REFUTATION OF PRĀCHYAM’S BOGUS CLAIMS ABOUT INDIA’S ANTIQUITY

Was a day divided in 24 hours in Ancient India?

Prāchyam is an influential film maker working towards Indic Renaissance. Prāchyam has released a video on May 12, 2022 titled “Ancient Indian Logic for Sequence of Weekdays”. Here is the link to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Pz9L7PDmg4.

In this video, Prāchyam claims that the basis for the order of weekdays are given in Sūrya Siddhānta and Āryabhaṭīya. This is well known, and I am producing the relevant texts below.

Here is the Sanskrit text and Hindi translation of Sūrya Siddhānta, Bhūgolādhyaya 78–79 by Śrīvāstava [1].

Here is the Sanskrit text and English translation of Āryabhaṭīya, Kālakriyāpāda 16 by Shukla [2].

Both of these texts, Sūrya Siddhānta and Āryabhaṭīya, are currently dated to ~ sixth century, so a great antiquity can not be claimed for this basis of the order of weekdays. Oak claims Sūrya Siddhānta to be older than 12000 BCE, but I have thoroughly debunked this dating in my two articles on this site [3–4] and a talk on Sangam Talks [5].

Further in the video at t= 2:32, Prāchyam refers to a verse from Śrīmadbhāgvatam to claim that it describes the division of a day in 24 hours. Though Prāchyam does not give the exact reference for this verse, it is given in a talk by Mr. Nilesh Oak. Prāchyam’s video is based on this talk by Oak titled “The Secret of Weekday Sequence”. Here is the link to this talk by Oak: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0Gs_S13vfw. The exact reference is Śrīmadbhāgvatam 3.11.7–8. Sanskrit text and Hindi translation by Gītā Press for these verses are given below:

According to these verses, two “nāḍikā” equal one “muhūrta” and there are six or seven nāḍikā in one “Prahara”. Nāḍikā, muhūrta, and Prahara are well known divisions of time in Ancient India. According to Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa, there are two nāḍikā in one muhūrta and there are 30 muhūrtas in a day and night (Ṛk Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa 16, Yajus Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa 38). Here is the Sanskrit text and English translation by Kuppanna Sastry [6].

Thus, one nāḍikā equals 24 minutes and one muhūrta equals 48 minutes. But Oak claims that one muhūrta equals 60 minutes according to Śrīmadbhāgvatam 3.11.7–8 and hence ancient Indians had invented the division of the day in 24 hours. Here is the screenshot from his talk at t=41:38 [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0Gs_S13vfw]:

Notice how Oak puts 7 in round brackets and neglects it. Oak chooses 6 nāḍikā conveniently to suit his purpose and equates it to one Prahara of three hours. Thus, he claims that one nāḍikā equals 30 minutes and one muhūrta equals 60 minutes, and therefore ancient Indians invented the division of days in hours.

We have a big problem, Mr. Oak and Team Prāchyam. You don’t get to choose between 6 or 7. What about 7? Why do you think that the verse says six or seven nāḍikā in one Prahara? There is a reason for it as described below.

According to Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa, during the course of the year days and night increase or decrease by a maximum of 6 muhūrtas (Ṛk Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa 7, Yajus Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa 8). Here is the Sanskrit text and English translation by Kuppanna Sastry [7].

This means that longest daylight period on summer solstice was 18 muhūrtas and shortest daylight period on winter solstice was 12 muhūrtas at the location where Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa was written. This means that muhūrta was of a fixed duration of 48 minutes and did not change with seasons. Nāḍikā being half of muhūrta was also of fixed duration of 24 minutes.

However, Prahara was not of fixed duration and depended on the season. In fact, its duration changed between daylight period and night period of the same 24-hour duration from one sunrise to next sunrise. The Prahara during day time was one fourth of the duration of daylight period and the Prahara during night was one fourth of the night duration. We have explicit scheme given in the commentary on Śrīmadbhāgvatam by Śrīdhara Swāmī as shown below:

The full explanation of this commentary is provided in a research paper by Prof. Takao Hayashi [8]. In this scheme of Śrīmadbhāgvatam, a 24-hour period of one sunrise to next sunrise was divided into day of 4 prahara (24 nāḍikā, 6 nāḍikā per Prahara), dusk of 2 muhūrta (4 nāḍikā, 2 nāḍikā per muhūrta), night of 4 prahara (28 nāḍikā, 7 nāḍikā per Prahara), and dawn of 2 muhūrta (4 nāḍikā, 2 nāḍikā per muhūrta). This was valid in winter. The corresponding passage from the research paper by Prof. Takao Hayashi is shown below [8]:

Prof. Takao Hayashi has also beautifully illustrated this division in the following figure [8]. Please note the explicit mention of 1 prahara being equal to 6 nāḍikā during day and 1 prahara being equal to 7 nāḍikā during night.

Thus a 24-hour period of one sunrise to next sunrise consisted of 60 nāḍikā of 24 minutes duration each or 30 muhūrta of 48 minutes duration each. Śrīmadbhāgvatam 3.11.7–8 does not describe the division of the day in 24 hours. Prachyam is clearly wrong in its claim that Śrīmadbhāgvatam describes the division of the day in 24-hours.

References:

1. Śrīvāstava, M. P. (1982). Sūrya Siddhānta, with scientific commentary, Dr. Ratnakumarī Swādhyāya Saṃsthāna, Allahabad, p. 769.

2. Āryabhaṭīya of Āryabhaṭa, Critically edited with Introduction, English Translation, Notes, Comments and Indexes by Kripa Shankar Shukla in collaboration with K.V. Sharma, Indian National Science Academy, 1976, p. 103.

3. Surya Siddhanta was NOT written over 14,000 years ago, https://rajarammohanroy.medium.com/s%C5%ABrya-siddh%C4%81nta-was-not-written-over-14-000-years-ago-1591a02a293e.

4. Surya Siddhanta was NOT written over 14,000 years ago (Response to questions raised by Rupa Bhaty), https://rajarammohanroy.medium.com/surya-siddhanta-was-not-written-over-14-000-years-ago-response-to-questions-raised-by-rupa-bhaty-478f7909efd4.

5. Dating the Surya Siddhanta, Dating the Surya Siddhanta | Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Roy | #SangamTalks — YouTube.

6. Kuppanna Sastry, T.S. (1985). Vedāṅga Jyotiṣa of Lagadha in its Ṛk and Yajus recensions. New Delhi: Indian National Science Academy, p. 37.

7. ibid., p. 44.

8. Takao Hayashi. “The Units of Time in Ancient and Medieval India.” History of Science in South Asia, 5.1 (2017): 1–116.

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Vedic Scholar, Materials Scientist, Author of books on Vedic Astronomy, Jain Astronomy, and Ancient Indian History

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Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Dr. Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Vedic Scholar, Materials Scientist, Author of books on Vedic Astronomy, Jain Astronomy, and Ancient Indian History

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