When it comes to astronomy, India has always been at its forefront leading other civilisation through the stars with simple and efficient mathematical calculations. Our Vedic texts holds key to many astronomical discoveries that were made in the World in the past. However, these achievements never saw the fanfare that’s usually accompanied by today’s astronomical discoveries. Some of the earliest inventions/sightings in this field can be dated back to the Indus valley civilization. While other cultures were struggling with mediocre societal problems, we ruled the stars through a series of curious minds who were well-versed in mathematics and calculations.
Astronomers like Aryabhata, Bhaskara & Madhava put forth mind-blowing discoveries of our cosmic in the form of simple calculations and proven theories, many of which are used till now for references. Indians can proudly attest to this fact that we come from these highly knowledgeable scientists who discovered planets, not through telescopes or satellites, but merely through mathematical calculations. Proud yet? Here is another anecdote in which India broke new ground in the field of astronomy. The world knows that Pluto the last planet in our solar system was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh but originally it was discovered by Vyankatesh Bapuji Ketkar, an Indian School teacher.
Hailing from a Hindu family that believed in superstitions relating to planets and stars, Mr Ketkar was intrigued by these superstitions since his childhood days though he rarely believed in it. Instead of satisfying his curious side with mere superstitions, Mr Ketkar decided to go deep into these superstations to find the scientific fact behind them, beginning his research on Vedic calculation in astronomy. Mr Katekar’s father contributed a lot to his education and Mr Ketkar grew up to become a school teacher who excelled in the ancient Siddhanta texts. In an era, in which Britishers were bent upon replacing our Vedic practices with modern science, Mr Ketkar struggled to bring forth the use of Vedic science, in par with modern science, to use the vast knowledge of our ancestors which can lead the twentieth-century discoveries. Thanks to his efforts Vedic scientific tradition sustained for one more generation.
In his research on Vedic calculation on astronomy, Mr Ketkar found that the ancient calculations were based on a few outdated hypotheses. His research helped in reforming the old and bygone astronomical assumptions that were prevalent in those days and put forth calculations and theories that were backed by scientific facts and pieces of evidence. During this period, astronomers around the world thought that a gravitational pull from an undiscovered planet was affecting Neptune’s orbit. Since Neptune was discovered due to the disturbances it exhibited on the orbit of Uranus, Mr Ketkar decided to analyze Neptune’s orbit for a new planet.
With further research and calculations, in 1911 Mr Ketkar suggested the existence of a trans-Neptunian planet by reworking the patterns observed in the planetary satellites of Jupiter and applying them to the outer planets. He named this planet as Brahma, which later on came to be known as Pluto. Mr Ketkar published his calculations in the May 1911 issue of Bulletin of the Astronomical Society of France. However, by the time Clyde Tombaugh made his discovery on 1930 Ketakar had suffered a severe paralytic stroke and passed away on August 3, 1930, without patenting his discovery.
Coming from the background that believed in superstitions and frowned on science, Mr Ketakar combined Vedic calculations with scientific theories to come up with discoveries that could reshape everything we knew about outer space. Bapu Shastri Ketkar was brought into the world with natural insight. At an early age, he topped in Grammar, Vedanta and Astronomy. He had enormous aptitude over stargazing. He committed his life for the examination and cleaning of Indian chronicle framework (Pañcānga) of timekeeping. He predicted the presence of ‘Pluto’ in 1911 even before its disclosure in 1930. He wrote various books on astronomy, Pañcānga and writing and furthermore distributed many exploration papers in European science journals. It is sad that even in his homeland people don’t know much about the amazing work of such a renowned scientist.