Geometry in Ancient and Medieval India

author: Dr. T.A. Sarasvati Amma
edition: 2017, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
pages: 278
ISBN-10: 8120813448
ISBN-13: 9788120813441
Topic: Jyotisha

When the author of the present Thesis came y to me to do research, I did not want her to take up any subject in the over- worked fields of Alamkara, Vedanta or general literature and wanted to know if she was prepared, to work in fields which were neglected or in which few young scholars were inclined to put forth their efforts. On further enquiry I found that she was qualified in mathematics, having taken her first degree in physics and mathematics and decided that she should specialise in the field of Indian contribution to mathematics, algebra and geometry.

The originality and antiquity of Indian contribution to these branches of science have been questioned by some of the historians of mathematics. For example while it is generally believed that the credit of having discovered the place value and decimal system goes to India, some distinguished modern writers do not accept this. But in the case of geometry, we are on more Solid grounds. Not only are the Sulba Sutra earlier in date to Pythagoras but the entire sacrificial system and the fire altars, vedic for which the Sulba Sutras were intended, are already pre- supposed by the Rigvedic hymns. The biased view of the ancient Hindu contribution, either for or against, has been aggravated, as observed by an eminent modern Indian scientist, by the inadequate publication of the original documents. Needham says "future research on the history of science and technology in Asia, will, in fact, reveal that the achievements of these peoples contribute far more, in all pre-renaissance periods, to the development of world science than has yet been realised." This study to be useful could be undertaken only by those who have scientific equipment, and if these have the additional grounding of a knowledge of Sanskrit, the best possible results could be! expected. The material available should be interpreted in terms of modern knowledge in the concerned sciences. It is in this respect that work such as the one being introduced here is important.

Dr. Sarasvati has examined ancient Indian geometry as seen in the Vedic period and its Sulba Sutras and in the texts of the classical and post-classical periods of Sanskrit literature, as also in the Jain texts like the Surya, Candra and Jambudvipa Prajnaptis. The work was recommended for the Doctorate Degree by Judges who were mathematicians and its publication will be an addition to the meagre expositions available on the scientific aspects of Sanskrit literature.

The efforts of the section of the Ministry of Education dealing with the history of Science in India and of the Association for the History of Science and their Journal have been helpful for the development of researches in this field. Special emphasis was laid by the First International Sanskrit Conference held recently by the Ministry of Education, on Sanskrit and Science and Technology and it revealed the talent available for tackling subjects in this area. However it cannot be said that, as in the case of Philosophy, Professors of the different sciences in the Indian Universities have become interested in this subject; as I have pleaded the history in India of the respective sciences should form a regular complementary part of the study of modern sciences in the Universities and should form legitimate subjects for research degrees for Science graduates.

I hope that the author will continue her investigations in this specialised field and will make further contributions to the elucidation of the Sanskrit literature on mathematics.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: