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"As some of the former rules have served to fix the time, so does this, in some measure, to ascertain the place, of its invention. It is the simplification of a general rule, adapted to the circumstances of the torrid zone, and suggested to the astronomers of Hindustan by their peculiar situation.”*
The precession of the equinoxes, or motion from west to east of the points where the ecliptic crosses the plane of the earth's equator, is reckoned in their tables at fiftyfour seconds of a degree in the year: it is found to be at present only fifty and a third seconds in the year. From this motion of fifty-four seconds, they have evidently formed many of their calculations. They have a cycle or period of sixty years, each of which has its particular name; another of 3,600 years, and one of 24,000. From the annual motion given by them of fiftyfour seconds of longitude in the year, fiftyfour minutes of longitude make sixty years,
* See Trans. of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. ii. p. 170.
fifty-four degrees 3,600, and the entire revolution of 360 degrees makes their great period, or annus magnus, of 24,000 years, which is often mentioned by them.
The point at which the sun is on the 20th or 21st of March, is called, as with us, the vernal equinox; that at which he arrives on the 20th or 21st of September, the autumnal equinox; on both occasions festivals are observed, but at the vernal equinox, with greater joy and ceremony, in order to salute the return of the sun to the northern tropic, and celebrate the commencement of their favourite season, Visanta, or the spring.
The Hindūs, whether in matters of accounts or science, make their calculations with a surprising degree of quickness and precision, especially when we consider the methods they sometimes employ. M. le Gentil gives an account of a visit he received, soon after his arrival at Pondicherry, from a Hindu, named Nana Moodoo; who, though not a Brahmin, had found means to learn some of the princi
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 them.
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