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Varahamihira wrote the Brihat samhita, an influential encyclopedic text in Sanskrit. This text exists in many Indian scripts, and was copied, preserved in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples and monasteries.
Born505 CE
PeriodGupta era
Notable worksPancha-Siddhāntikā, Brihat-Samhita, Brihat Jataka

Varāhamihira (c. 505 – c. 587),[1] also called Varāha or Mihira, was an ancient Indian astrologer, astronomer, and polymath who lived in Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh, India). He was born at Kapitba in a Brahmin family,[2] in the Avanti region, roughly corresponding to modern-day Malwa (part of Madhya Pradesh, India), to Adityadasa. According to one of his own works, he was educated at Kapitthaka.[3] The Indian tradition believes him to be one of the "Nine Jewels" (Navaratnas) of the court of ruler Yashodharman Vikramaditya of Malwa.[4][5] However, this claim appears for the first time in a much later text and scholars consider this claim to be doubtful because neither Varahamihira and Vikramaditya lived in the same century nor did Varahamihira live in the same century as some of the other names in the "nine jewels" list such as the much older Kalidasa.[6]

Varāhamihira's most notable works were the Brihat Samhita, an encyclopedic[7] work on architecture, temples, planetary motions, eclipses, timekeeping, astrology, seasons, cloud formation, rainfall, agriculture, mathematics, gemology, perfumes and many other topics.[8][9][10] According to Varahamihira, in some verses he was merely summarizing earlier existing literature on astronomy, Shilpa Sastra and temple architecture, yet his presentation of different theories and models of design are among the earliest texts that have survived.[11][12] The chapters of the Brihat Samhita and verses of Varahamihira were quoted by the Persian traveler and scholar Al Biruni.[13]

Varāhamihira is also credited with writing several authoritative texts on astronomy and astrology. He learned the Greek language, and he praised the Greeks (Yavanas) in his text for being "well trained in the sciences", though impure in ritual order.[14] Some scholars consider him to be the strong candidate as the one who understood and introduced the zodiac signs, predictive calculations for auspicious ceremonies and astrological computations.[15][16][17]



Varāhamihira's main work is the book Pañcasiddhāntikā (“Treatise on the Five Astronomical Canons”) dated c. 575 CE, which gives us information about older Indian texts which are now lost. The work is a treatise on mathematical astronomy and it summarises five earlier astronomical treatises by five authors, namely the Surya Siddhanta, Romaka Siddhanta, Paulisa Siddhanta, Vasishtha Siddhanta and Pitamaha Siddhanta. It is a compendium of Vedanga Jyotisha as well as Hellenistic astronomy (withGreek, Egyptian and Roman elements).[a] Varahamihira was the first one to mention that the Ayanāṃśa, or the shifting of the equinox, is 50.32 arc seconds per year.

They [the Indians] have 5 Siddhāntas:
  • Sūrya-Siddhānta, the siddhānta of the Sun, thought to be composed by Lāṭadeva, but actually composed by Mayasura also known as Mamuni Mayan as stated in the text itself.
  • Vasishtha-siddhānta, so called from one of the stars of the Great Bear, composed by Vishnucandra,
  • Paulisa-siddhānta, so called from Paulisa from the city of Saintra composed by Paulisa.
  • Romaka-siddhānta, so called from the Rūm composed by Śrīsheṇa.
  • Paitahama-siddhānta.


Another important contribution of Varahamihira is the encyclopedic Brihat-Samhita. Although the book is mostly about divination, it also includes a wide range of subjects other than divination. It covers wide-ranging subjects of human interest, including astronomy, planetary movements, eclipses, rainfall, clouds, architecture, growth of crops, manufacture of perfume, matrimony and domestic relations. The volume expounds on gemstone evaluation criterion found in the Garuda Purana, and elaborates on the sacred Nine Pearls from the same text. It contains 106 chapters and is known as the "great compilation".

On Astrology[edit]

Varahamihira's Brihajjataka is a Sanskrit text on predictive astrology based on the Vedic Astrology system. The above manuscript was copied in Nepal in 1399 CE in the Nepalaksara script, and is now in the Cambridge University Library.

Hora Shastra or Brihadjathaka is a most acclaimed astrological work by Mihira. It is mostly in code language. More than a dozen commentaries have been written for this work. The Kerala School of Astrology is mainly based on the Brihadjathaka.

His son Prithuyasas also contributed to Hindu astrology; his book Hora Sara is a famous book on horoscopy. Khana (also named Lilavati elsewhere), the medieval Bengali poet astrologer, is believed to be the daughter-in-law of Varahamihira.


The Romaka Siddhanta ("The Doctrine of the Romans") and the Paulisa Siddhanta were two works of Western origin which influenced Varahamihira's thought. The Pauliṣa Siddhānta is often mistakenly thought to be a single work and attributed to Paul of Alexandria (c. 378 CE).[19] However, this notion has been rejected by other scholars in the field, notably by David Pingree who stated that "...the identification of Paulus Alexandrinus with the author of the Pauliṣa Siddhānta is totally false".[20] A number of his writings share similarities with the earlier texts like Vedanga Jyotisha.[21]

A Bṛhat-Saṃhitā verse (adhyāya II, śloka 14), reads: म्लेच्छा हि यवनास्तेषु सम्यक् शास्त्रमिदं स्थितम् । ऋषिवत् तेऽपि पूज्यन्ते किं पुनर्दैवविद् द्विजः ॥, romanized as mlecchā hi yavanās teṣu samyak śāstram idaṃ sthitam, ṛṣivat te’pi pūjyante kiṃ punar daivavid dvijaḥ. (“The Yavanas are of low origin. When this science (sic) has come to stay with them and when such shastras are worshipped as sages, how much more should an astrologer of twice-born origin be?”) [22]

A comment to that verse, quoting Garga, an earlier astronomer, says: "The Greeks, though barbaric,[23] must be honoured since they have shown tremendous interest in our science..."[citation needed]



Varahamihira improved the accuracy of the sine tables of Aryabhata.[citation needed]


He recorded the first known 4×4 magic square.[citation needed]


Among Varahamihira's contribution to physics is his statement that reflection is caused by the back-scattering of particles and refraction (the change of direction of a light ray as it moves from one medium into another) by the ability of the particles to penetrate inner spaces of the material, much like fluids that move through porous objects.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Pañca-siddhāntikā ("Five Treatises"), a compendium of Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Indian astronomy. Varāhamihira's knowledge of Western astronomy was thorough. In 5 sections, his monumental work progresses through native Indian astronomy and culminates in 2 treatises on Western astronomy, showing calculations based on Greek and Alexandrian reckoning and even giving complete Ptolemaic mathematical charts and tables.[18]


  1. ^ Evans, Brian (24 February 2014). The Development of Mathematics Throughout the Centuries: A Brief History in a Cultural Context. John Wiley & Sons. p. 61. ISBN 978-1118853979. Varahamihira, a mathematician born around 505 CE and died 587 CE, who was also known for innovation with Pascal's triangle.
  2. ^ |Book=Sree Varaha Mihira's Brihat Jataka|Published="1986"|Page count="639"
  3. ^ O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Varāhamihira", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews
  4. ^ History of Indian Literature. Motilal Banarsidass Publications. 2008. p. 46.
  5. ^ Gopal, Ram (1984). Kālidāsa: His Art and Culture. Concept Publishing Company. p. 15.
  6. ^ Winternitz, Moriz (1985). History of Indian Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 45–47. ISBN 978-81-208-0056-4.
  7. ^ Glucklich, Ariel (2008). The Strides of Vishnu: Hindu Culture in Historical Perspective. Oxford University Press. pp. 10, 123–126. ISBN 978-0-19-971825-2., Quote: "[...] the new temples and inconography, the science of architecture, the enormous encyclopedia the Brihat Samhita of Varahamihira [...]"
  8. ^ Grattan-Guinness, Ivor (2016). "Varahamihira". Companion Encyclopedia of the History and Philosophy of the Mathematical Sciences: Volume Two. Taylor & Francis. pp. 954–956. ISBN 978-1-134-88832-0.
  9. ^ Varahamihira; M Ramakrishna Bhat (1996). Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 549–561, 737–738, 874–876. ISBN 978-81-208-1060-0.
  10. ^ Varahamihira; M Ramakrishna Bhat (1996). Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira, Part 1. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 1–19. ISBN 978-81-208-1060-0.
  11. ^ Meister, Michael (2003). Gudrun Bühnemann (ed.). Maònòdalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions. BRILL Academic. pp. 251–260. ISBN 90-04-12902-2.
  12. ^ T. A. Gopinatha Rao (1985). Elements of Hindu Iconography. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 25, 58–59. ISBN 978-81-208-0878-2.
  13. ^ Varahamihira; M Ramakrishna Bhat (1996). Brhat Samhita of Varahamihira, Part 2. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 960–961. ISBN 978-81-208-1060-0.
  14. ^ Chaudhuri, Kirti Narayan (1990). Asia Before Europe Economy and Civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750. Cambridge University Press. p. 54. ISBN 0521316812.
  15. ^ Winternitz, Moriz (1985). History of Indian Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 685–697. ISBN 978-81-208-0056-4.
  16. ^ Pingree, David (1963). "Astronomy and Astrology in India and Iran". Isis. University of Chicago Press. 54 (2): 229–246. doi:10.1086/349703. JSTOR 228540. S2CID 128083594.
  17. ^ Sarma, K. V. (2008). "Varahamihira". In Helaine Selin (ed.). Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands. pp. 2184–2185. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-4425-0_9604. ISBN 978-1-4020-4559-2.
  18. ^ "Varahamihira". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007.
  19. ^ McEvilley, Thomas (November 2001). The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies. Allworth Press. p. 385. ISBN 978-1-58115-203-6.
  20. ^ Pingree, David (1978). The Yavanajātaka of Sphujidhvaja. Harvard Oriental Series. Vol. 2. pp. 437–438.
    Pingree, David (1969). The Later Pauliśa Siddhānta. Centaurus 14. pp. 172–241.
  21. ^ Velandai Gopala Aiyer. The chronology of ancient India: beginning of the Sat Yuga, Dwaper, Treta, and Kali Yuga with date of Mahabharata. Sanjay Prakashan. p. 63.
  22. ^ Brihat Samhita of Varaha Mihira,, Sanskrit with English translation by Panditabhushana V. Subrahmanya Sastri and Vidwan M. Ramakrishna Bhat. 1946: Bangalore. p. 19
  23. ^ Monier-Williams. "Definition of म्लेच्छ". Sanskrit Dictionary.
  24. ^ "Varahamihira". Science, Civilization and Society – via

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