Indian Astronomy

Moving forward in the study of the oldest Indo-Greek astral text, the Yavanajātaka

The Yavanajātaka, “Genethliacal astrology of the Greek,” has long been thought to be the earliest Sanskrit treatise on Greek astrology. New reading and evidences suggest however that David Pingree’s dating of the original by Yavaneśvara (149/150CE) and translation by Sphujidhvaja (269/270CE) is untenable. In the first place, there has all along been only one author, Sphujidhvaja, who was known also as Yavaneśvara. Furthermore, there was no date given in the colophon. The dates were Pingree’s own emendation (!).

A number of vexing questions remain. If this important text is not as old as we thought, when was it composed then? What kind of Greek astrology and astronomy was it based on?

It turns out that a lot of elements of this work cannot be traced to any known extant Greek sources. Pingree in some cases would argue that the Indians have preserved what has been lost in Greece. But it is clear that the Yavanajātaka contains many Indian or even specifically Vedic elements. For Pingree who insisted that “there is nothing original in Indian astral science,” these apparently non-Greek elements for him could only be interpolation. Rather than following Pingree’s convoluted arguments, a simpler solution to the problem may be that the work was an amalgamation of Greek and indigenous Indian astral science from the very beginning. In fact, the last chapter on mathematical astronomy is largely Indian, with core concepts such as yuga, tithi, nakṣatras and mentioning of Indian sage such as Vasiṣṭha.

References: Mak 2013:16; Mak 2014:73-75.

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