In part 1, we showed how a reference to Krittika rising due EAST, allows us to estimate the timing for either the original composition of or the modification/update/addition to Shatapatha Brahamana to be that of around 2926 BCE.
We also showed why the error associated with this timing cannot be more than ~300 years. The errors of 300 years is in fact too generous and we did not claim anything better than this, since our discussion was limited to only those Nakshatras mentioned in the context of ‘kindling the first fire’ by an householder as it related to that specific ritual.
Prof. David Pingree of Brown University objected to the above interpretation of S B Dikshit.
[Pingree, D., “Mulapin and Vedic Astronomy” in Dumu-E2-Dub-ba-a,(ed.) Behrens, H., Loding, D., and Roth, M. (Philadelphia, 1989), pp.439-445.]
Brief introduction to Prof. David Pingree (from Wikipedia)
David Edwin Pingree (January 2, 1933, New Haven, Connecticut – November 11, 2005, Providence, Rhode Island) was a University Professor and Professor of History of Mathematics and Classics at Brown University, and was one of America’s foremost historians of the exact sciences in antiquity.
And in case someone is not familiar with what is meant by ‘Exact Sciences’, here is a brief note on that…
An exact science is any field of science capable of accurate quantitative expression or precise predictions and rigorous methods of testing hypotheses, especially reproducible experiments involving quantifiable predictions and measurements. Physics and Chemistry can be considered as exact sciences in this sense.
Shatapatha Brahmana 2.1.2.
etā ha vai prācyai diśo na cyavante | sarvāṇi ha vā anyāni nakṣatrāṇi prācyai
And again, they do not move away from the eastern quarter, whilst the other asterisms do move from the eastern quarter.
And what was exactly is the objection of this distinguished late professor of ‘Exact Sciences’?
Pingree has argued that the above phrase from Shatapatha Brahmana cannot be taken to mean rise “heliacally precisely at the east point”.
And what is his rationale/evidence for his non-acceptance of such a straightforward observation?
Pingree states that, “unfortunately for this theory (of S B Dikshit) parts of the nakshatras – Hasta, Vishakha, and perhaps Shravana were also on the equator in ~3000 BCE”.
According to Pingree, this fact (fact that Nakshatras Hasta, Vishakha and perhaps Shravana were also on the equator in ~3000 BCE) would contradict the claim in Shatapatha Brahmana that only Krittikas ‘never swerve from the east’.
Let’s be exact in our response to this objection of Prof. Pingree.
(1) The relevant passage (under discussion) of Shatapatha Brahmana does not refer to Nakshatras Vishakha or Shravana, thus Shatapatha Brahmana is neither stating nor denying their (Vishakha or Shravana) on the equator during ~2926 BCE. Of course we will return to these two Nakshatras.
(2) However, Prof. Pingree also mentions nakshatra Hasta, which is also mentioned by Shatapatha Brahmana. Since Shatapatha Brahamana asserts that only Krittkas (and not other mentioned nakshatras – in this context of kindling the first fire, viz. Rohini, Mrigashirsha, Purva Phalguni, Uttara Phalguni, Hasta and Chtira) are rising Due East.
The mention of nakshatra Hasta (by Prof. Pingree) provides us with a wonderful observation to test for the very argument/assertion made by Prof. Pingree.
In year 2926 BCE, Declination for nakshatras mentioned by Shatapatha Brahmana (and also those mentioned by Prof. Pingree, but not relevant in the context of reference of Shatapatha Brahmana) can be estimated.
(Using Voyager 4.5) for year 2926 BCE
Nakshatra Declination (degree, min)
Rohini ( – 4 deg, 37 min)
Mrigashirsha ( -10 deg, 48 min)
P. Phalguni (+38 deg, 6 min)
U. Phalguni (+35 deg, 42 min)
Hasta (+7 deg, 50 min)
Chitra (+14 deg, 45 min)
Nakshatra Declination (degree, min, sec)
Hasta (+7 deg, 50 min)
Vishakha (+ 15 deg, 45 min)
Shravana (+9 deg, 40 min)
One should wonder what is it about these ‘Declination measurements’ that made Prof. Pingree think of positions of nakshatras – Hasta, Vishakha and Shravana to be same as that of Krittika.
If we quickly look at the Declination (magnitudes), we can say that these naskshtras – Hasta, Vishakha and Shravana were within ~15 degrees of the celestial equator.
IS THAT IT?
If so, it is interesting that Prof. Pingree missed nakshatra Rohini (one of the most, if the not the most, distinct and distinguished nakshatra of Indian Calendar system) also mentioned by Shatapatha Brahamana, which was only 4 degrees away from the celestial equator! Same is the case with Nakshatras Mrigashirsha and Chitra.
Prof. Pingree failed to be ‘exact‘ even with the basic details. But this is only the beginning…
On the other hand, what these measurements of ‘Declination’ coordinate are telling us is that observations and measurements made by composers/modifiers/updaters of Shatapatha Brahamana were MUCH MORE EXACT than Prof. Pingree’s own tolerance for error!
This is clear from the fact that while Prof. Pingree considers a nakshatra deviating from the celestial equator by up to 15 degrees…as being still on the celestial equator (close enough to the celestial equator), Shatapatha Brahmana did not tolerate such in-exact measurements and rather insisted on being more precise, quantitative and rigorous!
I have performed these calculations based on ‘YogaTara’ for each of the nakshatras we discussed.
Many Indologists have made assumptions for identification of nakshatras with a star (or stars) other than YogaTara. These efforts were mainly driven by their obsession to discredit the specific reference of Shatapatha Brahamana and corresponding interpretation of S B Dikshit.
If we make the same assumptions as made by these Indologists, the story only gets interesting. And we will certainly come back to it.
But we are not done with analysis of Prof.Pingree, yet!