The Land Of Science Series

Ancient Indian mathematicians and scholars contributed to a majority of inventions and discoveries – way beyond the numeric ‘zero’.

Atharvan brings to you a series of such inventions, so that we get inspired to keep up to our ancestors and be proud of our country!

SPEED OF LIGHT
Geographical distribution of the Late Vedic era texts. Each of major regions had their own recension of Rig Veda (Sakhas), and the versions varied.[2]
Geographical distribution of the Late Vedic era texts. Each of major regions had their own recension of Rig Veda (Sakhas), and the versions varied.[2]

Rigveda – the oldest compilation of human wisdom mentions the first quantitative estimate of the speed of light. It was cited in a commentary by Sāyaṇācārya, a vedic scholar from the 14th century.

Sāyaṇācārya was a Sanskrit Mimamsa scholar from the Vijayanagara Empire of South India, near modern day Bellary. An influential commentator on the Vedas, he had more than a hundred works attributed to him, including commentaries on almost all parts of the Vedas.

Here’s the commentary along with translation –

तथा च स्मर्यते योजनानां सहस्त्रं द्वे द्वे शते द्वे च |
योजनेकेन निमिषार्धेन क्रममान ||

ऋग् वेद (Rigveda )

Meaning
With deep respect, I bow to the sun, who travels 2,202 yojanas in half a nimesha.

He mentions that the sunlight travels 2202 yojanas in half a nimesha.

Yojana is an ancient unit of length. Arthasastra (ancient Sanskrit treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy) defines it as being equal to 8,000 dhanus, that is equivalent to 9 miles. This would imply that a yojana is 9 miles.

A nimesha is also an ancient unit of 16/75 of a second.

Therefore, if we calculate the equation as below –
2,202 yojanas x 9 miles x 75/8 nimeshas = 185,794 miles per second or 2,99,000 kilometres per second.

The number is just what the modern science arrived at as the speed of light, i.e. 2,99,792 kms per second, in the year 1983.

Hope you enjoyed reading this information, do read about other such interesting facts from vedas in our Science of Rituals section.

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