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Varahamihira (वराहमिहिर) (505 - 587), also called Varaha, or Mihira was an Indian astronomer, mathematician, and astrologer born in Ujjain. Varahamihira's picture may be found in the Indian Parliament alongside Aryabhata's, of whom he was a follower. He is considered to be one of the nine jewels (Navaratnas) of the court of legendary king Vikramaditya (thought to be the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II Vikramaditya).

Birth place of Varahamihira

Local tradition reveals that Kaytha (कायथा) village in Ujjain district was the birth place of Varahamihira (वराहमिहिर). There is a nalah near the village known as Varaha nalah.

As is the case of many Sanskrit writers of ancient India, we know very little about the personal life of Varahamihira, also known as Varaha and Mihira. According to his own statement in the penultimate verse of his Brhajjataka, "he was a native of Avanti (Western Malawa), the son of Adityadasa and instructed by him, having obtained the blessings of the Sun-god, at Kapitthaka.[1]

He also describes himself as Avantyaka, and his commentator Bhajjataka Utpala styles him svantikacarya. [2]

As for Kapitthaka, manuscripts give different variants. According to Utpala, Kapittha was a village where there was a Sun-temple. It is usually identified with modern Kayatha, a small village about 20 kms from Ujjain on the Ujjain-Maski Road. Recent excavation has shown that the site is an ancient one. From all this it is evident that he lived and taught at the famous city of Ujjayini. [3]

There is no doubt that Varaha belonged to a family of Sun-worshippers. His father's name was Adityadasa (servant of the Sun); his own name, Mihira, is derived from Mithra, the Iranian Sun-god. Not only does he pay homage to the Sun in almost all his works, but he himself was regarded as an incarnation of the Sun-god. His son Prthuyasas, also an astronomer, invokes the Sun-god in the opening verse of his Satpancasika. [4]

Our knowledge of Varahamihira is very limited indeed. According to one of his works, he was educated in Kapitthaka. However, far from settling the question this only gives rise to discussions of possible interpretations of where this place was. Dhavale [5] discusses this problem. We do not know whether he was born in Kapitthaka, wherever that may be, although we have given this as the most likely guess. We do know, however, that he worked at Ujjain which had been an important centre for mathematics since around 400 AD. The school of mathematics at Ujjain was increased in importance due to Varahamihira working there and it continued for a long period to be one of the two leading mathematical centres in India, in particular having Brahmagupta as its next major figure. [6]

His Works

Young contemporary of the senior Aryabhata (born in 476 AD), Varahamihira is perhaps the most well-known exponent of Indian astronomy. Though not an originator in astronomy or mathematics, he was a prolific writer and produced several works, big and small, which had a tremendous impact on later astronomers, particularly astrologers. They not only made earlier astronomical works obsolete, several of them remained in use throughout the last fifteen hundred years, and are still used by the flourishing community of astrologers. Some of his works, particularly the Brhajjataka and its abridged version the Laghujataka, can often be seen even with a city pavement astrologer.

Varahamihira's brief "autobiography" - But this is only one aspect of Varaha's lasting contribution. His Pancasiddhantika is the only available source-book for reconstructing the history of pre-Varaha Indian astronomy. His magnum opus, the Brhat-samhita, though basically an astrological work, is a mine of information for contemporary India's geography, flora and fauna, social and economic life, architecture and fine arts, religion and polity, learning and literature, astronomical and meteorological knowledge, history of science, and a lot about superstitious beliefs and customs. This work, like the Arthasastra of Kautilya, is a valuable asset for the historian of Indian culture, which still remains to be properly reconstructed because of the great paucity of historical literary sources in the country. The traditional Indian Jyotisasastra, treating both astronomy and astrology, is divided into three branches (skandhas) : (1) Tantra or Siddhanta or mathematical astronomy, (2) Hora or horoscopy for weddings (vivaha) and nuptials (jataka) and prognostics (sakuna), for journeys (yatra), and (3) Samhita or mundane astrology. That Varaha composed works in all the three branches is evident from his own statement at the end of his Bahajjataka : "I have composed this Jyotisasangraha in three branches for the benefit of astronomers and astrologers.

Varaha's only known work belonging to the first branch is the Pancasiddhantika, which contains the salient features of earlier five siddhantas known to him. The second branch is covered by his three works : the Brhajjataka, the Brhadvivahapatala and the Brhadyatra. He also composed abridged versions of these works, which usually carry the prefix laghu (small), e.g. Laghujataka and Laghuvivahapatala. The abridged version of Brhadyatra (also Yogayatra) is known as æikanikayatra. Varaha's last and greatest work, the Brhat-samhita, also known as Varahisamhita, comes under the third branch. Its abridged version is known as Samasa-samhita. Several other works have been attributed to him, but their authenticity is doubtful.


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 Siddhantas. It is a compendium of Vedanga Jyotisha (native Indian) as well as Hellenistic astronomy (including Greek, Egyptian and Roman elements).[7]

The 11th century Arabian scholar Alberuni also described the details of "The Five Astronomical Canons":

"They [the Indians] have 5 Siddhāntas:
  • Sūrya-Siddhānta, ie. the Siddhānta of the Sun, composed by Lāṭa,
  • Vasishtha-siddhānta, so called from one of the stars of the Great Bear, composed by Vishnucandra,
  • Pulisa-siddhānta, so called from Paulisa, the Greek, from the city of Saintra, which I suppose to be Alexandria, composed by Pulisa.
  • Romaka-siddhānta, so called from the Rūm, ie. the subjects of the Roman Empire, composed by Śrīsheṇa.
  • Brahma-siddhānta, so called from Brahman, composed by Brahmagupta, the son of Jishṇu, from the town of Bhillamāla between Multān and Anhilwāra, 16 yojanas from the latter place."[8]


Varahamihira's other most important contribution is the encyclopedic Brihat-Samhita.

Varahamihira also made important contributions to mathematics. He was also an astrologer. He wrote on all the three main branches of Jyotisha astrology:

  • Brihat Jataka - is considered as one the five main treatises on Hindu astrology on horoscopy.
  • Daivaigya Vallabha
  • Laghu Jataka
  • Yoga Yatra
  • Vivaha Patal
  • His son Prithuyasas also contributed in the Hindu astrology; his book "Hora Saara" is a famous book on horoscopy.

    Western influences

    The Romaka Siddhanta ("Doctrine of the Romans") and the Paulisa Siddhanta ("Doctrine of Paul") were two works of Western origin which influenced Varahamihira's thought.

    A comment in the Brihat-Samhita by Varahamihira says: "The Greeks, though mleccha, must be honored since they were trained in sciences and therein, excelled others....." ("mleccha hi yavanah tesu samyak shastram kdamsthitam/ rsivat te 'p i pujyante kim punar daivavid dvijah" ).[9]

    Some important trigonometric results attributed to Varahamihira

    sin2 x + cos2 x = 1
    sin x = cos(π/2 - x),
    {1 - cos 2x}/{2} = sin2x

    He not only presented his own observations, but embellished them in attractive poetic and metrical styles. The usage of a large variety of meters is especially evident in his Brihat Jataka and Brihat-Samhita.

    Varahamihira writes about Jats


    5. D G Dhavale, The Kapitthaka of Varahamihira, in Proceedings of the Symposium on Copernicus and Astronomy, New Delhi, 1973, Indian J. History Sci. 9 (1) (1974), 77-78; 141.
    7. "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. Encyclopedia Britannica (2007) s.v.Varahamihira
    8. E. C. Sachau, Alberuni's India (1910), vol. I, p.153 [1]
    9. (Brihat-Samhita 2.15)
    10. Sanskrit English Dictionary ( M. Williams), p. 806
    11. Bhim Singh Dahiya: Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study), p. 268
    12. Bhim Singh Dahiya: Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study), p. 268
    13. Bhim Singh Dahiya: Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study), p. 268
    14. Bhim Singh Dahiya: Jats the Ancient Rulers (A clan study), p. 268


    विवेच्यकालीन मालवा के वराहमिहिर की गणना एवं प्रसिद्ध ज्योतिविंद के रुप में की जाती है। इनके पिता का नाम आदित्यदास था और उनका जन्म "कापित्थक (उज्जयिनी के समीप) नामक स्थान में हुआ था। विद्वानों ने उनका काल शक सं. ४२७ (५०६ ई.) तथा शक सं. ६०९ (५८७ ई.) के मध्य अनुमानित किया है। वराहमिहिर ने बृहज्जातक, बृहत्संहिता, पंचसिद्धांतिक, लघुजातक आदि ग्रंथों की रचना की, किंतु इनमें "बृहत्संहिता तथा "पंचसिद्धांतिका की रचना उन्होंने संभवतः उज्जयिनी में रहकर की थी। ऐतिहासिक दृष्टि से इन दोनों ग्रंथों का विशेष महत्व है। "बृहत्संहिता से ग्रहों- उपग्रहों की आकाशीय गति तथा मनुष्यों पर उनका प्रभाव, वास्तु- शिल्प, प्रतिमा निर्माण, विभिन्न वर्गों की स्रियों और पशुओं की चारित्रिक विशेषताओं, बहुमूल्य रत्नों आदि के संबंध में महत्वपूर्ण जानकारी प्राप्त होती है।[1]

    550 ई. के लगभग इन्होंने तीन महत्वपूर्ण पुस्तकें वृहज्जातक, वृहत्संहिता और पंचसिद्धांतिका, लिखीं। इन पुस्तकों में त्रिकोणमिति के महत्वपूर्ण सूत्र दिए हुए हैं, जो वराहमिहिर के त्रिकोणमिति ज्ञान के परिचायक हैं। पंचसिद्धांतिका में वराहमिहिर से पूर्व प्रचलित पाँच सिद्धांतों का वर्णन है। ये सिद्धांत हैं : पोलिश, रोमक, वसिष्ठ, सूर्य तथा पितामह। वराहमिहिर ने इन पूर्वप्रचलित सिद्धांतों की महत्वपूर्ण बातें लिखकर अपनी ओर से बीज नामक संस्कार का भी निर्देश किया है, जिससे इन सिद्धांतों द्वारा परिगणित ग्रह दृश्य हो सकें। इन्होंने फलित ज्योतिष के लघुजातक, बृहज्जातक तथा बृहत्संहिता नामक तीन ग्रंथ भी लिखे हैं। बृहत्संहिता में वास्तुविद्या, भवन-निर्माण-कला, वायुमंडल की प्रकृति, वृक्षायुर्वेद आदि विषय सम्मिलित हैं।[2]


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