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Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita: An Ancient Masterpiece on Sciences Including Hydrology

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Hydrology, the scientific study of water’s movement, distribution, and management on Earth and beyond, has deep historical roots. Varahamihira, a prominent ancient Indian scientist and polymath, made significant contributions to the field through his renowned work, the “Brihat Samhita.” This comprehensive encyclopedia of the sciences, composed over 1,500 years ago, contains valuable insights into various aspects of hydrology, offering four dedicated chapters on the subject.

Varahamihira: The Renaissance Man of Ancient India

Varahamihira, who lived around the 6th century CE, was a remarkable figure in the history of Indian science. He was not only an accomplished astronomer but also a mathematician, astrologer, and a scholar of diverse fields. His magnum opus, the “Brihat Samhita,” is a testament to his wide-ranging interests and the depth of his knowledge.

Exploring Hydrology in the Brihat Samhita

While the Brihat Samhita covers a wide array of subjects, including astronomy, mathematics, agriculture, and even gemology, it dedicates a significant portion to hydrology. The four chapters on hydrology within this ancient encyclopedia delve into various aspects of water, making it a treasure trove of hydrological knowledge.

  1. Water Sources: Varahamihira’s work discusses the sources of water, from rivers and lakes to underground aquifers. He explores their characteristics, seasonal variations, and even methods for locating and managing water sources.
  2. Rainfall Patterns: Understanding rainfall was crucial for agricultural practices in ancient India. Varahamihira’s insights into the patterns of rainfall, monsoons, and their prediction methods are invaluable for farmers and water resource management.
  3. Water Conservation and Irrigation: The Brihat Samhita offers practical advice on water conservation and irrigation techniques. It describes methods for constructing reservoirs, canals, and wells, illustrating a deep understanding of sustainable water management.
  4. Water Quality and Purification: Varahamihira recognized the importance of clean water for human health. His work discusses methods for purifying and storing water, such as the use of specific herbs and filtration systems.

Legacy and Influence

Varahamihira’s contributions to hydrology, as documented in the Brihat Samhita, reflect the ancient Indian society’s awareness of the significance of water. His insights were not merely theoretical but had practical applications for agriculture, infrastructure development, and overall well-being.

Even today, the wisdom contained in the Brihat Samhita continues to inspire researchers, scientists, and policymakers in the field of hydrology. It serves as a historical testament to the timeless importance of understanding water resources and managing them sustainably.


Varahamihira’s Brihat Samhita stands as an enduring testament to the rich scientific heritage of ancient India. His contributions to hydrology within this extensive compendium continue to be a source of knowledge and inspiration for contemporary researchers in the field. As we face increasing challenges related to water resources and sustainability, looking back to the insights of Varahamihira reminds us of the enduring value of ancient wisdom in understanding and managing this precious natural resource

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

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