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Aryabhata lived in Ponnani?

Radhakrishnan Kuttoor


A scientist says the great astronomer’s place of observation can be identified from the astronomical and geographical information mentioned in Aryabhatiyam.



Stellar science: An artist’s depiction of Aryabhata

PATHANAMTHITTA: Was Aryabhata, a 6th Century astronomer and mathematician, born in Kerala?

“Aryabhata lived in Ponnani in the northern coastal belt of Kerala,” says K. Chandra Hari, senior geoscientist at the Institute of Reservoir Studies of Oil and Natural Gas Commission, Ahmedabad.

The birthplace of Aryabhata has been a topic of debate, with scholars arguing over the belief that he was born at Kusumapura, near modern Patna, in present-day Bihar. However, Mr. Hari, who claims to have done considerable research on the topic, is all out to establish that the familiarity to Aryabhata’s name, his tradition and works convey that he lived in Kerala.

Mr. Hari told The Hindu that publications of scientific bodies, such as the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), and web sites had been giving “ambiguous information with no conclusive evidence” to establish whether t he great astronomer lived in Bihar or Kerala.

“While Aryabhatiyam published by INSA speaks of Kusumapura as the birthplace of Aryabhata, another INSA publication, A Concise History of Science in India, mentions Kerala as his birthplace,” he said. Citing what the called evidences, Mr. Hari said Aryabhata lived precisely in the modern Ponnani-Chamravattom area (latitude 10N51 and longitude 75E45) in Kerala in 6th Century AD.

According to him, Aryabhata’s place of observation can be identified from the astronomical and geographical information contained in Aryabhatiyam, a work noted for its brevity of expression and excellent organisation of astron omical and mathematical contents. Two values of Earth’s circumference at the equator given by Aryabhata suggest that his latitude of observation was 10N51, where the Bharathapuzha merges with the sea and the prime meridian of Ujjaini touches the coastline of Kerala, he said.

Aryabhata had his astronomical observations from Kerala. His adherence to the theory of Earth’s rotation and apparent revolution of the starry canopy might have its genesis from the experience of apparent motion of the shore during his sea voyage along the Kerala coast.

Mr. Hari has published over 20 papers in the Journal of Indian National Science Academy.

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