|Occupation||astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer|
|Subject||Astronomy, Astrology, Mathematics|
|Notable works||Pancha-Siddhāntikā, Brihat-Samhita, Brihat Jataka|
|Part of a series on|
|Hindu scriptures and texts|
|Related Hindu texts|
Varahamihira's main work is the book Pañcasiddhāntikā (or Pancha-Siddhantika, "[Treatise] on the Five [Astronomical] Canons") dated ca. 575 CE gives us information about older Indian texts which are now lost. The work is a treatise on mathematical astronomy and it summarises five earlier astronomical treatises, namely the Surya Siddhanta, Romaka Siddhanta, Paulisa Siddhanta, Vasishtha Siddhanta and Paitamaha Siddhanta. It is a compendium of Vedanga Jyotisha as well as Hellenistic astronomy (including Greek, Egyptian and Roman elements). Varahamihira was the first one to mention that the ayanamsa, or the shifting of the equinox is 50.32 seconds.
- They [the Indians] have 5 Siddhāntas:
- Sūrya-Siddhānta, ie. the Siddhānta of the Sun, thought to be composed by Lāṭadeva, but actually composed by Mayasura also known as Mamuni Mayan as stated in the text itself.
- Vasishtha-siddhānta, so called from one of the stars of the Great Bear, composed by Vishnucandra,
- Paulisa-siddhānta, so called from Pulisa, the Greek, from the city of Saintra, which is supposed to be Alexandria, composed by Pulisa.
- Romaka-siddhānta, so called from the Rūm, ie. the subjects of the Roman Empire, composed by Śrīsheṇa.
Another important contribution of Varahamihira is the encyclopedic Brihat-Samhita. Although the book is mostly about divination, it also includes a wide range of subjects other than divination. It covers wide ranging subjects of human interest, including astronomy, planetary movements, eclipses, rainfall, clouds, architecture, growth of crops, manufacture of perfume, matrimony, domestic relations, gems, pearls, and rituals. The volume expounds on gemstone evaluation criterion found in the Garuda Purana, and elaborates on the sacred Nine Pearls from the same text. It contains 106 chapters and is known as the "great compilation".
He was also an astrologer.
His son Prithuyasas also contributed to Hindu astrology; his book Hora Sara is a famous book on horoscopy. Khana (also named Lilavati elsewhere), the medieval Bengali poet astrologer, is believed to be the daughter-in-law of Varahamihira.
The Romaka Siddhanta ("Doctrine of the Romans") and the Paulisa Siddhanta were two works of Western origin which influenced Varahamihira's thought, though this view is controversial as there is much evidence to suggest that it was actually Vedic thought indigenous to India which first influenced Western astrologers and subsequently came back to India reformulated. Paulisa Siddhanta is often mistakenly thought to be a single work and attributed to Paul of Alexandria (c. 378 CE). However, this notion has been rejected by other scholars in the field, notably by David Pingree who stated that "...the identification of Paulus Alexandrinus with the author of the Pauliśa Siddhānta is totally false". Number of his writings share similarities with the earlier texts like Vedanga Jyotisha.
A comment in the Brihat-Samhita by Varahamihira says: "The Greeks, though impure., must be honored since they have shown tremendous interest in our science....." ("mleccha hi yavanah tesu samyak shastram kdamsthitam/ rsivat te 'p i pujyante kim punar daivavid dvijah" (Brihat-Samhita 2.15)).
Varahamihira improved the accuracy of the sine tables of Aryabhata .
He was among the first mathematicians to discover a version of what is now known as the Pascal's triangle. He used it to calculate the binomial coefficients. He also records the first known 4×4 magic square.
Among Varahamihira's contribution to physics is his statement that reflection is caused by the back-scattering of particles and refraction (the change of direction of a light ray as it moves from one medium into another) by the ability of the particles to penetrate inner spaces of the material, much like fluids that move through porous objects.
1. ^ "the Pañca-siddhāntikā ("Five Treatises"), a compendium of Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Indian astronomy. Varāhamihira's knowledge of Western astronomy was thorough. In 5 sections, his monumental work progresses through native Indian astronomy and culminates in 2 treatises on Western astronomy, showing calculations based on Greek and Alexandrian reckoning and even giving complete Ptolemaic mathematical charts and tables. Encyclopædia Britannica (2007) s.v.Varahamihira ^
2. E. C. Sachau, Alberuni's India (1910), vol. I, p. 153
- The Pañca-siddhāntikā ("Five Treatises"), a compendium of Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Indian astronomy. Varāhamihira's knowledge of Western astronomy was thorough. In 5 sections, his monumental work progresses through native Indian astronomy and culminates in 2 treatises on Western astronomy, showing calculations based on Greek and Alexandrian reckoning and even giving complete Ptolemaic mathematical charts and tables.
- O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Varāhamihira", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews.
- History of Indian Literature. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. 2008. p. 46.
- Ram Gopal (1984). Kālidāsa: His Art and Culture. Concept Publishing Company. p. 15.
- "Varahamihira". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007.
- Sen, Samarendra Nath; Shukla, Kripa Shankar (2000). History of astronomy in India. Indian National Science Academy. pp. 85, 114, 345.
- McEvilley, Thomas (November 2001). The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. Allworth Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-1-58115-203-6.
- Pingree, David (1978). The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja. Harvard Oriental Series. Vol. 2. pp. 437–438.
Pingree, David (1969). The Later Pauliśa Siddhānta. Centaurus 14. pp. 172–241.
- Velandai Gopala Aiyer. The chronology of ancient India: beginning of the Sat Yuga, Dwaper, Treta, and Kali Yuga with date of Mahabharata. Sanjay Prakashan. p. 63.
- Monier-Williams. "Definition of म्लेच्छ". Sanskrit Dictionary.
- "Varahamihira". Science, Civilization and Society.
- "History of Mathematics in India". Archaeology Online.
- Pancasiddhantika, Brihat Jataka, Brihat Samhita and Hora Shastra Various editions in English and Sanskrit. (PDF)
- The Brihat Jataka (1905) Pdf edition internet archive