The term Samhita connotes ‘compilation.’ As such Varahamihira’s Brhat Samhita cannot be called an original work. Its business is to condense many Sastras.
When we go through this work, we are reminded of Homeric similes and the linguistic elegance and charm of Valmiki, Vyasa, Bhasa and Kalidasa. Whatever subject the author takes up for delineation, whether it is eclipse, planetary movements, rainfall, clouds, gemology, architecture, water- divination or some other topics, it is discussed with thoroughness and mastery based on the knowledge of ancient Sastras.
The subjects of this book may broadly be classified under the following heads: (1) Astronomy (Chapters iii-xiii, xvii, xviii), (2) Geography (Chapters xiv-xvi), (3) Calendar (Chapter xix), (4) Meteorology (Chapters xxi-xxviii), (5) Flora (Chapter xxix), (6) Portents (Chapters xxx-xxxix), (7) Agriculture and Economics (Chapters xl-xlii), (8) Politics (Chapters xliii-xliv, xlviii-l), (9) Physiognomy (Chapters xlviii-lxx), (10) Engineering (Chapters liii-lx), (11) Botany (Chapter lv), (12) Industries (Chapters lvii, lxxvii), (13) Zoology (Chapters lxi-lxvii), (14) Erotics (Chapters lxxiv-lxxvi, lxxviii), (15) Gemology (Chapters lxxx-lxxxiii), (16) Hygiene (Chapters lxxxxcviii), (17) Augurus (Chapters lxxxvi-xcvii) and (18) Stellar lore (Chapters xcviii-cii,civ,cv).
PROF. M.R. RHAT was a well known Sanskrit scholar, teacher, poet and astrologer, who retired in 1974 as the Head of Sanskrit Department, Hindu College, Delhi University. He had served the cause of Sanskrita learning and Indian culture for more than half a century. Prof. Bhat edited with translation classical works like the Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira (2 Volumes), Horasarah of Prthuyasas, Prasnajnanam of Bhattotpala. Author of Fundamentals of Astrology Prof. Bhat had revised the translation of Uttara-Kalamrtam, and Phaladipika. He was the founder-editor of the Sanskrit English Journal Amrtavani and had contributed a large number of articles on oriental learning and culture, of various journals and periodicals.
In recognition of his erudition and devotion to oriental learning and culture Prof Bhat was conferred the titles Vidyabhaskara, Vidyasagara and Kavitacatura. Prof. Bhat died in 1990.
It is by sheer grace of the Lord Sri Siddhi Vinayaka that this new and enlarged edition 0f the Brhat Samhita with English translation and exhaustive notes, literary comments, etc. has been made possible, considering the vastness and pre-eminence of this extraordinary work as well as the unique position of Varahamihira, one of the brightest stars in the galaxy of Indian astronomers and astrologers. Though we cannot claim to possess all the qualifications needed for undertaking this onerous task single-handed, yet we have ventured to do this work mainly for two reasons, viz., our innate love for the qualities of head and heart of the illustrious author that are visible like gems in the pages of this work, which really deserves to be designated as his magnum opus, and the fact that we had translated jointly this work in 1947.’ There have been persistent demands on the publishers for a fresh edition of the Bhat Samhita, since none of the previous English editions by Dr. Kern, Chidambara Iyer and our own is available at present. It is in the fitness of things that the world of scholars and lovers of ancient culture and wisdom long to probe this mine of wisdom, nay, the Encyclopaedia of Indian Culture in general and astrological lore in particular. In all countries of the world, especially in India, where astrology is held in high esteem on account of its being the ‘Eye of Wisdom,’ this was an honoured discipline. No activity, however insignificant it might be in the social, political or religious sphere 0f man would be permitted without due regard being paid to the injunctions of Jyotirvidya. For, astrology is a Sastra, Science, according• to the wise men of the east, who had tested the veracity of this Sastra in the crucible of their experience and penance of several centuries. If some rationalists of today were to decry this Science as superstition, we have to forgive them their unscientific attitude. For, they know not what they say.
In reality, astrology is an integrated science as well as Dharmasastra It aims at synthesis of all branches of learning, as shown by
the contents of this work, which is really encyclopaedic in depth and extent. Generally it is divided into four categories, viz., mundane, horary electional and natal astrology. This remarkable science, in which man all over the world has implicit faith, has been handed down in India from time immemorial. There are other countries like China where this was practised in the remote past. In our country, the Vedas and its branches, which are the oldest records of human civilization, contain innumerable references to the Naksatras, seasons, months, etc. It is to be remembered that astrology-astronomy is reckoned among the limbs of the Veda. The Taittiriya Samhita (IV. 4, 10, 1-3) and the Taittiriya Brahmana (III. 1-1, 2) mention the presiding deities of the asterisms. The Rg Veda (11-32, VIII-3,20, etc,) speaks of the Moon as the measurer of tune. Likewise the Atharva Veda (Book XIX) refers to the Naksatras. The Sakalya Samhita gives the configurations of the stars. The Kausika-sutra of the Atharvaveda contains a Naksatra-kalpa and a Santikalpa, both treating of the lunar mansions. Panini has many Sutras bearing on the constellations, months, seasons, etc.1 The Taittiriya Brahmana says that the ‘Spring is the Face of the year’.
The Satapatha Brahmana speaks of six (sometimes five also) seasons (Rtus) . According to P.C. Sengupta3 at the earliest Brahmana period the sun reached the “inter solstice at the New Moon of Magha; the year was considered to be at its end at the Full Moon of Phalguna; the Krittikas rose exactly in the east; and the Spring set in one day after the New Moon of Caitra. The Arthasastra (300 B.C.) refers (XLI) to Grahacaras (planetary movements), especially of Venus. As late as the 4th century A.D. Naksatras were used for dates in the Sin ghala Chronicle Dipavarhia his learnt that a work entitled Sardulakarnavadanam deals with the Buddha’s exhortations to an outcaste girl. The work was translated into the Chinese language in 170 A.D. This work contains many chapters dealing with the topics treated of in our Samhita, such as Earthquake, Moles, Results of birth in different constellations, Portents, Dreams, and Palmistry.
It is believed by some Western as well as Indian scholars that the weekdays were introduced into India from the West. This view is erroneous for the following reasons: In connection with Rupasatra (Worship of the Stellar Deity CV. 6), Sage Garga who is quoted by Utpala, mentions the weekday, Candravare. It is undoubted that Sage Garga is one of the most ancient authorities on astrology, being the direct disciple of Svayambhu, the Creator.’ Burgess states in his concluding remarks thus: “There is abundant testimony to the fact that the division of the day into 24 hours existed in the East, if not actually in India, before it did in Greece.” About some common words like Hora. he is of the view that “they were passed from the Sanskrit to the Greek at a period of high antiquity.” Prof. Wilson is more forthright in his statement about the weekdays. According to him, it was unknown to the Greeks and not adopted by the Romans until a late period. He adds that the Hindus appear to have at least as good a title to the invention as any other people. Burgess replies to those scholars who maintain that Indian astrology has been borrowed from the Greeks, thus: “It is difficult to see what it was that they borrowed, since in no case do numerical data and results in the systems of the two peoples exactly correspond.” He concludes that ‘the course of derivation was from east to west rather than from west to east’, and the Indians were the teachers rather than learners.’ It is in the light of the above conclusions that we have to interpret Varahamihira’s statement (11.14) that ‘the Yavanas are honoured like the Sages.’ The bogey of Greek influence is laid to rest by the strong arguments of Swami Vivekananda. He says:
“There may be, it is true, some similarity between the Greek and Indian terms in astronomy and so forth, but the westerners have ignored the direct Sanskrit etymology and sought for some far-fetched etymology from the Greek. That such shallow and biased learning has been manifested by many orientalists in the West is deplorable. From a single Sanskrit Sloka that reads, ‘The Yavanas are Mlechchas; in them, this Science is established; therefore, even they deserve worship like Rishis in the west, they have gone so far as to declare that all Indian sciences are but echoes of the Greek; whereas a true reading of the Sloka may show that the Mlechcha disciples of the Aryans are herein praised in order to encourage them to a further study of the Aryan Sciences…
Of late, people in the west, especially some astronomers and other scientists, have begun to take some interest in Hindu astrology,
as its findings on mental health come very close to their own. For example, William Bonyun, an eminent American astronomer, describes Hindu astrology as “the oldest science in the history of mankind,” whose precepts and formulae were worked out in the remote past, according to strictly modern scientific methods. Sir Bernard Lovell, Director of Jordel Bank Observatory admits that there is truth in the ancient belief in the connection between the Moon and lunacy. Similarly, Count Bjornistjerne admires the greatest antiquity of Hindu astronomy and civilization.
Modern Scientists have now discovered that Sun-spots and Solar flares have a direct bearing on heart-attacks, irritability, headaches, nausea, mental and nervous illness, etc. For, the human body is affected by the natural electricity in the air around us. Professors Robert O. Becker, a medical doctor, Howard Friedman, a psychologist, and Charles H. Bachman, a physicist: have detected the sensitive electrical receiving apparatus in our bodies which they believe is affected by fields of electro-magnetic force given out by the sun. Both types of solar disturbance release into space untold myriads of highly charged electrons and protons. These space hurricanes are known as solar winds. As a consequence of this the earth experiences what is usually called a magnetic storm, which plays havoc with radio and telegraph communications. Whenever sun-spots and solar flares led to geomagnetic storms around the earth, traffic accidents rose 70 per cent, suicides jumped abnormally. For, it is largely the harmful positive ions that come through from the Sun to affect us in these ways. Probably all living things are in fact affected by the sun’s magnetism..1 Recently the National Geophysical Research Institute of Hyderabad had come to the same conclusion: “A strong positive correlation is found to exist between the disturbances of the earth’s magnetic field and daily hospital admissions of heart cases in Hyderabad.”
Readers would be surprised to hear that ancient Sages had discovered a correlation between some disturbances on the solar disc and terrestrial happenings like dust-storms, earthquakes, famines, destructive tendencies among men, diseases, destruction of life on a large scale, etc. These are called Tamasakilakas, Dark Shafts appearing on the Sun’s disc, by the Sages. There are also other comets or Ketus that cause the phenomena akin to the sun-spots and solar flares.
Author: Varahamihira (505 A.D.) was a scientist of rare merits, who in spite of his regard for ancient traditions and Sages, followed always the scientific method. His scientific thinking is illustrated by what he says in connection with the commencement of the solstices in III 1-3 as well as with Rahu and eclipse.’ In view of his extraordinary and masterly treatment of the subjects of astronomy and astrology in all their ramifications, he was held in high esteem by scholars of ancient and medieval India. About his greatness Ai-Biruni, the Arab scholar and traveller says, “Varahamihira has already revealed himself to us as a man who accurately knows the shape of the world . . . On the whole his foot stands firmly on the basis of the truth, and he clearly speaks out the truth.”2 He was considered, for this reason, to be an incarnation of the Sun-God3 and one of the Nine Gems adorning the court of the legendary King Vikramaditya. Kalyanavarman, author of the Saravali (650-725 A.D.) says that our author has bequeathed to posterity the unique wisdom of the ancient seers. So does Bhaskaracarya in his Siddhanta-Siromani I. 2. Satananda in his Bhasvati Karana (1098 A.D.) calls Varahamihira’s work as one on a par with the Surya Siddhanta, while Ksemendra reckons him among the great poets.
It is well known that astrology-cum-astronomy i5 based upon the theory that the Sun5 is the hub and driving force of the universe. The same sun who is eulogized in many a Rgvedic hymn, chief of which is the famous Gayatri Mantra, was the tutelary Deity of Varahamihira, whose genius, it is reported, flowered as a result of the Sun’s unique boon. His life’s mission was to revive the ancient learning of astronomy and astrology which was fast disappearing. His father was a great devotee of the Sun-God and was appropriately named Aditya-dasa. This also shows that the sun .was the tutelary Deity of his ancestors. The word Mihira, meaning the sun, in the author’s name points to the same conclusion. The author asserts that he obtained a special boon from the Sun-God at Kapitthaka and that his Guru was his own father.8 Utpala explains that Kapitthaka was a village where the Avantikacarya was born and where here must have been a temple of the Sun-God famous in those days. Scholars have identified this village with the present Kayatha or Samkasya at a distance of about 12 miles from Ujjain. This conclusion is in consonance with the popular belief that Varaha was a resident of Ujjain and spent his life there, radiating his unsurpassed wisdom to the whole world.
The Brhatsamhita of Varahamihira is an encyclopaedia of astrological and other subjects of human interest this part consists of 50 chapters, from chapters 58 to 107, three Appendices and Index. In chapter 58 units of lineal measurement are given and all the limbs of an idol are described in detail with their measurements. In chapter 60 the ceremony of consecration and installation of idols is described. Physiognomy and Palmistry are treated of in chapters 68-70. In chapter 74 we find excellent erotic poetry with superb imagery. In chapter 75 the author says that a child born to a woman resembles the man whom she thinks of at the time of coitus—a statement yet to be tested by modem psychology and genetics. Chapter 77 shows the author’s mathematical genius.
Gemology is discussed in chapter 80. In chapter 85 principles of public health and sanitation are highlighted. Chapters 86 to 96 form one big section dealing with omens and auguries. Chapter 104 treats of the effects of planetary transits and also gives a summary of metrics. Chapter 105 deals with rituals. Divided into two parts the book contains Sanskrit text, English translation, explanatory notes and literary comments.
Astrologers and lovers of Indian culture are found more and more attracted towards esoteric science handed down by ancient seers and sages, whose only aim was to help posterity that may thirst for knowledge or be anxious to get rid of its sufferings. Even in this Dark Age when man is generally actuated by base and selfish motives there are a few noble souls who adhere to the luminous path of Dharma or righteous conduct and are guided, nay inspired, by the ancient Sastras, as the Lord declares in the Gita.
The renowned works of the great Varahamihira, whose magnum opus, the Brhat Samhita, we had the good fortune of editing with English translation and notes in two volumes some time back, have great relevance even to the present scientific age. So we have great pleasure in bringing out this revised and enlarged second edition of the Brhat Samhita Part II which contains an array of very interesting topics like Erotics, Iconography, Physiognomy, Preparation of Perfumes, Omens, Gemology, Zoology etc. which capture the imagination and rouse the curiosity of discerning lovers of literature. This volume is of special importance to those who fight for equality of women, inasmuch as it recognizes not only equality but superiority of woman to man. The Publishers of this work deserve the gratitude and praise of all lovers of Indian culture in general and astrology in particular for their abiding interest in propagating the ideas and ideals enshrined in ancient Indian texts.
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