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Ancient and Modern India.
ON THE ASTRONOMY AND OTHER SCIENCES OF THE HINDŪS.
THOUGH an accurate inquiry into the Astronomy of the Hindus, can only be made by such as may have particularly studied that science; we hope, nevertheless, to be excused for offering a few observations on the subject, founded on the opinions of those, whose knowledge in astronomy have obtained for them the high reputation they enjoy in the learned world.
The late Monsieur Bailly, in his Traité de l'Astronomie Indienne et Orientale, men
tions four sets of tables, brought to Europe at different times, from distinct places, and by different persons: one from Siam, by M. de la Loubiere, who was sent thither as ambassador, by Louis the 14th; two that were found by M. Bailly in the Depôt de la Marine, at Paris, which had been placed there by M. de Lisle,* who had received them from the Fathers Patouillet and Duchamp, correspondents of the missionaries in India; and a fourth, which was brought from the coast of Coromandel, by M. le Gentil, and which he had procured from Brahmins at Tirvalore.+-These four sets of tables and precepts of astronomy, procured, as has been observed, at different times, and distinct places, some of them extremely distant from the others, M. Bailly says, all, evidently, came from the same original;
* Joseph Nicolas de Lisle, a celebrated astronomer, the friend of Newton and Halley. He was born at Paris in 1688, and died there in 1768.
A town in N. L. 10° 44' near to Negapatnam, on the coast of Coromandel.
all have the same motion of the sun, the same duration of the and all are adapted to a meridian passing near to Benares:* for instance, the tables brought
* Yet the first meridian of the ancient Hindu astronomers, it is said, was that of Oujein, then called Ujjaini, and sometimes Avanti, in N. L. 23° 11′ 13′′, and E. Long. from Greenwich, 75° 51'.-The present city is about a mile distant from the site of the ancient town,which above 1800 years ago was buried in the earth, by some extraordinary natural convulsion. Avanti, or Ujjaini, was the magnificent capital of the celebrated Viccramaditya, and one of the principal seats of arts and learning. The traditionary legend of the place imputes its destruction to a shower of earth from heaven; and Mr. Hunter, who seems to have carefully examined the spot, observes, that no volcanic conical hills, or traces of volcanic scoriæ are to be found in the neighbourhood of it. It has been suggested that its destruction may have been occasioned by an inundation of the river Sipara, which now washes the southern extremity of the present town. Tradition relates that, at the time of the destruction of the ancient city, this river changed its course; and while Mr. Hunter and his companions were at Oujein, a part of the town, though situated considerably above the level of the river, was overflowed by it: but he nevertheless thinks an earthquake the most probable cause of the destruction of the ancient city, and that the
from Siam, suppose a reduction of one hour and thirteen minutes of time, or eighteen degrees and fifteen minutes of longitude, as so much west from the part of Siam, to which these tables had been adjusted.
The beginning of the Kaly-Yug, or present age of Hindu chronology, adjusted to our computation of time, is reckoned at two hours, twenty-seven minutes, and thirty seconds of the morning of the 16th of February, 3102 years before the Christian
change in the course of the river, admitting the tradition in that respect to be true, must have been the effect of that convulsion. By digging about eighteen feet deep, on the spot where the ancient city stood, walls of buildings are found entire, columns, utensils of various kinds, and ancient coins. Mr. Hunter saw a space of from twelve to fifteen feet long and eight high, filled with earthen vessels. Bricks taken from these ruins, continue to be employed in building; some are of a much larger size than those made in modern times.-The present city is of an oblong form, about six miles in circumference, surrounded by walls of stone, intersected by towers. See Narrative of a Journey from Agra to Oujein, by William Hunter, Esq. Asiat. Res. vol. vi,
but the time from which most of their astronomical tables now existing are constructed, is two days, three hours, thirty-two minutes, and thirty seconds, after that, or the 18th of February, about six in the morning.* They say, that there was then a conjunction of the planets. M. Bailly observes, that it appears, Jupiter and Mercury were then in the same degree of the ecliptic; that Mars was distant about eight degrees, and Saturn seventeen; hence it results, that at the time of the date given by the Brahmins to the commencement of the Kaly-Yug, they might have seen those four planets successively disengage themselves from the rays of the sun; first Saturn, then Mars, then Jupiter, and then Mercury; and though Venus could not have appeared, yet as they only speak in general terms, it was natural enough to say, there was then a conjunction of the planets: but M. Bailly is of opinion, that their astronomical
* See Traité de l'Astronomie Indienne et Orientale, par Bailly, Discours Préliminaire, pp. xxvii, xxviii.