Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Visitors throng Aryabhata's Patna to view eclipse


PATNA: The longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century at Taregna village near Danapur in Bihar’s Patna district will be an occasion to sing the


A child tries on protective goggles at the Astro counter of the MP Birla Planetarium in Kolkata. (TOI Photo)
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Collapse [-]glory of ancient India and its contribution to mathematics and astronomy. It is in Taregna, which offers best sight for eclipse, that the celebrated astronomer of ancient India, Aryabhata, had camped to study celestial bodies. Khagaul (present-day Danapur Junction), is said to be the place where he had his observatory. The word ‘Taregna’ perhaps comes from the Sanskrit ‘‘taraka-gnana’’ (calculating stars). ‘Khagaul’ is thought to be a variant of ‘‘Khagol’’ (astronomy). Aryabhata was born in Pataliputra (then Kusumpura), in 476 AD (according to some experts on April 13) and at age 23 wrote his monumental work ‘Aryabhatiyam’. At the same age, Isaac Newton proposed his theory of gravitation in 1665 AD. Almost 1,000 years before Copernicus (1473-1543 AD) and Galileo (1564-1642), Aryabhata discovered that the earth is round and rotates on its axis. He proposed a theory of his own to explain various planetary motions and accurately predicted the duration of an eclipse and total obscuration of the sun and the moon, as noted by the then Bihar governor R R Diwakar in his book ‘Bihar Through the Ages’ in the 1950s. Aryabhata, sometimes credited with inventing zero, enjoyed the reputation of a mathematician and astronomer non-pareil. Former director of K P Jayaswal Research Institute Jagdishwar Pandey said Bihar Research Society, a Patna-based Indological institute, had published a commentary on ‘Aryabhatiyam’ in 1966 which refers to the name ‘Khagaul’. The decipherment pundit of the institute, late Baldeo Mishra, had edited the volume. Although former director of Bihar State Directorate of Archaeology Sitaram Rai said there was no archaeological evidence associating Taregna and Khagaul with Aryabhata, he, too, is in favour of proper exploration of both places. Member of the new Delhi-based Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) O P Jaiswal said Taregna, a Maoist hotbed in the 1980s, had been a neglected area. Jaiswal, too, does not rule out the possibility of Aryabhata’s presence at these two places. Now exactly 1,510 years after ‘Aryabhatiyam’, Aryabhata’s Patna is attracting visitors for the eclipse.

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