Wednesday January 17, 2018

Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

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By Prachi Mishra

Aryabhata was one of the first Indian mathematicians and astronomers belonging to the classical age. A pioneer in the field of mathematics, he went on to discover the digit 0.

He was born in 476 BC in Tarenaga, a town in Bihar, India. However, some sources mention that he belonged to Kerala.  He completed his education at the well-known ancient University of Nalanda, which is located near Kusumapura in the present Indian state of Bihar. Since the University had an observatory in its premises, it is conjectured that Aryabhata was the principal of the institute as well.

Work in the field of Mathematics

Aryabhata wrote the scholarly work Aryabhattiya at a young age of 23, which is a summary of mathematics of his time. The work is divided into four sections. In the first section, the method of denoting big decimal numbers by alphabets has been described. The second section comprises of questions from topics of modern day Mathematics, such as number theory, geometry, trigonometry and Beejganita (algebra). The remaining two sections are on astronomy.

The discovery of zero enabled him to find out the exact distance between the earth and the moon. It also exposed a new feature of negative numerals.

For the first time, he gave the approximate value of pi as 3.1416. He arrived at this value by calculating the approximate circumference of a circle having a diameter of 20,000 units, which came out to be 62,832. He also gave the correct formula for calculating the area of a triangle.

He was also the first mathematician to give what later came to be known as the tables of Sines. The birth of trigonometry was influenced by his definitions of sine (jya), cosine (kojya), versine (utkrama-jya), and inverse sine (otkram jya).

Contribution to Astronomy

The last two sections of Aryabhattiya deal with astronomy.

Much before Copernicus enlightened the West with the discovery that sun is at the centre of solar system and all the planets including earth revolve around it, Aryabhata made this discovery by adopting the heliocentric theory. He disregarded the popular belief that earth is stationary and stated the theory that earth is round and rotates on its own axis, which causes the occurrence of day and night.

Aryabhatta challenged various prevalent superstitious beliefs and gave scientific explanations for many natural phenomena. He correctly stated that the moon and other planets do not have light of their own and shine because of the reflection of the light of the sun.

There was a popular Hindu belief that solar and lunar eclipses occurred because Rahu and Ketu (demon’s head) gobbled the sun and the moon. Aryabhata demolished this myth by proposing the theory that eclipses occur due to the shadows casted by the earth and the moon.

Due to his immense contribution towards developing mathematical and astronomical studies, the first satellite sent into orbit by India has been named after Aryabhata.

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10 Facts about Madhubani Paintings which will blow your mind

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station.

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A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Painting in black and white. Wikimedia Commons

Madhubani Paintings, also known as Mithila Paintings are the quintessence folk art form of Mithila Region of Bihar. The art form is incredibly old and the name ‘Madhubani’ which means, ‘forest of honey,’ has a lineage of more than 2500 years.These paintings are the local art of Madhubani district of Bihar, which is also the biggest exporter of Madhubani paintings in India.

Recently, Madhubani painting style came into limelight after some artists decided to renovate the Madhubani Railway Station by painting a huge Madhubani painting on the walls of the railway station. The painting spans across an area of 7000 square feet and is expected to attract tourism to the Madhubani District. Madhubani art has received international and national attention in recent times.

Paintings and art are a reflection of the culture and tradition of the place from where they originate. Madhubani paintings are an important part of the Indian Culture. Madhubani painting in black and white are some of the oldest and most beautiful art that people can witness and admire. The style, which was losing its importance earlier is once again emerging as a major art form.

A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common
A modern representation of Madhubani art form. Wikimedia Common

Here are 10 facts about Madhubani paintings which will blow your mind :

  • The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the days of Ramayana. The history of Madhubani paintings dates back to the time of Ramayana when king Janaka asked an artist to capture the wedding of his daughter Sita with prince Rama. He commissioned craftsmen to decorate the entire kingdom with Madhubani art on the auspicious occasion of his daughter’s marriage. That’s one of the earliest mentions of Madhubani paintings that can be found in ancient scriptures and text.
  • Madhubani Paintings have 5 distinct styles to delight our eyes. Madhubani art has five distinctive styles, namely, Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna, and Kohbar. In ancient times, Bharni, Kachni and Tantrik style were done by Brahman and Kayastha women, who were considered ‘upper caste.’ Their themes were mainly religious and depicted Gods and Goddesses, flora and fauna. People belonging to lower castes including aspects of their daily life and symbols into their paintings.Nowadays, however, Madhubani has become a globalised art form. There is no difference in the work of different artists of different regions or castes.
  • Madhubani paintings are done using different kinds of everyday materials. In past, Madhubani painting was done using fingers, twigs. Now, matchsticks and pen nibs are also used. Usually, bright colours are used in these paintings with an outline made from rice paste as its framework. These paintings rarely have any blank spaces. Borders are often embellished with geometric and floral patterns. These paintings use natural dyes. For example, Madhubani paintings in black and white often use charcoal and soot for the black colour.
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
A Madhubani Paintings can be made using different materials on different mediums. Wikimedia Commons
  • Madhubani art is characterised by symbols and figures. Madhubani paintings are characterised by figures that are prominently outlined, like bulging fish-like eyes and pointed noses. The themes of Madhubani paintings usually include natural elements like fish, birds, animals, turtle, sun, moon, bamboo trees and flowers, like a lotus. Love, valour, devotion, fertility, and prosperity are often symbolized by geometric patterns, which is another important feature of this art form.
  • From Mud-Walls to Canvas. Earlier, Madhubani paintings were made by women on freshly plastered mud-walls of their houses during religious occasions. The skill has been passed onto from one generation to another. Today, this artwork can be found on an international platform on mediums like cloth, paper, canvas, paper-mache products, etc.
  • Discovered and brought to attention by William G. Archer. Madhubani paintings, though prominent in India, were unknown to the outside world until a colonizer, William G. Archer found them. While he was inspecting the damage after the massive earthquake of  Bihar in 1934, Archer was amazed when he discovered the beautiful illustrations on the interior walls of the huts. He decided to bring the attention of other colonizers to this art form and introduced it internationally.

    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings are made without sketches. Wikimedia Common
  • Madhubani is an Instinctive Art Form. Madhubani art is created without the use of sketches, they are made instinctively by the artists. This feature not only makes Madhubani paintings unique but also incredibly exclusive.
  • Madhubani painting also prevents Deforestation. Surprised? This folk art is not just mere decorations on the wall, it is also used for worship. Artists in Bihar draw paintings depicting Hindu deities on trees and those who hold strong religious beliefs, prevent others from chopping those trees down. This plays a big role in preventing trees from being cut down.
  • The Connection with Feng shui. Madhubani paintings use symbols and geometric figures which have a strong association with the Feng Shui philosophy. The use of flowers, especially the lotus, birds,  fishes, and turtles which we find in Madhubani paintings, are closely linked to the concept of divinity and spirituality in Feng Shui. Madhubani painting is believed to bring with them, the benefits of Feng Shui as well.

    Madhubani painting rarely has any spaces. Wikimedia Common
    Madhubani paintings rarely have any empty spaces. Wikimedia Common
  • The Importance of Sun in Madhubani. Since ancient times, the sun has always been an important symbol of nature worship. The Sun also occupies such an important place in the Madhubani paintings. There are paintings wholly dedicated to the Sun, in which it can be seen painted in different moods and colours. Every Madhubani home has one painting of the Sun which they worship daily.