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A Look Back In History: Contribution of Indian Mathematicians in the field of Mathematics

The value of “pi” was first calculated by the Indian Mathematician Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem

The Babylonian mathematical tablet Plimpton 322, dated to 1800 BC. Wikimedia
  • The chronology of Indian mathematicians spans from the Indus Valley Civilization and the Vedas to Modern India
  • Mathematical concepts from India were transmitted to the Middle East, China, and Europe
  • Ancient India was not only the land of sages, saints, and seers but also the land of scholars and scientists

September 13, 2016: Indian mathematicians have made a number of contributions in the field of mathematics that have significantly influenced scientists and mathematicians of the modern era. These include place-value arithmetical notations, the use of the ruler, the concept of zero, and, most importantly, the Arabic-Hindu numerals predominantly used today and likely into the future. But, in the course of time, the names are lost in the pages of History.

India has always been a field for mathematical development from time immemorial. Ancient Indian Architecture like ‘Jantar Mantar’, in Jaipur which is the largest observatories ever built, are the precedent of Indian Mathematic Calculations. There are more examples that show the course of Indian mathematical history and how well versed we were.

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The value of “pi” was first calculated by the Indian Mathematician Budhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century, which was long before the European mathematicians.

Craved zero in ancient Gwalior Shiva temple. Wikimedia

Indian Mathematicians are the one who introduced ‘Zero’ and ‘Concept of Infinity’ to the world for the very first time. ‘Decimal System’ is also one of the greatest contributions by Indian mathematicians to the world of mathematics.

‘‘Shunya’’ as we say in Hindi for ‘‘Zero’’ was introduced by the extraordinary mathematicians Brahmagupta who was also known as ‘Ganita Chakra Chudamani’ among his fellow scientists which means ‘‘the Gem of the circle of Mathematicians’’.

Brahmagupta (598–668 AD) was an Native indian math wizzard and uranologist who wrote many essential performs on mathematics and astronomy. Wikimedia
Brahmagupta (598–668 AD). Wikimedia

Brahmagupta wrote many books but he is known for his work in Brahasaputasiddhanta which means ‘Correct Treatise of Brahma’ and includes many mathematical findings and rules of Arithmetics, all written in verse form. He came forth with Geometrical Theories and rules of Trigonometry in his book which are part of today’s mathematical solutions.

Aryabhatta. Wikimedia
Aryabhatta. Wikimedia

When it comes to the contribution of Indian mathematicians the name of Legendary Aryabhatta is always heard of. Aryabhatta is still considered a legendary hero for his incredible work in the field of Algebra, Trigonometry, approximation of pie, Indeterminate equations, Place value system and zero.

Aryabhatta (AD 476–550) was the first in the line of great mathematicians and astronomers to provide a breakthrough in these fields. He is the father of the Hindu-Arabic number system which is of universal relevance today. His most famous works are the Aryabhatiya (AD 499 at age of 23 years) and Arya-Siddhanta.

Ananda Rau is seated on the high stool at the far left along with Ramanujan in the front chair. Wikimedia
Ananda Rau is seated on the high stool at the far left along with Ramanujan in the front chair. Wikimedia

”Where there is a will, there is a way’’ is just the right term for another Great Legend Ramanujan. He was a self-taught mathematician with no specific or formal training in the field of mathematics and made extraordinary contributions, with his phenomenal works like Mathematical Analysis, Number Theory, Infinite Series, and Continued Fractions. His other contributions like Ramanujan’s Master Theorem, Ramanujan Prime, Ramanujan Conjecture makes him India’s one of the greatest mathematical geniuses.

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When he was 16, Ramanujan came across the book “A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics by George S. Carr. This book was a collection of 5000 theorems, and it introduced Ramanujan to the world of mathematics. The next year, he had independently developed and investigated the Bernoulli numbers and had calculated Euler’s constant up to 15 decimal places.

Bhaskara (1114 – 1185) (also known as Bhaskara II and Bhaskarachārya. Wikimedia
Bhaskara (1114 – 1185) (also known as Bhaskara II and Bhaskarachārya. Wikimedia

Bhaskara was also one of the greatest mathematicians of medieval India who lived in 12th century, discovered some of the principles of Differential Calculus and showed how to apply it to astronomical computations. Keeping in mind that the earliest Discoveries by Newton or Leibniz that related to differential or integral calculus were in the 1660’s. Bhaskara is well known for his work ”Siddhanta Shiromani’’ meaning ”Crown of Treatises’’ which includes work in Arithmetic, Algebra, Mathematics of the planets and spheres.

There is a famous book ”Science in the Medieval World” written in the 11th century by said al-Andalusi. The chapters show how vastly mathematicians from India have contributed to the world Mathematics.

Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao at ISI Chennai. Wikimedia
Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao at ISI Chennai. Wikimedia

Mathematicians like Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao (popularly known as CR Rao) well-known Statistician, famous for Theory of Estimations and Narendra Karmarkar is known for his Karmarkar’s Algorithm. They are still contributing to mathematics at a global level. There is no doubt that the world today is greatly indebted to the contributions made by Indian mathematicians. We can see the glimpse of Indian mathematical approach in our ancient architecture, historical buildings and even in religion.

-by Aakash Mandyal of NewsGram. Twitter @Akashsen6

  • Manthra koliyer

    Indians have really contributed a lot for the field of Mathematics

  • Antara

    Mathematics has always been a strong suit of the Indians since the ancient times. No wonder the world owes a lot in this field to the Indians.

  • Anubhuti Gupta

    It’s so sad that us Indians only forget sometimes how much our ancestors have contributed to mathematics. We should walk with our head held high because of them

Next Story

Christmas and Controversies

The Christmas tree came from Germany, Christmas card from England, Santa from the USA, and secular celebrations started all over the world.

Christmas was invented to convert people by appropriating pagan’s original practices with Christmas.

-By Bharti Raizada

Bharti Raizada
Bharti Raizada

To my knowledge, no other festival is as universal and controversial as Christmas.

As per M-W dictionary, the definition of Christmas is as follows:

“A Christian feast on December 25 or among some eastern orthodox Christians on January 7 that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday.”

Christ- Mas: is the church service that celebrates the birth of Jesus.

X- Mas: X is the Greek letter Chi that is a short form of the word Christ. In Greek, Christ’s name is Xristos. Therefore, X- mas is the same as Christ-mas. For some, X removes the religious aspect of Christmas by replacing Christ with X and this celebration then becomes more secular to them. You can fill X with anything you like.

People observe or celebrate Christmas in many different ways: religiously, in a secular way, or as a holiday. Some people do not pay any attention and become part of the Christmas in a mixed way.

Christmas is celebrated every year to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ

Those who do not celebrate are either indifferent or wage a war against it.

Pagans are unhappy for Christianization of Saturnalia. Christians are complaining about paganization or secularization of Christmas. Some Christians believe that it is not their festival at all.

Actually, if we dig deep into it, we come to know that Christ’s birthday and life have been surrounded with assumptions. There is controversy whether he was Jewish or Christian; and whether Jews or Romans crucified him.

Contrasts between Hinduism and Christmas

Now, before we go further into the roots of this topic, let us take a glance at Christmas from the Hindu point of view. Here is how I would summarize a few contrasting points.

  1. Trees are sacred to Hindus. We worship them and believe that Devi, Devtas, or Bhagwan (God) live in them. We do not believe in cutting trees at mass level and bring cut trees inside our home for decoration purposes. We do not believe in the sacrifice of living beings/trees.
  2. We have all four kinds of weather and many varieties of trees but the Christmas tree is typically not found in India.
  3. Chimney is not a common architectural entity in Indian households. Hindu children typically touch the feet of elders, in morning, and get gift of blessings every day. The focus of secular Christmas celebration is expectation of a gift by Santa. Materialism and expectation of gift is not a central part of any Hindu celebration. Hindus give gifts on many occasions but expecting a gift from someone is not a primary theme of any celebration.

    The tree has pagan origins but now it represents Christian beliefs.
  4. Hindus go by facts. Hindu scriptures have a birth date for Ram and Krishn. Christmas celebration is based on an assumption- the assumption that December 25 is the birthday of Jesus.
  5. In Hinduism, one is not a sinner by birth and therefore does not depend on Jesus to save him or her. We all are part of the supreme divinity.
  6. Jesus died in place of all other humans so that they can live, i.e., he rescued humanity. We believe inkarma and therefore do not need Jesus for salvation. Someone else cannot own our sins and give us Moksha. Moksha is attained individually.
  7. Vegetarianism is a common theme in Hinduism. Christmas feasts in church typically include meat and alcoholic beverages.
  8. Hindus have so many festivals. It is not an exaggeration to say that every day is an occasion or festival for Hindus. We do not need more from other religions.

Christmas was invented to convert people by appropriating pagan’s original practices with Christmas. We know, the birth of Christ is not that important to Christians as his Resurrection. Protestants/Puritans do not even consider Christmas as their festival. Initially, the agenda of this celebration was conversion by assimilation.

 When we adopt festivals and traditions, which are not our own, it dilutes our own traditions and festivals and slowly our celebrations are replaced and become obsolete. Additionally, it does not take long (takes only a few generations) to lose our own practices.

Why do some Hindus celebrate Christmas?

  1. While Hindus do not believe in Jesus and Christianity, they get attracted to the holiday by the decorated trees, lights, and Santa. They take pictures, share them on social media, and may inadvertently give the false impression that they believe in Jesus.
  2. Some celebrate it just to show that they are secular and tolerant of other religions.
  3. Some who live in Christian dominated societies celebrate it for the inadvertent fear of exclusion, or to become a part of the process.
  4. Some do not think about it much and take it in a neutral/secular/holiday way. They believe in going by the flow.