The Stars and the Harappans

Experts tell us that we can see around 10,000 stars through naked eye.  Ancient civilisations looked up at the stars and thought they were Gods or God’s representatives.  Almost all the ancient civilisations studied the stars and linked the movements of the stars to what happened here on earth.  Mesopotamians and the Egyptians not only recorded the positions of the stars, but also used the stars to design their massive temples and pyramids.   The great Pyramids of Giza are related to the position of the Orion constellation.  Mesopotamians built their Ziggurats in line with the stars.  Mayan Indians designed their temples and pyramids based on the positions of the stars.

Harappans of Indus/Saraswathi valley civilisation were no different.  Middle of the third millennium BCE was the golden era of the Harappan Civilization.  It stretched from the Hindu Kush Mountains in the west, to the Ganges-Yamuna doab in the east, Himalayas in the north and the Arabian Ocean in the south.  The area was over a million square miles and the biggest empire of the time, bigger than Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisations put together.

The Indus Valley civilisation was at the peak of development in the middle of the third millennium BCE with several large urban centres such as Mohenjodaro, Harappa, Kalibangan, Dholavira and Rupar.   The excavations show uniform developments across the area, suggesting area wide communications, exchange of ideas and resources across the vast land.  The Harappan seals have been discovered as far away as Mesopotamia and Egypt in the west and in places at the southern tip of Indian subcontinent, suggesting travel and communications over vast distances.  This vast civilisation appears to have disappeared around 1900 BCE.  There are several theories for their demise.

The composers of the great Vedic scriptures of India have been a mystery so far.  There had not been any conclusive proof as to who composed the scriptures or when they were composed.  Again, there have been many theories and hypotheses.  Generally accepted theory has been that it was composed by invading Aryans from the steppes of Urals around 1600 BCE.  This date has been arrived at using literary and philological evidence in the books themselves as well as some astronomical evidence.  However, it is becoming clear now that The Vedas and Bramhanas, as well as the Aranyakas, have numerous references to the stars and celestial events such as solar eclipse and lunar eclipse.  Use of powerful Load Star Pro software has given the experts a tool to assess the dates of ancient astronomical events accurately.

Though it is considered, that the Star system to be inherently stationary with reference to Solar system, there is an earth wobble occurring at the rate of 26000 years per revolution which makes the star system appear to move slowly with reference to Sun. This has been called Earth’s Precession and was first identified nearly 2000 years ago by Ptolemy and Hipparchus.

  

The two diagrams above would explain the position of the sun rise at different points in time, in history as well as in the future in relation to the celestial objects.  Yet another way of explaining the position of the sun in relation to stars is by looking at the star formations just before sunrise at either spring or autumnal equinox.

The diagrams below illustrate the point – position of the sun in relation to Pisces at 2005 AD, 500 AD and 100 BCE. (Courtesy of Roy Taylor)

 Indian astronomers have used Sanskrit names for the stars – The Pleiades (Krittika), Regulus (Maghaa), Leonis (Phalguni), Mesha (Aries), Vrishabha (Taurus), Mithuna (Gemini), Karkataka (Cancer), Simha (Leo), Kanya (Virgo), Tula (Libra), Vrishchika (Scorpio), Dhanu (Sagittarius), Makara (Capricorn), Kumbha (Aquarius) and Meena (Pisces).

Sage Gargya’s Sooktha tells us that, on spring Equinox day Sun was at Krittika (the Pleiades).  The powerful software, Load Star Pro, would place the position of Sun at the Pleiades on March 21, 2400 BC.  Sage Gargya refers to Solstice (Ayana) occurring in star Regulus (Maghaa) during his time.    Load Star Pro shows us that on 21, June, 2400 BCE, the Sun was at Star Regulus (Maghaa).

The chronology of Indian history and literature prior to the Middle Ages is notoriously uncertain, and attempts to employ archaeoastronomy go back to William Jones who tried to show, based on information gathered from Varaha Mihira, that Parashara Sage lived at 1181 BCE.  Jacobi has argued that in the Rigveda and Atharvaveda the sun was in Phalguni (star Leonis), and in the Sankhayana and Gobhila Grhyasutra (both parts of Bramhanas), the Full moon was in Bhadrapada (Andromeda galaxy) during the summer solstice, which would have occurred at 4500-2500 BCE.  The Shatapatha Brahmana mentions that the Krttikas (the Pleiades) “do not swerve from the east”.   This would have been the case with precision at 2950 BCE

All the cities of Indus Valley Civilisation show an extremely high standard of engineering and mathematical skills not seen in any other contemporary civilisation elsewhere in the world.  For example, all the high streets of the large cities such as Harappa and Mohenjodaro were set in major cardinal axes.  For such an achievement, a sound knowledge of astronomy and mathematics along with engineering skill was essential.  Mathematical texts “written” by eminent sages such a Baudhayana, Apastambha, Manava and Katyana have been placed between 800 BCE and 200 BCE.  The dating again is based purely on linguistic evidence comparing with other contemporary texts.  Apasthambha described both Pythogarean theorem and Pythogarean triples dating at least 200 years before Pythogaras.

Rig Veda is the oldest of four Vedas – other three being Sama, Yajur and Atharvana.  It is organised into ten books or ‘Mandalas’ and consists of 1028 hymns.  Numbering of the books is rather arbitrary and again based on linguistics.  For example, the first book of the Rigveda in considered much younger than the second.  The language of the Vedas was considered archaic’ as long ago as the time of the great grammarian, Panini, who has been dated to have been around the sixth century BCE.  David Frawley suggests that the positioning of the vernal equinox in the Vedic scriptures suggest that the authors were from 6000 BCE.

I believe that the stars are giving us enough evidence to show that the Vedic scriptures – the four Vedas, Bramhanas and Aranyakas were written by the Harappans during the third millennium BCE

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