Science in Bhartruhari’s Nitisataka Couplets/Slokas (Post No.5686)

Written by London Swaminathan

Date: 21 November 2018

GMT Time uploaded in London –14-04 am
Post No. 5686

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We take three more slokas from the Niti Sataka and analyse and compare them with other poems.

Here in the following three couplets Bhartruhari deals with geology and oceanology. Hindus believe that the earth is on the head of a big snake, sometimes described as 1000 headed snake called Adi Seshan. The poet says that the snake is born by tortoise and the tortoise is held in position by the sea floor. Though Kalidasa and others also said the same, we don’t know the science behind it. When Vishnu is projected as lying on the snake bed in the Milky Ocean, we assume that they are talking about the ocean of Time. Greeks say that Atlas is holding the earth on his shoulders.

But the other two slokas are based on true science.


Indra is said to have cut down the wings of the flying mountains. Later they settled down under the floor of the ocean or elsewhere. This is a clear reference to geological changes that the earth encountered through its millions or billions of years’ history. We knew now that the Dinosaurs became extinct after one big asteroid hit the earth 6 million years ago. In those days more asteroids and meteorites were hitting the earth than today. Later it was stopped. Though millions of meteorites hit earth even today, most of them are burnt in the atmosphere. But in geological ages it was a different scene and the flying mountains were asteroids. The asteroids that fell in the sea or displaced and pushed into sea are the ones like Mainak parvat mentioned in the sloka.

I don’t mean all the submarine mountains are asteroids or displaced by asteroids; but some must be that led to the story of Mainak flying away from the Himalayas. They already know the long and continuous chain of submarine mountains which they gave the name Chakravala.

The second is about the Suryakanta gem that emits fire at the touch of sunlight. Now we know they are magnifying glass or lens which can focus sunlight and produce fire. We read in the Greek history that they were able to burn sailing ships by focusing sunlight through lens.

Ancient poets used symbolic language to express their thoughts and views; they created stories for the laymen; for an example, they told the laymen that the snake is devouring sun or moon during eclipse, but they knew it’s the shadow of earth that creates the eclipse. They calculated it and forecast eclipses well in advance. Another example is that they calculated the movements of planets for astrological predictions.

They gave scientific names to planets. The name Sanaischaran for Saturn means slow moving. Saturn takes thirty years to complete one round around sun. They named the largest planet Jupiter as Guru. Guru means heavy, large etc.

Only now the scientists are using the gravitational power of the Jupiter (Guru), known as sling shot  effect to boost the rockets or satellites. But Guru means one who boosts you into orbit of spiritual world with his power. So we have rightly named Jupiter as Guru. I have already written about the future predictions of Hindus in my earlier articles (about other planets).

Here are the relevant three slokas. Just to teach simple morals, Bhartruhari use these similes which shows common men were well aware of these things even in the days of Bhartruhari:–

  1. Sesha bears all the worlds placed on his serpent-

like head: he himself is always borne on the back of the king of the tortoises, who dwells, held without difficulty, in the bounds of ocean. Ah! with what ease do the mighty perform great marvels !

  1. The son of Himalaya would have behaved far more

nobly if he had allowed enraged Indra to cut off his wings with the thunderbolt breathing forth huge masses of flame, and had not, when his father was helplessly subject to calamity, sought a refuge by throwing himself into the ocean.

  1. The sun-stone, though insensate, is kindled into

light when touched by the rays of the sun: how then

should a mighty man bear an injury inflicted by another.

वहति भुवनश्रेणिं शेषः फणाफलकस्थितां

कमठपतिना मध्येपृष्ठं सदा स च धार्यते ।

तम् अपि कुरुते क्रोडाधीनं पयोधिरनादराद्

अहह महतां निःसीमानश्चरित्रविभूतयः ॥ 1.31 ॥

वरं पक्षच्छेदः समदमघवन्मुक्तकुलिशप्रहारैर्

उद्गच्छद्बहुलदहनोद्गारगुरुभिः ।

तुषाराद्रेः सूनोरहह पितरि क्लेशविवशे

न चासौ सम्पातः पयसि पयसां पत्युरुचितः ॥ 1.32 ॥


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