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