The Christian Chronology

From the days of British colonial rule we have developed a habit of following the Christian, or rather the Gregorian calendar. The main difficulty of this chronology is that, it originated only nearly 2000 years ago and hence incapable of accommodating events of long past as stated above. The geological time-frame invented by the scientists can take care of events which happened not earlier than 4 billion years ago. Most importantly, the origin and the process of counting months and years in Gregorian calendar are in no way linked to astronomical events. That is the reason why it was a matter of dispute whether the month February in 2000 A.D. would contain 29 days or 30 days.

Some texts try to establish a link between the birth of Jesus and the beginning of this Christian or Gregorian calendar and say that a bright star then appeared in the sky. According to the famous German astronomer Johannes Kepler, it was a conjunction of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in the zodiacal sign Pisces and the incident look place in 7 B.C. Most of the historians and researchers on Jesus believe that he was born somewhere in between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C. Moreover, the people who are connected with the origin of this calendar, possess entirely childish and amusing ideas about the creation of this universe and its antiquity. The Irish prelate James Ussher in 17th century openly declared, without giving any thought to the possible repercussions of his statement that this universe originated on February 26, 4004 B.C. at 9 a.m. Even today most of them believe that God created this earth and heaven within six days from nothingness and finished His task on that day.

In fact, the present Christian chronology originated in 753 B.C., the year of foundation of the city of Rome. In its original form, 304 days divided into 10 months made a year and its present form bears the testimony of this fact. At that time the parting 4 months, namely September, October. November and December were the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months of the year and their names were coined from septem, octo, novem and decem, the Latin words for 7.8.9 and 10. This shows the colossal lack of knowledge the Romans of that time had about the solar cycle and one can easily imagine the frightening disharmony it had with the solar cycle. Here one should also notice the striking similarity between the Latin words for 7, 8, 9 and 10 as mentioned above and the Sanskrit words saptam, astam, navam and dasam. This shows that the Romans learned the art of counting from India. However, in 46 B.C. emperor Julius Caesar introduced, quite arbitrarily, the month July after his name and then emperor Augustus Caesar introduced the month August after his name and made 12 months or 355 days a year. Then onwards it was called the Julian calendar.

In 1582, Pope Gregori XIII, in his endeavour to make it in harmony with the solar cycle, introduced some vital revisions. He introduced the practice of counting a year normally of 365 days and, a leap year of 366 days every fourth year. Furthermore, he made the rule that, a centesimal year will be treated as a leap year only when it is divisible by 400. Despite all such efforts it was seen that, a discrepancy of 11 days had crept in the year 1700 A.D. A compromise was made in that year by skipping those 11 days and in fact, 4th September was counted as 15th September in that year. In the Eastern Europe the said correction was done in 1917, when the discrepancy reached 13 days. According to the old calendar the Bolshevik revolution in Russia took place in October, but in November after correction. That is the reason why the Communists some times call it the Great October Revolution and some times the Great November Revolution. It is important to note here that, there is no scope of occurrence of such a discrepancy in Hindu calendar because months and years are counted here according to actual position of the sun in the sky. However, in 1752, only 5 years before the battle of Palāśī, this Gregorian calendar was adopted as the royal calendar of Britain and with the gradual expansion of the British Empire, it ultimately acquired the present status of an international calendar. So, one should notice that the Gregorian calendar has achieved the status of an international calendar not due to its superior scientific basis but due to military success of its followers.

Hindu Kālagaņanā (chronologies) is the Oldest in the World!

According to Indian tradition or Hindu Kālagaņanā, three chronologies are in currency. Firstly, the Kali era or Kalyabda, which has begun from the present Kaliyuga and hence it is 5107 years old. Secondly, the Kalpābda which has begun with the present Svetavārāha Kalpa, and hence it is 1,971,221, 107 years old. And thirdly, the Sŗsţābda, which has begun with the creation of this universe and hence it is 155,521,971,221,107 years old. One should notice that. Kalyabda is fit for narrating historical events of recent past while Kalpābda and Sŗstābda are suitable for narrating much older cosmological, geological, geographical, biological and other events such as the creation of this earth, creation of the sun, beginning of life on earth and so on. So the scientists may find in them the most suitable alternative to the geological time frame which they are now extensively using for describing such older events.

Today, there are many chronologies, much older than the Christian chronology, extant in the world, as shown below:

Chronology Antiquity in years
Roman 2,753
Greek 3,576
Turkish (new) 4,294
Chinese (new) 4,360
Hindu (Kalyabda) 5,106
Jewish 5,764
Iran (new) 6,008
Turkish (old) 7,610
Egyptian 28,667
Iran (old) 189,971
Chinese (old) 96,002,301
Hindu (Kalpābda) 1,971,221,106
Hindu (Sŗşābda) 155,521,971,221,106

So a rational mind may ask — despite having so many older chronologies, why the shortest of them, the Christian chronology has been given the status of an international calendar? Why the 21st birth centenary of a person is to be observed as the 21st century of the entire world? If a genuine thought is given to the matter, without any racial, regional, political, sectorial or religious prejudice, the Hindu alone deserves the right to be treated as the calendar of the world, since it is the oldest and based entirely astronomical science. So, it carries much more scientific sense in saying that we have entered the 52nd century of Kalyabda in 1998, than in saying that we have entered the 21st century of the Christian calendar in 2001.



Heliocentric Solar System

Ancient Hindus were first to suggest a heliocentric solar system. Speed of light was calculated as 1,85,016 miles/sec. They had even calculated the distance between Earth and Moon as 108 diameters of Moon and Earth and Sun as 108 diameters of Sun. These figures are very close to the modern day values. All these were stated several thousand years before the famous scientist Galileo postulated in the west that sun was the center of the planetary system and Earth was not flat, which was against the prevailing religious doctrines and he died during his house-arrest by clergy. Another astonishing invention was ancient Hindus calculated the age of Earth as 4.3 billion years. The modern estimate is 4.5 billion years. Just remember that the biblical age of the Earth, as per Christians, is just 6,000 years!.


India was the world-leader in Metallurgy for more than 5,000 years. Gold jewelery is available from 3,000 BCE. Brass and bronze pieces are dated back to 1,300 BCE. Extraction of zinc from ore by distillation was used in India as early as 400 BCE while European William Campion patented the process some 2,000 years later. Copper statues can be dated back to 500 CE. There is an iron pillar in Delhi dating back to 400 CE that shows no sign of rust or decay.

The earliest know book on metallurgy was known to be written by Nagarjuna in 10th century. The book Rasaratnanakara addresses various metallurgical topics such as:

  • Preparation of liquids (rasas) such as Mercury
  • Extraction of metals like Gold, Silver, Tin, and Copper from their ores and their purification
  • The processes of liquefaction, distillation, sublimation, and roasting

India was invaded by Mohammedans during the time of Nagarjuna. It is possible that Nagarjuna's texts fell into the hands of the invaders, who could have transmitted these Indian Metallurgical sciences to the outside world.

Atomic Theory

Sage Kanad, 600 BC, is recognized as the founder of atomic theory, and classified all the objects of creation into nine elements (earth, water, light or fire, wind, ether, time, space, mind and soul). He stated that every object in creation is made of atoms that in turn connect with each other to form molecules nearly 2,500 years before John Dalton. Further, Kanad described the dimension and motion of atoms, and the chemical reaction with one another.

These Indian ideas about atom and atomic physics could have been transmitted to the West during the contacts created between India and West by the invasion of Alexander.

Yoga - Health of the Body and Mind

Yoga is a system of exercises for physical and mental nourishment. Apart from being a system of exercise, an important aspect of Yoga is that of self-discipline.

The fundamentals of Yoga were systematically presented by Patanjali in a treatise known as Yogasutras i.e. Yoga Aphorisms. According to Patanjali, within the human body there are channels called Nadi and centres called Chakra. If these are tapped, The energy hidden in the body can be released. This energy is called Kundalini. The release of Kundalini enables the body to acquire many powers which are normally beyond its capability.

Stages of Yoga

Yama (universal moral commandments), Niyama (self-purification through discipline), Asana (posture), Pranayama (breath-control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of mind from external objects), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (state of super-consciousness) .

But though the Yogasutras were formulated 2000 years ago, Yoga has been practiced for countless generations, it is only in the last few years that scientists have begun to recognise the powers of yoga. It has now been established through experiments that by practicing Yoga, several ailments can be cured. Tests conducted on Yogis show that they do acquire extraordinary physical powers. For instance, they can live without oxygen for a long time, they can also adjust their metabolism if they have to remain without food for long periods. Yoga is being increasing applied in the field of Physiotherapy.

There are innumerable asanas (poses) in Yoga. Most of them derive their names from the semblance of the body in those poses to different animals and objects. Yoga is a multifarious system, there are various forms of discipline touching different aspects of human life, which are brought under the heading Yoga.

Asanas (Poses)

Matsyasana (pose like Fish pose), Mayurasana (pose like Peacock), Simhasana (pose like a Lion), Halasana (pose like a Plough), Shavasana (pose like a dead body, in absolute stillness).

Yoga Disciplines

Hathayoga (Bodily exercise), Gyanyoga or Dnyanyoga (Exercise for the mind and intellect), Karmayoga (Discipline in our actions in daily life)

Ayurveda - the Science of Longevity

Ayurveda is the indigenous system of medicine in India. Ayurveda literally means 'the science of living' (longevity). Ayu means "Life" and Veda means "Knowledge". The origins of this system of medicine are lost in the hoary past, and the body of knowledge that comes under the heading Ayurveda constitutes ideas about diseases, diagnosis and cure, which have been accumulated over the ages past.

The feature that distinguishes this system of medicines from other systems like Allopathy and Homeopathy is that it is solely based on herbs and herbal compounds. The medical system of Ayurveda draws heavily from the doctrines developed in the Charaka-Samahita. The main quality which Ayurveda has borrowed from Charaka is its aim of removing the cause for illness and not just curing the disease itself. In Ayurveda there are no such things as instant relievers, pain killers or antibiotics. The herbs used in Ayurvedic remedies do not operate against the body's metabolism, their effect is registered gradually and hence there are minimum side-effects. The constituents of Ayurvedic medicines are largely based on organic matter. The absence of fast registering inorganic compounds which are at times corrosive, contributes to the absence of side-effects from Ayurvedic medicines.

Unique quality of Ayurveda is that it uncovers and cures the root cause of illness, it is safe, gentle and inexpensive, it sees 6 stages of disease development (where modern medicine only sees the last two stages), it treats people in a personalized manner according to their dosha or constitution and not in any generic manner.

Raising 10 to the Power of 53 !

The highest prefix used for raising 10 to a power in today’s math is ‘D’ for 10 to a power of 30 (from Greek Deca). While, as early as 100 BCE Indian Mathematicians had exact names for figures upto 10 to the power of 53.

1= Ekam =1, 10 was Dashakam, 100 was Shatam (10 to the power of 10), 1000 was Sahasram (10 power of 3), 10000 was Dashasahasram (10 power of 4), 100000 was Lakshaha (10 power of 5), 1000000 was Dashalakshaha (10 power of 6), 10000000 was Kotihi (10 power of 7)……Vibhutangamaa (10 power of 51), Tallaakshanam (10 power of 53).

Life Cycles of the Universe

The Hindus view that the Universe has no beginning or end, but follows a cosmic creation and dissolution. Hindus are the only one who propounds the idea of life-cycles of the universe. It suggests that the universe undergoes an infinite number of deaths and rebirths. Hindus views the universe as without a beginning (anadi = beginning-less) or an end (ananta = end-less). Rather the universe is projected in cycles. Hindu scriptures refer to time scales that vary from ordinary earth day and night to the day and night of the Brahma that are a few billion earth years long.

According to Carl Sagan,

"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".

Continues Carl Sagan,

"… 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 the 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". One day of Brahma is worth a thousand of the ages (yuga) known to humankind; as is each night." Thus each kalpa is worth one day in the life of Brahma, the God of creation. In other words, the four ages of the mahayuga must be repeated a thousand times to make a "day ot Brahma", a unit of time that is the equivalent of 4.32 billion human years, doubling which one gets 8.64 billion years for a Brahma day and night. This was later theorized (possibly independently) by Aryabhata in the 6th century. The cyclic nature of this analysis suggests a universe that is expanding to be followed by contraction… a cosmos without end. This, according to modern physicists is not an impossibility.

34000th of a Second to 4.32 Billion Years

The ancient Hindus had given the world the idea of the smallest and largest measuring units of Time. Astonishingly, the ancient Hindus used the following units of time:

Unit Equivalent Equivalent
Krati 34,000th of a second
1 Truti 300th of a second
2 Truti 1 Luv
2 Luv 1 Kshana
30 Kshana 1 Vipal
60 Vipal 1 Pal
60 Pal 1 Ghadi 24 minutes
2.5 Gadhi 1 Hora 1 Hour
24 Hora 1 Divas 1 Day
7 Divas 1 Saptaah 1 Week
4 Saptaah 1 Maas 1 Month
2 Maas 1 Rutu (season)
6 Rutu 1 Varsh 1 Year
100 Varsh 1 Shataabda 1 Century
10 Shataabda 1 Sahasraabda 10 Centuries or 1000 Years
432 Sahasraabda 1 Yuga 4320 Centuries or 432000 Years
10 Yuga 1 Mahayuga 43200 Centuries or 4320000 Years
1000 Mahayuga 1 Kalpa 43200000 Centuries or 4.32 Billion Years

India gave the largest measurement of time as 8.64 billion years.

The Gregorian calendar on your desk simply adds on one day for every 4 years and is not in coherence with the movement of sun. But, Hindu calendar is in coherence as the short fall is corrected in the month itself by adding Adhikamasa as postulated by Maharshi Vishwamitra. Rig Veda 1.164.1, 2, 14 and 15 describe sun's motion, ritus and colours of spectrum. Kalyana varma, Varahamihira, Jaimini, Vidyanatha Deekshita, Kalidasa, Mantreshwara, Satyacharya, Venkatadri, Parashara, Ramadayalu and Garga have immensely contributed for the development of Hindu astrology.

Time taken for Earth to orbit Sun

The famous Hindu mathematician, Bhaskaracharya, in his treatise Surya Siddhanta, calculated the time taken for the earth to orbit the sun to nine decimal places (365.258756484 days).

Bhaskaracharya rightly calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun hundreds of years before the astronomer Smart. His calculations was - Time taken by earth to orbit the sun: ( 5th century ) 365.258756484 days.

Today’s accepted measurement is 365.2564 days. Therefore, assuming that today’s figures are correct, it means that Bhaskaracharya was off by only 0.0002%.

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.

The Concept of 'Zero'

Did you know that the ancient Hindus originated the concept 'zero'?

The concept of zero is referred to as shunya in the early Sanskrit texts and it is also explained in the Pingala’s Chandah Sutra (200 AD). In the Brahma Phuta Siddhanta of Brahmagupta (400-500 AD), the zero is lucidly explained. The Hindu genius Bhaskaracharya proved that x divided by 0 = 4 (infinity) and that infinity however divided remains infinity. This concept was recognized in Hindu theology millennia earlier. The earliest recorded date for an inscription of zero (inscribed on a copper plate) was found in Gujarat (585 – 586 AD). Later, zero appeared in Arabic books in 770 AD and from there it was carried to Europe in 800 AD.

The Indian place-value numeration with zero sign ranks among humanity's fundamental discoveries.

The Game of Cards

The popular game of cards originated in ancient India and was known as Krida-patram. It was one of the favorite pastimes of Indians in ancient times. This game was patronized especially by the royalty and nobility. In medieval India, playing cards was known as Ganjifa cards which were played in practically all royal courts. This game is recorded to have been played in Rajputana, Kashyapa Meru (Kashmir), Utkala (Orissa) the Deccan and even in Nepal. The Mughals also patronized this game, but the Mughal card-sets differed from those of the ancient Indian royal courts.

According to Abul Fazal's (author of the Ain-e-Akbari) description of the game, the following cards were used. The first was Ashvapati which means 'lord of horses'. The Ashvapati which was the highest card in, the pack represented the picture of the king on horseback. The second highest card represented a General (Senapati) on horseback. After this card come ten other with pictures of horses from one to ten.

Another set of cards had the Gajapati (lord of elephants) which represented the king whose power lay in the number of elephants. The other eleven cards in this pack represented the Senapati and ten others with a soldier astride an elephant. Another pack has the Narpati, a king whose power lies in his infantry. We also had other cards known as the Dhanpati, the lord of treasures, Dalpati the lord of the squadron, Navapati, the lord of the navy, Surapati, the lord of divinities, Asrapati, lord of genii, Vanapati, the king of the forest and Ahipati, lord of snakes, etc.

On the authority of Abul Fazal we can say that the game of playing cards had been invented by sages in ancient times who took the number 12 as the basis and made a set of 12 cards. Every king had 11 followers, thus a pack had 144 cards. The Mughals retained 12 sets having 96 cards. These Mughal Ganjifa sets have representations of diverse trades like Nakkash painter, Mujallid book binder, Rangrez, dyer, etc., In addition there were also the Padishah-i-Qimash, king of the manufacturers and Padishah-izar-i-Safid, king of silver, etc.

Cards were known as Krida-patram in ancient India. These cards were made of cloth and depicted motifs from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. A tradition carried on today with floral motifs and natural scenery.

The pre-Mughal origin of the game of cards is evident if we examine the pattern of painting the cards. We also find that despite the observation of Abul Fazal that Akbar introduced the pack with 8 sets, we find that even earlier, in Indian (Hindu) courts we have packs with 8, 9 and 10 sets apart from the usual 12. The numbers were derived from the eight cardinal directions Ashtadikpala, for the pack with 8 set, from the nine planets Navagraha for the one with 9 sets and from ten incarnations Dashavatara of Vishnu for the pack with 10 sets.

Themes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata are painted on these cards. The largest number of such cards are to be found in Orrisa. The largest number of such cards are to be found in Orissa. The painters from Orissa have represented various illustrations like the Navagunjara, a mythical birdhuman animal which was the form assumed by Sri Krishna to test Arjuna's fidelity, illustrations from the Dashavatata of Vishnu are also portrayed.

All these cards were hand-made and were painted in the traditional style. This required considerable patience and hard meticulous work. The kings usually commissioned painters to make cards as per their preference. The commoners got their cards made by local artists who were to be ; found in urban and rural areas. In order to -obtain the required thickness a number of sheets of pieces of cloth were glued together. The outlines of the rim were painted in black and then the figures were filled with colors.

As cards were played by members all strata of society we find different types of cards. Some cards were also made of ivory, tortoise shell, mother of pearl, inlaid or enameled with precious metals. The cards were of different shapes; they were circular, oval rectangular, but the circular cards were more common. The cards were usually kept in a wooden box with a lid painted with mythological figures. This art of handmade, hand painted cards which had survived for hundreds of years. gradually feel into decay and became extinct with the introduction of printed paper cards by the Europeans in the 17-18th centuries. With the extinction of the art of making and painting cards also was erased the memory that Indians ever had played the game of cards with their own specific representations of the Narapati, Gajapati and Ashvapati.


The dice is attributed to India by some accounts. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence of oblong dice have been found in Harrapan sites such as Kalibangan, Lothal, Ropar, Alamgirpur, Desalpur and surrounding territories, some dating back to the third millennium BCE, which were used for gambling. The oblong or cubical dice (akṣa) is the precursor of the more primitive vibhīṣaka—small, hard nuts drawn randomly to obtain factors of a certain integer. Dicing is believed to have later spread westwards to Persia, influencing Persian board games. Early references to dicing can be found in the Ṛig Veda as well as the newer atharvaveda.

A die found in excavations at a Harappan period site. Note that the six is not opposite the one.

The Worlds Oldest Living Civilization

Did you know that by 7500 B.C. Bharat (India) already had advanced townships with villages of mud-brick houses?

Bharatvarsh (the Indian Subcontinent) is home to the oldest civilization in the world. Mehrgarh which dates to 7500 BC is the oldest city which predates the Indus Valley Civilisation. Recently there have been archaeological findings off the coast of Gujarat in India which confirm a submerged city which is the worlds oldest city. This Indian city dates back to 8000-9000BC.

In 1922, excavations began at Mohenjo-Daro (which means 'hill of the dead') in the Indus Valley, four hundred miles south-west of Harappa, which revealed a rich urban civilization that no one had suspected. Incredibly, Mohenjo-Daro proved to be as sophisticated as a later Greek or Roman city, built on mud-brick platforms to protect it from floods, with a grid-plan reminiscent of New York, and an impressive sewer system - not to mention sit-down toilets. The size of the city indicated that it held about 40,000 people. The large number of female statuettes found there suggested that a female deity - probably the moon goddess - was worshipped. Their seals proved they possessed some form of writing.

A scientifically planned towns and buildings were part of the landscape and about 300 settlements in a belt extending 1,520 km from North to South covering a million square kilometers have been discovered, of which Harappa, Mohenjo-Daro, Kalibangan, and Lothal are important sites. The towns were designed with citadels and defensive walls and the streets and lanes had drains. Individual bathrooms and lavatories were impressively drained into a larger system. Well-developed docks and store houses as well as bullock carts for transportation were very popular.

The earliest recorded Indian mathematics was found along the banks of the Indus. Archaeologists have uncovered several scales, instruments, and other measuring devices. The Harappans employed a variety of plumb bobs that reveal a system of weights 27.584 grams. If we assign that a value of 1, other weights scale in at .05, .1, .2, .5, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500. These weights have been found in sites that span a five-thousand-year period, with little change in size.

Archaeologists also found a “ruler” made of shell lines drawn 6.7 millimeters apart with a high degree of accuracy. Two of the lines are distinguished by circles and are separated by 33.5 millimeters, or 1.32 inches. This distance is the so-called Indus inch. 'In subsequent years, further excavations along the 1800 miles of the Indus river valley revealed more than 150 sites, half a dozen of the cities. The whole area, from the Arabian sea to the foothills of the Himalayas, was once the home of a great civilization that rivaled Egypt or Greece. To the east of the Indus lies a vast desert, the Thar Desert. When remains of towns were found in this desert there was some puzzlement about how they had survived in such arid conditions. Then satellite photography revealed the answer: the Thar Desert was once a fertile plain, traversed by a great river; there were even unmistakable signs of canals. Now only a small part of this river, the Ghaggar, exists. Scholars concluded that the river that had now vanished was the Sarasvati, mentioned in the Vedic hymns.

It seemed that in the heyday of Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, this whole plain was one of the richest places in the world. At a time when ancient Britons were Bronze Age farmers, and the Greeks were a few Mycenaean warrior tribes, one of the world's greatest civilizations flourished in the land of the Indus and the Sarasvati. It seems that some great catastrophe destroyed this civilization some time after 1900 BC. Evidence shows that the earth buckled, due to the pressure of the tectonic plate that has raised the Himalayas, and the result was a series of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that literally caused the rivers to sink into the ground. The cost in human life must have been appalling.

Invention of Decimal System

Did you know that Hindus gave us the method of expressing numbers by means of a decimal system?

The so called Arabic numerals are actually Hindu numerals and even many Arab mathematicians admit that. During the 700's, the Arabs learned Hindu arithmetic from scientific writings of the Hindus and the Greeks. Then, in the 800's, a Persian mathematician wrote a book that was translated into Latin about 300 years later. This translation brought the Hindu-Arabic numerals into Europe.


Hindu mathematicians used a system based on 10. The Hindus had symbols for each number from one to nine. They had a name for each power of 10, and used these names when writing numerals. For example, Hindus wrote "1 sata, 3 dasan, 5" to represent the number we write as 135. They wrote "1 sata, 5" for the number we write as 105. Hindus found a way of eliminating place names. They invented the symbol shunya (meaning empty), which we call zero. With this symbol, they could write "105" instead of "1 sata, 5."

The largest numbers the Greeks and the Romans used were 106 whereas Hindus used numbers as big as 1053 (i.e 10 to the power of 53) with specific names (Tallakshana) as early as 5000 B.C. during the Vedic period. Even today, the largest used number is Tera: 1012 (10 to the power of 12).

"It is India that gave us the ingenuous method of expressing all numbers by the means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position, as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit, but its very simplicity, the great ease which it has lent to all computations, puts our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions, and we shall appreciate the grandeur of this achievement when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest minds produced by antiquity."
— French mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace (1749 - 1827)

The Place Value System

The place value system is built into the Sanskrit language and so whereas in English we only use thousand, million, billion etc, in Sanskrit there are specific nomenclature for the powers of 10, most used in modern times are dasa (10), sata (100), sahasra (1,000=1K), ayuta (10K), laksha (100K), niyuta (106=1M), koti (10M), vyarbuda (100M), paraardha (1012) etc. Results of such a practice were two-folds. Firstly, the removal of special importance of numbers. Instead of naming numbers in grops of three, four or eight orders of units one could use the necessary name for the power of 10. Secondly, the notion of the term "of the order of". To express the order of a particular number, one simply needs to use the nearest two powers of 10 to express its enormity.

The Word-Numeral System

The word-numeral system was the logical outcome of proceeding by multiples of ten. Thus, in an early system, 60,799 is denoted by the Sanskrit word sastim (60), shsara (thousand), sapta (seven) satani (hundred), navatim (nine ten times) and nava (nine). Such a system presupposes a scientifically based vocabulary of number names in which the principles of addition, subtraction and multiplication are used. It requires:

  1. the naming of the first nine digits (eka, dvi, tri, catur, pancha, sat, sapta, asta, nava);
  2. a second group of nine numbers obtained by multiplying each of the nine digits in 1 by ten (dasa, vimsat, trimsat, catvarimsat, panchasat, sasti, saptati, astiti, navati): and
  3. a group of numbers which are increasing integral powers of 10, starting with 102 (satam sagasara, ayut, niyuta, prayuta, arbuda, nyarbuda, samudra, Madhya, anta, parardha…).

To understand why word numerals persisted in India, even after the Indian numerals became widespread, it is necessary to recognize the importance of the oral mode of preserving and disseminating knowledge. An important characteristic of written texts in India from times immemorial was the sutra style of writing, which presented information in a cryptic form, leaving out details and rationale to be filled in by teachers and commentators. In short pithy sentences, often expressed in verse, the sutras enabled the reader to memorize the content easily.

The Value of Pi

Did you know that the ratio of the circumference and the diameter of a circle known as Pi (a value of 3.141592657932…) was first calculated by Hindus?

The Sanskrit text, by the famous Hindu mathematician, Baudhayana in his Baudhayana Sulbha Sutra of the 6th century BC mentions this ratio as approximately equal to 3. The Hindu mathematician, Aryabhatta, in 499 AD worked out the value of Pi to the fourth decimal place as [3x (177/1250) = 3.1416]. In 825 AD one Arab mathematician Mohammad Ibna Musa said: This value has been given by the Hindus [Indians] (62832/20,000 = 3.1416).

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