Vedic roots of Mathematics

Did you know that Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus and Algebra are studies which originated in India?

The word Geometry seems to have emerged from the Sanskrit word gyaa-miti which means “measuring the Earth”. And the word Trigonometry is similar to tri-kona-miti meaning “measuring triangular forms”. Euclid is credited with the invention of Geometry in 300 BCE while the concept of Geometry in India emerged in 1000 BCE, from the practice of making fire altars in square and rectangular shapes. The treatise of Surya Siddhanta describes amazing details of Trigonometry, which were introduced to Europe 1200 years later in the 16th century by Briggs. All Hindu as well as Buddhist mandalas and yantras are complex forms of Geometrical shapes.

Bhaskaracharya otherwise known as Bhaskara is probably the most well known mathematician of ancient Indian today. Bhaskara wrote his famous Siddhanta Siroman in the year 1150 A.D. It is divided into four parts; Lilavati (arithmetic), Bijaganita (a treatise on algebra), Goladhyaya (celestial globe), and Grahaganita (mathematics of the planets). An Arabic Scholar Al Zabar translated a Bhaskara’s work Bijaganita from Sanskrit. It was later known as Algebra in European languages.

From India the sine function was introduced to the Arab world in the 8th century, where the term jya was transliterated into jiba or jyb. Early Latin translations of Arabic mathematical treatises mistook jiba for the Arabic word jaib, which can mean the opening of a woman’s garment at the neck. Accordingly, jaib was translated into the Latin sinus, which can mean “fold” (in a garment), “bosom,” “bay,” or even “curve.” Hence our word “sine.”

The word “Algorithm” was actually supposed to be pronounced “Al-Khwarizmi”, which was the name of an eminent 9th century Arab scholar, who played important roles in importing knowledge on arithematic and algebra from India to the Arabs. In his work, De numero indorum (Concerning the Hindu Art of Reckoning), it was based presumably on an Arabic translation of Brahmagupta where he gave a full account of the Hindu numerals which was the first to expound the system with its digits 0,1,2,3,…,9 and decimal place value which was a fairly recent arrival from India. The new notation came to be known as that of al-Khwarizmi, or more carelessly, algorismi; ultimately the scheme of numeration making use of the Hindu numerals came to be called simply algorism or algorithm.


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