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Revisiting Agastya-Vindhyā Lore With a New Evidence From Parāśaratantra


Abstract

All the myths of Agastya from Purāṇa as “Ṛṣi” are scientifically pertaining to Astronomy, are not myths but are a key to determine the epoch of the event. One such myth of ‘Agastya and Vindhyā’ will be investigated from the astronomical point of view which contains a memory of oscillating motion of Agastya, to & fro, on the Latitudes of Indian peninsula with the help of new evidence from Parāśaratantra; an astronomical treatise text recently published by Shri RN Iyengar.

Agastya’s mention in Amarakośa in the shloka of Dhruva and its own etymology, deduction via Sanskrit Root, as a pole star is evidence of Agastya-Canopus’s antiquity, once serving as a south pole star, in ancient times. The study of astronomy of Agastya at Vindhyā with the help of Voyager simulations will take back Agastya, as far as +19000BCE. Thus, concluding that the various lore from different Purāṇas* indicate how these are relevant in deciphering the astronomical memory to understand past human’s observation of the sky and time. These were noted very precisely and eventually.

The objective of the study; Identifying Antiquity of Indic Civilization to be from +21000years based on Agastya evidence from Agastya-Vindhyā lore. 

The kind of investigation; 1) Etymology 2) Lore of Agastya-Vindhyā investigated previously by Shri KD Abhyankar (IJHS), will be reinvestigated, since the new evidence was not taken into account, as it has appeared now posthumously, for the astronomical motion and visibility of Agastya-Canopus star from Vindhyā.

The results or findings; This paper will present original research carried out by the author that identifies Vindhyā and Agastya lore to be 21000+ years old. This empirical evidence can be objectively tested with scientific method employed via Indian logic Prameya-Theory; two triads of evidence employed via pratyakṣa-anumāna-śabda & upamāna-aitihya-arthapatti; for the final deduction of proof.

Introduction

The ancient Indian texts are full of astronomy observations and it is fascinating to know about the accuracy and precision that was maintained while recording those observations. Many different texts talk about positions of planets, stars or even cardinal points (equinoxes and solstices) in the vicinity of a particular nakshatra. In different texts, different positional observations are recorded which explain about the tradition of sky observational ability our ancestors possessed as well as the desire to study the movement of the heavenly bodies over a period of many thousands of years. This paper is an attempt to explore Agastya-Vindhyā lore in detail and correlate with the view of the sky prevalent in those days so as to eventually calculate the antiquity of that text when it was either newly composed or last modified. Agastya- Vindhyā lore is present in two major Indian epics and purāṇās, when compared, are in similar form of memory about Agastya going “south”. The author has been thinking about the structure of Agastya-Vindhyā lore, since they are present in Vanaparva or Aranyakānda from Iti- hāsa where the protagonists are at ease elucidating the lore while gazing the night skies. Im- important scriptures, i.e. Purāṇās[1], MBH[2] and PT are being analyzed for its similar structure. In short, the story states that people became afraid of continuous growth of the Vindhyā Mountain, for they feared it may obstruct the path of the sun, so they approached Agastya. As Agastya arrived, the Vindhyā Mountain prostrated before him in reverence. The sage said that, ‘he was going south’ and that the mountain should lie prostrated ‘till he returned’. And then it is said that Agastya never returned north.

THE FIRST EVER ASSUMPTION OF STAR AGASTYA OF THIS MYTH

The story of Agastya crossing Vindhya could had been a simple story of physical Agastya going south to populate southern India. Southern India is abundant with ethnographic memories about Agastya bringing Velir community, giving them Tamil Grammar, Kalaripattu-martial art, legends of River Kaveri, Agastyamalai range, etc. There then we came across very close with the idea that how the star agastya came to be known. And that idea was propounded- ed by Shri K. D. Abhyankar in his seminal paper “Folklore and Astronomy; Agastya a sage and a star.” published by IJHS. He also envisaged, which is also visible through ethnographic, geographic and scriptural memories, that Agastya was the first “National Integrator”.

With the help of table of helical rising of Agastya, he propounded a theory that since Magellanic clouds were named after Magellan, therefore, the northerner physical Agastya when first encountered star Canopus during 5000 BC, probably gave his own name to the star. This date is based on assumption that for a star to be visible above horizon its meridian altitude has to be at least 5°. To test this theory I found some rigidity in the Puranic texts. We will discuss it further.

THE ASSUMPTION WENT WRONG, PT HAS SOMETHING ELSE TO OFFER

This was the hypothetical statement based on an assumption without any proof. Obviously for such lores or myths, the hypothetical situation of comparison is a weak theory. The story or myth doesn’t carry the memory of encountering a star at Vindhya by Sage Agastya in any of the Purāṇās or Itihāsās, so how the name Agastya was given to the star, what was the purpose behind this naming by our ancient sages. How to solve this issue. This issue re- mained as it is since 2005 until the Parāśaratantra text appeared.

LATEST EVIDENCE FROM PT

Parāśara’s scientific description in PT needs attention which also contains similar memory. But at the end of the story it states Agastya’s rising and setting in the South, instead of the physical Agastya moving and settling in south. Therefore the confusion, of whether the physical Agastya was moving towards south, gets solved here. Parāśara also alluded the event of Rising and Setting as a past event by saying śrutapurva, in the form of remembrance of an earlier incident, of the southward movement. PT is an Astronomy treatise text and thus is important for any astronomical evaluation.

Let’s see Kauśika-Parāśara’s dialogue. Kauśika, the pupil of Parāśara asks him, “Sir, in the southern direction a bright planet-like object is seen. “I don’t know this object that moves not along the nakshatra-planetary path (eclip- tic)”. Why this object leaving the East rises “in the South at the end of the monsoon or at the end of the autumn to be seen for a few days?” Please ex- plain this.” On this question, Parāśara answers, “We have heard that in an- cient times earth excessively experienced king of Mountain- Vindhyā (or height of Vindhyā) to grow too tall, due to the effect of very slow motion of pole/axis—[meruma darātiriktaprabhāvaḥ- evidence of slowness of Precession of Equinoxes and Axis was known to Indian Astronomers] and covered the sun as though to make world dark (fear of something unusual) Then at the request of gods the Creator told sage Agastya that he only can control Vindhyā and after this act he would start glowing in the sky. Agastya went to the mountain range ordering it not to grow till he returned from his travels in the south- ern-tirthas (Lat) of the country. When Vindhyā offered a wide lane with trees and waterbodies to travel the sage got angry. Being afraid of the sage, Vind- hyā agreed not to grow till the sage returned north. Agastya to prevent Vind- hyā from further growth, ‘rises and sets in the South only’.

This is the translation given by R. N. Iyengar in PT, bracketed portions are additions by the undersigned. Therefore, we note that the whole passage in PT explains an Astronomical event of Agastya which coursed south and at last remained in the South for a while. Now Kaushiki, who is unaware of this star is asking about it and Parashara intend to share the memory gives way the northern coursing of Agastya. Two of the phrases are cryptic in regard of Vindhya and Precession connection with sun’s path, and these further needs investigations for either these to be geographical or geo-astronomical phenomena or how these are connected. We thus need to employ scientific method to investigate the matter. Moreover, ‘rises and sets in the South only’ gives a fair idea that Agastya was seen in southern tip of Indian peninsula being a south pole star.

Let us understand the etymology of Agastya if it has to offer a position where Agastya can rise and set in south.

ETYMOLOGICAL EVIDENCE

1. Etymology;

A). na gacchati iti agaḥ, (that he is stationed and doesn’t move) agaṃ + styāyati from the root styai; samghaate; be collected into a heap or a mass like a sarpa-snake, or parvata. Make stiff or immovable, iti Agastyaḥ; A definition of a pole star by itself and one of the characteristic of star Agastya.

B).  agaṃ (vindhyaparvataṃ) + styāyati iti agastyaḥMany commentators take Agam as parvatam itself and the Vindhyaparvata is located in the commentaries due to the famous lore via ethnographic memory of the place. Author understands either “ Vindhya” (a) as a Hunter (masc) constellation Orion /or (b) Vindhyā- one of the mountain’s range name, parvataṃ-as mountain/or height( in Sanskrit the mountain also means height. This would mean that the one who reduces either Hunter Constellation’s height (while coursing over different Lats due to the change of declination and axial precession) is called Agastya]-second characteristic where Agastya is heavily moving-coursing upon latitudes and making itself visible and invis- ible upon different Lats of Indian peninsula. This represents the sinusoidal motion of Agastya.

2. Synonym;

Lexicographer Amarasimha in his work Amarkosha—nāmlingānushāsana says as under on Dhruva and Agastya,

(1.3.215) dhruva auttānapādiḥ syāt agastyaḥ kumbhasambhavaḥ

(1.3.216) maitrāvaruṇirasyaiva lopāmudrā sadharmiṇī

Which means Dhruva (1)Auttānapādiḥ; of the Uttānapādaḥ [one whose legs are extended or stretched] (2) Agastya (3) Kumbhasambhava like (4) Mitra-Varuna, Lopāmudrā with Agastya also had been a Dhruva, i.e., a star at pole points. Not only Agastya was a pole star but like- wise Lopāmudrā also had been a pole star.

Etymological and Synonymical evidence suggest that once Agastya had been a pole star and later to rising and setting, i.e., after being a pole star it has again started to rise in the northern latitudes as well. But before that it has coursed towards southern latitudinal direction as well. The word Agastya, thus, makes etymological sense. The first qualifier in the naming of a star as Agastya could only have had appeared when it served as a pole star. And to have attained that knowledge of Agastya being a pole star has to be an early phenomena, even be- fore crossing the Vindhya for the southern course, i.e., 12,500 BCE+25,750 yrs of Axial pre- cession or precession of Equinoxes = 38,250 BCE ( lower limit). Now lets understand how it happened.

The rotational axis of the Earth keeps pointing to the different directions in the sky which greatly affects the view of the sky seen from a particular location. This phenomenon, which mainly occurs due to the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon, is known as “Precession of equinoxes” and it follows a circular path. Any star, which is located close enough to this circular path, can become a pole star and this is valid for both northern and southern celestial poles. This fact is very well recorded in many texts as we shall see later in this paper.

Table 1

Moreover, the positions of the stars in the sky are not fixed and keep changing due to the proper motion. All stars have this proper motion and the magnitude varies from one star to the other. When this proper motion gets combined with precession of equinoxes, some strange things can occur. However, Agastya is a discrete star and has very less proper motion, has not changed much during last 200K years.

POINTS OF INVESTIGATION

Lore of Agastya-Vindhyā investigated previously by Shri KD Abhyankar (IJHS), will be reinvestigated, since the new evidence was not taken into ac- count then, as PT has appeared now posthumously, for the astronomical motion and visibility of Agastya-Canopus star from Vindhyā. Above is the graphical representation of declination of different epochs of northern & southern course of Agastya over Indian peninsula

with the help of Voyager simulation. From fig.1 Agastya crossing Vindhya latitude is seen for two epochs, one while going north in 6500 BCE, another while going south in 19000BCE. Thus it is understood from the graph and table that Agastya coursing southern Lats crossed Vindhyā Lat during 19000 BCE. In fig 2.1 Agastya going south became invisible to north of Vindhya. KD Abhyankar, in his paper, apparently have confused the physical and stellar Agastya representations. He took the physical Agastya moving south and making the Vindhyā Mountain range prostrated while visualizing star Agastya-Canopus, as moving towards northern latitude while the lore, in every scripture, alludes only about single Agastya moving south. He also mistook meridian height of Agastya with 5° altitude. By then PT text were not available for evaluation of lore. Thus, his timings of Agastya-Vindhya lore halted upon 5000 BCE. But with Hipparchus notification and criterion of visibility of Canopus with 1°16’ meridian altitude as observed at Rhodes, Agastya does command attention for its visibility with similar criterion in Indian peninsula, especially with its great coastal line where atmospheric refraction is more easier to observe. With this inference the visibility of Agastya going north would have been from 7000 BCE epoch. With the knowledge of PT, the findings of KD Abhyankar are rebutted in this paper, but one has to understand that this is attended posthumously. Had he come across PT in his lifetime, I believe, even his finding would had been same as that of the author’s. The similar memory was reclaimed by Kauśika in his dialogue with his preceptor’s explanation in PT. Ethnographic-Cultural history contains the memory of Agastya-star as the one who clears the mud from rain-fed rivers muddy waters, i.e., as an indicator of the end of rainy season or visibility of Agastya during autumnal equinox, famously known as Agastyodaya. Kauśika-Parāśara’s dialogue epoch says that Agastya rises and sets in the south only; this reveals knowledge of Agastya being a pole star and near pole point situation before being a pole star. Agastya remained pole star from 13000 BCE till 11000 BCE. High- est declination of Canopus; 78 deg means Agastya near south pole point with lowest altitudinal meridian height; clearly visible only from Agastyamalai biosphere which is situated in lower one-third part of Kerala.

The biosphere famed with the name Agastya also evidently suggests the impact of Astronomical Agastya’s regular visibility on this geography. But while going south Agastya disappears from Chidambaram latitude during 14000 BCE and reappears during 9000 BCE. Another Shabda-Testimony is from Rāmāyaṇa about the Agastya being a South Pole star. Author of this paper found that Agastya-Canopus served as the South Pole star on being visible from Mahendragiri Mountain [3]. Sage Agastya once penned its one end in the ocean, and the other end had been visible from Mahendragiri Parvat. The Latitude of Mahendragiri Mountain serves as a point of clear visibility of Agastya with its highest declination enabling it to become a south pole star. Dreyer in his work History of the planetary system has referred to the Hipparchus observations of Canopus at Rhodes at 1°16’. K.C. Hari infers, which evidently appears correct to the author, that the Canopus with an altitude of 2° above the horizon could in- deed command the attention of the ancient Indian observer in the sky. After analyzing, with the help of voyager simulation, author found that Vega and Canopus both were visible as north and South Pole stars from Mahendragiri Lat. This corroborates why Brahmarāśi, i.e., Vega and Agastya Rishi-Canopus visibility by Vānaras at Mahendragiri present in Rāmāyaṇa. Further, it corroborates Amarkosha’s lexicographer’s Amarsimha’s intention of keeping Agastya in Dhruva’s shloka and one of the etymologies of Agastya form shabdkalpadrum also confirms Agastya to be a Pole star.

FINAL DEDUCTION OF PROOF VIA ARTHAPATTI

Thus, it is proved that the event of Agastya-Vindhyā Lore is posterior to Agastya as a South Pole star; i.e, +12000 BCE. Agastya’s crossing of Vindhyā is an earlier event to its being a pole star; i.e, +19000 BCE, objectively tested via today’s knowledge. Agastya may have been named as Agastya during 38,500 BCE. Against the background of these references it is understood that ancient Indians were precisely and accurately noting the sky conditions. Since it was known that no geographical elevations can obstruct the sun’s path, then Parāśara’s intention conveyed in regard of connectivity of sun’s ecliptic path and Agastya crossing Vindhyā was also evaluated with the help of Sanskrit etymologies and voyager simulation for the sky conditions. Vindhyā Range offers us more in regard of combined Astronomical and Geographical conditions. Vindhyā range lies on a very unique Lat which has always divided Bhāratvarsha into two as north and south portions. The Northern India has always been remembered as Vindhyottara. This has mentioned in various Indic texts and maps. This Lat needs a mention here since not only it divided Bhāratvarsha but once due to the effect of obliquity “Tropic of Cancer” also passed through Vindhyā range-i.e, 24.5° lat N in ancient times. Incidentally, author evaluates that Agastya’s cycle of repetition (25775 years-following a pole point on circle of precession of earth’s axis) is almost equal to Precession of Equinoxes or axial precession due to its being a discrete star. And this process enables Agastya to oscillate upon Lats from north to south covering whole India. The cycle of obliquity of earth from

22.5° to 24.5° and again back to 22.5° takes 41000 years, and thus after a lapse of 21000years of obliquity combined with 25780 years of precession gives a combined effect on stars on ecliptic which had subdued the lifting effect or changed the degree between earth axis and ecliptic path. Agastya cycle has deeper connection with Vindhyā Lat as well as Hunter Orion (Vindhya) constellation since the lore contains its connectivity with Obliquity effect on Eclip- tic and precession of Earth’s Axis together. The combined effect is interestingly persevered in Vindhyā lore is thus evaluated.

CONCLUSIONS

The Agastya lore contains valuable information about its epoch via star movement, the research concludes

  • The Agastya-Vindhyā lore is at least 21000+ years old.
  • Agastya-Vindhyā lore & Natarāja-Apasmāra are astronomical evidence about Agastya’s presence on particular (24.5°N , 11.4°N) Latitudes.
  • These memories of combined astronomical phenomena of obliquity and precession in the form Agastya-Vindhyā lore in our epics.

REFERENCES

K.C Hari, 2016 “On the visibility of Agastya(Canopus) in India”, Indian Journal of History and Sciences, 51.3(2016)511-520

K D Abhyankar,2005, “Folklore and Astronomy: Agastya a sage and a star”, Current Science, Vol.89,no.12, 25 December; Current Science 89:2174-2176 www.iisc.ernet.in/currsci/ dec252005/2174.pdf

  1. N. Iyengar, “Parāśaratantra, Ancient Sanskrit Text On Astronomy and Natural Sciences”, 2013

Nilesh oak, “When did Mahabharata War Happened; Mystery of Arundhati”, 2011 Nilesh oak, “Historic Rama”, 2014

Footnotes: 

[1] 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa V. 19. 16; VI. 4. 20; Viṣṇu-purāṇa II. 3. 3. 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II, 16. 19; III. 7. 356;  34; Matsya-purāṇa 114. 18; Vāyu-purāṇa 45. 89; 58. 81; 69. 239; 77. 34; 88. 199; 96. 38. 3) Brahmāṇḍa-  purāṇa III. 26. 25; 71. 39. 4) Matsya-purāṇa 13. 39; 22. 66. 5) Ib. 61. 51. 6) Ib. 106. 49. 7) Ib. 114. 27-8; Vāyu- purāṇa 45. 103. 8) Matsya-purāṇa 121. 51; Vāyu-purāṇa 47. 50. 9) Matsya-purāṇa 157, 17, 19.

[2]reference from BORI CRITICAL EDITION, MBH

03102014a etat te sarvam AkhyAtaM yathA vindhyo na vardhate 03102014c agastyasya prabhAvena yan mAM tvaM paripRcchasi

03102015a kAleyAs tu yathA rAjan suraiH sarvair niSUditAH 03102015c agastyAd varam AsAdya tan me nigadataH zRNu

[3]

Then on reaching the southern ocean, and on taking a resolve with regard to the purpose of your task, viz., importance of the mission undertaken vis–vis your individual capacities to leap the ocean, you reach the glorious Mt. Mahendra. Sage Agastya once penned its one end in the ocean, and the other end is now visible. That august and best one among all mountains will be completely golden with marvelous terraces and trees, and it will be stepping into ocean on the other side of land, and this mountain becomes the jumping-off point for you Vānaras.”

Image Credit: commons.wikimedia

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