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Tag Archives | Aryabhata

A Course on Mathematics in India (From Vedic Period to Modern Times)

In 662 CE, a Syrian bishop named Severus Sebokht wrote

When Ibn Sina (980 – 1037 CE) was about ten years old, a group of missionaries belonging to an Islamic sect came to Bukhara from Egypt  and he writes that it is from them that he learned Indian arithmetic. This, George Gheverghese Joseph, writes in The Crest of the Peacock: Non-European Roots of Mathematics shows that Indian math was being used from the borders of central Asia to North Africa and Egypt.

Though there is a such a rich history, we rarely learn about the greatness of Indian mathematicians in schools. Even our intellectuals are careful to glorify the West and ignore the great traditions of India. A prime example of that was an article by P. Govindapillai, the Communist Party ideologue, in which he lamented that the world did not know about the contributions of the Arab scientist al-Hassan. In response, I wrote an Op-Ed in Mail Today in 2009.

Thus it is indeed great to see that NPTEL ran a course on Mathematics in India – From Vedic Period to Modern Times. The entire series of around 40 lectures is available online. It is there on YouTube as well. It starts with Mathematics in ancient India with the Śulbasūtras and goes past the period of Ramanujam. It goes through various regional scientists including the members of the Kerala School of Astronomy and covers the difference between the Greco-Roman system of proofs and how Indian mathematicians did it. Kudos to Prof. M. D. Srinivas, Prof. M. S. Sriram and Prof.K. Ramasubramanian for making this available to the general public.

PS: @sundeeprao points to this course on Ayurvedic Inhertance of India

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Multiple Big Bangs and Hindu Cosmology

Recently Briane Greene was on National Public Radio regarding his new book The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos which talks about brain churning concepts like parallel universes. He also theorizes that the universe did not have a single begining, instead there were multiple big bangs which created multiple universes. At this point the host said it reminded him of Hindu cosmology.

I am not sure if Hindu cosmology talks about multiple universes and their creation and destruction, or just about the creation and destruction of one universe. Much before Brian Greene, Carl Sagan had noted in Cosmos

“The Hindu religion is the only one of the world’s great faiths dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of modern scientific cosmology. Its cycles run from our ordinary day and night to a day and night of Brahma, 8.64 billion years long. Longer than the age of the Earth or the Sun and about half the time since the Big Bang. And there are much longer time scales still.
…A millennium before Europeans were wiling to divest themselves of the Biblical idea that the world was a few thousand years old, the Mayans were thinking of millions and the Hindus billions”

In his new book Indian Culture And Indias Future Michel Danino writes about the achievements of Āryabhaṭa (476 CE) like computing π, values of sines, diameter of earth, and computation of orbits of planets. Āryabhaṭa was also fascinated with the concept of yugas, in which the universe (in singular) is destroyed and re-created. He wrote “Time is without begining or end”


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