"Advanced Astronomy In the Srimad-Bhagavatam"

BTG Issue: 
November/December 1997 | Vol. 31 No. 6
"This ancient Vedic text gives an accurate map of the planetary orbits known to modern astronomy."

'In the Bhagavatam, Bhumandala—the 'earth mandala' – is a disk 500 million yojanas in diameter. The yojana is a unit of distance about 8 miles long, and so the diameter of Bhumandala is about 4 billion miles. Bhumandala is marked by circular features designated as islands and oceans. These features are listed on Table 1, along with their dimensions, as given in the Bhagavatam. ... At first glance, Bhumandala appears to be a highly artificial portrayal of the earth as an enormous flat disk, with continents and oceans that do not tally with geographical experience. But careful consideration shows that Bhumandala does not really represent the earth at all. To see why, we have to consider the motion of the sun. ... In brief, Bhumandala is where the sun goes. ...

"[If] Bhumandala is not the 'flat earth,' [then] what is it? One possibility is the solar system. ... To an observer on the earth, the solar system is a more-or-less flat arrangement of planetary orbits that stay close to the path of the sun. Bhumandala is far too big to be the earth, but in size it turns out quite a reasonable match for the solar system. ...

"Of course, Bhumandala is earth centered. ... In contrast, the orbits of the planets are centered on the sun. How, then, can they be compared to earth-centered features of Bhumandala? The solution is to express the orbits of the planets in geocentric (earth-centered) form. ... In fact, since we live on the earth, it is reasonable for us to look at planetary orbits from a geocentric point of view. ... 

"In conclusion, the circular features of Bhumandala ... correlates strikingly with the orbits of the planets from Mercury through Uranus (with the sun standing in for the earth because of the geocentric perspective). It would seem that Bhumanadala can be interpreted as a realistic map of the solar system, showing how the planets move relative to the earth. ... The small percentages of error ... imply that the author of the Bhagavatam was able to take advantage of advanced astronomy. Since he made use of a unit of distance (the yojana) defined accurately in terms of the dimension of the earth, he must also have had access to advanced geographical knowledge. Such knowledge of astronomy and geography was not developed in recent times until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century."

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