The Golādhyāya of Nityānanda's Sarvasiddhāntarāja : an examination of ‘The Chapter on Spheres’ in a seventeenth century text on mathematical astronomy.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
In the study of the scientific exchanges in India, Nityānanda’s works have been largely unknown and unexamined by modern scholars. As an astronomer at the Mughal court of Emperor Shāh Jahān through the early parts of the seventeenth century, Nityānanda was commissioned by his patron, Shāh Jahān’s minister Āsaf Khān, to translate an Indo-Persian zīj, a set of astronomical, geographical and mathematical tables into Sanskrit. In the early 1630s, he presented the enormous translated compilation of these tables called Siddhāntasindhu; however, the use of Islamic parameters in the computation of these tables appears not to have been favourably received within the traditional Sanskrit scholarly community. In the years that followed, Nityānanda restructured Islamic concepts of astronomy into the more canonical format of a Sanskrit siddhānta ‘treatise in astronomy’ complete with separate chapters on computations, spheres, and instruments. He presented his work, The Sarvasiddhāntarāja ‘King of all Siddhāntas’, in 1639 CE . It is amongst the earliest known siddhāntic texts to explicitly include elements of Græco-Islamic astronomy within traditional jyotiṣa astronomy. This thesis includes a critical edition of the ‘chapter on spheres’ (golādhyāya) of Nityānanda’s Sarvasiddhāntarāja, along with an English translation and commentary of the hundred and thirty-five verses that comprise the chapter. A technical and detailed analysis of these verses is attempted here in an effort to understand and comment on their contents. The introductory and concluding discussions of this thesis are included to provide the context to Nityānanda’s work in the study of the history of Indian astronomy. The study of the history of scientific exchanges between cultures is a dynamic enterprise due to the vibrancy and the mystery of the ‘intellectual commerce’ that occurred between them. The acceptance, accommodation, adaptation, innovation, or even rejection of ideas seen in the scholarly works of a period help us constantly reform our own understanding of the conceptual transactions within those cultures of scientific enquiry. In an attempt to address these themes in the context of Islamic and siddhāntic astronomy of seventeenth century India, I look at Nityānanda’s golādhyāya containing the geometrical discussions on the different spheres conceptualised in the study of astronomy.