a parcel of small shells, named Cowries, which he employed for reckoning instead of the pen; and looking occasionally at a book of palm leaves, that contained his rules, he gave the result of his calculation, with all the different phases of the eclipse, in less than three quarters of an hour; which, on comparing it with an Ephemeris, M. le Gentil found sufficiently exact, to excite his astonishment at the time and manner in which the calculation had been performed. Yet the education of Nana Moodoo, by his own account, must have been very confined; and M. le Gentil remarks, that he seemed entirely unacquainted with the meaning of many terms, being unable to explain
De la Croze observes, that, "their arith
metical operations are numerous, ingenious, and difficult, but when once learnt, perfectly sure. They apply to them from their early infancy; and they are so much accustomed to calculate sums the most complicated, that they will do almost immediately what Europeans would be a long time in performing. They divide the units into a great number of fractions. It is a study that seems peculiar to them, and which requires much time to acquire. The most frequent division of the unit is into a hundred parts, which is only to be learnt consecutively, as the fractions are different according to the things that are numbered. There are fractions for money, for weights, for measures; in short for every thing that may be brought to arithmetical operations."*
* He adds: “the same practice undoubtedly existed among the Romans, which may explain some passages of ancient authors, as in Horace, Art. Poet. 325.
Romani pueri longis rationibus assem
Discunt in partes centum deducere.
"It may likewise from hence be understood what is
In addition to the preceding remarks, the following passages from the Transac
meant by two passages in Petronius that have hitherto been obscure. In the first, a father says to a teacher:
Tibi discipulus crescit Cicero meus, jam quatuor partes dicit. "In the other, a man says, boastingly,
Partes centum dico: ad æs, ad pondus, ad nummum.
"I did not venture to give any examples of the calculations of the Indians, though I have many in my possession; but I have no doubt whatever, that the arithmetic of the Indians was the same as that employed by the Greeks and Romans."
The common education of the Hindus consists in reading and arithmetic. In almost every village a school is to be found. The school-house consists of what is called on the coast of Coromandel, a pandal, a large room made of timbers and the broad leaves of the palm tree. A boy goes to school about the age of five years. He begins by writing the simple letters with chalk on the floor; sometimes, with his finger in the sand. The Danish missionary, Mr. Ziegenbalg, who made himself perfectly master of the Malabar, or Tamul language, says that he and his colleague, Mr. Plutchau, began to acquire it by attending the instructions given to children, who learn to read and write at the same time. The boy next learns to pronounce and repeat the letters; he then proceeds to write compounds
tions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, will materially illustrate the astronomy of the Hindūs.
on leaves of the Talu and Plantain trees, and on paper. After making certain progress in reading and writing, or rather writing and reading, he proceeds to cyphering. In doing this, besides the pen, the Hindus sometimes calculate, as has been mentioned, with small shells, named Cowries. The school begins early in the morning; at about ten the boys go home to eat; return at the appointed hour, and stay till the evening. The allowance to such masters as are here referred to, when children first go to school, is about a penny, and one day's provisions per month, which, if for the master only, may, probably, be calculated at two-pence. As the boys advance in learning, the wages to the master are increased to four-pence, and as far as eight-pence.*
The pen employed by the Hindus for writing on paper, is a small reed; on leaves, a pointed iron instrument, or bodkin, with which they may, probably, be said to engrave. The leaves are generally of the palm-tree, and sufficiently thick to receive and preserve the incisure for any length of time, without the risk of its being effaced by usage. Their books consist of a number of those leaves; which, being tied loosely together by a hole pierced at one end, are turned over
* See Ward, on the Religion, Manners, &c. of the Hindus, vol. iv. p. 224.-The Author's Sketches of the Hindūs, vol. ii. pp. 12, 13.
The moon's mean place, for the beginning of the Kaly-Yug (that is, for midnight between the 17th and 18th of February, 3102, A. C. at Benares,) calculated from Mayer's tables, on the supposition that her motion has always been at the same rate as at the beginning of the present century, is 10° 0° 51' 16". But, according to the same astronomer, the moon is subject to a small, but uniform acceleration, such, that her angular motion, in any one age, is 9" greater than in the preceding, which, in an interval of 4801 years, must have amounted to 5° 45′ 44′′. This must be added, to give the real mean place of the moon at the astronomical epoch of the Kaly-Yug, which is, therefore, 10° 6° 37′. Now, the same, by the tables of Tirvalore, is 10° 6° 0′; the difference is less than two
with facility. Many of those books have been brought to Europe. Epistolary correspondence is maintained on paper. In some parts of India, writings in ink on leaves also, are to be met with.*
• See Sketches of the Hindus, vol. i. p. 175.