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Nīlakantha

NīLAKANTHA

(b. Ṭ-k-kạ̣iyūr [Kụ̣apura], Kerala, ca14 June 1444; d after 1501) astronomy.

Nilakạ̣ha, a Nampūtiri Brahman, was born in the house (illam) called Keḷallūr (Keralasadgrāma), which is said to be identical with the present Etamana illam in Ṭ-k-kạ̣iyūr, a village near Tirur, Kerala. His father was named Jātavedas, and the family belonged to the Ḡrgyagotra and followed the Aśvalāyanasūtra of the ̣Rgveda; N̄lakạ̣ha was a Somasutvān (performer of the Soma sacrifice). He studied Vedānta and some astronomy under Ravi, but his principal instructor in jyotị̄̄stra was D̄modara (fl. 1417), the son of the famous Parameśvara (ca. 1380-1460), whom he also met at the Dāmodara house in Ālattūr (Aśvatthagr̄ma), Kerala. His younger brother, ́Śākara, studied astronomy under his tutelage and in turn professed that science. It is possible, but not certain, that Rāma who wrote a Laghurāmāyana in Malayālam.

Nilakantha was a follower of Parameśvara’s dragganita system (see essay in Supplement), although he gives various parameters in his several works (see D. Pingree, in Journal of the Oriental Institute, Baroda21 [1971–1972], 146–148). These works include the following:

1. The Golasāra, in fifty-six verses, gives the parameters of his planetary system, a description of the celestial spheres, and a description of the principles of computation used in Indian mathematical astronomy. It was edited by K. V. Sarma (Hoshiarpur, 1970).

2. The Siddhāntadarpana, in thirty-two verses, gives another set of parameters and a description of (impossible) planetary models. It also was edited by K. B. Sarma (Madras, 1955). Nīlakạṇtha’s commentary (vyakhya)on the Siddhantadarpanahas not been published.

3. The Candracchāyāganita describes, in thirty-one verses, the computation of the moon’s zenith distance. Neither it nor Nīlakạṇtha’s commentary (vyākhyā) has been published.

4. The Tantrasāgraha is an elaborate treatise on drgganita astronomy, composed in 1501. It consists of eight chapters:

a. On the mean motions of the planets.

b. On the true longitudes of the planets.

c. On the three questions relating to the diurnal rotation of the sun.

d. On lunar and solar eclipses.

e. Particulars of solar eclipses.

f. On the pātas of the sun and moon.

g. On the first visibilities of the moon and planets.

h. On the horns of the moon.

The Tantrasa¯ngraha was edited with the commentary, Laghuvrtti, of Śa¯nkara Vāriyar (fl. 1556) by S.K. Pillai (Trivandrum,1958).

5. The Āryabhạtiyabhāsya is an extensive and important commentary on the Āryabhạtiya composed by Āryabhata I in 499. Nilakạṇtha’s parton for this work was the religious head of the Nampūtiri Brahmans, Netranārāyạna. In his commentary on Kālakriyā 12–15 he states that he observed a total eclipse of the sun on 6 March 1467 (Oppolzer no. 6358) and an annular eclipse at Anantaḳsetra on 28 July 1501 (not in Oppolzer). The Āryabhạtiyabhạ̄syawas published in three volumes by K. S. Sastri (volumes I and II) and S. K. Pillai (volume III), (Trivandrum 1930–1957).

6 and 7. In the Āryabhạtiyabhạ̄sya N¯ilakạṇtha refers to his Grahanirnaya on eclipses and to his Sundarājapraśnottara in which he answers questions posed by Sundararāja, the author of a commentary on the Vākyakarạna. Neither of these works is extant.

8. An untitled prose work on eclipses by N¯ilakạṇtha included in a manuscript of the Siddhāntadarpạnavyākhyā; it refers to the Āryabhạtiyabhạ̄sya and thus is his last known work.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Nilakantha’s method of computing π is discussed by K. M. Marar and C. T. Rajagopal, “On the Hindu Quadrature of the Circle,“ in Journal of the Bombay Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, n.s. 20 (1944), 65–82. A general survey of his life and works (now superseded by the introductions to Sarma’s latest eds.) is given by K. V. Sarma, “Gargya-Kerala Nilakantha Somayajin: The Bhasyakara of the Aryabhatiya (1443–1545),” in Journal of Oriental Research (Madras) 26 (1956–1957), 24–39 ; and by K. K. Raja, “Astronomy and Mathematics in Kerala,” in Brahmavidya,27 (1963), 118–167, esp. 143–152.

David Pingree

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Swaminarayan, Shree (1781-1830)

Swaminarayan, Shree (1781-1830)

Famous saint of nineteenth-century India, born as Nilakantha at Capaiya, near Ayodhya. He developed a revised form of the traditional Vishishadvaita Vedanta of Shree Ramanujan and traveled all over India for 30 years with his disciples, initiating a religious revival that had an impact upon the masses in Gujarat, Saurashtra, and Kutch. The movement eradicated violence, drunkenness, and lawlessness among those who responded to it and attracted favorable notice from both the Christian bishop Heber and the British rulers.

Shree Swaminarayan performed miracles and was accepted by his followers as an incarnation of the Divine, the first of a succession of such incarnations, of which His Holiness Shree Pramukh Swami is the current living representative. Modern followers of Shree Swaminarayan number hundreds of thousands, and prior to the expulsion of Asians from Uganda, this faith was widespread among Indian people throughout East Africa. The Swaminarayan faith has a popular following in Great Britain and North America among Asian immigrants.

Sources:

Dave, H. T. Life and Philosophy of Shree Swaminarayan, 1781-1830. London: Allen & Unwin, 1974.

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