The concept of tides in ancient India

Panikkar, N. K. ; Srinivasan, T. M. (1971) The concept of tides in ancient India Indian Journal of History of Science, 6 (1). pp. 36-50. ISSN 0019-5235

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Since the beginning of the Proto-historic period, the 'ebb and flow' of the coastal wators of Kathiawar were observed by the Harappans and they were the first to utilize the phenomenon effectively for berthing ships in the dockyard which they had constructd at Lothal, Ahmedabad district of Gujarat. But there is no evidence to show that they had any scientific understanding or cosmic explanations to explain tidal phenomena. The cumulative evidence from the Vedas, Upanisads, Samhitas, epics, Puranas and early literary works in Tamil and later works in Sanskrit show that the ancients had not only observed this physical phenomenon but also evolved a causal concept by linking it with the moon. The Matsya Purana, particularly, gives detailed descriptions. Classical Greek authors and travellers have commented on tides. Arrian, while narrating the exploits of Alexander the Greak in India, makes distinct montion of the 'ebb and flow' at the Gulf of the Indus as observed by Alexander. The most absorbing account is found in the Periplus Maris Erithrei (A.D. 65) writton by an anonymous Egyptian or Greek navigator. His personal observation about the place of occurrence of tides and the exact causes and effects of the phenomenon taking place in the Gulf of Barygaza (the modern Broach) are fairly accurate descriptions. The subjects in relation to all these observations is discussed.

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