Wikipedia article on Brahmagupta, the Indian mathematician and astronomer, claims the following.

In chapter seven of his Brahmasphutasiddhanta, entitled Lunar Crescent, Brahmagupta rebuts the idea that the Moon is farther from the Earth than the Sun, an idea which had been suggested by Vedic scripture.

So where in the Vedas is this claim made?

  • 3
    it also states [clarification needed] so not sure if needed for this sentence or the following one. – Just_Do_It Jan 10 '18 at 19:21
  • @RakeshJoshi This question is specific to the claim made in Wikipedia about Vedas/Vedic scripture. I don't think Puranas are Vedic scripture – sv. Oct 24 '18 at 13:08
  • @sv. Then you didn't express that in the comment below answer... – Rakesh Joshi Oct 24 '18 at 13:09
  • @RakeshJoshi I didn't because an answerer can clarify what Wikipedia might be referring to. Another answer can still cite something from the Vedas. – sv. Oct 24 '18 at 13:13
  • @sv. The question is about Wikipedia or vedas ? If You are referring to vedas then this answer is not relevant. But you haven't raised any objection so i am downvoting question. – Rakesh Joshi Oct 24 '18 at 14:06

I think Wikipedia is using "Vedic scripture" as a metonymy for Hindu scripture in general. It is the Puranas which have statements that seem, at least on the surface, to indicate that the Moon is farther from the Earth than the Sun. Here is what this chapter of the Vishnu Purana says:

The sphere of the earth (or Bhúr-loka), comprehending its oceans, mountains, and rivers, extends as far as it is illuminated by the rays of the sun and moon; and to the same extent, both in diameter and circumference, the sphere of the sky (Bhuvar-loka) spreads above it (as far upwards as to the planetary sphere, or Swar-loka). The solar orb is situated a hundred thousand leagues from the earth; and that of the moon an equal distance from the sun. At the same interval above the moon occurs the orbit of all the lunar constellations. The planet Budha (Mercury) is two hundred thousand leagues above the lunar mansions. Śukra (Venus) is at the same distance from Mercury. Angáraka (Mars) is as far above Venus; and the priest of the gods (Vrihaspati, or Jupiter) as far from Mars: whilst Saturn (Sani) is two hundred and fifty thousand leagues beyond Jupiter. The sphere of the seven Rishis (Ursa Major) is a hundred thousand leagues above Saturn; and at a similar height above the seven Rishis is Dhruva (the pole-star), the pivot or axis of the whole planetary circle.

And here is this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam says:

Thus the time the sun takes to rotate through half of outer space is called an ayana, or its period of movement [in the north or in the south]. The sun-god has three speeds — slow, fast and moderate. The time he takes to travel entirely around the spheres of heaven, earth and space at these three speeds is referred to, by learned scholars, by the five names Saṁvatsara, Parivatsara, Iḍāvatsara, Anuvatsara and Vatsara. Above the rays of the sunshine by a distance of 100,000 yojanas [800,000 miles] is the moon, which travels at a speed faster than that of the sun. In two lunar fortnights the moon travels through the equivalent of a saṁvatsara of the sun, in two and a quarter days it passes through a month of the sun, and in one day it passes through a fortnight of the sun.

But many people interpret these statements differently. See, e.g. Richard Thompson's book "Vedic Cosmography and Astronomy", which interprets these statement as referring to heights above the orbital plane as opposed to actual distances from the Earth.

  • "At the same interval above the moon occurs the orbit of all the lunar constellations."..."above the lunar mansions" - what are these lunar constellations/mansions? 'But many people interpret these statements differently' - I'm interested in what the Vedic/Puranic people thought about this especially since Wikipedia says "Brahmagupta rebuts the idea". – sv. Jan 11 '18 at 17:00
  • It's referring to the 27 Nakshatras. – Keshav Srinivasan Jan 11 '18 at 17:57

Brahmagupta is probably referring to the claim made in The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad which suggests the departed soul first goes to the Sun because it's closer to Earth than the Moon:

Section X - The Path of the Departing Soul

Verse 5.10.1:

1. When a man departs from this world, he reaches the air, which makes an opening there for him like the hole of a chariot-wheel. He goes upwards through that and reaches the sun, who makes an opening there for him like the hole of a tabor. He goes upwards through that and reaches the moon, who makes an opening there for him like the hole of a drum. He goes upwards through that and reaches a world free from grief and from cold. He lives there for eternal years.

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