Brihat Samhita

by N. Chidambaram Iyer | 1884 | 135,584 words | ISBN-13: 9788171104215

This page describes signs of an earthquake (bhukampa-lakshana) which is the thirty-second Chapter of the English translation of the Brihat-samhita. This work, written by Varahamihira in the 6th century, is classified as jyotisha literature, also known as Indian astronomy. It contains however, also content regarding astrology, palmistry, agriculture, gardening, perfumes, medicines and various other encyclopedic topics.

Chapter 32 - Signs of an Earthquake (bhūkampa-lakṣaṇa)

1. Some say that earthquake (bhūkampa) is caused by huge water monsters and some that it is caused by the elephants supporting the Earth, resting for a time from their labour.

2. According to some earthquake is caused by the violent collision of winds and their striking the Earth in consequence, and according to others the cause is some invisible and unknown agency.

3. Once upon a time, in the days gone by, the Earth, being shaken by the rising and falling of winged mountains, addressed Brahmā (the creator) in the court of Indra, as follows, and with feelings of shame.

4. Lord, I was named by You as the Unmoving. This character has now suffered, and I am unable to bear the troubles caused by moving mountains.

5. Brahmā, perceiving her broken speech, trembling lips, bent head and weeping eyes, spoke as follows:

6. “O Indra, relieve the Earth of her grief; throw your weapon—the Vajrāyuddha, to destroy the wings of mountains.” Indra saying, “It is done,” told the Earth not to fear and spoke to her as follows:

7. “Vāyu (the wind), Agni (fire), Indra and Varuṇa (God of rain), will henceforth shake you respectively in the first, second, third and fourth, six hours of day and night, to indicate the future good or bad condition of the world.”

8. The asterisms of Uttaraphālguni, Hasta, Citrā, Svāti, Punarvasu, Mṛgaśīrṣa and Aśvinī are known as the circle or division of Vāyu. The previous symptoms of an earthquake of Vayu occurring when the Moon is in any of these seven asterisms, will last for seven days.

9. These symptoms are- the sky will be filled with dust and smoke, violent winds will shake the trees and the rays of the sun will appear dim.

10. In a Vāyavya earthquake, the crops will perish; the Earth will become dry; forests will suffer; medicinal plants will be destroyed and tradesmen will be afflicted with dropsy, asthma, madness, fever and phlegmatic affections.

11. Prostitutes and men handling weapons, physicians, women, poets, musicians, merchants, painters and sculptors will suffer miseries, as well as the people of Saurāṣṭra, of Kuro, of Magadha, of Daśārṇa and Matsya.

12. The asterisms of Puṣya, Kṛttikā, Viśākhā, Bharaṇī, Maghā, Pūrvabhādra and Pūrvaphālguni are known as the circle of Agni. The previous symptoms of an earthquake of Agni occuring when the Moon is in any of these seven asterisms, will last for seven days.

13. These symptoms are—the sky will be filled with the light of falling meteors and the appearance of Digdāha will be seen about the horizon, and fire and wind will rage over the land.

14. In an Āgneya earthquake, the clouds will be destroyed; tanks and lakes will become dry; rulers will become hostile to one another and mankind will suffer from ring-worms, cutaneous eruptions, fever, spreading itch and jaundice.

15. Also men of bright appearance, cruel men and the people of Asmaka, Aṅga, Bāhlīka, Taṅgaṇa, Kaliṅga, Bengal and of Draviḍa, and numerous hill-men will suffer miseries.

16. The asterisms of Abhijit, Śravaṇa, Dhaniṣṭhā, Rohiṇī, Jyeṣṭhā, Uttarāṣāḍha and Anurādhā are known as the circle of Indra. The previous symptoms of an earthquake of Indra occurring when the Moon is in any of these seven asterisms, are as follows:

17. Clouds like so many moving mountains, roaring aloud, attended by lightning and black as the horn of a buffalo, as the bee and the black cobra, will yield abundance of rain.

18. In an Aindra earthquake, the Vedas, men of high caste and of high families, and rulers and commanders of armies will perish. Dysentery, inflammation or swelling of the neck, diseases of the face and the vomiting diseases will afflict mankind.

19. Benares, Yugandhara, Paurava, Kirāta, Kīra, Abhisāra, Hala, Madra, Arbuda, Saurāṣṭra and Mālava will suffer, and there will be rain to suit the wants of the people.

20. The asterisms of Revatī, Pūrvāṣāḍha, Ārdrā, Āśleṣā, Mūla, Uttarāṣāḍha and Śatabhiṣaj are known as the circle of Varuṇa. The previous symptoms of an earthquake of Varuṇa occurring when the Moon is in any of these seven asterisms are as follows:

21. Clouds of the colour of the blue lotus, of the bee and of collyrium, sounding agreeably, in masses and attended by lightning, will yield sharp rain.

22. In a Varuṇa earthquake persons working at the sea or in rivers will perish; there will be excessive rain and rulers will cease to be hostile. The people of Gonarda, Cedi, Kukura, Kirāta and Videha, will suffer miseries.

23. The effects assigned to earthquakes will occur within six months; those assigned to the other Utpātas will occcur within two months: these occurrences are classified by some under the heads of the four circles above referred to.

24-26. Meteoric falls,[1] cloud-castles, dust-storms, thunderbolts, earthquakes, fiery appearances about the horizon, violent winds, solar and lunar eclipses, changes in the appearance of stars; rainfall from a cloudless sky, the simultaneous occurrence of wind and rain, the appearance of smoke and sparks where there is no fire, the entry of wild animals into villages, the appearance of rainbow in the sky at night; any unusual appearance of the sky at sunrise or sunset, broken or imperfect halos, rivers running in opposite directions, there being heard the music of the drum in the sky, and the like unusual occurrences should be classified under the heads of the four circles of Vāyu, Agni, Varuṇa and Indra.[2]

27. As regards the effects of earthquakes classified with respect to time and Nakṣatra, whenever there is an inconsistency, the Aindra character with respect to time will take precedence over the Vāyavya character with respect to Nakṣatra; and the Vāyavya character with respect to time over the Aindra character with respect to Nakṣatra; and so in the case of the Varuṇa and Āgneya character of each earthquake, division with respect to time takes precedence over division with respect to Nakṣatra.[3]

28. If an earthquake (bhūkampa) should partake of the character of one of Agni and Vāyu, the chief ruler will perish, and mankind will suffer from hunger, fear, death and drought.

29. If an earthquake should partake of the character of one of Varuṇa and of Indra, there will be prosperity in the land, good rain and gladness of heart, cows will yield much milk, and rulers will cease to be hostile.

30. In the case of those Utpātas for the effects of which no period has been given, the rule is as follows: if the occurrences belong to the circle of Vāyu, the period is four fortnights; if to the circle of Agni, three fortnights; if of Indra, seven days; and if of Varuṇa, the effects will come to pass immediately.

31. In an earthquake of Vāyu the shock will be felt at a distance of two hundred yojanas (1,000 miles); in one of Agni, 110 yojanas; in one of Varuṇa, 180 yojanas, and in one of Indra 160 yojanas.

Footnotes and references:


Stanzas 24 to 26 are taken from Varāha Mihira’s Samāsa Saṁhitā.


Garga says; persons in whose Nakṣatras earthquakes and the like Utpātas occur will suffer miseries, they shall therefore perform expiatory ceremonies in honour of the particular Deva under whose influence the occurrences take place.


Garga says that if an earthquake is connected with two Nakṣatras, division with respect to time of day takes precedence.