Astronomical Activity in Medieval India in 16th and 17th Centuries

by S. M. Razaullah Ansari – Former Professor of Physics, Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh (India) and Founder President of IUHPS Commission for History of Ancient and Medieval Astronomy,

Paper read at the International Symposium on Ottoman Science and Philosophy in XVIth Century, in Memory of Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Aydin Sayili (held in Kastamonu, Turkey ( 13- 15 November 2013), published in the Turkish Journal : Dört Öge , Vol. 3, No.6 (May 2014), Ed. Yavuz Unat, pp.9 – 22. We are grateful to Professor Yavuz Unat and Professor S. M. Razaullah Ansari for allowing us to publish this article at our website.

1. Introduction

It is well known that during the medieval period of Indian history, the Sultanate (1191–1526) and Mughal (1526–1857) periods, there had been a constant stream of scholars, crafts men and artists particularly from Central Asia, who brought with them knowledge of all sciences into India. As a matter of fact, we may recall that emperor Babur (prior to his conquest of India) had forged an alliance with the Shāh Ismā‛īl I of Persia and his son emperor Humāyūn had bonded a friendship with his son Shāh Tahmāsp (d.1576) . Consequently, even during the following reigns of emperor Akbar (d.1605), Jahāngīr (d.1627) and Shāhjahān (ruled 1627-1658), the cordial relationship with Iranian Safavide rulers, namely Shāh ‛Abbās I (d.1629) and Shāh ‛Abbās II (d. 1666) strengthened further. 1 There exists in the literature an interesting reference that Shah ʻAbbās I sent to Jahāngīr on his request, as gift the original astrolabe of Sultan Ulugh Beg ― the founder of the astronomical observatory at Samarqand in 15th c. The Shah of Iran kept for himself only its copy! 2 Another noteworthy gift by the Shah was a large ruby inscribed with the name of Ulugh Beg, and which was presented to the then prince Shāhjahān by the Iranian ambassador in about 1620–21. 3 Evidently in such a politico– cultural milieu, several scholars/scientists flocked to the courts of Medieval Indian Sultans and Emperors who patronized them liberally and immensely. In this perspective, one may understand the origin of exact science : astronomy and mathematics , the primary sources in Arabic and Persian of which were transmitted to India during the medieval period and which were further developed on the erstwhile Indian subcontinent. 4

2. Babur (reign 1526–1530) and Humāyūn (d.1556)

Babur’s interest in astronomy is corroborated by his visit to Ulugh Beg’s observatory and its brief description in his Memoirs. He even noticed the difference in the direction of Qibla in the Ulugh Beg’s Madrasa and Masjid al–Muqattaʻ, both in Samarqand. He even mentioned an observatory “… in India in the time of Rāja Bikarmājīt, the Hindu, in Ujayyin [ modern Ujjain] and [… another] in Dahār, in the kingdom of Mālwa. The astronomical tables prepared there 1584 years ago are still in use in India…” . 5 He might have promoted astronomy in India after Ulugh Beg’s school of Samarqand, but for his untimely death.

Humāyūn’s Innovations

Naṣīruddīn Muḥammad Humāyūn bin Babur had been a poet, 6 an astronomer and a great patron of scholars and litterateurs. For instance, Humāyūn Nāma is a commentary on al–Qushchī’s Risālah dar ʻIlm-i Hay’at (a tract on the science of astronomy), 7 written by Muṣlaḥuddīn al–Lārī al–Anṣārī (d.1571) and Jawāhar al–ʻUlūm Humāyūnī (an Encyclopedia of Sciences) written by Fāḍil Samarqandī, both dedicated to emperor Humāyūn. 8 The historian Badāyūnī calls Humāyūn a man “adorned with all excellencies and perfections … unequaled in the sciences of astrology and astronomy…”. 9 Similarly the historian Farishtah has to say the following for Humāyūn: 10

He devoted himself … to the sciences of astronomy and geography; and not only wrote dissertations on the nature of elements, but had terrestrial and celestial globes constructed for his use. He also caused seven halls of audience to be built, in which he received persons according to his rank. The st, called the Palace of Moon, was set apart for ambassadors … the second, called the Palace of Ootarid (correct spelling is ʻUṭārud, i.e. Mercury 11), civil officers, … and there were five other palaces for the remaining five planets. In each of these buildings he gave public audience, according to the planet of the day. The furniture and paintings of each as also the dresses of household attendants, bore some symbol emblematical [ i.e. symbolic representation] of the planet.

Farishtah has not given any reference to the Humāyūn’s planetary symbolism. However, it is known today that Ghiyāthuddīn alias Khwāndamīr (d.1535) was commissioned by emperor Humāyūn to write a history of “ rules and ordinances and buildings erected by his order”, also of his innovations and festive celebrations. The title of this uncommon history is Qanūn-i Humāyūnī or Humāyūn Nāma. 12 In this work, an account of a different yet similar ranking of Humāyūn’s courtiers for the purpose of holding meetings /audiences according to planetary symbolism has been described by Humāyūn’s innovation of a “carpet of merriment” (Bisāṭ-i Nashāṭ). 13 On this round carpet all planetary orbits (Aflāk) are represented two-dimensionally as concentric circles, the various colours of which correspond to astrologically assigned colours of planets: Saturn (black), Jupiter(brown), Mars(red), Sun (golden), Venus(green), Mercury (purplish) and Moon (white) , followed by the sublunar arrangements of elements. The various courtiers were seated in circles according to their rank and status evidently. 14 Besides this carpet, another innovation of the emperor was a tent (Khargāh), the inner ceiling of which represented the divisions of zodiacal signs and the (fixed) stars as small holes. In sum it may be stated that even administrative (Dīwānī) work of Humāyūn had a cosmological bearing and astrological– astronomical elements were at the centre of his thinking. In this connection, I wish to underscore here two very significant articles by Eva Orthmann (Bonn) who has published in-depth studies and novel interpretation of Humāyūn’s court culture. Her interpretation is based on astrology in the context of Islamic natural philosophy. 15

Humāyūn was deeply interested in sciences, astrology and cosmology….He is said to have ordered and undertaken astronomical observations and to have interpreted the horoscope of his son Akbar by himself. … Humāyūn was however not only interested in science, but [also] made use of his knowledge to develope an ingenious staging of power which reflected the ideological foundation of his rule.

His Interest in Astronomy

With regard to Humāyūn’s keen interest both in theoretical and practical astronomy, it is also known that his one-time tutor , the astronomer-astrologer , Ilyās Ardbīlī, 16 and another astronomer Sheikh Abul Qāsim Jurjānī used to accompany him regularly and with whom he used to discuss, for instance , the difficult points of Quṭbuddīn Shīrāzī’s Durratul Tāj fī al–Dibāj –– an encyclopedia of sciences and philosophy. 17 Note the importance of Ilyās Ardbelī, who drew the one of the four birth horoscopes of Humāyn’s son Akbar. 18

As for practical astronomy , the poet Sayyid Najmuddīn Aḥmad Kāhī (d. 1580) wrote an eulogy (Qaṣīda) in praise of the emperor and his expertise in the use of astrolabe. 19 In this connection the following is noteworthy. The founder of the Lahore School of astrolabe-makers was Ustād Alahādād known as Asṭurlābī Humāyūnī (flourished ca. 1567), who was invited to Lahore by the Mughal Emperor Humāyūn. He is known today for his two surviving astrolabes. 20 Alahādād’s son, Mullā ‘Īsā Humāyūnī is credited with three extant specimens, though none in India. One undated astrolabe is in a private collection in Cambridge, England. 21

Finally as a tail piece, I wish to add that emperor Humāyūn was also admired for his keen interest in astronomy by the Turkish admiral ʻAlī Ra’īs in his Travelogue (Mir’āt al–Mamālik). After his shipwreck near India, he planned to return to Turkey by the land route. Evidently he visited Humāyūn, who appreciated him and wished that Ra’īs remained permanently at his court as an expert astronomer. On Ra’īs’s insistence to return to his native land, Humāyūn agreed on one condition, cited below in Ra’īs’s own words: 22

After three months of [Indian] rainy season (Barsāt), …I may go back. However, during this period I should indulge myself in the calculation of lunar and solar eclipses, and should teach and help [Indian] astronomers to understand the concepts of solar motion and equator. … I engaged myself accordingly and carried out astronomical observations.

Humāyūn used to carry out his own planetary observation with the help of an astrolabe. 23 In fact, on the day of his death, he was making observation of Venus on the roof of his Library in Delhi. On hearing the call of the prayer he wished to come down and slipped from the stairs; he did not survive the accident and died. 24 His sudden demise did not let the realization of his planned observatory around Delhi, for which even the instruments were acquired. 25

3. Abul Fatḥ Jalāluddīn Akbar (reign 1556–1605)

Emperor Akbar under the influence of his chronicler Abu’l Faḍl (d.1602) and Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī (d. 1588–89 ) proclaimed a decree, according to which it was obligatory for all madrasas to teach the rational sciences, including logic, natural philosophy, mathematics and astronomy etc. Fatḥullāh joined the court of Akbar in AD 1582. He had been a student of astronomer–mathematician Ghiyāthuddīn Manṣūr Shīrāzī (d. 1506) and the logician Jalāluddīn Dawwānī (d.1502). In fact he became famous particularly as a scholar of rational sciences, which he promoted in Mughal India. He headed also a team of Hindu and Muslim scholars to supervise the translation of Zīj-i Ulugh Beg into Sanskrit, as recorded by Abū al-Faḍl in Ā’īn-i Akbari. 26 Fatḥullāh rose to the highest post of ʻAḍud al–Dawlah, (‘Arm of Empire’), awarded to him by Akbar. 27 Note also that Fatḥullāh drew also the birth horoscope of Akbar. 28

Ilāhī Calendar

Fatḥullāh devised the Ilāhī ( Divine) calendar and introduced it during Akbar’s reign, which was even continued during the reigns of his son Jahāngīr and grandson Shāhjahān . It is a true solar calendar; its epoch date was Wed. 28 Rabīʼ II, AH 963/ 11 March 1556 (Julian), which coincided with the vernal equinox (VE) of that year.

To note is that Akbar acceded to the Mughal throne actually 26 days before, i.e. Fri. 2 RabīʼII, AH 963/14 Feb. 1556. However, the Ilāhī era was announced on the day of VE, Wed. 8 Rabīʻ I, AH 992/ 11 March 1584 (Julian) or 21 March 1584 (Gregorian), i.e. the 29th year of Ilāhī era.The farmān (order) was undated, but this date was cited by Abū al-Faḍl in his Akbar Nāmah. Therefore , in the Ilāhī era the year begins strictly with the VE as in Iranian Calendar. The month–names are Persian/ Zoroastrian with the difference that the epithet of Ilāhī is added. For instance, Farwardīn Māh-i Ilāhī, Urdibīhisht Māh-i Ilāhī etc. Māh means month in Persian. Alvi and Rahman (appendix VIII, p. 33) have tabulated these month-names along with their corresponding zodiacal sign. Thus each month begins when the Sun enters in the the corresponding sign. The number days in any month vary between 29 and 32 days, they are not fixed and can be determined by astronomical calculation. 29

Astronomical Writings

  1. 1. At Akbar’s court a manual (karaṇa in Sanskrit) for astronomical/astrological calculations was composed by Rāmachandra, entitled Rāmavinoda, with epoch 11 March 1590. A commentary on the same manual was written after 1602 by a follower, Viśhvanātha. 30
  2. The famous commander and Governor of Gujrat of Akbar’s administration, ʻAbdur Raḥīm Khān-i Khānān (1556–1622) is known to be himself a Sanskrit scholar and writer. “He wrote a Kheṭakautuka on Tājika in verse at the close of sixteenth century” . That is a tract on the “wonders of motion of heavenly bodies” in the Islamic astrology or precisely speaking on the effect of different planets in different houses in one’s horoscope. It is a very interesting mixture of Sanskritized Persian astrological terminology. 31
  3. As mentioned above, Sanskrit translation of Zīj-i Ulugh Beg (ZUB) was carried out by the order of emperor Akbar. The court astrologer-astronomer Mullā Chānd ibn Bahāuddīn wrote an commentary on ZUB, entitled Tashīl Zīj-i Ulugh Begī. The unique copy of the manuscript is extant in Maharaja Mansing II City Palace Library (Jaipur). 32 Mullā Chānd was also present by the order of Humāyūn to be present at the time of birth of his son Akbar, in order to observe the exact time and to make his horoscope. One of the four horoscopes described by Abul Faḍl in his Akbar Nama is in fact by Mullā Chānd. 33 I may add in passing that these four horoscopes of Akbar, viz. cast by Mullā Chānd, a Hindu court astrologer Jotik Rai, Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī, and Ilyās Ardbīlī, have been thoroughly discussed by Eva Orthmann recently, particularly “ their ideological contents and their association with the Dīn-i Ilāhī of Akbar and …finally the importance of astrology in Abul Faḍl’s book and the cause of of its prominence”. 34 Undoubtedly Prof. Orthmann’s recent papers on the importance of astrology have opened a new vista in the study of Mughal history in India.
  4. Ṭayyab Ibrahīm Dihlawī, a respected astronomer during Akbar’s reign wrote a short tract: Risālah dar Taqwīm, of which two manuscript copies are extant in Raza Library, Rampur. In this tract, the dates are according to Ilāhī calendar. He also translated a Sanskrit manual withe title: Muntakhab Ratan Mālā, which he dedicated to ʻAbdur Raḥīm Khān-i Khānān. Its manuscript copy is also extant in Raza Library, Rampur. 35
  5. ‘Abdul Majīd bin Muḥammad Quṭbuddīn Munajjim Akbarshī wrote a tract: Risālah dar Hay’at, during Akbar’s reign. One manuscript is extant in Rampur,and 3 in Pakistan. 36

Practical Astronomy or Observations

Abul Faḍl has reported in his Akbar Nāmah sighting of a number of comets of AD 1264, 1400, 1433, which were however seen outside India. 37 I mention here his account of the comet of 1577 seen in the Indian cities of Agra, Delhi and Lahore and which was also reported by ʻArif Qandhārī and Badāyūnī in their “ Histories of Akbar’s reign”. The exact date of the appearance of the comet was Nov. 7, 1577. It disappeared on Jan. 1, 1578. It was characterized by its long tail and brilliance. 38

Abul Faḍl reported only one solar eclipse, occurring on Akbar’s 35th regnal year (Ilāhī), which corresponds to AD 1590, precisely speaking on Tuesday July 31, 1590 (Gregorian)/ Ramaḍān 29, AH 998. Strangely enough, although 39 solar eclipses were visible in India during Akbar’s reign, none except the above-mentioned was reported by Abul Faḍl et al. 39 In any case, Abul Faḍl had a keen interest in astronomy. For instance, in his Ā’īn-i Akbarī (Vol. III), he presents a summary of known world “Calendars (Taqāwīm) and Zijes ”, in which a short account 19 calendars (Tawārīkh) and a list of 86 Zījes known to him is given. For want of time, we can not go into details. 40

4. Nūruddīn Jahāngīr (reign 1605–1627)

Emperor Jahāngīr was himself a keen observer of natural history. However, he was also interested in natural phenomena. His observations are presented in his Memoirs (Tuzak-i Jahāngīrī).

  1. Jahāngir reported at length the comet of 1618, which was also reported by his chronicler Muʻtamid Khān (d.1639). It was st observed on 26 Oct. 1618, looked like a spear, “ thin at the two ends and curves in the middle like a sickle”. ..After 16 nights it lost its tail and possessed the luminous head.” 41 As a matter of fact, three comets appeared in 1618: (i) Aug.25Sept.25, (ii) Nov.11Dec.9 and (iii) Nov.25Jan.221619. Jahāngīr’s observation falls in the category C-1618 (ii) for which there exist Chinese Korean and Philippine reports also. The European keen interest in this comet is indicated by the writing of 28 monographs  which set includes a short monograph by Kepler himself. 42
  2. Jahāngīr has reported two solar eclipses, namely one occurring to on 5 December , 1610 (Julian), corresponding to his fifth regnal year, and another one occurring on 19 March 1615 (Julian). According to Schram’s tables each of these entries coincides with an annular solar eclipse. 43 Note that Jahāngīr gave dates in Ilāhī calendar and the timing of the ingress and egress of the eclipses in gharīs, the Indian unit of time. 44
  3. Emperor Jahāngīr in his Memoirs, 45 reported a total lunar eclipse occurring on Saturday 13th Shawwāl AH 1018, corresponding to December 29 AD1609 (Julian)/ January 8 1610 (Gregorian). 46 The Emperor also recorded the beginning of the eclipse as 4 gharīs (1 h 36 m) after dusk and its duration as 5 gharīs (2 h). This duration does not agree with another report of the same eclipse by ʻAbdul Ḥamīd Lāhorī who in his Pādshāhnāma (History of Emperor Shāh Jahān) gives the duration as 1h 52 m. 47
  4. The last observation of Jahāngīr concerns a meteorite. He wrote in his Memoirs an account of a meteorite fall in Jalandhar (Punjab) on Rabīʻ II AH 1030 / April 19 AD1621. 48 The stone was about 2 kg. It was a stony iron or siderolite. Later a sword and a dagger was made out of that meteorite. 49

Interest in Astrolabe and Astrology

I have already mentioned that Shah ʻAbbās I sent a gift to Jahāngīr on his request, viz. the original astrolabe of Sultan Ulugh Beg, and the Shah of Iran kept for himself only its copy! 50 Another noteworthy gift by the Shah was a large ruby inscribed with the name of Ulugh Beg, and which was presented to the then prince Khurram (later Shāhjahān ) by the Iranian ambassador in about 1620-21. 51 Recently S.R. Sarma (Aligarh/Düsseldorf) found a bilingual astrolabe with Persian and Sanskrit legends by a Brahman apprentice, named ‘Pandit’, who was an employee of a Muslim astrolabe maker at Jahāngīr’s court. This is a very interesting astrolabe made in the 11th regnal year of Jahāngīr (AD 1616– 1617). It is is extant at the Sampuranand Sanskrit University in Benaras (modern Varānasi). 52

Jahāngīr visited Ujjain in 1617; where he was told about the observatory of Raja Bikarmājīt, about which Bābur mentioned also in his Memoirs. 53 Note that meridian of Ancient India passed through Ujjain (in Arabic Arīn), which was actually the Greenwich of India.

According to recent works, there is evidence that astrology gained momentum during Jahāngīr’s rule. He was proud of his birth under the conjunction of Mercury, Jupiter and Venus in the sign of Scorpio. “He had coins struck showing the signs of Zodiac along with the date of issue and the titles of Emperor. These gold mohurs were distributed from 1020 –1030 AH.” 54

Finally it may be added that Jahāngīr was undoubtedly a learned man. His teacher had been Abul Fayḍ Fayḍī, the brother of Abul Faḍl ‘Allāmī . Jahāngīr knew many languages, was a poet, patronized historians, lexicographer 55 and predominantly artists, since his main interest lay in fine arts, ornithology and zoology , as apparent from numerous entries in his Memoirs. However to my knowledge today, no work on sciences written during this period has come to light to-date.

 Jahāngīr (1605-1628 AD), Zodiac Silver Rupee, 11.36g, Cancer, Ahmadabad Mint, AH 1027/13the regnal year. A crab emerging from the sun, stars visible on the body of the crab with the regnal year at bottom, rev. Zar Ahmedabad ra dad zewar, Shah Jahāngīr Shahenshah Akbar with the date in Hijri. A classic Mughal rarity. Jahāngīr struck five zodiacal signs in Silver from the Ahmedabad mint apart from a few from other mints. A detail explanation of this event has been given in the Tuzuk-e Jahangiri by the Emperor himself." - From Online Catalogue. [Note by the moderator Abhay, Reference :] This beautiful rupee was listed for Auction at New Delhi on 24th March, 2012.

Jahāngīr (1605-1628 AD), Zodiac Silver Rupee, 11.36g, Cancer, Ahmadabad Mint, AH 1027/13the regnal year.
A crab emerging from the sun, stars visible on the body of the crab with the regnal year at bottom, rev. Zar Ahmedabad ra dad zewar, Shah Jahāngīr Shahenshah Akbar with the date in Hijri. A classic Mughal rarity. Jahāngīr struck five zodiacal signs in Silver from the Ahmedabad mint apart from a few from other mints. A detail explanation of this event has been given in the Tuzuk-e Jahangiri by the Emperor himself.” – From Online Catalogue.
[Note by the moderator Abhay,
Reference :]This beautiful rupee was listed for Auction at New Delhi on 24th March, 2012.

5. Abul Muẓaffar Shahābuddīn Muḥammad Shāhjahān ( 1627/28 –1658)

Emperor Shāhjahān is evidently very famous for the mausoleum of his wife Mumtāz Maḥal at Agra, known as Taj Mahal. Besides that he is also known as Ṣahib-i Qiran-i Thānī (Second Lord of the Conjunction), which refers to the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. 56 His court astronomer was Faridūddīn Munahjjim, who joined him just about Emperor’s coronation in 1627. Besides Faridūddīn, another notable natural philosopher, Mullah Maḥmūd Jawnpūrī, famous for his treatise : Shams-i Bāzigha, flourished also during Shāhjahān’s reign. 57

Farīduddīn Munajjim Dihlawī (d. 1629)

Farīduddīn bin Ḥafiẓ Ibrāhīm Dihlawī was born in a famous learned family. His elder brother Ṭayyab Ibrahīm Dihlawī had been an astronomer and also astrolabe maker. 58 Farīduddīn attended the famous madrasa of Shāh Niẓām of Nārnol. Later he became a disciple of Fatḥullāh Shīrāzī in mathematical sciences and renowned himself as an expert of astronomy (Ḥay’at) and astrology ( Nujūm), so much so that he was commissioned to cast horoscope of the son of Sultan Ibrāhīm ‘Ādil Shāh, born in AD 1613. It is extant in Berlin (MS. 83/4). ‘Ādil Shāh II ruled Bījāpūr (1580–1627). The historian Farishtah dedicated his famous History of India to the Sultan, hence its title: Gulshan-i Ibrāhīmī. 59

Farīduddīn started his career in the service of Emperor Akbar’s Governor, ʻAbdur Raḥīm Khān-i Khānān up to AD1615. His three well known writings are as follows.

  1. Sirājul Istikhrāj, a short manual for astronomical calculation, dedicated to his patron Khān-i Khānān. He wrote it in 1597-98. Three manuscripts are extant in Indian libraries ( 2 in Hyderbad, 1 in Aligarh), 1 each in National Museum Karachi (Pakistan), British (formerly in India Office) Library( London), and St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) Library.
  2. Zij-i Raḥīmī, compiled in in 1615/1617, and dedicated again to Khān-i Khānān. A unique copy of this Zīj is extant in the Library of Āstān-i Quds Raḍawī (Mashhad). 60
  3. Zij-i Shāhjahānī dedicated to Emperor Shāhjahān was compiled about in 1629, when he joined his court. It was written in collaboration with his elder brother Ṭayyab Dihlawī and under the supervision of Emperor’s grand Vizier, Āṣaf Khān. It is one of the st important Zij of Mughal India. Out of its 14 manuscripts in world libraries, 5 mss. are extant on the erstwhile Indian subcontinent. They are in the manuscripts libraries in Lahore, Hyderabad, Rampur, and Jaipur (acquired by Raja Jai Singh in 1725). 61 To note is that on the advice of Āṣaf Khān, Shāhjahān ordered that the Persian text of this Zīj should be translated into Sanskrit. The order was carried out in 1630 by Nityānanda, the Brahman Court astronomer of Shāhjahān. Four copies of this text are extant in the royal library in Jaipur.

In passing, I may add that the philosopher and expert of physical science, Mullā Maḥmūd Jawnpūrī wished to establish an astronomical observatory. He went to Delhi and convinced the emperor of the importance of his project. However, he did not succeed but for the intrigues of ministers. 62

6. Conclusion

I wished I had time to present here a comparative study of Indian and Turkish scientific scenario during the sixteenth–seventeenth centuries. However, it is sufficient to add that the court administration and culture were somewhat different in the two countries. Mughal emperors did not exercise any force or pressure on the madrasa education system generally. Learned scholars teaching in madrasa and those attached to the courts were working independently and some time almost without any interaction. This was presumably not the case in Ottoman’s empire. The Sultans were in proximity with the well developed neighboring Islamic Countries and by the end of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries also with West European countries, whose influence and interaction could not be overlooked.The result was that the Turkish educational system felt the pressure of development and was forced to change gradually. This compulsion was completely absent in Medieval India and the educational system became stagnant and obsolete. Despite these remarks, I hope that more detailed comparative studies are required in order to understand the complex scenario of the Indian and Turkish societies.


I am extremely indebted to Prof. Melek Dosay Gökdoğan( Ankara) and Prof Y. Unat (Kastamonu) for inviting me to the Aydin Sayili Centenary Symposium, and especially for a generous support and very friendly care. I mention here my sincere appreciation for the patience with which Prof. Gökdoğan has tolerated my very late submission of this contribution. Thanks are also due to Prof. Eva Orthmann (Bonn) to give me her valuable time and for putting at my disposal copies of her significant work.


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  • Asghar, Aftab (1980), “ A Short Account of Calendars and Zījes”, Excerpts from Ā’īn-i Akbarī, in Mujallah’-i Taḥqīq, Vol. 3, No. 1, Special Issue of 1500th Hijrī, Punjab University (Lahore), pp. 95–112.
  • Badāyūnī, ʻAbdul Qādir (1615), Muntakhab-ut-Tawārīkh, translated from Persian into English by George S.A. Ranking, in three volumes. For Humāyūn, see Vol. I, pp. 559 ff. Published by Academica Asiatica, Patna 1973. Hereafter I refer it as Badayuni /Ranking. The translator has wrongly spelled the author’s name as Badaoni. Actually Badāyūn is the native city of ʻAbdul Qādir.
    (van) Dalen, Benno, see Van Dalen, Benno.
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  • Farishtah, Muḥammad Qāsim Hindū Shāh (1609), Gulzār-i Ibrāhīmī, Tārīkh-i Farishtah, translated from Persian into English by John Briggs, in four volumes. st edition London 1829, reprinted Calcutta 1966, hereafter referred as Farishtah/Briggs. For Humāyūn see Vol.I, p. 44 ff.
  • Gulbadan Bégam (1583), Humāyūn Nāmah ( “The History of Humāyūn”). Translated into English with introduction, notes, illustrations and reproduction of Persian text of the manuscript of BM (London) by Annette S. Beveridge. st time published from London, reprinted by Idārāh Adabiyāt-i Dillī, Delhi 1972.
  • Hadi, Nabi (1985), “Jawāhar al–ʻUlūm Humāyūnī”, Studies in History of Medicine and Science (New Delhi). Vol. IX, No. 1–2, pp. 57–64.
  • Khan, Mohammad A.R. (1935), “A Forgotten Indian Meteorite”, Nature, Vol. 135, No. 3401, January 5, p. 39.
  • Khan,Mohammad A.R.(1946), “Muslim Contribution to Meteoric Astronomy”, Islamic Culture, Vol. 20, pp. 353–361.
  • Krynicki, Annie Krieger (2005), Captive Princes Zebunissa: The Daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb, translated from French by Enjum Hamid. Karachi, Oxford University Press.
  • Jahāngīr (1863-64), Tuzuk-i Jahāngīrī (Memoirs of Jahāngīr) Persian Text edited by Syud Ahmad Khan Ghazipur and Aligarh English translation by A. Rogers and edited by H. Beveridge recent reprint in 2 volumes Delhi 1968 esp. Vol. II.
  • Khwāndamīr, Ghiyāthuddīn (1531), Qanūn-i Humāyūnī or Humāyūn Nāma. Persian text edited by Hidayat Hosain, 1940, Bibliotheca Indica No. 260, Calcutta, Royal Asiatic Society. Translated into English by Baini Prashad, entitled, Qanūn-i Humāyūnī of Khwāndamīr, A Work on the Rules and Ordinances established by the Emperor Humāyūn and on Some Buildings erected by his Order. Calcutta, 1940.
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  • Orthmann, Eva (2005), “Circular Motions: Private Pleasure and Public Prognostication in the Nativities of the Mughal Emperor Akbar”, in Günther Oestmann, H. Darrel Rutkin and Kocku von Stuckrad (Eds.): Horoscopes and Public Spheres: Essays on the History of Astrology, Berlin & New York, S. 101–14. [Series: Religion and Society, edited by G. Benavides and K.von Stuckrad, Vol. 42].
  • Orthmann, Eva (2008), “Sonne, Mond und Sterne, Kosmologie und Astrologie in der Inszenierung von Herrschaft unter Humāyūn”, in, L. Korn, E. Orthmann, F. Schwarz (Hrsg), Die Grenzen der Welt, Arabica et Iranica ad honorem Heinz Gaube, pp. 297–306, Reichert Verlag, Wiebaden (Germany).
  • Orthmann, Eva (2011), “ Court Culture and Cosmology in the Mughal Empire. Humāyūn and the Foundations of the Dīn-i Ilāhī ”, in Court Cultures in the Muslim World, Seventh to Nineteenth Centuries, edited by Albrecht Fuess and Jan–Peter Hartung, London, Routledge, pp. 202–220.
  • Pingree, David (1981), Jyotiḥśāstra Astral and Mathematical Literature Vol.6 fasc. 4 of the Series, A History of Indian Literature Ed. Jan Gonda Otto Harrassowitz Wiesbaden Germany.
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  • Rosenfeld, Boris A. and Ihsanoğlu, Ekmeleddin (2003), Mathematicians, Astronomers, and Other Scholars of Islamic Civilization and their Works (7th–19th c.). Istanbul. Research Centre for Islamic History Art and Culture (IRCICA), 833 pages.
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  1. Riazul Islam (1970), Preface, p. xxi; see also chapters IV-VI.
  2. Ibid. p. 72.
  3. Ibid. p.80. Riazul Islam quotes here Tūzuk-i Jahāngīrī , translated by Rogers and edited by Beveridge, Vol.II, pp. 195-196.
  4. For a review on Islamic Astronomy and its Transmission into India, see also Ansari (1995), Appendix I.
  5. Sayili, pp. 264,275, 276, 358. Sayili concludes also that the Ujjain observatory dated back to the st century BC.
  6. The manuscript of his Diwān is extant in Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna (India), Ms. No. 1259. It was also edited and published by Hadi Hasan (Aligarh).
  7. For details cf. Ansari (1995), Appendix I, p. 293.
  8. Hadi (1985), and Ansari (1985)
  9. Badayuni/ Ranking, p. 602.
  10. Farishtah / Briggs, pp. 44 – 45.
  11. Briggs ( p.45, f.n. 29) has wrongly identified it with Venus, which is Zuhrah in Arabic/Persian.
  12. See the Bibliography for reference to text and its English translation.
  13. See details with references in the st paper by Shaukat Ansari (pp. 259–262), and the recent work by
    Orthmann (2011, pp. 205–206), who has also given a layout of the carpet in Fig.11.3, p. 213. Cf. The remark about her interpretation above.
  14. Orthmann (2011), pp. 204–205. For more detailed interpretation, refer to Orthmann (2008), pp. 299 – 303.
  15. Orthmann (2011), p. 203, emphasis mine.
  16. Cf. Badāyūnī / Ranking, Vol. III, p.190–191.
  17. Nadwī, Sulaimān (Vol.I, p. 260–261) refers to original sources, e.g, Akbar Nāmah of Abu’l Faḍl, Badāyūnī, etc. For Quṭbuddīn‘s Encyclopaedia see Rosenfeld and Ihsanoğlu, No. 668, pp. 233–234.
  18. Abul Faḍl, Akbar Nama, Beveridge, Eng. tr. , Vol. I , p. 117 ff. , as quoted by Orthmann (2005, p.105), who gives also a figure and discusses it at length.
  19. Abu’l Faḍl, Ā’īn-i Akbarī, pp. 636–637.
  20. One is in the Sālār Jung Museum in Hyderabad (dated 1567) and the second undated specimen is in the History of Science Museum (Oxford).
  21. See Ansari (2011, p. 104). Fig 3 of this astrolabe supplied to me by S.R. Sarma (2008, p. 38). The other two astrolabes are in the Adler Museum in Chicago (dated 1601 and 1604), cf. Pingree (2009). For a general survey of Lahore school of astrolabe makers, especially the descendants of Alahādād, see Sarma (1994).
  22. Nadwī, Sulaimān (Vol.I, p. 262) has quoted Vambery’s edition of the Travelogue (8th chapter) and translated the citation into Urdu, which I have retranslated into English; the edition is not available to me, see Ra’īs/Vambéry in the Bibliography for reference to the edition. See also a few more details about his
    visit in Gulbadan Begum/ Beveridge, Introduction, pp. 52–53.
  23. Cf. His sister Gulbadan Begam’s remark ( in her history , Humāyūn Nāmah, English tr. p.151) that he picked up an astrolabe to find the auspicious moment of a marriage ceremony. The poet Kāhī, who was himself an expert astronomer , in one of his Odes has also eulogized Humāyūn and his expertise in the use of astrolabe as mentioned before.
  24. Badayuni/ Ranking, p. 600.
  25. Cf. Abul Fadl, Akbar Nāma, Vol. 1, p.396, Nawal Kishore Press (Lucknow), as quoted by Nadwi, p. 265.
  26. Edition(Calcutta 1927 ), p. 110.
  27. Ref. Alvi and Rahman (2011, pp. 1-4), and their notes on Dawwānī and Manṣūr in appendix I and II, p. 29.
  28. Abul Faḍl, Akbar Nama, Beveridge, Eng. tr. , Vol. I , p. 94 ff. , as quoted by Orthmann (2005, p.104), who gives also a figure and discusses it at length.
  29. For further details and discussion, cf. Ansari (2014), forthcoming.
  30. Pingree (1981), p.37.
  31. Pingree (1981, p.99) for more details for its Hindi and English translation etc. Tājika is etymologically
    a word of Pahlavī; it refers to the Sanskrit adaptation of Persian astrology, Ibid.p. 97. I thank Bala Chandra Rao (Bangalore) for his clarifications in this connection.
  32. Cf. For details in Ghori (1985), pp. 31–32.
  33. Abul Faḍl, Akbar Nama, Beveridge , Eng. tr. , Vol. I , p. 69 ff. , as quoted by Orthmann (2005, p.104), who gives also a figure and discusses it at length.
  34. Cf. Orthmann (2005), p.102. I am very grateful that she presented to me her recent work with which I have benefited a lot.
  35. See the Rampur Catalogue of Persian Mss., pp. 339, 344, and 488 respectively.
  36. Ibid, p. 338. According to Monzavi( pp.316–317) two mss. are in Lahore and one is in Peshawar.
  37. Cf. details in Ansari (2002), p.256.
  38. Ibid. p. 256 –257. Note that Tycho Brahe carried out observations of this comet very accurately and
    thereby concluded that comets belong to interplanetary space and not to terrestrial atmosphere.
  39. Ibid. p. 258.
  40. The list of zijes has been reproduced by Ghori(1985), Appendix A, pp. 45–47. The relevant text of Abul Faḍl is edited and published by Asghar (1980), pp. 95–112.
  41. Ansari (2002), p. 257. For the Persian text with its English translation and more description, see Alvi and Rahman (1968), pp.137–138.
  42. The title is “De Cometis Libelli Tres” see Ansari, op. cit. for original references, also for the sighting of comets by other Indian astronomers.
  43. Ansari( 2002, pp. 258–259) discusses the dates in details, gives the English translation of the Persian text of the second eclipse, and relevant references.
  44. The units for the division of time in India are: 1 day = 60 gharīs (gh) 1 gh = 60 pal 1 pal = 60 bapal. That is 1 gh = 24 m 1 pal = 24 sec 1 bapal = 24 thirds.
  45. Jahāngīr / Rogers’ translation Vol. I p. 160.
  46. Cf. Alvi and Rahman (1968, p.136) whose Gregorian date is short by one day.
  47. Ansari ( 2002, p.260) has cited Moosavi (Aligarh), who explained this discrepancy by assuming that the
    unit of nocturnal gharī (ngh) used by Jahāngīr is shorter than the normal, i.e. 1 ngh = 22 m 24 s,
  48. Alvi and Rahman (1968) give both Persian text and its translation pp.139140.
  49. For the st report about this meteorite see Khan (1935) p. 35. M.A.R. Khan of Hyderabad was an expert of meteoric astronomy; see also Khan (1946).
  50. Riazul Islam(1970) , p. 72. This fact has not been mentioned by Jahāngīr in his Memoirs. Riaz discovered it in a manuscript of British Museum.
  51. Ibid. p.80. Riazul Islam quotes here Tūzuk-i Jahāngīrī , translated by Rogers and edited by Beveridge, Vol.II, pp. 195-196.
  52. Sarma (2011), gives an exhaustive description of this huge instrument. Contrary to usual astrolabes, the maker has inscribed on this specimen various calendric eras also.
  53. Cf. Section 2, and Jahāngīr’s Tuzak (English Tr.) Vol. 1, p. 553.
  54. Krynicki (2005), p. 10, in which the original references are given.
  55. For instance Iqbāl Nāma’-i Jahāngīrī by Muʻtamid Khān (in 1607) and Farhang-i Jahāngīrī by Jamāluddīn Shīrāzī (in 1608), whose compilation is said to be based on 53 lexicons of his times.
  56. The First Lord of the Conjunction refers to Ṣahib-i Qiran Amir Timūr (born on 8 April 1336). It was the conjunction of Jupiter and Mars in the zodiacal sign of Taurus, as quoted by Or thmann (2005), p. 111, f.n. 35.
  57. See the most recent article in EI (3) by Asad Ahmad.
  58. See section 3, subsection “Astronomical Writings”.
  59. Storey (1972), p. 89.
  60. For details of this and the following Zīj, see Ansari (2014, forthcoming), “The Compilation of Zijes in India ”.
  61. For further details , see Rosenfeld and Ihsanoglu, p. 307. Van Dalen (2007, p. 146) has given detailed content.
  62. Abul Faḍl, Akbar Nāma (Text), Vol. I, p. 368.