Knowledge Of Gravity in 6 BCE
Synopsis: The article Knowledge of Gravity in 6 BCE, studies various references in ancient texts that talk about gravitation, providing proof that the ancient scholars were well versed with the concept of gravitation. Sage Vedavyāsa, in the storyline of Mahābhārata mentions the same.
In the ancient times the sages, seers and scholars had developed extra- ordinary vision and power. They understood and decoded the secrets of nature . Their acute knowledge and perception, has benefitted human kind in every aspect of life . Due to their intellectual and logical powers, the scholars had the ability to analyse any subtle form of energy and information.
One such great sage Vedavyāsa, presented the scientific information through various examples within the storyline of Mahābhārata (approximate time : 5 -6 century BCE).
One of the concepts he floated was of gravitation of the earth . This can be seen in the citation of ‘gravitation of earth’, available in the Śāntiparva of Mahābhārata. A detailed account about pañcamahābhuūta (the five great beings) was presented before Yudhiṣṭhira by Bhīṣma in this parva (chapter), where a description of ten qualities of the earth is available :
भुमेः स्थैर्य गुरूत्वं चाठिन्यं प्रसवार्थता ।
गन्धो गुरूत्वं शक्तिश्च सङ्घातः स्थापना धृतिः ॥
महाभारत, शान्तिपर्व २५५.३
Bhumeḥ sthairya gurūtvaṃ caaṭhinyaṃ prasavārthatā /
gandho gurūtvaṃ śaktiśca saṅghātaḥ sthāpanā dhṛtiḥ //
Mahābhārata, Śāntiparva 255.3
(The ten qualities of the earth are Stability, weight, solidity, the power to germinate, smell, enormity, gravity, friction, installation and holding power.)
Bhīṣma mentioned gravity as one amongst the ten qualities of earth in this description, from which it can easily be concluded that everyone was familiar with the gravitation power of earth in the Mahābhārata age.
The modern scientists credit Newton for the invention of gravitation. According to Newton : every object is made of millions of particles. According to the rule of gravitation everything fell down on earth because the earth attracts every single particle towards it’s center. This power of attraction is called gravitation.
Newton has mentioned this in his famous composition Principia (1687). He said,” every object in this Universe attracts other towards it”.
A similar description about this is available in Siddhāntaśiromaṇi by the great geologist and mathematician Bhāskarācārya :
मरुच्चलो भूश्चला स्वभावतो यतो विचित्तावतवस्तु श्क्त्यः ॥
आकृष्टि शक्तिश्च मही यथायत् खस्थं गुरू स्वाभिमुहं स्वशक्तया ।
आकृष्यते तत्पततीव भाति समेसमन्तात क्व पतत्वियं खे ॥
भास्कराचार्य – सिद्धान्तशिरोमणि , गोलाध्याय भुनवनकोश ५-६
maruccalo bhūścalā svabhāvato yato vicittāvatavastu śktyaḥ //
ākṛṣṭi śaktiśca mahī yathāyat khasthaṃ gurū svābhimuhaṃ svaśaktayā /
ākṛṣyate tatpatatīva bhāti samesamantāta kva patatviyaṃ khe //
Bhāskarācārya – Siddhāntaśiromaṇi , Golādhyāya Bhuvanakoṣa 5-6
(The earth has the power of gravitation. It attracts the heavy objects towards it with the power of gravitation and the objects fell down on earth. How anything can fall down when similar amount of power is applied from all sides in the firmament? The planets float without recourse because the gravitational power of all planets keep the balance.)
So, it can be safely concluded that ancient sage Bhāskarācārya proved Gravity 550 years before Newton. There is ample evidence to prove that from at least 5th – 6th century BCE onwards, the scholars were well aware of the concept of Gravity .
Even in the preachment of Gītā within Bhīṣmaparva, we find the citation about gravitational power of the earth. In this context, lord Kṛṣṇa said to Arjuna :
“गामाविश्य च भूतानि धारयाम्यहमोजसा ।”
महाभारत भीष्मपर्व ३९.१३
(गीता अध्याय १३)
“gāmāviśya ca bhūtāni dhārayāmyahamojasā /”
Mahābhārata. Bhīṣmaparva 39.13
(Gītā Chapter 13)
In this verse lord Kṛṣṇa clearly mentioned about the gravitational power of earth. The animals cannot even survive without gravitation. The word ‘gau‘ is used instead of earth as it’s synonym which means ‘ which goes / moves’.
A clear mention of gravitation is also available in Praśnopaniṣad. According to which, “the earth helps people to stand by helping the apāna vāyu (open air) by it’s power.”
आदित्यो ह वै ब्राह्मः प्राण उदयत्वेष ह्येनं चाक्षुषं प्राणमनुगृह्णामः ।
पृथिव्या या देवता सैषा पुरुषस्य अपानमवषृभ्यान्तरा यदाकाशः स समानो वायुव्यनिः ॥
ādityo ha vai brāhmaḥ prāṇa udayatveṣa hyenaṃ cākṣuṣaṃ prāṇamanugṛhṇāmaḥ /
pṛthivyā yā devatā saiṣā puruṣasya apānamavaṣṛbhyāntarā yadākāśaḥ sa samāno vāyuvyaniḥ //
While composing the commentary on this, Ādi Śaṇkarācārya mentioned, ” This body will either float around the universe or fell down if mother earth does not help it by the apāna vāyu (open air). “
तथा पृथिव्यामभिमानिनी या देवता प्रसिद्धा सैषा पुरुषस्य
अपानमपानवृत्तिमवष्टभ्याकृष्य वशीऋत्याधः स्वापकर्षणेनानुग्रहं
कुर्वती वर्तत इत्यर्थः अन्यथा हि शरीरं गुरूत्वात् पतेत्सावआशे वा उद्गच्छेत ।
साम्. बिज्ञा. प्रिष्ठ ८७
tathā pṛthivyāmabhimāninī yā devatā prasiddhā saiṣā
puruṣasya apānamapānavṛttimavaṣṭabhyākṛṣya vaśīṛtyādhaḥ
svāpakarṣaṇenānugrahaṃ kurvatī vartata ityarthaḥ anyathā
hi śarīraṃ gurūtvāt patetsāvaāśe vā udgaccheta.
Saṃ. bijñā. Page 87
It is clarified by this that Ādi Śaṇkarācārya (approximately 700 to 800 AD) was well aware of gravitational power of earth. Otherwise the elaborate discussion by him about gravitation based only on imagination would have been impossible. Henceforth, it is safe to conclude that the knowledge of gravitation was available to the scholars from 6th century BCE and maybe even before that.
Contributor : Dr Poornima Singh Rana
English Translator : Joy Dev
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