Looking at the night sky, at some point in time, you must have wondered – What are the boundaries of the ‘place’ where we live? Which is the farthest star and what lies beyond that? From where did all the celestial bodies – planets, stars, constellations, galaxies come into being? Perhaps it is these fundamental queries that led to the birth of a discipline called astronomy, a branch of Physics that studies celestial bodies and the Universe as a whole.
Astronomy today has addressed some of these basic questions atleast partially but scientists do agree even today there are many mysteries about the universe to which we do not have concrete answers on despite the advancements in technology and sophisticated instruments at our disposal. In such a situation it is only natural to think that if in today’s times, we know so little about our universe then centuries before, the knowledge would have been even less…Well, the following facts tell us a different tale…
In the sixteenth century, Copernicus discovered that the Earth revolves around the Sun and gave the ‘heliocentric’ system in which he stated that that Sun is at the centre of the cosmos and planets including the Earth moved around the Sun. This heliocentric theory was one of the most remarkable scientific achievements in history, also called as ‘Copernican Revolution’ by many scholars.
What the majority does not know is that a thousand years before Copernicus, in the 5th century, the vedic genius Aryabhatta wrote a treatise Aryabhatiyam in which he gave his mathematical, planetary and cosmic theories. The renowned historian, Hugh Thurston asserts that, “Not only did Aryabhatta believe that the earth rotates, but there are glimmerings in his system (and other similar systems) of a possible underlying theory in which the earth (and the planets) orbits the sun, rather than the sun orbiting the earth.
The evidence is that the basic planetary periods are relative to the sun.” That is, Aryabhatta knew in the 5th century what was later termed as the ‘heliocentric system’.
Aryabhatta also stated that our earth is round, it rotates on its axis, is suspended in space and explained that lunar and solar eclipses occur by the interplay of the sun, the moon and the earth. (Just to get this in the right perspective, till the 15th century, people in Europe thought that the earth is flat and if they go on a voyage on a ship they would fall off from the edge of the earth.)
Are you surprised? There is more…
Mentioned below are some of the glimpses of astronomy as detailed in the Vedas. Even though the language is metaphorical, nonetheless it brings to fore the precise knowledge possessed by the vedic seers about our universe thousands of years ago! (Not to forget that the Rig Veda is the oldest text in the history of humanity).
Sun, earth and the force of gravity
- “This earth is devoid of hands and legs, yet it moves ahead. All the objects over the earth also move with it. It moves around the sun.” Rig Veda 10.22.14
- “The sun has tied Earth and other planets through attraction and moves them around itself as if a trainer moves newly trained horses around itself holding their reins.” Rig Veda 10.149.1
- “The sun moves in its own orbit in space taking along with itself the mortal bodies like earth through force of attraction.” Yajur Veda 33.43
- The sun moves in its own orbit but holding earth and other heavenly bodies in a manner that they do not collide with each other through force of attraction.” Rig Veda 1.35.9
- “Sun moves in its orbit which itself is moving. Earth and other bodies move around sun due to force of attraction, because sun is heavier than them.” Rig Veda 1.164.13
- “The sun has held the earth and other planets.” Atharva Veda 4.11.1
Luminescence of the Moon
- “The moving moon always receives a ray of light from sun.” Rig Veda 1.84.15
- “Moon decided to marry. Day and Night attended its wedding. And sun gifted his daughter ‘Sun ray’ to Moon.” Rig Veda 10.85.9
“Sun! When you are blocked by the one whom you gifted your own light (moon), then earth gets scared by sudden darkness.” Rig Veda 5.40.5
Some of the very recent theories on the origin of universe and description of universe like multiverses, oscillating universe and the Big Bang (and the Big Crunch) theory find their parallels in the vedic scriptures. For instance, the following statement from Bhagavata Purana elucidates the concept of multiverses,
“Every universe is covered by seven layers, each ten times greater than the previous one. There are innumerable universes besides this one, and although they are unlimitedly large, they move about like atoms in You. Therefore You are called unlimited.” Bhagavata Purana 6.16.37
So the next time you look at the night sky…know for a fact that all that you see (and what you don’t) was decoded by our sages thousands of years ago!
THE VEDIC SEERS WENT FAR AHEAD…
The vedic seers were not just aware of the physical aspect of the universe, they could also connect with the energy behind each phenomenon. They knew that everything in creation (sun, moon, stars, humans, plants, etc.) is energy, the only difference being the frequency at which different things vibrate.
They were well aware of the effect of the heavenly bodies on each other and on the organisms on earth. For instance, the Vedas describe how on the 11th night of the ascending moon cycle medicinal and healing herbs grow more rapidly whereas on the 9th night of the descending moon cycle, poisonous and toxic plants grow more rapidly and are at their greatest power. Not just plants, there is a distinct change/shift in the behaviour of everything on a full moon night. Animals behave in an aggressive manner. People with mental imbalance show more pronounced signs of mental deviation. There seem to be more fights on the road and a general deviant behaviour looms. Waters too behave differently on a full moon night. The seas become rough with tides rising high.
The vedic seers had access to the whole creation. They knew all its aspects in totality, unlike the modern man who just has the knowledge (that too partial knowledge) of the physical world and has no time to explore if there is something that lies beyond!