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Varaahmihir-1

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Varaah Mihir-1
499-587 AD   or  505-587 AD
See also   Varaah Mihir-2

Not much is known about the life of Varaah Mihir. Varaah Mihir (499-587 AD) or (505-587 AD), was an eminent astrologer and astronomer who was honored with a special decoration and status as one of the nine gems in the court of King Vikramaaditya in Avantee (Ujjain). Although very little is known about his life, but he is believed from South Bangaal. There is a mound called "Mound of Khaanaa and Mihir". Khaanaa was the daughter-in-law of Varaah Mihir. Khaanaa herself was a great astrologer. His son Prithuyash was also a great astrologer. His book "Horaa Saar" is also very famous in the field of astrology.

Suryanarain Rao has written his biography "Life of Varaha Mihir", which says - that he was a Braahman, a son of Aaditya Daas, from the region of Avantee. He was taught astrology by his father who was a great worshipper of Krishn. By performing severe austerities to please Soorya Naaraayan, Mihir got blessed with the knowledge of Ganit (mathematics), Horaa, and Sanhitaa. He was one of the nine Gems in Vikramaaditya's court.

In one of his works he mentions that he was educated in Kapitthakaa, but the location of that place, if it existed, is not known. However, it is established that he worked in Ujjain, a centre of Hindu mathematics since about 400 AD and the place where Brahmagupt worked a generation later. Varaah Mihir's real name was Mihir, after Sun God. But How he got the name as Varaah Mihir is an interesting story,

Varaah Mihir is in many ways even more important than Paraashar Muni (another astrologer) for the reason that while there are several ancient commentaries on the work of Varaah Mihir, none exists for those of Paraashar Muni.

Varaah Mihir's mathematical work included the discovery of the trigonometric formulas. Varaah Mihir improved the accuracy of the sine tables of Aaryabhat I and calculated the binomial coefficients, known in the European civilization as Pascal's triangle.

Among Varaah Mihir's contribution to physics is his statement that reflection is caused by the back-scattering of particles and refraction (the change of direction of a light ray as it moves from one medium into another) by the ability of the particles to penetrate inner spaces of the material, much like fluids that move through porous objects.

Varaah Mihir's Life in Magadh
After his education, Mihir is believed to have relocated to Magadh kingdom. The legend says that while he was in Magadh, he received an invitation from king of Avantee to settle in Ujjain. He accepted that invitation and moved to Ujjain and thereafter lived there. Nothing much is known about his life in Magadh. If he lived during the 6th century AD, then at that time Magadh was under the rule of Narasinh Gupt, Kumaar Gupt and Vishnu Gupt of the Gupt dynasty. In the Avantee kingdom, Mahaaraaj Dravya Vardhan was ruling over Ujjayinee at that time, but Mihir makes no mention of these kings in his texts.

On the other hand if he lived during 1st century BC, then it was after the end of regime of Shung Dynasty, and during that time it was the period of Kanva Dynasty in Magadh (73-26 BC). In Avantee kingdom, King Vikramaaditya is believed to have been ruling at that time. Mihir makes no mention of these kings too in his texts. The website aryabhatta.net provides some unique information about Varaah Mihirís connection with Magadh and replaces the words "Kapitthak Savitru Labdh Var Prasaad" (born in the city of Kapitthak, and attained the boon from Sun God) by the words "Kapillako Savitru Labdh Var Prasaad" (one who is blessed by the Sun god of Kapillakaa).

In his Brihat Jaatak in the 26th chapter, he says that he was the son of Aaditya Daas, that he was an Avantak, that he received his knowledge from his father and that he obtained a book from the Sun-God at Kampillak or Kapitthak. Bhattotpal tells us that he was a Magadh Dwij. Some say that he was a Magadwij, ie, one of the Magii long settled in India. From all this the late Pandit Sudhakar Dwivedi in his Ganak Taranginee infers that it is not impossible that Varaah was a Magadh Braahman. He might have gone to Ujjain for livelihood. He studied with his father at his own house in Magadh and also studied the works of Aaryabhat there. He traveled to make himself known, he worshipped Sun-god at Kampillak (Kalpi) and obtained a book from him. I acquired a manuscript of his son's work Prithuyash Shaastra at Shanku the Northernmost part of the Nepal valley, the opening verse of which says that the son Varaah Mihir asked his father some questions while he was residing at the beautiful city of Kaanyakubj on the Ganges. Varaah might have retired to Kaanyakubj in his old age to be on the Ganges and there imparted his knowledge to his son Prithuyash.

Varaah Mihir's Works
He has written a few books.

(1) Panch Sainddhaantikaa
His most famous work, the Panch Saiddhaantikaa ("Five Treatises"), concentrate on astronomy and mathematics. It is usually dated 575 AD and summarizes five earlier astronomical treatises,
(1) Soorya Siddhaant - principles of Soorya (Sun), composed by Laatdev. This is the most accurate and most widely used today.
(2) Romak Siddhaant - from the Room, from Roman Empire, composed by Shreeshen. Based on the epicycle theory of the motions of the Sun and the Moon.
(3) Paulis Siddhaant - from Paulis (the Greek) from the city of Saintraa (Alexandria), by Paulis
(4) Vashishth Siddhaant - from one of the stars of Great Bear, composed by Vishnu Chandra
(5) Paitaamaha Siddhaant or Brahm Siddhaant - from Brahmaa, composed by Brahmgupt, the son of Jishnu, from the town of Bhillamaal, between the Multaan and Anhilwaaraa. It is 16 Yojan from Anhilwaaraa. It appears to be ancient Vedaang Jyotish of Lagadh - possibly of Dravid origin.

From the Translation of Laghu Vivaah Patal
Another book "Laghu Vivaah Patal" has also been found written by him. Sreesodh and Veneet have translated it. It was written in the 1st half of the 6th century AD. It is a small but very important work and unusable because no translation was available for use. This book contains 19 meters - (1) Aarya, (2) Indravajra, (3) Upajaati, (4) Upandra Vajra, (5) Totak, (6) Pushpitaagra, (7) Rathoddhat, (8) Vanshasthvil, (9) Vasant Tilak, (10) Viyoginee, (11) Vrishabh Charit, (12) Mandaakraantaa, (13) Maalinee, (14) Shankhnidhi, (15) Shaalinee, (16) Shaardool Vikriditaa, (17) Shikharinee, (18) Shlok, and (19 Shragdhar. In this book Mihir refers to 13 ancient authors prior to his times - (1) Raibhya, (2) Garg, (3) Jeev Sharmaa, (4) Deval, (5) Dev Keerti, (6) Paraashar, (7) Babhru, (8) Bhaguree, (9) Bhrigu, (10) Maandavy, (11) Vatsya, (12) Satya, and (13) Harit.

Bhattotpal has written a commentary on it in 10th century AD. He tell an interesting anecdote about Mihir and his works. The Sun god Savitar created science book of Heavenly bodies with three large sections. He was afraid that it might be scattered and lost, so he came back in Kali Yug disguised as Varaah Mihir and rewrote it in much smaller texts. Thus got created numerous texts by Varaah Mihir such as Panch Saiddhaantikaa, Brihat Jaatak, Brihat Sanhitaa, Brihat Vivaah Patal, Laghu Vivaah Patal, Laghu Jaatak, Brihat Yog Yaatraa etc.

Arun Upadhyay writes
Varaah Mihir has given his date of birth as 8-3-95 BC (Shak, 3042, Chaitra Shukla 8) in Kutoohal Manjaree.
He has indicated his birth in Kapitthak and later life at Avantikaa, then under Vikramaaditya.
He has indicated start of North motion of the Sun from Makar sign in Brihat Sanhitaa and equivalent Yog calculation in Panch Saiddhaantikaa.

They begin with Indian astronomy and proceed to a review of all other known astronomical knowledge and theories, including mathematical charts and tables taken from the work of Ptolemy. Varaah Mihir's mathematical work included the discovery of the trigonometric formulae.

(2) Brihad Jaatak Horaa
He has written "Brihad Jaatak Horaa" also. Brihad Jaatak Horaa is his astrological book which is considered one of the five main books on astrology. In this book he has covered three branches of astrology - Daivagya Vallabh, Laghu Jaatak, Yog Yaatraa, and Vivaah Patal.

(3) Khand Khaandakya
His another book is Khand Khaandyak, written in the year 665. He was 67 years old at that time. This book contains 8 chapters. Of particular interest to mathematicians in this second work by Brahmgupt is the interpolation formula he uses to compute values of sine.

Spiritual Life - the Root of Accurate Predictions
This incident from the life of Varaah Mihir shows the great accuracy that can be attained in astrology if the astrologer is properly trained and performs his spiritual practice and gets the divine blessings. Varaah Mihir lived to be 80 years old, there are many other histories involving him. His son Prithuyash was also a great astrologer. His son wrote Horaa Saar, a important classic in natal astrology, and Shat Panch Shikhaa, a text on Prashn. Varaah Mihir was very terse in his own writings, but Horaa Saar is meant to give more explanation of what Varaah Mihir was teaching.

Reference:
Rao, Suryanarian, 1987, 3rd edition, Life of Varaha Mihira, Bangalore, India: IBHP Astrology Series.

 

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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
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Updated on 06/09/13