From time immemorial man had loved to gaze at a star-studded sky and at gaze at galaxies many light years away, and it has been my hobby too as far as I remember. As a child I had thought the stars were the souls of our ancestors. It took me some time to understand they were stars and planets as my science teacher taught me, and I learnt that the branch of science which dealt with celestial objects, space, and the physical universe as a whole is called astronomy.
I am now going to talk about the ancient civilizations and their studies and later about modern science.
Ancient India has been home to one of the most fascinating intelligent activities that mankind has in recorded history. India, is called the ‘cradle of civilizations’ and has one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Our ancestors had followed a strong tradition of science and technology as it is well-known ancient India was a land of sages or rishis as well as a land of scholars and scientists.
From the Vedic times till present, the Indians have exhibited unmatchable deep understanding and mastery over ‘knowledge across the spectrum’. Our ancestors have left us a great treasure trove of “knowledge, and the rational interpretation of these ideas, which has become the basis of knowledge discovery across the civilization for several ages now. From astronomy to metallurgy, mathematics to medicine, our contribution to the global knowledge discovery is massive”.
Not satisfied with discovering and recording scientific treatises, the Indian sages had also tied to learn the scientific methods of the other cultures, thus displaying a real scientific attitude. As a fact what is interesting is, such an effort by the ancient Indians has been considered by prolonged observations, especially with the naked eye and simple tools, aided by techniques that we seem now to discard as crude and primitive. Indians also had produced lot of literature on different aspects of “astronomy, cosmology, numerology, measures of time, development of observatories, and many instruments”. The ancient Indians were also considered the first to study the planetary motions, design calendars, study time and the inter-disciplinary nature of many of these above aspects. India’s ambitious space program ‘Chandrayan’ or journey to the moon proved how far-thinking our ancestors were.
Similar to the Indians, the ancient Babylonians were also among the earliest civilization to document the movements of the Sun and the Moon. They maintained a very thorough record of the planetary motions including a daily, monthly, and yearly position of the celestial bodies. This information was earlier used to warn the Babylonian king about possible catastrophic events. It is believed that the first appearances of the famous Hailey’s comet were documented by the Babylonians many centuries before Sir Edmund Hailey and it is also they who first divided the sky into zones.
However, when we think of astronomy, the Greeks definitely first come to our mind. They are popularly known as the ‘fathers of ancient astronomy’ as they formulated theories and mathematical equations in an attempt to explain the mysteries of the universe.
One of the greatest and famous Greek scholars was Eratosthenes. He has excelled not only in the field of astronomy but also in the field of geography, mathematics, poetry, and music as well. He is also renowned for several astronomical breakthroughs. He calculated the area earth’s circumference, and what is surprising, is his calculation was inaccurate by only a few hundred or thousand miles. He is also responsible for calculating the tilt of the earth’s axis and the leap day in a leap year.
Pythagoras is not only a Greek philosopher who is famous for mathematical theories, but also had contributions in Astronomy too. He assumed that the earth is spherical in shape as other celestial bodies are and he came up with this idea when he saw ships disappear past the horizon as they sail. He was the first to suggest that the movement of the planets, sun, moon, and stars could be equated in numbers.
The ancient Mayan astronomers always sought guidance from the sky. They were particularly interested in studying the motion of the stars, sun, and other planets. The ancient Mayans had managed to observe and document these movements through shadow-casting devices they invented. It is through these observations that they developed the Mayan Calendar to keep track of the passage of time.
Ancient Egypt also had significant contributions to astronomy. Just like any other ancient civilization, the movements and patterns of the stars and planets kindled the creation of myths to explain astronomical events. The pyramids and temples were built based on astronomical positions. The example is the Great Pyramid of Giza which was built to align with the North Star Thuban. The Nabta Playa is one of the most fascinating astronomical locations in Egypt where a circular stone structure can be found that is believed to be a giant calendar to identify the summer solstice.
They used the movements of the stars and planets to predict and this helped them be alert when there was flooding in the Nile River. The Egyptians are credited to have developed a calendar system similar to the one we use — “it has 30 days in one month and 365 days divided into 12 months, the only difference is that they have 10-day week and a three-week month.
Astronomy was very popular in Persia too. Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi commonly known as Azophi was one of the most intelligent astronomers of all time. The Andromeda galaxy was first described in his work: “The Book of Fixed Stars”. He had only made some corrections and revisions on the original concept of constellations discovered by Ptolemy. Abu Mahmud Hamid ibn Khidr al-Khujandi was also a brilliant astronomer who built a giant sextant with the purpose of calculating the earth’s axis. It was his own invention that made it possible to come up with a lot of accurate calculation. His measurement was incorrect only by two minutes i.e., a level of accuracy that has never been attained till now.
You might be surprised to hear, that the nine planets in our solar system has a deep impact in our lives. We are aware that all the planets in the solar system affect us astrologically in some way or the other. Did you know that each planet signifies a certain part of our body and the ailments associated with it?
The Sun is also a star and is also responsible for providing the earth and other planets with energy, warmth and abundance. Hence, the Sun symbolizes how much energy a person has — both physical and mental and also signifies the functioning of the heart. The planet Mercury is known as one of the brightest planets in the solar system, hence Mercury stands for the “smooth functioning of our brain, intelligence, the ability to take decisions and calmness”. Venus is, called as the planet of love and stands for everything ‘sweet’ in the body. It is believed this planet affects the level of sugar in our body and its malefic affect could result in a condition like Diabetes.
It is said that Mars governs the smooth functioning of our kidneys, bladder and pancreas. It also regulates the flow of blood in our body. The malefic effect of Mars results in a severe stomach disorder for all those affected by it. Jupiter is the biggest planet of the solar system and stands for “strength, physical stamina, and smooth functioning of our heart. Saturn rules the quantity of vitamins and minerals in our body. It is responsible for our strong bones and the build-up of calcium in our body. A person with a weak Saturn is prone to fractures in the body.
All the planets have positive and negative effects on any individual’s personal and professional life based on their birth chart and planetary positions of its native planets.
(What ever I have written here is based on knowledge of astrology based on Hindu and Western Astrology. The reader is advised to seek the help of a professional for remedies).