Kerala School of Mathematics

Dr. Subhash Kak has started a new column in Rediff. In his first article, “India’s schoolbook histories”: he writes about the Kerala school of Mathematics
bq. The astronomers Aryabhata and Bhaskara may be familiar to some from the eponymous spacecrafts of the Indian Space Organization. Aryabhata (500 AD) took the earth to spin on its axis and he described the planet periods with reference to the sun. He also took the solar system to be several hundred million miles across. In all of these things he was ahead of the rest of the world by more than a thousand years. Bhaskara (12th century) was a brilliant mathematician. The last two names belong to the amazing Kerala school of mathematics and astronomy.
There is more

bq. Three British historians have recently suggested that Kerala mathematics may have provided key ideas for the scientific revolution in Europe. The need for clocks to keep accurate time on ships became of critical importance after the colonisation of America. There were significant financial rewards for new navigation techniques. These historians argue that information was sought from India due to the prestige of the eleventh century Arabic translations of Indian navigational methods. They suggest that Jesuit missionaries were the intermediaries in the diffusion of Kerala mathematical ideas into Europe.
DP Agrawal has a paper on “The Kerala School, European Mathematics and Navigation”:
Amazing, and I did not know that Aryabhata was from Kerala. The time of Aryabhata, 500AD is also the same time that is attributed to Adi Shankara, who was also from Kerala. Interesting times, those might have been

14 thoughts on “Kerala School of Mathematics

  1. Das, I find it difficult to accept 500 BC as the date of Shankaracharya. If so he would have been a contemporary of Buddha.
    Also Shankara was born a Brahmin. As per history, Brahmins migrated to Kerala only after 500 AD.

  2. aryabhata I was born in pusumpura which is near patna in todays bihar. that is for sure. regarding the date, he wrote the book aryabhatiya in 499 ad. this was when he was 22 years old. that makes him to be born in 477ad

  3. Aryabhata’s MacTutor biography (St. Andrews university) mentions that Al Biruni’s idea that there were two Aryabhatas is false, and there is only one Aryabhata. Strangely Dr. Bedekar of the Oriental Institute is quoted as saying that Bihar is Aryabhata’s birth place.
    Could there have been two Aryabhatas, one born in Kerala, as written in most biographies, and one born in North India, maybe in Bihar, both mathematicians?
    It would be an incredible coincidence.

  4. That is all good and fine what he invested and what he wrote. But evidence points that he was born in Kusumpur/Patliputra (Patna). No one can take his birthpalce.

  5. If what I read is correct aryabhatta, bhaskara and chanakya were born in Kerala. I am not sure of the dates though. Just like shankaracharya, they all fled from kerala, not only in pursuit of their studies and field of work, but also because kerala had one of the worst decay in societies during their periods. Untouchability and blind brahminism ruled the society for very long years (several centuries in fact). To add to untouchability, divide of brahmins to shaivaists and vaishavaists was clearly seen in kerala. Shankaracharya who was born in such a period finally had to propound the unity of these two forms (advaita sidhanta). It would have been difficult to pursue any kind of study under such circumstances. Lot of scholars fled the state during these periods. Kerala had brahmins even before 500 AD because as per the story goes, this part of land was created by Parasurama and was donated to brahmins. Remember parasurama was a contemprory of Lord Rama.

  6. JK:
    There is one huge gap in the Indian history:
    The Mahabharata war was supposed to have happened according to various historians in 3100 BCE , or 2450 BCE or near 1500 BCE. Whatever the date, there is a huge gap and suddenly we see kingdoms like the 16 Mahajanapadas, and names Ajatashatru, Bimbisara, etc. in 600 BCE.
    Also, the question of who was comtemporary of Alxeander when he attacked India? There were two Chandraguptas–Maurya, and Gupta. And neither Mauryan nor Gupta records have any mention on this I believe.
    Do you think that it is possible that the westerners in 19th century who calibrated Indian History to tally with western civilisation made this mistake? Could Buddha, Mahavira, Maurya, Chanakya and hence Adi Sankara be much older than what is believed today?

  7. JK
    there are some serious arguments & much mud slinging on this topic of Arayabhata & where he was born. I will have a post up next week on this, hopefully it will place the divergent opinions on the same page for Biharis and Malayali’s to understand the reasoning if not decide which could possibly be right.

  8. Never forget the might of Kerala. India and Indians have a serious issue of trying to malign the contributions and heroic deeds of South India. Some of you love to spin and highlight only North India;s contributions. We are all one. Correct the mistakes of the past. Even Buddha said Caste is bullshit, so why do many still practice it?
    Here read up. I don;t quite understand why there is so much confusion. If you do some research, nobody is sure where Ayrabhatta was born but looking at the mind boggling mathematics that came from Kerala, it would not be far fetched to think he comes from such a land that has produced great advances in Mathematics.

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