Jyotish – Indian Astrology?

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I recently went through the talks by Dr. N Gopalakrishnan of the Indian Institute of Scientific Heritage (IISH) on the topic of Jyotish on YouTube in Malayalam. I have been listening to some of the talks he has given on the Bhagwad Gita on Amrita TV and admire him for having an opinion and expressing it clearly. He also has consistently maintained what he’s said over several talks – made some mis-quotes. I wanted to put down some notes before I forget the talk.

Jyotish is not to be compared with astrology as put up in the West. Jyotish is one of the 6 literatures (called Vedangas) presented below the Vedas. Jyotish is the 6th Vedanga. It is composed of three parts – astronomy, mathematics and prediction. Of these, the sections on astronomy and mathematics are pure sciences and is borne out by modern astronomy and mathematics. As an example, the fact that the Earth is spherical, that the Earth rotates around its axis, the fact that the Earth is tilted at 24 degrees (as against the current value of 23 degrees 26 minutes – which he misquotes as 56 minutes – which is still fantastic given that this measurement was made in 700 AD or so), the diameter of the Earth and so on. He further clarifies that the word graha is not to be interpreted as planets – but as “holders”. Given this change in interpretation, he says clarifies many things. He suggests that the word taragraha (that which a star holds, by virtue of gravitation and such) is the correct word for planet.

The part where talks about predictions. He say that this is absolutely not based on Science. The grahas have been given attributes. There does not seem to be any plausible scientific reason for the wide range of attributes given. For Jyotish, he says the question is not whether it is scientific or not. He says that it is not scientific. The question to be asked here is whether it is useful or not. Dr. Gopalakrishna suggests that if we find it useful, we must use it and discard it if we don’t. Do either very freely.

Dr. Gopalakrishna says that a true Jyotisha will take some time to calculate and understand some of the science and mathematical aspects of Jyotish and hence, one must not believe the ones who profess instant calculations. The birth chart prepared in Jyotish is a fairly accurate representation of the position of the Moon at the time of birth and location of the birth and accordingly the placement of the grahas. He suggests comparison with the star charts used by National Physical Laboratory.  These calculations, he claims, take in the region of 10-15 minutes unless done with the help of a computer – which helps determine location and time and generates ephimeris. However, it is after this that the non-scientific prediction part starts.

This non-scientific prediction seems to get better with lots and lots of practise in many people that Dr. Gopalakrishnan has known. In a select few, the practise has become so much that only what they say happens (this section seemed exaggerated to me).

In the question and answer section, various questions were raised off him. The most interesting one was how to select a Jyotisha given the Doctor’s suggestion that many of them were just out there to earn money of falsehood. He suggests people at high ranks with a great educational qualification. He suggests that to get a good Jyotisha one must try as hard as trying to get a good doctor to treat one’s ailment.

I am interested in reading counter-points to some of his arguments. There are a few slips in the facts that he states. But his talk does seem logical, when presented like this.

An Apology to Indian Amateur Astronomers

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I first explored the world of Astronomy on the Internet when I was 17 years old. I registered in the forums of Astronomy.com and wrote a few posts there urging the Indian amateur astronomers to collect data. Well, this was a point I made to various amateur astronomers across India when ever I had the chance to meet them. I re-iterated that it was the collection of data that seperated us from the amateurs in the West.

The concern is real. There is really very little online data available. However, where this changes is the doing. While I had a concern, and shared it with a few like minded individuals, I never did anything to fix the problem.

I never progressed to observational astronomy. I never observed – much less collected data – night in and night out. I never sought to do this even in a notebook offline. Given this, I realised that I am not the right guy to suggest that amateur astronomers in India must rigorously collect and store data.

This realisation hit me pretty hard. It is a realisation from which I have still not recovered. I realised I had no idea what I was talking about. I never stood in a dark place which was kilometers outside of a city and looked up and observed the night sky. I never have sketched what I saw through a telescope’s eye piece. I have never setup a telescope and let other people observe the night sky. I have so far only looked up and urged others to look up.

I have had this realisation only recently. Three months ago. I have been totally numbed by this realisation. I have not moved an inch beyond what I have written in the above paragraph in the last three months. This is because I felt I had done something wrong. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to all the amateur astronomers in India to whom I have suggested this.

Who is Giachand Motwane?

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

I usually link to Wikipedia articles when I mention things that many people outside of a certain region/religion/group might not know about. Yesterday, while writing the article about my listening to the radio, I tried to connect to the article on All India Radio 107.1 FM channel. However, the article was not helpful and did not make any sense connecting to.

It did not make any sense because the page was for AIR FM Rainbow which is what AIR has named its FM stations that are broadcast to 12 metros in India and did not have anything unique on the Mumbai transmission.

Being a Wikipedian, I wanted to fix this. I hence went back to the page on All India Radio and read it up. That seemed in much better shape. Most of the information seemed link to a bunch of documents that All India Radio had put up on its website – interestingly, in Hindi and English. Reading up on history, I found out that Radio Club of Bombay was credited with the broadcast of the first programme in India in June 1923. Being from Mumbai, my interest was piqued.

There is no Wikipedia page on the Radio Club, nor is there much scholarly work written about this broadcast except by one Dr. Alisdair Pinkerton from the Department of Geography of the Royal Holloway from the University of London. The paper (found here), titled, “Radio and the Raj: broadcasting in British India (1920-1940)”, credits Giachand Motwane as the first person who made a recorded radio transmission in India in June 1923. These were apparently made under the call sign, “2-KC”. Unfortunately, Pinkerton states this solely on the basis (or has referenced it so) of the website of a company that Motwane later founded.

I later looked for more information on Radio Club and wondered if it is the same as the social club in South Mumbai called Radio Club. It seems it is. Currently called the Bombay Presidency Radio Club Ltd, it seems to be the same club that did some pioneering work in broadcasting in British India. So, I am still looking for more sourced information on who was Giachand Motwane.

Listening to the Radio

This blog post was written on an earlier blog – http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using the Wayback Machine

I filled my empty days in high school by listening to the growing crop of radio stations on a Sony Walkman which could otherwise play a tape cassette. I didn’t have money to buy too many cassettes and didn’t like playing the ones that I had more than twice or thrice a week. This meant listening to the radio. The private players were not mature in the field yet and their programming was not of any good quality. This pushed me to the only good radio station I could recieve in Mumbai, 107.1 FM All India Radio. Now, called AIR FM Rainbow.

A long time has passed since then. The programming on the radio stations has changed significantly since that time. On all stations. Private radio stations have significantly improved on using their platforms for tackling local social issues, connecting commercial vendors with sales opportunities and is increasingly moving in to the areas of personal advice. The All India Radio stations though are moving into areas of news and current affairs, covering areas rarely covered by other services, primarily because they are prohibited from doing so.

I like to listen to music during my morning walks. Even with 50-60 songs on my phone’s MP3 player, I get as tired of listening to these as during my tape cassette days. I started listening to the radio again. The early morning programme Subah Savere on AIR FM Gold channel is what I listen to. A programme in English and Hindi is a variety talk programme that covers among other things, news, literary subjects, this day in history etc. I have not expanded my radio listening to other time slots, yet. Though, I think it will be useful exercise for my ears to listen to and retain what has been said. I will report here on further developments, if any.

In the meanwhile, I also want to devote some time in trying to re-engage with my high school desire to get a ham radiolicense.