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The Indian Calendar, with Tables for the conversion of Hindu and Muhammadan into A.D. dates, and vice versâ

Abstract

ALTHOUGH to many persons the chief interest of this publication (which must have cost the authors an amount of labour simply enormous) will be in an antiquarian and historical point of view, it has another aspect, judicial and practical, which was the immediate cause for its appearance. Documents bearing dates prior to those given in any existing almanac are often produced before Courts of Justice in India as evidence of title; and as forgeries, many of which are of great antiquity, exist in abundance, it is necessary to have at hand means for testing and verifying the authenticity of such documents when brought forward. Prof. Jacobi, Dr. Schram, and others, have within the last ten years thrown much light on the subject of the Indian methods of time-reckoning; but as their labours are only to be found scattered in scientific periodicals, the results are not readily accessible to officials and others to whom they are of importance in enabling them to determine questions in which the calendar, or rather calendars, observed in different parts and amongst the different peoples of that vast territory known as India, play an important part. Hence the Government of Madras requested Mr. Sewell to undertake the formation of a summary of the subject, accompanied by tables for ready reference. That gentleman not only accepted the task, but enlarged the scheme (which rendered it of a kind only to be called herculean) so as to make it include in its scope the whole of British India; and it has received the recognition of the Secretary of State for India. But besides containing a full explanation of the Indian chronological systems with the necessary tables for the conversion of their dates into ours, and vice versa, the volume is enriched by a set of tables of eclipses, most kindly furnished by that great authority on the subject, Dr. Robert Schram of Vienna. In the earlier stages of his undertaking, Mr. Sewell had the assistance of Dr. J. Burgess, late Director-General of the Archæological Survey of India. Afterwards he entered into correspondence with Mr. Saukara Balkrishna Dikshit, of the Training College at Poona, and it was agreed that the work should be completed under their joint authorship. The elaborate introductory treatise is mainly by Mr. Dikshit; several explanatory paragraphs, however, particularly those relating to astronomical phenomena, having been added by Mr. Sewell, who acknowledges the assistance received from Prof. Turner of Oxford, Prof. Kielhorn of Göttingen, and Prof. Jacobi. The tables of the latter were published in numbers of the Indian Antiquary, and Mr. Dikshit states that his calculations were, to a large extent, based upon these, though the original scheme had been propounded by M. Largeteau. We do not propose to enter into details here, which cannot be made interesting to the ordinary reader. A great French astronomer once remarked that the only thing which made his head ache was the lunar theory; and scarcely less tiresome are calendar investigations. All honour, then, to those who do not shrink from these calculations. The last part of the work before us contains Dr. Schram's tables (formed by his own “Tafeln zur Berechnung der näheren Umstände der Sonnenfinsternisse” from the late Prof. Oppolzer's well-known “;Canon”) of the circumstances of all the eclipses visible in India and its immediate neighbourhood from A.D. 300 to 1900. It had been intended that these should be accompanied by maps, showing the centre-lines, across the continent of India, of the phenomena in question; but it was not found possible to complete these in time, owing to the numerous calculations that had to be made in order that the path of the shadow might be exactly marked in each case. Dr. Schram hopes, however, to be able soon to publish the maps separately, as they will form a very useful guide to the tables.

The Indian Calendar, with Tables for the conversion of Hindu and Muhammadan into A.D. dates, and vice versâ.

By Robert Sewell, late of her Majesty's Indian Civil Service, and Saukara Balkrishna Dikshit, Training College, Poona. With Tables of Eclipses visible in India, by Dr. Robert Schram, of Vienna. Pp. (including index) 169; tables, &c, cxxxvi. (London: Swan Sonnenschein and Co., Ltd, 1896.)

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