Astronomy may be described as the earthly pursuit of celestial objects. It has inspired brilliant science and also fooled brilliant scientists. It is perhaps the oldest, most organized and most methodical of sciences, but it has influenced and in turn been influenced by religions, superstitions, politics, wars and importantly, mathematics. It has gone through brief periods of brilliance and long periods of stasis. Astronomers have started some wars and stopped at least one.
Indian astronomy has its roots in the Vedanga jyotisa sastra. It was later developed under several siddhantas like the Surya Siddhantha, Paitamaha Siddhantha and Vaasishta Siddhantha, until the arrival of the great astronomer, Aryabhata, whose works provoked admiration, commentary, refutation, correction and a school of astronomy that lasted over a thousand years, especially in Kerala.
The oldest civilizations of Mesopotomia, Egypt, Greece, India, China and Meso America performed methodical observations of the night sky. They have left us a wealth of interesting artifacts, literature, symbols. It is fascinating how much their methods have differed even though the objects of their observations have been mostly the same.
The first lecture will discuss Astronomy of Ancient Cultures, their Number systems, calendars, interpretation of celestial events and cultural perceptions. It will also discuss the development of zero in different cultures and ancient astronomical instruments, and lost and languishing manuscripts.
The second lecture on Indian Astronomy will discuss the major phases in Indian astronomy and the works of geniuses like Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Brahmagupta, Bhaskara, Paramesvara and Nilakanta Somyyaji; the various schools, debates and controversies that raged over a thousand years (some still continue); influence of Babylonians and Greeks, effect on Arabs, Persians and Europeans.