Laplace (1749-1827), the French mathematician once remarked – The ingenious method of expressing every possible number using a set of ten symbols (each symbol having a place value and an absolute value) emerged in India. The idea seems so simple nowadays that its signicance and profound importance is no longer appreciated. Its simplicity lies in the way it facilitated calculation and placed arithmetic foremost amongst use-ful inventions. the importance of this invention is more readily appreciated when one considers that it was beyond the two greatest men of antiquity, Archimedes and Apollonius”.
The origin of Indian Mathematics can be traced back to the descriptions of the geometry for altar constructions as found in the Vedic mythology text the Shatapatha Brahmana and the Taittiriya Samhita. Mathematical astronomy of India dates back to 3rd century B.C. Mathematics and especially Geometry was needed to support developments in astronomy in India.
Indus valley civilization (Harappan) in 2500 B.C. already had mathematical descriptions of weights and measures. The Harappans had systematic weights and measures, which were fractional in nature 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500.
One Indus inch had a unit of 1.32 inches (of the present day). The Vedas which are believed to have been composed in 1500 B.C. and 800 B.C. (in sanskrit) contain the Sulbasutras. These are appendices to Vedas giving rules for construction of altars. These were composed by Baudhayana in 800 B.C. Other notable contributions to geometry of altars were made by Manava in 750 B.C. and Apastamba in 600 B.C. and Katyayana in 200 B.C. These men were mainly priests and scholars and not mathematicians in the modern sense. Panini lived in the same period who was a grammarian par excellence. What has grammar got to do with Mathematics? It is now clear that this has connections to mathematical formal language and computer science.
Brahmi Numerals which subsequently got modied to the present day numerals were invented in Indian in the 1st century A.D. The Jains started replacing Vedic religion in 6th century B.C. From this period to 500 A.D. (Aryabhata I) is considered dark period of Indian Mathematics. It was around 150 B.C. that Jaina mathematics ourished. They were quite advanced to their counterparts (the Vedic) because they even considered orders of innity and also had the concept which was akin to the logarithm to base-2. The famous Bhakshali Manuscript consists of these Jaina writings, but it’s date is controversial.
500 A.D. was in some sense the beginning of the era of Indian Mathematics with outstanding contributions by Aryabhata. He replaced the Rahu and Ketu theory with a more modern theory of eclipses. He headed the research center in mathematics and astronomy at Kusumapura (NE). Ujjain was another center which was then the home of Varahamihira who was also a famous mathematician. Both schools were involved in development of numerals and of place-valued number systems.
Brahmagupta was the next signicant gure in the 7th century A.D. at Ujjain who made remarkable contributions to negative numbers and zero, integer solutions to indeterminate equations and interpolation formulas (for computation of sine tables). He was the earliest astronomer to have employed the theory of quadratic equations and the method of successive approximations to solving problems in spherical astronomy.
Mathematics in India at that time was family-based. Mathematical education was largely restricted within the family and there was not much scope of innovation. Father passed on the commentaries to his son, who pursued it. The role of women in mathematics during those times was highly restricted or even probably non-existent. Religion also played a key role. Mathematical beliefs were tantamount to religious beliefs and changing religious beliefs was not acceptable. The role of commentaries was important because mathematicians wrote commentaries on their own work and the work of their predecessors.
These commentaries got transferred in disclipinic succession. One of the characteristics of Indian system of mathematics and science was the lack of sucient observations. Parameshwara of the 14th century A.D. was the rst mathematician/astronmer who made systematic observations over many years. Indian system of mathematics was largely rule-based or algorithmic in nature. There were no use of notations or symbols and these were in terse verse form. Even numerals were not used in these verses. Further, mathematics was largely a computational tool for developing astronomy. It was meant as a tool to enable greater simplicity and clarity in understanding
astronomical facts and phenomena.
The next signicant gure was Bhaskara I (7th century A.D.). He was a contemporary of Brahmagupta at theUjjain center and led the Asmaka school. This school would have the study of the works of Aryabhata as their main concern and certainly Bhaskara was a commentator on the mathematics of Aryabhata. More than 100 years after Bhaskara, the astronomer Lalla, lived another commentator on Aryabhata.
Bhaskara II (1114 – 1185 A.D.) also known as Bhaskharacharya was born in Maharashtra. He is considered as an outstanding poet-mathematician of his times. He was the head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain, where other famous Indian mathematicians
including Brahmagupta had studied and worked previously. He worked on algebra, number systems, and astronomy. He wrote beautiful texts illustrated with mathematical problems and he provided the best summary of the mathematics and astronomy of the classical period. He made fundamental contributions to the development of number theory, the theory of indeterminates innite series expressions for sine, cosine and tangent, computational mathematics, etc. 200 years after Bhaskara did any signicant work happened in Indian Mathematics.
Bhaskara was a great poet and had mastered eight volumes on Grammar, six on medicine, six on logic, ve on mathematics, four vedas, a triad of three ratnas, and two Mimamsas. Bhaskara produced six works during his lifetime: Lilavati, Bijaganita,
Siddhantasiromani, Vasanabhasya of Mitaksara, Brahmatulya, and Vivarana. These were all books on math or astronomy, with some of them being commentaries on his own works or that of others. Bhaskara was excellent at arithmetic, including a good
understanding of negative and zero numbers. He was also good at solving equations and had an understanding of mathematical systems, years ahead of his European peers.
The other notable mathematician post-Bhaskara was Madhava from Kerala (1350-1425 A.D.). He invented Taylor series and gave an approximation of to 11 decimal places. It is remarkable that he also gave the error or reminder term for the Taylor’s expansion of 4 which was rediscovered by Newton in 1676. It is said that the 2 most innovative Indian mathematicians of the classical period were bhaskaracharya and Madhava.