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Pathani Samanta – The Odia boy who measured the distance of stars from the earth

India is a land of folktales. And the main content of all the stories revolves around the kings, queens, and their strength. The narration of these stories by the grandparents to their grandchildren is the greatest utilization of the evening time. The falling sun creates a majestic impact on the children. These stories not only create a learning atmosphere for young children but also teach them moral values. The grandpas and grandmas narrate the stories very effectively and carefully so that the children get to learn the moral out of the story. Mostly these stories point towards mighty personalities of the past like kings, queens, etc.

The best thing about them is that they are a great source of information to know about the past and feel proud of that. The knowledge about the contribution of these kings and queens in the struggling past of India not only makes the children realize their responsibilities but also teaches them their social duties.

Indian mainland has been pious to give birth to such noble personalities. The most important part about them is that they are like the basil plants. As the essence of a basil plant could be smelt even by two leaves, in the same way, these personalities also display the characteristics of basil plants in their attitude.

It is often told by the grandparents that God converts the pure souls of the noble persons into bright stars in the sky after their death so that their little brightness keeps on inspiring future generations. But some people are there who become eternal even after their death because of their work and contribution. Such a bright, as well as pious star, is the Odia boy, Pathani Samanta.

Pathani Samanta’s early days

Samanta was born to Syamabandhu Singha and Bishnumali Devi in the royal family of the princely state of Khandapada in Nayagarh district of Odisha. Although he was born in a royal family, ironically the economic conditions of his parents were very poor. Samanta was a curious boy since his childhood. He often looked at the stars and wondered something about them. But no one knew at that time that this curiosity will bring him high recognition and great accolades too.

Pic credit – Cyswodisha

During that period, Samanta had no access to modern instruments, hence he used a bamboo pipe to measure the distance of the stars from the earth. The pipe was his self-made telescope. Really he was a born genius. This observation and calculation of the distance of stars from the earth made him earn the title “Mahamahopadhyaya” award in the year 1893.

Pathani Samanta was born on 13 December 1835. His full name was Mahamahopadhyaya Chandrasekhara Singha Harichandana Mahapatra Samanta. His nickname was Pathani, hence he was popularly known as Pathani Samanta. No one knew that this boy was going to mark his name in the whole world for his work. But nothing can stop a person from achieving his target if he/she has high spirits of determination in him/her. The same was in the case of Samanta. He had no access to the modern teachings of astronomy. Not many astronomers knew about the ancient astronomy. Even in the West, the astronomers had no idea about that. But Samanta studied in Sanskrit and researched about the ancient Indian astronomy. He was orthodox by nature. He studied the subject of astronomy on his own and observed the motion of the planets with naked eyes. He reached the greatest heights of astronomy without the help of any modern instruments. He was, therefore, an eminent naked eye astronomer. Samanta was a mathematician of a high order and due to his interest in mathematics and science, he used his intellectual abilities to fulfill the requirements of the astronomy world.

Pathani Samanta’s Contribution to Astronomy

He was a genius since his childhood. His parents were lucky to have such a child. They had no idea about what Samanta was going to be in the future. For them, he was their Pathani but for the rest of the world, he was the source of great knowledge on the topics of astronomy, and specifically for India, he was the cause of pride. He is an exceptional personality with a genius brain. He made use of the resources in his hand to make his experiments possible in the world of astronomy. He was the author of the illustrious book”Siddhanta Darpan”.This book was the collection of his life-long work in the form of beautiful Sanskrit words and verses, developed and improvised based upon the ‘Surya Siddhanta’ and the ‘Siddhanta Siromani’.

Both of these books give a lot of information about astronomy. The Surya Siddhanta describes rules regarding the ways how to calculate the motions of various planets and the moon relative to various constellations, diameters of various planets, and calculate the orbits of various planets and helps to calculate the orbits of various astronomical bodies. The estimated values of the time per sidereal Revolution according to Surya Siddhanta is very much similar to that of Ptolemy’s estimations. The Surya Siddhanta is a text which depicts astronomy and timekeeping which is much older than the field of Jyotisha of the Vedic period.

The Siddhanta Siromani is the contribution of Indian mathematician, Bhaskara ||. This book has mainly three parts. The first part ‘Leelavati’ is the very first volume of the main book. It has thirteen chapters,278 verses, mainly consisting of arithmetic and measurement.

The second part,’Bijaganita’ is the second volume of the main book. It consists of six parts,213 verses, mainly devoting towards algebra. The third part ‘Ganitadhyaya’ and ‘Goladhyaya’ are contributed towards astronomy. It consists of about 900 verses(Ganitadhyaya has 451 and Goladhyaya has 501 verses).

These two great books have contributed to the making of Samanta’s Siddhanta Darpan. The book was written on 12th April 1869 and completed on 12th November 1892.It contains 2500 verses or shlokas. This book is the mirror of India’s astronomical intelligence. The order of the verses and the style of arrangement has made this book a wonder in the world of astronomy. The never-stopping trail of verses displayed his keen interest in the field of astronomy and science.

Samanta’s ability in the preparation of “Mana yantra”(measuring instrument),”Golyantra”(spherical instument) and “Surya Ghadi”proved that he was a great architect with engineering skills.

He also had a keen interest in preparing fireworks, having the knowledge of how to launch the same to a particular height. At the end of his treatises, he has calculated the almanac which has been named “Kautuka Panjee”.Among those who tried to improve as well as develop “Panjika”, Samanta’s name takes a remarkable position. By his achievements in the world of astronomy, Chandra Sekhar undoubtedly created history in “Panjika- Samskara”.In 1876, the yearbook was recognized in the Sri Jagannath Temple and the religious works or rituals are performed on the basis of Samanta’s latest Siddhanta.

To determine the exact longitude of the planets, Samanta took the help of Surya Siddhanta as his foundation book and too innovated new concepts in every chapter of his own treatise, Siddhanta Darpan. As the position of the moon keeps on changing as compared to other planets, therefore it was quite hard to determine its longitude. Therefore Pathani Samanta invented three new principles, Tungatantra, Pakshika and Digamsa to know the exact longitude of the moon. His formulas corresponding to solar and lunar eclipse are inevitable treasures in the world of astronomy.

Chandra Sekhar was well known for his naked eye observations of the planets and other celestial bodies. He performed his research and experiments with his self-made instruments. So he is rightly called the Second Bhaskara in India. He was the last epitome of self-confidence, knowledge and intelligence after Aryabhatta, Varahmihira, Brahmagupta, and Bhaskara. And after the death of Samanta, the astronomy world lost its last bright son.

Pathani Samanta belonged to Odisha.He not only brought glory to the state ,but also made made certain changes in the long traditional culture of “Jyotisha” in Odisha for making the system systematic.He corrected all the errors in the annually prepared yearbook of Odisha.

Samanta was a bright child of the land of Odisha.He performed all his calculations with the help of a bamboo pipe and two wooden sticks by him in night when he remained sleepless during his entire lifetime.His work in the field of astronomy found mention in scientific journals like Nature and Knowledge way back in 1899.

Pathani Samanta was given away in adoption to a Muslim fakir to remove bad omen,a belief that was prevalent during that time ,as he was born after losing many children.Hence he was named as Pathani in the memory of the fakir.

His initial schooling was done at home only by his father and later on,by a Brahmin teacher,who gave him basic education in Odia and Sanskrit. By the age of 15,Samanta had become a self-learner,with reference to the books available in the royal library.

He was complete unaware of the achievements in the modern world of astronomy. He proposed and developed the model of the solar system. According to him, the inner and outer planets revolve around the sun but the earth remains constant, with both the moon and the sun in motion around the earth in different orbits. Therefore his model was both heliocentric and geocentric. Further, he defined a mean longitude line accounting for the tilt of the earth.

Samanta used the values 690/191 and 3927/1250 for Pi to increase accuracy whereas Bhaskara used 22/7 as the value of Pi.

Samanta was able to record the Transit of Venus in 1874, the first-ever observed from the Indian subcontinent.

He was awarded the title ‘Harichandana Mahapatra’ by the Gajapati King of Puri in 1870.

Samanta was married to Sita Devi, daughter of King Anugul, in the year 1857. His marriage happened in a dramatic way after the bride’s family refused the marriage as he didn’t look at all like a prince. However, he was able to impress the bride’s family by reciting a shloka or verse at the venue.

This bright son of  Odisha took his last breath on 11th June 1904, out of fever and infection. Although today he is not in this world, his achievements and hard work have been safeguarded and protected in the form of Odisha state museum, or named after him, Pathani Samanta Planetarium.

Pathani Samanta Planetarium

This Planetarium is located in the city of Bhubaneswar in Odisha. It was founded for making people aware of the night sky viewing and other programs. The sole objective of this museum is to spread the preachings of Pathani Samanta in the minds and hearts of future generations. The Planetarium was established by the Science and Technology Department, Government of Odisha.

Pathani Samanta Planetarium

Really, Odisha had to bear a great loss with Samanta’s death. His death was like the death of the researches and projects in the world of astronomy. Astronomy is the only subject that combines both science and mathematics. And Pathani Samanta was a genius in the field of Astronomy. Many people die in this world every day without any worthful deed. But Samanta’s deeds will be remembered by generations and his contribution towards the development of astronomy is just speechless and remarkable.

In today’s world, where everything is a gift of the artificial machines,the non-telescopic observations of Samanta proved to be of one it’s own kind .

Samanta was very different from other astronomers. He laid stress on utilization of the little resources in hand, thereby giving everyone a message that one should try to be self-sufficient. One should be happy with whatever he has, and not feel guilty of whatever he doesn’t have. Only then one will be able to gain right amount of success.

Another lesson that everyone should receive from Samanta’s life is that he always stressed on knowledge. He never got any kind of proper scientific education or vocational training, but then also he was able to gain success in his lifetime. By his life story, this could be said that he was a vigilant observer. He always tried to be self-made. Nowadays people tend to depend on others for their work but they should realize this fact that doing work by own tends to develop a sense of self-satisfaction.

His life story is not only a source of inspiration for the people but also a method to make people learn how to acquire knowledge. Knowledge is the only thing that no one can ever snatch from anyone. Thus everyone should always try to acquire knowledge from others and utilize it in a proper way. That’s the most important lesson that Pathani Samanta’s life history teaches and preaches too. Pathani Samanta and his vast knowledge deserve a huge salute. In his name, scholarship exams are bring conducted.

Students are getting a different outlook on the whole world of science and mathematics through this.

This Odia boy who measured distance of stars from the earth was not an ordinary child, rather he was the last torchbearer of the Indian astronomy.

Baishnab Parida
Baishnab Parida is an engineering student, loves to read and write. He loves to spread smiles. His parents are his greatest strengths. He loves to be in a peaceful environment. Currently, he is pursuing Btech at VSSUT, Burla


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