Post No. 8978

Date uploaded in London – –28 NOVEMBER 2020   

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Salient features from an article by Meera Bharadwaj:–

BENGALURU: Looking at the stone and understanding the sky is what she does. And she is leaving no stone unturned to understand the celestial events of the past. The celestial world has always fascinated B S Shylaja. And therefore, opting for astrophysics to understand the astronomical occurrences and phenomena was not at all surprising. In 1994, she joined as an educator in Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, Bengaluru. Till her retirement in 2017 as the Director of Planetarium, she taught basics of astronomy and astrophysics to graduate students.

The tradition of getting edicts recorded on stone can be traced back to 3rd century BCE. Stone inscriptions also provide records of eclipses, solstices and planetary conjunctions, Shylaja informs. She has studied not only Indian inscriptions but extended her studies to South and South East Asia – Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand. This has thrown light on many new aspects such as the evolution of calendars independently from the influence of Indian system of time measurement as early as the 3rd century BCE.

Shylaja says, Many interesting records of planetary conjunctions are also available.” This voluminous exercise has involved scrutiny of 38,000 inscriptions from 6th to 17th century and gathering of 1,100 useful information about celestial events.

The result of her effort has led to deciphering records of solar and lunar eclipses, solstices, equinoxes and planetary conjunctions. In all these cases, the dates and timings are meticulously written down while the details on the positions of planets are also available. She has also traced Kannada inscriptions to far off regions like Myanmar. She was assisted by Geetha K G (project assistant/co-researcher) for some discoveries in 2016.

Shylaja and Geetha mainly dealt with inscriptions found in and around Karnataka. Shylaja says, “A good number of Kannada inscriptions are found in AP, TN, Maharashtra and Goa. Many are bi-lingual. All inscriptions in Tirupati are in Kannada, Sanskrit and Telugu and at times, Tamil.


The earliest stone inscription of total eclipse in 754 CE has been found in Pattadakal. In fact, European visitors learned the procedures of calculations from Indians. Records of total eclipses have made for an exciting study for Shylaja.

They are recorded as Saka Year, Samvatsara (a cycle of 60 years), lunar month, tithi (the phase of the moon) and Vara (the week day). “We see examples of the naksatra citation (each day is associated with a star, naksatra, the one closest to the moon among the 27), while in some examples, lagna, the ascendant zodiacal sign is cited, giving the time of the day,” Shylaja says.

There is one prominent mention of planetary grouping in 1665 when there was a solar eclipse. This is recorded as śadgraha yóga – grouping of six planets. They are sun, moon, descending node (Kétu) considered as planet and the other three planets. This occasion was used to donate special grants called “tulāpurushadāna”, which means gold of weight equivalent to the weight of the king was disbursed. This particular record pertains to the then Mysore Maharaja.

Languages used in earliest inscriptions are Pali, Prakrit, Nagari and Sanskrit. Subsequent ones are in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Persian. Earliest Kannada inscription dated back 
to 450 CE.

Source – Article By Meera Bhardwaj

Express News Service November 22, 2020



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