Question: Many people (flat earth supporters) say that Bharata-khanda [our earth planet] is flat because it is just an island (dvipa) as it is mentioned in Visnu and Vayu Puranas, not as a globe. What is your opinion of the flat earth theory? If it is flat, then how can we explain day-night changes, because a flat surface will have sunlight twenty-four hours a day, 360 days a year. The sun is not a small object that only brightens 500 yojanas (4,000 miles) area and not even 1,000 yojanas area. Then Bharata-khanda should be in conical shape (like a mountain or temple gopuram) to explain the day-night changes as we experience. Then what about main stream science that speaks about globular earth with its day-night changes and change in seasons?
Danavir Goswami: We don’t find a description in the sastras of Jambudvipa as being spherical—circular yes, spherical no. Regarding the earth we live on which is called Bharata-khanda, it appears that it is a completely round sphere. Here is the evidence using sastra caksus (seeing through the eyes of the sastras- scriptures) and hearing from the acaryas. Below see a quotation from Siddhanta siromani and a note (commentary) by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.
It is said that the circumference of the earth is 4,967 yojanas and its diameter is 1,581 yojanas. If we subtract the latitudes of the two places situated north and south of each other, multiply that difference with the circumference of the earth and divide this product with 360, we can determine the distance between them in yojanas.*
*Bimala Prasada Siddhanta Saraswati’s Note: According to Aryabhata, the circumference of the earth is 1050 yojanas(Aryasiddhantanuvada, page 3). According to SriSurya-siddhanta the circumference of the earth is 1,600 yojanas (page 9). According to Prof. Beschel, the longest radius of earth is 3962.802 miles and the shortest radius is 3949.555 miles (see Golaadhyaya Page 34). (Siddhanta Siromani p.151)
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta is placing forward four authoritative opinionsregarding the circumference of the earth we live on (Bharata-khanda).
The terms “circumference” and “diameter” are given in the singular indicating that in all four views, earth (Bharata–khanda) is taken as a round sphere. The definition of a “circumference” is, “the outer boundary, especially of a circular area; perimeter.” The definition of a “diameter” is, “a straight line passing through the center of a circle or sphere and meeting the circumference or surface at each end.” The earth Bharata–khandais spherical round that accommodates the view of day and night and the seasons.
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura construes the earth to be a round sphere and uses Surya siddhanta, Siddhanta Siromani, Aryabhata and Western Scientist Professor Beschel as authorities to corroborate this fact. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta may well be one of the most qualified persons to explain Vedic cosmology because he is at once a master of Siddhantic Vedic astronomy and also a master of Puranic sastra, in particular, of Bhagavata Purana.
The planet earth we live on is located on the southern-most portion of Bhu-mandala’s central island of Jambudvipa.
This portion called Bharatavarsa was originally a contiguous land mass but long ago it was drastically re-formed by the incredible digging of Emperor Sagara’s sixty thousand sons. They dug so extensively that most of Bharatavarsa became submerged into the saltwater ocean leaving only nine globular islands each with an 8,000 mile (one thousand yojanas) diameter. One of these nine islands is our earth planet known primarily as Bharata–khaëòa, also known as “Kumara,” “Kumarika,” “Sagarasambhrta,” and so forth.
Satasrnga was Bharata’s son. Eight sons and a daughter were born to Satasrnga. They were Indradvipa, Kasheru, Taamradvipa, Gabhastimaan, Naaga, Saumya, Gandharva and Varuëa. The girl’s name was Kumarika. Eight sons and a daughter were born to him. He divided this Bharata sub-continent into nine regions. Eight of them he gave to his eight sons and the ninth one to Kumari.(Skanda Purana)
There are eight other continents viz. Indradvipa, Kaserukman, Tamraparna, Gabhastiman, Nagadvipa, Saumya, Gandharva, Varuna. This continent (Bharata) situated in the sea is the ninth one. This continent extends from the south to the north for a thousand yojanas (8,000 miles). (Kurma Purana)
I shall mention nine subdivisions of the Bharata Varsa to you—Indradyumna, Kaseru, Tamravarna, Gabhastimat, Nagadvipa, Saumya, Gandharva, Varuna and the ninth is the sub-continent Sagarasambhrta. This sub-continent lies north to south extending to a thousand yojanas (8,000 miles). (Siva Purana)
Bharatavarsa has nine divisions; Viz.—Indradvipa, Kasera, Tamraparni, Gabhastimana, Nagadvipa, Saumya, Gandharva, Varuna; and the ninth is this place, surrounded on all sides by the ocean. The whole of the dvipa is a thousand yojanas (8,000 miles) in extent, from north to south.(Matsya Purana, Chapter 14, texts 7-10)
Within Bharata-varsa, there are nine khandas. They are known as (1) Aindra, (2) Kasheru, (3) Taamraparëa, (4) Gabhastimaat, (5) Kumarika, (6) Naaga, (7) Saumya, (8) Varuëa and (9) Gandharva. (Siddhanta-siromani, Chapter One “Goladhyaya”, Bhuvana-kosha section)
The north-south distance of 1,000 yojanas (8,000 miles) is constant among the Puranas. This north-south distance can be taken as the diameter of Bharata–khanda, which means the circumference is about 25,000 miles.
We may note that there is agreement between the Puranic literature and Siddhantic literature on the specific nine islands created by Sagara’s sons. Furthermore, there is concurrence on the spherical nature of earth which is coincidentally supported by the western scientific view also. The Bhagavata Purana refers to the earth as a globe in the following verses: 3.21.36 (mahim), 4.9.51 (mandalam), 4.18.29 (bhu-mandalam); 4.21.36 (ksoni-tale); 4.21.48 (prthvyah), 4.24.10 (vasudha-talam)5.7.1 (avani-tala); 6.11.8 (gam), 7.3.5 (bhuù); 8.7.26 (ksitim), 8.19.5 (mahim), 10.68.46(bhu-mandalam), 12.2.7 (ksiti-mandale).
There are also references to the planet Rahu as being the spherical shape made of the earth’s shadow.
Rahu controls the shadow of the earth which is circular in shape. (Sridhara Swami on Canto 5, Chapter 57, texts 10-13)
Rahu has been created after taking out the shadow of the earth and has a spherical shape. (Brahmanda Purana, Kurma Purana)
Question: Do you agree that basically, the main explanation of the difference between the Vedic descriptions and modern cosmology boils down to our inability to perceive the “subtle characteristics” of the universe?
Danavir Goswami: Yes, I would agree with that. Modern science uses mathematics, physics, etc., along with radio telescopes, powerful cameras, space craft and other info-acquiring equipment to gather data from observations. Then the data is analyzed and formulated into assumptions, hypotheses and theories. If a theory becomes popular, it is taken as fact for the time being until a more popular theory comes along.
Some of the primary postulates of modern astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology would include: the origin of the universe, the age of the universe, the purpose of the universe, how the universe acquired order and precision, the size of our universe, whether life exists on other planets, etc. Unfortunately, modern science lacks the ability to satisfactorily supply this information.
If science is lacking actual knowledge in all these areas mentioned above, one might ask, how then can science predict eclipses? The answer is that certain aspects of our universe may be predicted accurately based on experiencing the cyclical and regulated functions of nature. For example, any relatively experienced person can predict that the sea water will cover more of the shoreline during high tide and less during low tide. With a little more experience he can calculate the patterns of the tides’ changes and accurately predict more or less shore coverage. Similarly, a person who studies the past records of an area can predict accurately that for areas in the northern hemisphere, the average temperature in January will be such and such degrees less than in July.
Making predictions about future astronomical occurrences are based on experience and observation. However, there is another method for getting this information which is from higher authorities. Vedic cosmology receives much information from higher authorities as well as some support from mathematics such as trigonometry. The knowledge acquired from higher authorities surpasses that which is derived from experience, observation and hypothesis. A major drawback of modern science is that some of its assumptions hold that there exists nothing beyond what humans can perceive with their senses. This excludes the existence of higher dimensional principles including souls (atmas), a supreme all-powerful intelligent designer (paramatma) or any other aspects of the supernatural.
Question: But, what about what we can perceive with advanced technology (like the photographs taken by the Hubble telescope?) How does Vedic cosmology explain the image above, for example (taken with a visible light camera and an infrared camera)?
Danavir Goswami: Believing that because modern science can provide us with colorful, spectacular images of the night sky therefore all its theories are factual is illogical. The asuras were so captivated by beautiful Mohini murti’s looks that they trusted her with the nectar they had nearly died to acquire. She deceived the asuras and they lost the nectar.
What we see in the photograph (above) appears to be planets or astro bodies floating in space surrounded by some other matter that seems to form cloud-like appearances. The photograph does not inform us how, when or why the universe began, how the universe is being managed with its ordered complexities. It doesn’t tell us whether life exists on other planets, nor does it tell us the distances between the astro bodies in space.
In 2018 modern astronomy experts inform that the distance from earth to the furthest visible galaxy is approximately thirty-two billion light-years. Some students say that unless they get tangible evidence to support that assumption, they cannot believe it. The convincing way to acquire the evidence would be to send a high-velocity manned-spaceship to measure the time it takes to reach the distant galaxy. If the spaceship could travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) it would take thirty-two billion years to reach the distant galaxy. With an average lifespan of 80 years per astronaut, 400 million generations would be required to sustain the mission. That’s far too long to wait for the evidence.
Perhaps it would be preferable to avoid the trouble of sending a manned-spacecraft and instead bounce a laser beam off the distant galaxy. This would be much cheaper and would only require a powerful laser beamer, travel time and personnel to monitor the beam’s progress in space and its moment of contact with the target. Scientists today are hoping in this generation to beam a laser to a closer galaxy, Alpha Centauri, (4.24 light-years from the sun) which would only take twenty years to reach. At that rate, however, it would require about 160 billion years for a laser beam to reach the farthest galaxy. That’s approximately 2.46 billion generations of earth-based lab experts that would be needed to track the beam’s progress in space and to see the project through to success. This is far too long to wait for evidence.
In the astronomical map above (dated 1860 A.D.) included in Ebenezer Burgess’s translation of the Surya Siddhanta from Sanskrit to English,it is interesting to note the following. Many of the constellations accepted by Western science such as (Orion, Bootes, Coma, Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Cetus, Eridanus, Monoceros, Canis Minor, Hydra, Crater, Corvus, Serpens, Serpentarius, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus, Pegasus, Delphin, Aquiea and Scorpius), are placed along with the Vedic signs of the zodiac (rashis)namely (Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, Sagittarius, Scorpio, Libra, Virgo, Leo, Cancer, Gemini, Taurus and Aries) as well as many Vedic stars, namely (Punarvasu, Puñya, Ardra, Aslesa, Abhijit, Sravana, Mula, Magha, Anuradha, Mågasira, Satabhisa, Jyestha, Revati, Asvini, Bharani, Kåttika, Rohiëi, Hasta, Citra, Svati, Vishakha, Phalguni, Asadha, and Bhadrapada). This indicates that the Vedic cosmological paradigm with its zodiac and stars also accommodates the constellations cited by Western astronomers. In other words, the four billion mile inside diameter ofthe brahmanda (round egg shaped universe that we live in) encompasses space, oceans, stars, planets and earth that we can see. This is described in the Vedas such as the Puranas, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Garga Samhita, Brahma Samhita, and the Jyoti sastras.
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For more info, please visit: http://www.vediccosmology.com/
Astronomical Image processing – a primer
By Ananda Jagannath Das (communicatiuons assistant to Danavir Goswami)
The astronomical images we see on the web such as the Westerlund2star cluster seen in Question#3 is a processed image from raw data obtained from the Hubble Space Telescope. The telescope is stationed approximately 350 miles above the earth’s surface and is designed to capture light from distant galaxies. The raw data is in greyscale pixels. According to the different wavelengths of light, different light filters are applied by scientists to the raw images to obtain a colorful picture that is visible to the human eye. Graphics enhancement programs such as FITS Liberator is used for this purpose. Because there is human interpretation of raw data, it is prone to error and can be falsified in the future with advancement in technology. Therefore, astronomical images cannot be interpreted as the actual visual truth.
According to one popular science website, creating raw images involves freedom on the part of the scientist. “When processing raw science images one of the biggest problems is that, to a large degree, you are ‘creating’ the image and this means a colossal freedom within a huge parameter space…There are some fundamental scientific principles that should normally be observed, but the rest is a matter of aesthetics — taste”
https://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator/improc/– accessed January 13, 2019
http://hubble.stsci.edu/– accessed January 13, 2019
https://www.space.com/8059-truth-photos-hubble-space-telescope-sees.html – accessed January 7, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAL2VrHWRQ0– accessed January 7, 2019
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LvY1nQibyo– accessed January 7, 2019
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Kulavati Krishnapriya Devi Dasi, ISKCON News Staff Writer
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Rati Gopika Devi dasi
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