From the flat earth to the sun's chariot traditional spiritual texts seem wedded to outmoded cosmologies that show, at best, the scientific limitations of their authors. The Bhagavata Purana, one of the classical scriptures of Hinduism, seems, at first glance, to be no exception. However, a closer examination of this text reveals unexpected depths of knowledge in ancient cosmology. This shows that the cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana is a sophisticated system, with multiple levels of meaning that encode at least four different astronomical, geographical, and spiritual world models. By viewing the text in the light of modern astronomy, Richard Thompson shows how ancient scientists expressed exact knowledge in apparently mythological terms. Comparison with the ancient traditions of Egypt and the Near East shows early cultural connections between India and these regions including a surprisingly advanced science. However, quantitative science is only part of the picture. This work also offers a clear understanding of how the spiritual dimension was integrated into ancient Indian cosmology.
Introduction to Bhagavata Cosmology, 1. Introduction to Texts, 2. The Islands and Oceans of Bhu-mandala, 3. The Solar System in Projection, 4. The Solar system in three Dimensions, 5. The Earth and Local Geography, 6. The Realm of the Demigods, 7. The Greater Universe, 8. Notes on Time and Chronology, 9. General Observations, Appendices, Bibliography, List of tables, Glossary, Index.
"This is a very original book, and it represents an important advance in the understanding of the cosmology described in the famed Bhagavata Purana of India. Thompson looks at this cosmology from several points of view and he presents a compelling case showing that this cosmology as intended to have multiple meanings, the span, the terrestrial, the astronomical, and the spiritual planes." - Prof. Subash Kak, Louisiana State University
"Thompson takes us back in time when man regarded himself an integral part of the cosmos and shows us how, in a strange way, such a system as the Bhagavatam cosmology bears an uncanny harmony with modern astronomy. More important and interesting is the way Thompson shows how the Bhagavatam literature present visual astronomy in geographical and mythological settings which, in this respect, is very cosmologies of other ancient cultures of the world...Gripping, scholarly and ground-breaking, this deserves to be widely read and discussed." - Robert G. Bauval, Author of The Orion Mystery and co-author of The Message of the Sphinx
"Dr. Thompson has a talent that may well be unique in our times: the ability to take complex, esoteric ideas that require high level mathematics, specialized technical expertise, and a familiarity with scholarship that spans the history of civilized humanity, and presenting them to lay reader in a narrative style that is as user-friendly as a novel, but packed with sound reasoning, solid scholarship, and impressive empirical research" - Prof. William W. Wall Santa Fe Community College, Florida
"Mr. Thompson's premise is that the system of the Bhagavatam includes some modern understandings of the science of astronomy, not just mythology... If the reader can judge what is not science, putting aside the non-science aspects of the cosmology, it seems clear that there are indeed a number of references to known scientific aspects of the sky in the Bhagavatam." - Jeanne E. Bishop, Planetarium Director, Westlake, Ohio
"A revolution in our understanding of the cosmology of the Puranas is the making here. This book offers a way of reading ancient Indian texts that is profoundly interesting, that overturns a long history of scholarly undervaluation of the supposedly 'only mythological' contents of Puranic literature." - Prof. Gene R. Thursby University of Florida
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