Chinthamani Ragoonathachary was a ‘native’ astronomer who joined the Madras observatory as a menial labourer and rose to occupy the high position of first assistant to the Astronomer. Hailing from a family of almanac (panjang) makers, he was a keen and erudite observer. He is credited in the discovery of the minor planet ‘Asia’ and with variable star observations. He was on the official team in the 1869 total solar eclipse expedition as well as Transit of Venus observation in 1874 and was the first Indian to be elected to the Royal Astronomical Society. Keen to popularise science he communicated basic principles of astronomy in the regional languages such as Tamil, Malayalam, Kanada Hindustani and Telugu. Ragoonathachary was disturbed at the apparent deviation of the traditional almanac (based upon the orthodox tradition- called Vackya Panjangam). The phenomenon computed by the traditional almanac and the actual occurrence of events differed in reality. In view of this, he and his friends attempted to devise a new almanac- Drkkanitha panjangam- or almanac that agree with the observation. However he had to face the criticism of the Jyothish- astrologers, who argued against such improvements and criticized him for his scientific zeal.

While the change to ‘modern’ calendar system was achieved with administrative fiat, the contours of social acceptance are the focus of this paper. Time, it may be said, is a fundamental factor of the human condition. At the personal level, as well analyzed by Heidegger, temporality is not extrinsic but rather constitutive of our being-in-the-world, and temporality is equally a parameter of social organization and social interaction. Sorokin and Merton have well argued that while physically based time-reckoning inexorably marches on in relatively homogeneous units, on the other hand social time unfolds with varying rhythms. Thus, we experience time both as physical passage and as a social procession. Often one is not aware of time as a fundamental structure relating the human being and the human group to the environment unless there is a rupture in temporality. One such rupture in Tamil society was switehover from traditional time reckoning to modern time reckoning as deemed by the colonial administration that demanded a radical shift in the quantitative and qualitative temporalization of social activities. Time is a vessel for both the sacred and the profane, social conventions and equivalents, thus, replacing the static time and theological time of the tradition, the modern time came as a temporal representation armed with an arrow pointed towards the future: it is the time of perspective, of future planning, but also of synchronizations, and brutal changes. This study is situated at the crossover point between history of science popularisation and sociology of science popularization, and attempts to reconstruct the contours of the modernization of social time during the colonial era and identify the agents and agency of the same.

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Chintham aniragoonathachary and secularisation of timeduring the latenin Eighteenth century madraspresidency

T V Venkateswaran   Vigyan Prasar, Deppt of Sciecne and Technology, INDIA

Chinthamani Ragoonathachary was a ‘native’ astronomer who joined the Madras observatory as a menial labourer and rose to occupy the high position of first assistant to the Astronomer. Hailing from a family of almanac (panjang) makers, he was a keen and erudite observer. He is credited in the discovery of the minor planet ‘Asia’ and with variable star observations. He was on the official team in the 1869 total solar eclipse expedition as well as Transit of Venus observation in 1874 and was the first Indian to be elected to the Royal Astronomical Society. Keen to popularise science he communicated basic principles of astronomy in the regional languages such as Tamil, Malayalam, Kanada Hindustani and Telugu. Ragoonathachary was disturbed at the apparent deviation of the traditional almanac (based upon the orthodox tradition- called Vackya Panjangam). The phenomenon computed by the traditional almanac and the actual occurrence of events differed in reality. In view of this, he and his friends attempted to devise a new almanac- Drkkanitha panjangam- or almanac that agree with the observation. However he had to face the criticism of the Jyothish- astrologers, who argued against such improvements and criticized him for his scientific zeal.

While the change to ‘modern’ calendar system was achieved with administrative fiat, the contours of social acceptance are the focus of this paper. Time, it may be said, is a fundamental factor of the human condition. At the personal level, as well analyzed by Heidegger, temporality is not extrinsic but rather constitutive of our being-in-the-world, and temporality is equally a parameter of social organization and social interaction. Sorokin and Merton have well argued that while physically based time-reckoning inexorably marches on in relatively homogeneous units, on the other hand social time unfolds with varying rhythms. Thus, we experience time both as physical passage and as a social procession. Often one is not aware of time as a fundamental structure relating the human being and the human group to the environment unless there is a rupture in temporality. One such rupture in Tamil society was switehover from traditional time reckoning to modern time reckoning as deemed by the colonial administration that demanded a radical shift in the quantitative and qualitative temporalization of social activities. Time is a vessel for both the sacred and the profane, social conventions and equivalents, thus, replacing the static time and theological time of the tradition, the modern time came as a temporal representation armed with an arrow pointed towards the future: it is the time of perspective, of future planning, but also of synchronizations, and brutal changes. This study is situated at the crossover point between history of science popularisation and sociology of science popularization, and attempts to reconstruct the contours of the modernization of social time during the colonial era and identify the agents and agency of the same.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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