International Workshop on Traditional Sciences in Asia 2015: An Interdisciplinary Investigation into Overlapping Cosmologies


International Workshop on Traditional Sciences in Asia 2015: An Interdisciplinary Investigation into Overlapping Cosmologies

17-19 June, 2015
Kyoto University

Cynthia BOGEL (Kyushu University)
Max DEEG (Cardiff University)
A. A. FODD-REGUER (Saint Joseph’s University)
Eric HUNTINGDON (Princeton University)
ISAHAYA Yoichi (Tokyo University)
KAIFU Norio (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan)
KOYAMA Katsuji (Kyoto University)
Brian LOWE (Vanderbildt University)
Daniel MORGAN (CNRS-Paris VII)
Eric HUNTINGDON (Princeton University)
Cindy POSTMA(Independent Scholar)
Tansen SEN (Baruch College, CUNY)
Ellen VAN GOETHEM (Kyushu University)
YANO Michio (Kyoto Sangyo University)

Workshop website:

Ritualistic cyclicity in Indo-Greek astral science


Ritualistic cyclicity in Indo-Greek astral science –

Expressions for various modes of time measurement in the Yavanajātaka

 Astral sciences, mathematics and rituals, Université Paris 7

Mar 19-20, 2015


As a prototypical work of Greco-Indian astral science, the Yavanajātaka, in particular, its last chapter (Ch. 79) on mathematical astronomy, encapsulates some key concepts on time measurements which would later became the mainstream elements in the Indian tradition of jyotiṣa. Some of these key concepts include the large astronomical cycle known as yuga, the smaller cycles of year, season, month, planetary week, day and tithi. What distinguishes the Yavanajātaka from other extant treatises of the first millennium ce, however, is the fluidity of expression of these astronomical cycles in the text, which suggests the ambivalence of the author in his attempt to blend a heterogeneous body of Greek and Indian astronomical and astral concepts, and to express them in a sound, mathematical manner.

Two features of this important chapter which have been overlooked in past studies are: 1) The Indian elements as exemplified by the close resemblance of tithi-based astronomical algorithm and the description of the water clock to those of the Vedāṅgajyotiṣa and the Arthaśāstra respectively;[1] 2) The description of the Lords of year, ayana, season, month, week, day and hour which conclude the chapter before the colophon.

In this presentation, I would like to suggest the expressions of cyclical time-measures in the text have an unexpressed ritualistic character, which lies beyond the scope of the Greco-Indian genethliacal astrology of the preceding 78 chapters. Beside his concern for comprehensiveness, its author Sphujidhvaja was clearly exposed to the ritualistic significance of these various time-measures from different traditions. While the computation of planetary longitude would be essential to the casting of horoscope, the reckoning of days (ahargaṇa) and various “Lords” suggests a synthesis of Greek and Indian rituals which focus on astral worship.

[1] Based on readings from new manuscript [MAK 2013].



Frontier research in Sanskrit genethliacal astrology (jātaka)

Among the earliest philological research done on the Greco-Indian astral science was undertaken by the Dutch orientalist Henrik Kern, who was known mostly for his works in Buddhist and Austronesian studies. Kern studied Utpala’s commentaries of the Bṛhatsaṃhitā and Bṛhajjātaka in the late 19th century and most of the jyotiṣa entries from the Monier-Williams Sanskrit-English dictionary are based on Kern’s notes (not entirely reliable as Kern was only in his twenties then!) Subsequently, a number of important historical studies on the jātaka was published by P.V. Kane around the 1950s, followed by David Pingree from the 1960s onward. The Indian and Western scholars followed largely Kane and Pingree’s footsteps, with notably Indo-centric vs. Greco-centric bias. A much more balanced approach was undertaken by the Japanese scholars, most notably Yano Michio and his student Sugita Mizue, who jointly published an annotated Japanese translation of the Bṛhatsaṃhitā in 1995 . In addition, Sugita produced the e-texts of a number of key jyotiṣa work such as the Bṛhatsaṃhitā and the Bṛhajjātaka.

The next step of jātaka studies would be a comprehensive comparative study of the major Greco-Indian Jātakas, namely Sphujidhvaja’s Yavanajātaka, Mīnarāja’s Vṛddhayavanajātaka and Varāhamihira’s Bṛhajjātaka. At the moment, the e-texts of all the texts together with key passages and citations in Utpala’s commentaries have been prepared. For the past three years, Yano and myself have read and analyzed Utpala’s commentary on the Bṛhajjātaka (80% complete as of today). This summer at the World Sanskrit Conference, I will present my new edition of the Yavanajātaka. Today at a drinking party, Yano and myself have decided to begin our reading of the Vṛddhayavanajātaka once our reading of the Bṛhajjātaka is finished, probably some time before the end of the year.

The comparative study of the three jātakas will reveal most likely the historical relation of the three texts and to point us to the right direction in terms of what kind of Greek astrology it was supposedly based on. Since the origin and the earliest form of Greek astrology are rather sketchy, perhaps some important clues may be gleaned from the Sanskrit sources.