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If $250,000 remittance was allowed under Liberalized Remittance Scheme by the RBI, what does this mean and how does the value of the rupee effect changes in the limits set?
As per the International Migration Report 2017, published on 18 December 2017 by the United Nations (Department of Economic and Social Affairs), India is said to have the largest number of persons born in the country now living outside its borders – a staggering 17 million in 2017. With such a large diaspora, and assets held or inherited by them in India having appreciated in value significantly over the years, and need for funds abroad, several issues arise; these issues are often a combination of tax (India and overseas) and FEMA issues.The assets in India could take the form of (i) liquid funds, (ii) immovable property, (iii) shares and securities, (iv) interest in LLP, and (v) other assets such as paintings/ sculptures/ artefacts/ jewellery/ bullion etc. These assets could have either been held by them or inherited by them or received by them as a gift. The regulations interconnected with these situations are the focus of this article.Provisions under the Income-tax Act, 1961 (“ITA”)It is nearly two decades since the Gift Tax Act in India was repealed, thereby withdrawing tax on either donor or donee in case of a gift. However, as an anti-avoidance measure, specific provisions in the ITA were introduced in 2004 which indirectly have resulted in deemed gift provisions having been brought into the statue book. These provisions have been amended and the scope thereof has been widened to a great extent over the years. In fact, whilst the original intent was to tax as income non-genuine gifts, the way the provisions have been enlarged in scope year after year is a classic example of outlier legislation, causing a lot of difficulty in genuine cases, some of which is relevant is the context of this article.The provisions concerning the gift transfers, which were introduced by way of only one section i.e. section 56(2)(v) of the ITA, now span across six sections – section 56(2)(x) being relevant for the period from 1 April 2017 onwards. As per section 56(2)(x) of the ITA, any person receiving (i) a sum of money, (ii) an immovable property or (iii) any other “specified property” from any other person without consideration or for a consideration less than the fair market value of such property (stamp duty value in case of immovable property) is liable to tax on such receipt, on the quantum of the gift. Other specified property has been defined to mean eight items in addition to immovable property viz. shares and securities, jewellery, archaeological collections, drawings, paintings, sculptures, any work of art or bullion.However, certain receipts have been specifically exempted from these provisions. In case of individuals, receipt of either cash or immovable property or other specified property under the following circumstances is not to be subject to tax in the hands of the recipient:receipt from relatives;receipt on the occasion of marriage;receipt under a will;receipt by way of inheritance;receipt in contemplation of death of the donor; orreceipt by a trust created solely for the benefit of the relative.For the purposes of this section, the term “relatives” has been defined to mean spouse, brother, sister, any lineal ascendant or descendant of the individual; brother/ sister of the spouse; brother/ sister of either of the parents of the individual; any lineal ascendant or descendant of the spouse; and spouse of such specified relatives.Additionally, in case of persons other than individuals, such as companies, receipt of money or property without consideration or for a consideration lower than the stamp duty value/ fair market value should not be subject to tax if such receipt is pursuant to a transaction not regarded as transfer under section 47 of the ITA viz. amalgamation, demerger, etc.Therefore, receipt of cash or other assets such as immovable property, shares and securities by Non-Resident Indians (“NRIs”) from their Resident relatives are tax neutral. It is also important to note that the definition of “property” does not include interest in LLP and therefore, a transfer of such interest, even from a non-relative, would not attract any tax implications.While analysis of the ITA aids in comprehending tax implications arising out of transactions, FEMA regulations play a role in determining whether a particular transaction is permissible, in the context of NRIs. FEMA regulations, governing the gifts, are discussed below. Inheritance of monetary as well as non-monetary assets by NRIs is, of course, permitted but there are restrictions on repatriation of such money/ sale proceeds of non-monetary asset inherited.FEMA regulationsSum of moneyUnder the Liberalised Remittance Scheme (“LRS”), resident individuals are permitted to remit overseas up to USD 250,000 per financial year. Such remittances are permitted to be used for conducting permissible current or capital account transactions and subsumes gift in foreign currency made to any NRI or Persons of Indian Origin (“PIO”); i.e. there is no requirement for the donor and the recipient to be related. Therefore, in a case where such a gift is received from a distant relative (in excess of INR 50,000), while the same would be permissible under FEMA, such receipt would become taxable in the hands of the NRI recipient under section 56(2)(x) of the ITA.However, as per the FAQs on the LRS, a resident individual can also make a gift in Indian Rupees to his NRI/ PIO “close relatives” by way of a credit to their NRO account. However, all such money gifts, put together for the resident individual, should be within the LRS limit of USD 250,000 in any financial year.Here, the term “relative” is to derive its meaning from the definition provided in the Companies Act, 2013 i.e. spouse, father, mother, son, son’s wife, daughter, daughter’s husband, brother and sister of the individual. Accordingly, FEMA brings in a restrictive meaning to the gifting transactions by covering gifts of sum of money within the LRS domain and referring to a definition of “relative” which is narrower than that of the ITA. Therefore, gift of a sum of Indian Rupees by an uncle or “relatives” of the spouse would be not be taxable, but would not be permitted as per the FEMA regulations.In case of money already held by the NRI individual in India (by reason of his becoming an NRI after having been an Indian resident for a certain period) or where the NRI inherits liquid funds from a resident in India, the remittance of such funds out of his NRO account is limited to USD 1 million per financial year.Immovable propertyFEMA regulations applicable to transfer of immovable property permit a PIO to acquire an immovable property in India by way of gift from a person resident in India provided the property is not agricultural land/ farm house/ plantation property.However, as per the Regulations applicable to remittance of assets, the sale proceeds of any such asset could be remitted by the NRI/ PIO outside of India only to the extent of USD 1,000,000 per financial year, which is an overall limit on remittance of proceeds from the NRO account. This is also the case where the property has been received by the NRI/ PIO by way of inheritance/ legacy.What is important in relation to gift of immovable property from a FEMA perspective is that there is no requirement for the donor and the recipient to be related and immovable property transferred without any consideration even by a resident non-relative would be permitted. However, under the ITA, where an NRI receives gift from a non-relative, such receipt would be taxable under the ITA where the stamp duty value would be the basis for computing deemed income.Let us consider a few practical examples to comprehend this. (1) If an NRI receives a gift from a cousin, who can make such a gift from a FEMA perspective, but the NRI will be taxed nonetheless under section 56(2)(x) of the ITA. (2) If the NRI inherits such a property, there will be no tax in India (currently, India does not have either Estate Duty or Inheritance Tax) and he can continue to hold it, but if he sells it, he can remit up to USD 1 million per financial year in the aggregate.Shares and securities in an Indian companyWhere a resident individual holds capital instruments (equity shares, debentures, preference shares and share warrants) in an Indian company, such capital instruments are permitted to be transferred to an NRI by way of a gift subject to a prior approval from the Reserve Bank of India and fulfilment of the following conditions:The NRI recipient is eligible to hold such a security under relevant Regulations;The gift does not exceed 5% of the paid-up capital of the Indian company;The applicable sectoral cap in the Indian company is not breached;The donor and the recipient are ‘relatives’ within the meaning in section 2(77) of the Companies Act, 2013; andThe value of security to be transferred by the donor together with any security transferred to any person residing outside India as gift during the financial year does not exceed the rupee equivalent of USD 50,000.As is evident from the conditions, gift of shares and securities are strictly regulated by the FEMA provisions – not only being restricted to a certain quantum but also requiring a prior approval from the Reserve Bank of India and the parties to the gift transaction are required to be “relatives”. However, as discussed above, there will be no tax implications if the shares and securities are received from a relative, but, if received from a non-relative, the fair market value of such shares would be considered as the basis for computing the deemed tax liability in the hands of the NRI recipient.In relation to inheritance, there is no such restriction, of course, and no tax (similar to immovable property discussed above), but again, remittance of sale proceeds (post capital gains tax) will have to be within the USD 1 million limit as explained above.Interest in LLPA specific schedule in the applicable Regulations deals with investment in an LLP by a person resident outside India. It is important to note that while a person resident outside India is permitted to contribute to the capital of an LLP (engaged in sectors where 100% FDI is allowed under automatic route), there is no specific mention of transfer of an interest in LLP held by a resident to NRI. However, the schedule prescribes the pricing guidelines to be adhered to for every transfer of capital contribution from a resident to a person resident outside India.Relying on the general principle that Capital Account transactions (i.e. where the assets in India are impacted) are prohibited, unless specifically permitted, since the Regulations do not specifically permit it, gift of an interest in LLP to an NRI is not permitted at all. However, under section 56(2)(x) of the ITA, the definition of “property” does not include interest in LLP and therefore, a transfer of such interest, even from a non-relative, would not attract any tax implications. As such, it appears that regardless of the non-taxability, there seems to be a prohibition on gift of interest in LLP to NRI under FEMA. Further, even as per section 42 of the Limited Liability Partnership Act, 2008 (“Partner’s Transferable Interest”), the right of a partner to a share in profit is transferable in accordance with the LLP agreement and therefore, if the LLP agreement were to provide for transfer of interest in LLP, it would be allowable under the LLP Act but restricted as per the FEMA regulations. In relation to inheritance, however, there is no such restriction, and similar to other assets discussed above, no tax implications but remittance of transfer proceeds (post capital gains tax) will have to be within the USD 1 million limit as explained above.SummaryThe table below can be a useful guide:AssetsPermissibility under FEMALiability under ITAGift from RelativeGift from Non-RelativeInherited/ held in own capacityGift from RelativeGift from Non-RelativeLiquid FundsYes - in foreign currency as well as Indian Rupees; restricted to USD 250,000 per financial yearYes - only in foreign currency; restricted to USD 250,000 per financial yearYes - remittance restricted to USD 1 million per financial yearNoneTaxable under section 56(2)(x) in the hands of recipientImmovable PropertyYes - remittance of sale proceeds restricted to USD 1 million per financial yearYes - remittance of sale proceeds restricted to USD 1 million per financial yearYes - remittance of sale proceeds restricted to USD 1 million per financial yearNoneTaxable under section 56(2)(x) in the hands of recipient and under section 50C in the hands of the donorShares and securitiesYes - several restrictive conditions applicableNoYes - remittance of sale proceeds restricted to USD 1 million per financial yearNoneTaxable under section 56(2)(x) in the hands of recipientInterest in LLPNoNoYes - remittance of transfer proceeds restricted to USD 1 million per financial yearNoneNoneConcluding RemarksKeeping in view the host of laws applicable to transactions in India, it becomes imperative to analyse all the angles since what could be permissible from a FEMA perspective could result in substantial tax costs and transactions which are most tax efficient may not be permitted at all from a FEMA perspective.
The solar and lunar eclipses are mere shadows. Does it not contradict the story of Rahu-Ketu in Hinduism very badly? May the spiritualists throw some light on the topic.
Nope.The Astronomical SiddhantasBy Sadaputa Das (Dr. Richard Thompson)Since the cosmology of the astronomical siddhantas in the Vedas is quite similar to traditional Western cosmology, we will begin our discussion of Vedic astronomy by briefly describing the contents of these works and their status in the Vaishnava tradition. In a number of purports in the Caitanya-caritamåta, Srila Prabhupada refers to two of the principal works of this school of astronomy, the Surya-siddhanta and the Siddhanta-Siromani. The most important of these references is the following:These calculations are given in the authentic astronomy book known as the Surya-siddhanta. This book was compiled by the great professor of astronomy and mathematics Bimal Prasad Datta, later known as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Gosvami, who was our merciful spiritual master. He was honored with the title Siddhanta Sarasvati for writing the Surya-siddhanta, and the title Gosvami Maharaja was added when he accepted sannyasa, the renounced order of life [Cc adi 3.8p].Here the Surya-siddhanta is clearly endorsed as an authentic astronomical treatise, and it is associated with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura. The Surya-siddhanta is an ancient Sanskrit work that, according to the text itself, was spoken by a messenger from the sun-god, Surya, to the famous asura Maya Danava at the end of the last Satya-yuga. It was translated into Bengali by Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, who was expert in Vedic astronomy and astrology.Some insight into Srila Bhaktisiddhanta's connection with Vedic astronomy can be found in the bibliography of his writings. There it is stated,In 1897 he opened a "Tol" named "Saraswata Chatuspati" in Manicktola Street for teaching Hindu Astronomy nicely calculated independently of Greek and other European astronomical findings and calculations. During this time he used to edit two monthly magazines named "Jyotirvid" and "Brihaspati" (1896), and he published several authoritative treatises on Hindu Astronomy.... He was offered a chair in the Calcutta University by Sir Asutosh Mukherjee, which he refused [BS1, pp. 2-3].These statements indicate that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta took considerable interest in Vedic astronomy and astrology during the latter part of the nineteenth century, and they suggest that one of his motives for doing this was to establish that the Vedic astronomical tradition is independent of Greek and European influence. In addition to his Bengali translation of the Surya-siddhanta, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati published the following works in his two magazines: (a) Bengali translation and explanation of Bhaskaracarya's Siddhanta- Shiromani Goladhyaya with Basanabhasya, (b) Bengali translation of Ravichandrasayanaspashta, Laghujatak, with annotation of Bhattotpala, (c) Bengali translation of Laghuparashariya, or Ududaya-Pradip, with Bhairava Datta's annotation, (d) Whole of Bhauma-Siddhanta according to western calculation, (e) Whole of Arya-Siddhanta by AryabhaTa, (f) Paramadishwara's Bhatta Dipika-Tika, Dinakaumudi, Chamatkara- Chintamoni, and Jyotish-Tatwa-Samhita [BS1, p. 26].This list includes a translation of the Siddhanta-Siromani, by the 11th-century astronomer Bhaskaracarya, and the Arya-siddhanta, by the 6th-century astronomer AryabhaTa. BhaTTotpala was a well-known astronomical commentator who lived in the 10th century. The other items in this list also deal with astronomy and astrology, but we do not have more information regarding them.Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati also published the Bhaktibhavana Païjika and the Sri Navadvipa Païjika (BS2, pp. 56, 180). A païjika is an almanac that includes dates for religious festivals and special days such as EkadaSi. These dates are traditionally calculated using the rules given in the jyotisha Sastras. During the time of his active preaching as head of the Gaudiya Math,Srila Bhaktisiddhanta stopped publishing works dealing specifically with astronomy and astrology. However, as we will note later on, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta cites both the Surya-siddhanta and the Siddhanta- Siromani several times in his Anubhashya commentary on the Caitanya- caritamrita. It is clear that in recent centuries the Surya-siddhanta and similar works have played an important role in Indian culture. They have been regularly used for preparing calendars and for performing astrologicalcalculations. In Section 1.c we cite evidence from the Bhagavatam suggesting that complex astrological and calendrical calculations were also regularly performed in Vedic times. We therefore suggest that similar or identical systems of astronomical calculation must have been known in this period.Here we should discuss a potential misunderstanding. We have stated that Vaishnavas have traditionally made use of the astronomical siddhantas and that both Srila Prabhupada and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura have referred to them. At the same time, we have pointed out that the authors of the astronomical siddhantas, such as Bhaskaracarya, have been unable to accept some of the cosmological statements in the Puranas. How could Vaishnava acaryas accept works which criticize the Puranas?We suggest that the astronomical siddhantas have a different status than transcendental literature such as the Srimad-Bhagavatam. They are authentic in the sense that they belong to a genuine Vedic astronomical tradition, but they are nonetheless human works that may contain imperfections. Many of these works, such as the Siddhanta- Siromani, were composed in recent centuries and make use of empirical observations. Others, such as the Surya-siddhanta, are attributed todemigods but were transmitted to us by persons who are not spiritually perfect. Thus the Surya-siddhanta was recorded by Maya Danava. Srila Prabhupada has said that Maya Danava "is always materially happy because he is favored by Lord Siva, but he cannot achieve spiritual happiness at any time" (SB 5.24cs).The astronomical siddhantas constitute a practical division of Vedic science, and they have been used as such by Vaishnavas throughout history. The thesis of this book is that these works are surviving remnants of an earlier astronomical science that was fully compatible with the cosmology of the Puranas, and that was disseminated in human society by demigods and great sages. With the progress of Kali-yuga, this astronomical knowledge was largely lost. In recent centuries the knowledge that survived was reworked by various Indian astronomers and brought up to date by means of empirical observations.Although we do not know anything about the methods of calculation used before the Kali-yuga, they must have had at least the same scope and order of sophistication as the methods presented in the Surya- siddhanta. Otherwise they could not have produced comparable results. In presently available Vedic literature, such computational methods are presented only in the astronomical siddhantas and other jyotisha Sastras. The Itihasas and Puranas (including the Bhagavatam) do not contain rules for astronomical calculations, and the Vedas contain only the Vedaìga-jyotisha, which is a jyotisha Sastra but is very brief and rudimentary (VJ).The following is a brief summary of the topics covered by the Surya-siddhanta: (1) computation of the mean and true positions of the planets in the sky, (2) determination of latitude and longitude and local celestial coordinates, (3) prediction of full and partialeclipses of the moon and sun, (4) prediction of conjunctions of planets with stars and other planets, (5) calculation of the risingand setting times of planets and stars, (6) calculation of the moon's phases, (7) calculation of the dates of various astrologicallysignificant planetary combinations (such as Vyatipata), (8) a discussion of cosmography, (9) a discussion of astronomicalinstruments, and (10) a discussion of kinds of time. We will first discuss the computation of mean and true planetary positions, since it introduces the Surya-siddhanta's basic model of the planets and their motion in space.The Solar System According to the Surya-siddhanta The Surya-siddhanta treats the earth as a globe fixed in space, and itdescribes the seven traditional planets (the sun, the moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn) as moving in orbits around the earth. It also describes the orbit of the planet Rahu, but it makes no mention of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. The main function of the Surya-siddhanta is to provide rules allowing us to calculate the positions of these planets at any given time. Given a particular date, expressed in days, hours, and minutes since the beginning of Kali-yuga, one can use these rules to compute the direction in the sky in which each of the seven planets will be found at that time. All of the other calculations described above are based on these fundamental rules.The basis for these rules of calculation is a quantitative model of how the planets move in space. This model is very similar to the modern Western model of the solar system. In fact, the only major difference between these two models is that the Surya-siddhanta's is geocentric, whereas the model of the solar system that forms the basis of modern astronomy is heliocentric.To determine the motion of a planet such as Venus using the modern heliocentric system, one must consider two motions: the motion of Venus around the sun and the motion of the earth around the sun. As a crude first approximation, we can take both of these motions to be circular. We can also imagine that the earth is stationary and that Venus is revolving around the sun, which in turn is revolving around the earth. The relative motions of the earth and Venus are the same, whether we adopt the heliocentric or geocentric point of view.In the Surya-siddhanta the motion of Venus is also described, to a first approximation, by a combination of two motions, which we can call cycles 1 and 2. The first motion is in a circle around the earth, and the second is in a circle around a point on the circumference of the first circle. This second circular motion is called an epicycle.It so happens that the period of revolution for cycle 1 is one earth year, and the period for cycle 2 is one Venusian year, or the time required for Venus to orbit the sun according to the heliocentric model. Also, the sun is located at the point on the circumference of cycle 1 which serves as the center of rotation for cycle 2. Thus we can interpret the Surya-siddhanta as saying that Venus is revolving around the sun, which in turn is revolving around the earth (see Figure 1). According to this interpretation, the only difference between the Surya-siddhanta model and the modern heliocentric model is one of relative point of view.Table 1Planetary Years, Distances, and Diameters According to Modern WesternAstronomyPlanet Length of year Mean Distance from Sun Mean Distance from EarthDiameterSun - 0. 1.00 865,110Mercury 87.969 .39 1.00 3,100Venus 224.701 .72 1.00 7,560Earth 365.257 1.00 0. 7,928Mars 686.980 1.52 1.52 4,191Jupiter 4,332.587 5.20 5.20 86,850Saturn 10,759.202 9.55 9.55 72,000Uranus 30,685.206 19.2 19.2 30,000Neptune 60,189.522 30.1 30.1 28,000Pluto 90,465.38 39.5 39.5 ?Years are equal to the number of earth days required for the planet to revolve once around the sun. Distances are given in astronomical units (AU), and 1 AU is equal to 92.9 million miles, the mean distance from the earth to the sun. Diameters are given in miles. (The years are taken from the standard astronomy text TSA, and the other figures are taken from EA.)In Tables 1 and 2 we list some modern Western data concerning the sun, the moon, and the planets, and in Table 3 we list some data on periods of planetary revolution taken from the Surya-siddhanta. The periods for cycles 1 and 2 are given in revolutions per divya-yuga. One divya- yuga is 4,320,000 solar years, and a solar year is the time it takes the sun to make one complete circuit through the sky against the background of stars. This is the same as the time it takes the earth to complete one orbit of the sun according to the heliocentric model.TABLE 2Data pertaining to the Moon, According to Modern Western AstronomySiderial Period 27.32166 daysSynodic Period 29.53059 daysNodal Period 27.2122 daysSiderial Period of Nodes -6,792.28 daysMean Distance from Earth 238,000 miles = .002567 AUDiameter 2,160 milesThe sidereal period is the time required for the moon to complete one orbit against the background of stars. The synodic period, or month, is the time from new moon to new moon. The nodal period is the time required for the moon to pass from ascending node back to ascending node. The sidereal period of the nodes is the time for the ascending node to make one revolution with respect to the background of stars.(This is negative since the motion of the nodes is retrograde.) (EA) For Venus and Mercury, cycle 1 corresponds to the revolution of the earth around the sun, and cycle 2 corresponds to the revolution of the planet around the sun. The times for cycle 1 should therefore be one revolution per solar year, and, indeed, they are listed as 4,320,000 revolutions per divya-yuga.The times for cycle 2 of Venus and Mercury should equal the modern heliocentric years of these planets. According to the Surya-siddhanta, there are 1,577,917,828 solar days per divya-yuga. (A solar day is the time from sunrise to sunrise.) The cycle-2 times can be computed in solar days by dividing this number by the revolutions per divya-yuga in cycle 2. The cycle-2 times are listed as "SS [Surya-siddhanta] Period," and they are indeed very close to the heliocentric years, which are listed as "W [Western] Period" in Table 3.For Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, cycle 1 corresponds to the revolution of the planet around the sun, and cycle 2 corresponds to therevolution of the earth around the sun. Thus we see that cycle 2 for these planets is one solar year (or 4,320,000 revolutions per divya-yuga). The times for cycle 1 in solar days can also be computed by dividing the revolutions per divya-yuga of cycle 1 into 1,577,917,828, and they are listed under "SS Period." We can again see that they are very close to the corresponding heliocentric years.For the sun and moon, cycle 2 is not specified. But if we divide 1,577,917,828 by the numbers of revolutions per divya-yuga for cycle 1 of the sun and moon, we can calculate the number of solar days in the orbital periods of these planets. Table 3 shows that these figures agree well with the modern values, especially in the case of the moon.(Of course, the orbital period of the sun is simply one solar year.)TABLE 3Planetary Periods According to the Surya-siddhantaPlanet Cycle 1 Cycle 2 SS Period W PeriodMoon 57,753,336 * 27.322 27.32166Mercury 4,320,000 17,937,000 87.97 87.969Venus 4,320,000 7,022,376 224.7 224.701Sun 4,320,000 * 365.26 365.257Mars 2,296,832 4,320,000 687.0 686.980Jupiter 364,220 4,320,000 4,332.3 4,332.587Saturn 146,568 4,320,000 10,765.77 10,759.202Rahu -232,238 * -6,794.40 -6,792.280The figures for cycles 1 and 2 are in revolutions per divya-yuga. The "SS Period" is equal to 1,577,917,828, the number of solar days in a yuga cycle, divided by one of the two cycle figures (see the text). This should give the heliocentric period for Mercury, Venus, the earth (under sun) Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and it shold give the geocentric period for the moon and Rahu. These periods can be compared with the years in Table 1 and the sidereal periods of the moon and its nodes in Table 2. These quantities have been reproduced from Tables 1 and 2 in the column labeled "W Period."In Table 3 a cycle-1 value is also listed for the planet Rahu. Rahu is not recognized by modern Western astronomers, but its position in space, as described in the Surya-siddhanta, does correspond with a quantity that is measured by modern astronomers. This is the ascending node of the moon.From a geocentric perspective, the orbit of the sun defines one plane passing through the center of the earth, and the orbit of the moon defines another such plane. These two planes are slightly tilted with respect to each other, and thus they intersect on a line. The point where the moon crosses this line going from celestial south to celestial north is called the ascending node of the moon. According to the Surya-siddhanta, the planet Rahu is located in the direction of the moon's ascending node.From Table 3 we can see that the modern figure for the time of one revolution of the moon's ascending node agrees quite well with the time for one revolution of Rahu. (These times have minus signs because Rahu orbits in a direction opposite to that of all the other planets.)TABLE 4Heliocentric Distances of Planets, According to the Surya-siddhantaPlanet Cycle 1 Cycle 2 SS Distance W DistanceMercury 360 133 132 .368 .39Venus 360 262 260 .725 .72Mars 360 235 232 1.54 1.52Jupiter 360 70 72 5.07 5.20Saturn 360 39 40 9.11 9.55These are the distances of the planets from the sun. The mean heliocentric distance of Mercury and Venus in AU should be given by its mean cycle-2 circumference divided by its cycle-1 circumference. (The cycle-2 circumferences vary between the indicated limits, and we use their average values.) For the other planets the mean heliocentric distance should be the reciprocal of this (see the text). These figures are listed as "SS Distance," and the corresponding modern Western heliocentric distances are listed under "W Distance."If cycle 1 for Venus corresponds to the motion of the sun around the earth (or of the earth around the sun), and cycle 2 corresponds to the motion of Venus around the sun, then we should have the following equation: circumference of cycle 2 = Venus-to-Sun distance circumference of cycle 1 Earth-to-Sun distance Here the ratio of distances equals the ratio of circumferences, since the circumference of a circle is 2 pi times its radius. The ratio of distances is equal to the distance from Venus to the sun in astronomical units (AU), or units of the earth-sun distance. The modern values for the distances of the planets from the sun are listed in Table 1. In Table 4, the ratios on the left of our equation are computed for Mercury and Venus, and we can see that they do agree well with the modern distance figures. For Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, cycles 1 and 2 are switched, and thus we are interested in comparing the heliocentric distances with the reciprocal of the ratio on the left of the equation. These quantities are listed in the table, and they also agree well with the modern values. Thus, we can concludethat the Surya-siddhanta presents a picture of the relative motions and positions of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn that agrees quite well with modern astronomy.The Opinion of Western ScholarsThis agreement between Vedic and Western astronomy will seem surprising to anyone who is familiar with the cosmology described in the Fifth Canto of the Srimad-Bhagavatam and in the other Puranas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. The astronomical siddhantas seem to have much more in common with Western astronomy than they do with Puranic cosmology, and they seem to be even more closely related with the astronomy of the Alexandrian Greeks. Indeed, in the opinion ofmodern Western scholars, the astronomical school of the siddhantas was imported into India from Greek sources in the early centuries of the Christian era. Since the siddhantas themselves do not acknowledge this, these scholars claim that Indian astronomers, acting out of -chauvinism and religious sentiment, Hinduized their borrowed Greek knowledge and claimed it as their own. According to this idea, the cosmology of the Puranas represents an earlier, indigenous phase in the development of Hindu thought, which is entirely mythological and unscientific.This, of course, is not the traditional Vaishnava viewpoint. The traditional viewpoint is indicated by our observations regarding theastronomical studies of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who founded a school for "teaching Hindu Astronomy nicely calculated independently of Greek and other European astronomical findings and calculations."The Bhagavatam commentary of the Vaishnava scholar VamSidhara also sheds light on the traditional understanding of the jyotisha Sastras.His commentary appears in the book of Bhagavatam commentaries Srila Prabhupada used when writing his purports. In appendix 1 we discuss in detail VamSidhara's commentary on SB 5.20.38. Here we note that VamSidhara declares the jyotisha Sastra to be the "eye of the Vedas," in accord with verse 1.4 of the Narada-samhita, which says, "The excellent science of astronomy comprising siddhanta, samhita, and hora as its three branches is the clear eye of the Vedas" (BJS, xxvi).Vaishnava tradition indicates that the jyotisha Sastra is indigenous to Vedic culture, and this is supported by the fact that theastronomical siddhantas do not acknowledge foreign source material. The modern scholarly view that all important aspects of Indian astronomy were transmitted to India from Greek sources is therefore tantamount to an accusation of fraud. Although scholars of the present day do not generally declare this openly in their published writings, they do declare it by implication, and the accusation was explicitly made by the first British Indologists in the early nineteenth century.John Bentley was one of these early Indologists, and it has been said of his work that "he thoroughly misapprehended the character of the Hindu astronomical literature, thinking it to be in the main a mass of forgeries framed for the purpose of deceiving the world respecting the antiquity of the Hindu people" (HA, p. 3). Yet the modern scholarly opinion that the Bhagavatam was written after the ninth century A.D. is tantamount to accusing it of being a similar forgery. In fact, wewould suggest that the scholarly assessment of Vedic astronomy is part of a general effort on the part of Western scholars to dismiss the Vedic literature as a fraud.A large book would be needed to properly evaluate all of the claims made by scholars concerning the origins of Indian astronomy. In Appendix 2 we indicate the nature of many of these claims by analyzing three cases in detail. Our observation is that scholarly studies of Indian astronomy tend to be based on imaginary historical reconstructions that fill the void left by an almost total lack of solid historical evidence.Here we will simply make a few brief observations indicating an alternative to the current scholarly view. We suggest that thesimilarity between the Surya-siddhanta and the astronomical system of Ptolemy is not due to a one-sided transfer of knowledge from Greece and Alexandrian Egypt to India. Due partly to the great social upheavals following the fall of the Roman Empire, our knowledge of ancient Greek history is extremely fragmentary. However, although history books do not generally acknowledge it, evidence does exist of extensive contact between India and ancient Greece. (For example, see PA, where it is suggested that Pythagoras was a student of Indian philosophy and that brahmanas and yogis were active in the ancient Mediterranean world.)We therefore propose the following tentative scenario for the relations between ancient India and ancient Greece: SB 1.12.24p says that the Vedic king Yayati was the ancestor of the Greeks, and SB 2.4.18p says that the Greeks were once classified among the kshatriya kings of Bharata but later gave up brahminical culture and became known as mlecchas. We therefore propose that the Greeks and the people of India once shared a common culture, which included knowledge of astronomy. Over the course of time, great cultural divergences developed, but many common cultural features remained as a result of shared ancestry and later communication. Due to the vicissitudes of the Kali-yuga, astronomical knowledge may have been lost several times in Greece over the last few thousand years and later regained through communication with India, discovery of old texts, and individual creativity. This brings us down to the late Roman period, in which Greece and India shared similar astronomical systems. The scenario ends with the fall of Rome, the burning of the famous library at Alexandria, and the general destruction of records of the ancient past.According to this scenario, much creative astronomical work was done by Greek astronomers such as Hipparchus and Ptolemy. However, the origin of many of their ideas is simply unknown, due to a lack of historical records. Many of these ideas may have come from indigenous Vedic astronomy, and many may also have been developed independently in India and the West. Thus we propose that genuine traditions of astronomy existed both in India and the eastern Mediterranean, and that charges of wholesale unacknowledged cultural borrowing are unwarranted.