During the past decades considerable progress has been made in understanding and evaluating Indian astronomy and mathematics, due primarily to the researches carried out by David Pingree. In this connection his monumental Census of the Exact Sciences in Sanskrit, Series A. Vol. I (1970), II(1971), III(1976), IV(1981) published in Philadelphia deserves to be mentioned side by side with the "History of Mathematical Astronomy in India" in the Dictionary of Scientific Biography, Vol. XV. New York 1978, pp. 533-633, "Jyotihsastra. Astral and Mathematical Literature", A History of Indian Literature, Vol. VI, 4, Wiesbaden 1981, and finally "Jyotihsastra", Part I of A Descriptive Catalogue of the Sanskrit and other Indian Manuscripts of the Chandra Shum Shere Collection in Bodleian Library, Oxford 1983. Further R. Billard: L'astronomie indienne: Investigation des texts sanscritset des donnees numeriques, Paris 1971, Publications de 1'Ecole Francaise d'Extreme-Orient LXXXIII, and H. -G. Turstig: Jyotisa: Das System der indischen Astrologies, Wiesbaden 1980, Beitrage zur Sudasien-Forschung 57 my be mentioned here, although both these later books came under some criticism from D. Pingree.
In spite of the advanced knowledge of the system and the history of Indian astronomy and mathematics, comparatively little attention has been paid to the more practical side of astronomy, that is to say to the calendar. In particular the non-technical literature has hardly ever been taken into consideration. The wealth of information found in Buddhist sources reflecting the difficulties encountered in ancient time, when it became necessary to determine and to keep correct dates in every day life, has been almost completely neglected. Nevertheless the rules laid down for fixing the date of the uposatha or the beginning of the rainy season are highly interesting in many respects: Here we learn for instance that intercalary months were enforced by royal decree: Vinaya-Pitaka: Mahavagga can be gleaned from literature is aptly demonstrated by the very informative article by C. Vogel: "Die Jahreszeiten im Spiegel der altindischen Literature", Zeitschrit der; Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft 121. 1971, pp. 284-326 (with an addendum ibidem 122.1972, p. *12*).
In a way practical difficulties similar to those experienced by the early Buddhists in India are not altogether alien to the present historian when it come to calculating dates mentioned in inscriptions themselves, and different calendar systems being in use at the same time, create problems, as the discussion by D. Pingree: " A Note on the calendars Used in Early Indian Inscriptions", Journal of the American Oriental Society 102-1982, pp. 355-359 shows.
Some help in solving such problems can be found in rather old publications: the pioneering articles by Hermann Jacobi (1850-1937) reprinted in his Kleine Schriften, Wiesbaden 1970 are still valuable today, and the publications by Robert Sewell (1845-1925) have been used by generations of epigraphists and historians. As these still important research tools have been out of print for a long time and are very hard to find, the general introduction to the Indian calendar is reprinted here as a first step. It has been supplemented by R. Sewell in two further books, which also deserve to be reissued in the course of time: Eclipses of the Moon in India, London 1898, and: Indian Chronography. An Extension of the 'Indian Calendar' with Working Examples, London 1912. Finally a series of articles by the same author, which originally appeared in Epigraphia Indica, has been collected as: The Siddhantas and the Indian Calendar Being a Continuation of 'Indian Chronography', Calcutta 1924.
In contrast to researches on the calendar in India proper, which have been somewhat neglected since R. Sewell's days, closely related systems borrowed from India have also been described more recently. First, as an old publication, A.M.B. Irwin: The Burmese Calendar, London 1901 can be mentioned. The Laotian time reckoning has been described after an early attempt by L. Finot: "Recherches sur la literature Laotienne", Bulletin de 1'Ecole Fracaise D'Extreme-Orient 17, 1917, pp.1-221 (on the calendar pp. 30-34) by Prince Phetsarath: "Le calendrier laotien", Bulletin des Amis de Laos, 4.1940, pp. 107-140, also in English as: "Tiao Maha Upahat Phetsarath: The Laotian Calendar", in: The Kingdom of Laos, Saigon 1959, pp. 97-125, and: S. Duperuis: "Le calcul du calendrier laotien", Peninsule, Etudes Interdisciplinaires sur 1'Asie du Sud-Est peninsulaine, 2/3, Paris, April 1981, pp. 25-118. For Thailand, where a rather old and probably highly interesting manuscript copied in AD 1578 under the title Adhikamasvinischaya (text in Lanna: Thai Yuan, describing Buddhist ecclesiastic chronology) and many colophons virtually untouched still await investigation, J. C. Eade: Southeast Asian Ephemeris, Solar and Planetary Positions, AD 638-2000, Ithaca/New York 1989 is a most helpful book. Indian influences on Indonesian chronology have been traced by J. G. de Casparis: Indonesian Malaysia und die Philippinen, I. Band Geschichte, 1. Lieferung, and finally the Tibetan chronology, also heavily indepted to India, has been described by D. Schuh: Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der tibetischen Kalenderrechnung, Wiesbaden 1973, Verzeichnis der Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, Suplementband 16.
This Volume is designed for the use, not only of those engaged in the decypherment of Indian inscriptions and the compilation of Indian history, but also of Judicial Courts and Government Offices in India. Documents bearing dates prior to those given in any existing almanack are often produced before Courts of Justice as evidence of title; and since forgeries, many of them of great antiquity, abound, it is necessary to have at hand means for testing and verifying the authenticity of these exhibits. Within the last ten years much light has been thrown on the subject of the Indian methods of time-reckoning by the publications of Professor Jacobi, Dr. Schram, Professor Kielhorn, Dr. Fleet, Pandit Sankara Balkrishna Dikshit, and others; but these, having appeared only in scientific periodicals, are not readily accessible to officials in India. The Government of Madras, therefore, desiring to have a summary of the subject with Tables for ready reference, requested me to undertake the work. In process of time the scheme was widened, and in its present shape it embraces the whole of British India, receiving in that capacity the recognition of the Secretary of State for India. Besides containing a full explanation of the Indian chronological system, with the necessary tables, the volume is enriched by a set of Tables of Eclipses most kindly sent to me by Dr. Robert Schram of Vienna.
In the earlier stages of my labours I had the advantage of receiving much support and assistance from Dr. J. Burgess (late Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India) to whom I desire to express my sincere thanks. After completing a large part of the calculations necessary for determining the elements of Table I., and drawing up the draft of an introductory treatise, I entered into correspondence with Mr. Sankara Balkrishna Dikshit, with the result that, after a short interval, we agreed to complete the work as joint authors. The introductory treatise is mainly his, but I have added to it several explanatory paragraphs, amongst others those relating to astronomical phenomena.
Tables XIV. And XV. Were prepared by Mr. T. Lakshmiah Naidu of Madras.
It is impossible to over-estimate the value of the work done by Dr. Schram, which renders it now for the first time easy for anyone to ascertain the incidence, in time and place, of every solar eclipse occurring in India during the past 1600 years, but while thus briefly noting his services in the cause of science, I cannot neglect this opportunity of expressing to him my gratitude for his kindness to myself.
I must also tender my warm thanks for much invaluable help to Mr. H. H. Turner, Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, to Professor Kielhorn, C.I.E., of Gottingen, and to Professor Jacobi.
The Tables have been tested and re-tested, and we believe that they may be safely relied on for accuracy. No pains have been spared to secure this object.
It was only in September, 1893, that I became acquainted with Mr. R. Sewell, after he had already made much progress in the calculations necessary for the principal articles of Table I. of this work, and had almost finished a large portion of them.
The idea then occurred to me that by inserting the a, b, c figures (cols. 23, 24, and 25 of Table I.) which Mr. Sewell had already worked out for the initial days of the luni-solar years, but had not proposed to print in full, and by adding some of Professor Jacobi's Tables published in the Indian Antiquary, not only could the exact moment of the beginning and end of all luni-solar tithes be calculated, but also the beginning and ending moments of the nakshatra, yoga, and karana for any day of any year; and again, that by giving the exact moment of the Mesha sankranti for each solar year the exact European equivalent for every solar date could also be determined. I therefore proceeded to work out the details for the Mesha sankrantis, and then framed rules and examples for the exact calculation of the required dates, for this purpose extending and modifying Professor Jacobi's Tables to suit my methods. Full explanation of the mode of calculation is given in the Text. The general scheme was originally propounded by M. Largeteau, but we have to thank Professor Jacobi for his publications which have formed the foundation on which we have built.
My calculation for the moments of Mesha sankrantis, of mean intercalations of months (Mr. Sewell worked out the true intercalations), and of the samvatsaras of the cycle of Jupiter were carried out by simple methods of my own. Mr. Sewell had prepared the rough draft of a treatise giving an account of the Hindu and Muhammadan systems of reckoning, and collecting much of the information now embodied in the Text. But I found it necessary to re-write this, and toad a quantity of new matter.
I am responsible for all information given in this work which is either new to European scholars, or which differs from that generally received by them. All points regarding which any difference of opinion seems possible are printed in footnotes, and not in the Text. They are not, of course, fully discussed as this is not a controversial work.
Every precaution has been taken to avoid error, but all corrections of mistakes which may have crept in, as well as all suggestions for improvement in the future, will be gladly and thankfully received.
From the Jacket
The practical difficulties in calculating dates mentioned in inscriptions or in the colophons to manuscripts are considerable. Among the books offering help to historians and editors alike, the works of R. Sewell stand out as excellent introductions to this intricate subject. The book reprinted here was first published in 1897. However, in spite of its age, The Indian Calendar has retained its usefulness for the benefit of scholars working on the chronology of Ancient India.
Robert Sewell (1845-1925) has written extensively on Indian history, Besides his works on the Indian calendar and on chronology, his book a Forgotten Empire: Vijayanagara (1900) is one of the pioneering efforts to describe South Indian history, and The Historical Inscriptions of Southern India (1923) is still a valuable took for research.
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