26 August, 2012

The Archaic and the Exotic: Studies in the History of Indian Astronomical Instruments

The Archaic and the Exotic: Studies in the History of Indian Astronomical Instruments

By- Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma

The Fifteen papers collected in this volume are related to the author’s investigations into the history of astronomical instruments in India. This history, so far untouched by others, is dominated by two currents: on the one hand the resilience of certain archaic instruments that held sway for long, on the other the receptivity of Indian astronomers towards exotic instruments from other cultures. Hence the title: The Archaic and the Exotic.

The first part of the volume seeks to define the context in which the author’s studies on Indian instruments are undertaken and emphasizes the need for a combined study of Sanskrit astronomical texts and the extant instruments, besides pictorial depictions of instruments, notably in Mughal miniature paintings.

The four papers in part II are devoted to an ‘archaic’ instrument, namely the sinking
bowl variety of water clock, its history, its technical specifications and a ritual connected to its installation.

The astrolabe and the celestial globe are the exotic instruments received enthusiastically in India from the Islamic World. The five papers in part III deal with the history of the astrolabe in India: its promotion by Firuz Shah Tughluq, the dominant role played in its production
by a family of instrument makers from Lahore under the patronage of the Mughal rulers, Sanskrit manuals composed on it, and certin indiviudal specimens of the Indo-Persian and Sanskrit astrolabes.

The last two papers, comprising part IV, deal with the history of the celestial globe in India and the globes crafted by two seventeeth-century instrument makers.

Sreeramula Rajeswara Sarma studied Sanskrit at Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, and Idology at Philipps University, Marburg, and taught Sanskrit at Aligarh Muslim Univerfsity until his retirement in 1997. Subsequently he has been editor of the Indian Journal of History of
, and visiting professor at Kyoto University, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and at Harvard.

The main areas of his interest are the history of science in India and the intellectual exchanges between the Sanskrit and Islamic traditions of learning. He is currently preparing a descriptive catalogue of some 400 Indian astronomical instruments preserved in India and abroad.

ISBN  81-7304-571-2    2008   320p.   Rs.795/ pounds 50

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