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Varahamihira - The Multi-Talented Genius Sage

Varahamihira – The Multi-Talented Genius Sage

Varahamihira who is known to have lived from 505 CE to 587 CE in Ujjain was an astrologer, astronomer and polymath expert. He lived in the Gupta Era and his subject of study was Encyclopedia. Avanti is his place of birth which in today’s day is known as Malwa in Madhya Pradesh, India. He has written that he received his education at Kapitthaka. He is considered to be one of the Navaratnas (nine jewels) from the Vikramaditya’s court. This claim has raised eyebrows of various researchers as Varahamihira or Vikramaditya did not live in the same century. This list seems to raise questions more so due to the mention of Kalidasa in the list who also did not live in the same century as the ruler.

Varahamihira was an expert in the subjects namely astronomy, astrology and polymath as mentioned earlier. However, that did not stop him from making some notable contributions in subjects like Trigonometry, Combinatorics and Optics. Varahamihiri is known to have upgraded and improved the accuracy of the “sine tables” of the father of maths, Aryabhata. It is also recorded that he is the first one to find a 4×4 magic square. Varahamihira had contributed extensively to the physics subject as well.

Varahamihira stated that the reflection of a person is caused by the act of particle back-scattering and a term called refraction. Refraction means changing the direction of rays of light as it keeps shifting from one medium to another. The particles have the ability and power to penetrate into the inner spaces of any material. This act can be seen more prominently in states like liquid and hence in fluids or semi-fluids.

Varahamihira’s topmost work is considered as his contribution to the Brihat Samhita, an encyclopedia that talks about temples, architecture, timekeeping, planetary motions, eclipses, rainfall, mathematics, gemology, perfumes, seasons, cloud formation and many more. Basically, we can say that this encyclopedia spoke about anything and everything under the sun. The encyclopedia also spoke about his subject of expertise such as astrology.

He has also humbly mentioned that few of his verses only do the job of summarizing literature that was already available at his disposal. Such topics were astronomy, Shilpa Sastra, temple architecture etc. What was different about this work was the way he presented the knowledge, theories and models of designs. There are excerpts from some of the literature that has survived the test of time. Al Biruni, a Persian traveller and scholar, was seen quoting the chapters and statements from Brihat Samhita. Along with this, he also quoted various verses of Varahamihira.

Apart from Brihat Samhita, Varahamihira is also given credits to write various authoritative texts on astrology and astronomy. He had learnt the Greek language and spoke highly about the Greeks also known as Yavanas in his writings. He appreciated them for being very well trained in the sciences. Many scholars and researchers consider him to be a great fit for the one who got an understanding of zodiac signs. Due to this, he is also considered as one of the potential candidates for introducing the famous concept of zodiac signs. ‘Muhurat’, a well-known concept of checking the time and predicting the auspiciousness of that time is also believed to be founded by Varahamihira. If we think of it, it also fits well.

Click here to read about Bhrigu – The Sage Who Discovered Astrology.

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