Varahamihira (505–587 CE) was an Indian astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer from Ujjain, which during the Gupta period (320 to 550 AD), was a flourishing center of learning with several schools of science, culture and art famous scholars from distant lands.
Varahamihira (also known as Varaha Mihira) is considered to be one of the Nine Gems (Navaratnas) of the court of legendary ancient ruler Yashodharman, who was famous in a central India, in the 6th century.
This man of genius was even more popular than his other contemporaries such as Aryabhata and Brahmagupta, the first of the major mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy.
Varahamihira’s knowledge of Western astronomy was thorough but he was also very interested in astrology and horoscopes, and repeatedly emphasized their importance.
His father was a worshipper of the Sun god and it was he who taught Varahamihira astrology.
This great man was learned in the Vedas, but he was not any fanatical believer in the supernatural.
He was a scientist.
He declared that the earth was spherical. In the history of science he was the first to claim that some “force” might be keeping bodies stuck to the round earth.
This force is now called gravity. He proposed that the Moon and planets are lustrous not because of their own light but due to sunlight.
Varahamihira’s main work is the book “Five Treatises” (Pancha Siddhantika) on mathematical astronomy and one of the most important sources for the history of Hindu Astronomy from before the time of Aryabhata, the first of the major mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy.
It was a compendium of Greek, Egyptian, Roman, and Indian astronomy, which also presents calculations based on Greek and Alexandrian reckoning and even giving complete Ptolemaic mathematical charts and tables.
Another contribution of Varahamihira is the encyclopedia Brihat-Samhita with 106 chapters that include many subjects planetary movements, eclipses, rainfall, clouds, growth of crops, various rituals and a special chapter dedicated to the treatment of plants.
The great scientist described a large number of comets and wrote over sixty couplets about comets.
He contributed with many crucial insights about universe, space and mathematics, especially trigonometry and advanced arithmetic; he was among the first scientists who discovered a version of what is now known as the Pascal’s triangle.
Of great value are also his achievements in the field of geology, hydrology and ecology.
Written by – A. Sutherland AncientPages.com Staff Writer
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