Indian National Congress

After the first ‘War of Independence” in 1857, wherein Indians put on a brave front, but lost to the British, the control of India was taken over by the British Raj from East India Company. There was much bitterness against the British in India, after this rebellion. The British administration sought to change Indian minds, and get support for its governance through English educated Indians. It wanted to form an organization of such Indians, who would be friendly to its policies and governance.

The Forming of Indian National Congress

With this goal in mind, A O Hume, a British Civil Servant embarked on the task of creating an organization by reaching out to the alumni of the Calcutta University. On 28th December 1885, Hume along with 72 Indians founded the Indian National Congress, to form a platform for Indian Public opinion. Hume assumed the office as the general secretary, and Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee was elected President.

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The first session of the Indian National Congress, December 28th, 1885

Source: Wikipedia

The Initial years

In its Initial years, British hegemony was very much apparent in the activities of Indian National Congress, as it was not concerned by the real problems faced by Indians, such as poverty, and merely echoed the British position. The members of the Indian National Congress, failed to influence the Indian public opinion, and the ordinary people of India, were hardly impressed by its functioning.

3 Ps

Slowly and steadily, Indian National Congress became one of the principal opposition forces against the British Raj, as it took part in India’s Freedom struggle. Their main principles were the 3 Ps – Petition, Prayer and Protest.

The Change

With the passage of time, there was much unrest in India due to the misrule and plunder by the British administration. The general public opinion began to slowly reflect in the minds of the congress members, as a wave of nationalism swept the whole country.  Now there arose a desire in the congressmen to play an active role in governing their country, even though as a part of the British Government. Many prominent freedom fighters, like Dadabhai Naoroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Gopala Krishna Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi found their way to its ranks.

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Dadabhai Naoroji

“Lal Pal Bal”

The Trio of “Lal Pal Bal” were forerunners of the freedom struggle much before the times of Mahatma Gandhi. Lal was Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab, Bal was Bala Gangadhar Tilak from Maharahstra, and Pal was Bipin Chandra Pal from East Bengal. They came from different corners of India and asked for Swaraj in united voice.

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Lal Bal Pal

Congress and Gandhi

After the First World War, Gandhi became the primary face of the Congress. Many leaders who were committed to the Gandhian principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha, came to fore, in their struggle against the British, which soon became a movement for independence, under the leadership of Gandhi. Some of these leaders of the Congress were Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Jawahar lal Nehru and C Rajagopalachari, among many others.

Some of the prominent Congress leaders who fought for India’s freedom

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Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was another leader from the ranks of Congress, whose achievements stood apart from the rest.

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Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose

In 1943, Bose regrouped the Indian National Army with the help of the Indian soldiers from among the defeated British Indian Army in Singapore and marched through South East Asia reaching Moirang in Manipur.

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Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose inspecting Troops of Indian National Army, Singapore

In Manipur, he hoisted the Indian Army flag – the Azad Hind Fauz for the first time on Indian Soil on April 14, 1944, defeating the local British Army.

While British could not but respect Mahatma for his non-violent struggle, the British feared the Indian National Army of Netaji.

This twin approach of Gandhiji and Netaji led to the dismantling of the British Empire not only in India, but in other parts of world.

Independence and Post-Independence

This country eventually attained freedom in 1947, and Congressmen played a vital role for the same, as India became an independent nation. After independence, Gandhi called for the disbanding of the Indian National Congress, as he felt that its purpose had been served. However, the legacy of Congress continued, and it became a national ruling party with Jawahar Lal Nehru as the first prime minister.

Indian National Congress was the principal opposition party opposing the British, before independence. After independence, it became the principal ruling party, and is one of the two national parties in India today.

Darwin’s Journey to Evolution

There have been many scientists who have revolutionized science, and have taken man’s understanding of his own origin to a completely new level. Charles Darwin was one of those great scientists, who through his ‘evolution theory’, opened a new vista in the scientific world.

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Charles Darwin

Voyage in Beagle

Charles Darwin began his exploration at a young age of 22, when he undertook a land mark Voyage on the research vessel H M S Beagle, on 27th December 1931. This was a chanced opportunity that Darwin fervently took, as one of the research scholars opted out at the last moment. It was during this trip that he formulated his theory of evolution.

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The Vessel, H M S Beagle

Until then, the prevalent view in Europe was that which was dictated by the Christian Theology which states that God created the earth, man and animals in 7 days, in a set sequence.

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Darwin’s Study

In the course of his voyage, Darwin studied various forms of life, right from butterflies, insects, to tortoises, including the famous long living tortoise of Galapagos. At every port of call, he collected samples and studied them. The ship route covered southern hemisphere, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Brazil, lasting for 5 long years.

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Galapagos Tortoise

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The Voyage of the Beagle

On the Origin of Species

After he came back to England from the Voyage, he settled down to write his master piece book, “On the Origin of Species”.  Initially, the publisher was hesitant to print and publish his book. But, Darwin was so sure about his theory being accepted that he offered to buy back the 1250 printed copies of the book if they did not sell.

This book soon shook the very foundations of science and Christian theology.

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Charles Darwin’s Book, The Origin of Species

Charles Darwin & the Indian Connect

There are some aspects of Darwin’s theory that are in sync with the Indian story of evolution.

According to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, aquatic creatures were the first to come into existence, followed by amphibians and then land creature.

In India, the concept of evolution has been discussed in the sequence of Dasavatara of Vishnu, starting from the fish and evolving all the way to the intellectual human.

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Indians knew it all

While Charles Darwin’s theories challenged the idea of Divinity in the west by propounding an evolutionary origin of humans, the same theory was in line with the Indian concept of Avatars, incarnations of the Divinity Vishnu. The people of this land had understood the concept of evolution even before Darwin.

Tsunami

Tsunami is a term that entered the Indian vocabulary with a big bang after a tsunami struck the south coast of India and South East Asia, on 26th December 2004, leaving behind a wide scale of destruction. Until then, in recent memory, tidal floods of a massive scale were not associated with coastal India.

Tsunami is a Japanese word for these giant tidal waves emanating from the ocean after a massive earthquake.

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Dwaraka

In ancient India, there are references and descriptions in our scriptures, of a Tsunami like event, which left behind massive destructions.

The classic case is that of Dwaraka, the city built by Lord Krishna.

The destruction of Dwaraka is ascribed to a major ecological upheaval that occurred after the departure of Krishna. After the departure of Krishna and the Yadava civil war, the city of Dwaraka was swallowed by the sea. This is mentioned in the Mahabharata.

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Krishna’s Warning

The Bhagavata Purana says that Krishna in His wisdom had recognized the signs of an impending geological upheaval and had warned His people of this foreboding calamity. He calls his people and advises them to move to other lands, saying Dwaraka was in danger. He Himself then moved down south to Prabhas Patan, near present day Somnath, where He shed His mortal coils.

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There were however some people in His kingdom, who were complacent and did not pay heed to Krishna’s warning.

An internecine war for broke out amongst them.

Arjuna’s Observation

Arjuna heard about the departure of Krishna from this world and the ensuing war, and rushed to Dwaraka. He was pained to see the loss of lives and destruction to property all over Dwaraka, due to the war. He rescued the wives and other women of Dwaraka and headed back towards Hastinapura. As soon as he left the city of Dwaraka, he saw the coastal city of Dwaraka being engulfed by a major tidal wave, like a tsunami, in which the whole city of Dwaraka was washed away.

Arjuna gives an eye witness report in the Mausala Parva of what he saw from a distance.

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Arjuna viewing the Tsunami from a tree top

– a Southeast Asian representation

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This poetic but precise, heart-rending, eyewitness account of Arjuna can be easily understood by us now as that of a Tsunami, as we have come to read of many similar tragic, eyewitness accounts by the survivors of the Tsunami of 26th December, 2004.

Evidence from Marine Archaeology

Archaeological evidences that corroborate this Tsunami has been identified by Dr. S. R Rao, the father of Marine Archaeology in India. He discovered the sunken city of Dwaraka, which is a veritable under water museum, off the coast.

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Dwaraka underwater excavation photos

The general layout of this sunken city tallies well with the graphical description of the city as given in the Mahabharata text. The findings of these expeditions suggest that the city had submerged about 5000 years ago.

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Dwaraka City Model

Not a local event

While the record in Mahabharata talks of a local event, there are many pointers all over the world, which when strung together, show that this sea rise which swallowed Dwaraka, a Tsunami of those times of 3000 BCE, was not limited to Dwaraka alone.

We all know how the tidal wave which started in Indonesia in December 2004 after a massive earthquake, travelled all the way upto the coasts of India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and east coast of Africa etc. and caused major destruction to life and property in all these places.

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Spread of the 2004 Tsunami

This Tsunami from ancient times that struck Dwaraka, had a major ecological impact on the whole geographical arc from Southern India all the way through Persia, Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Babylonia and to the West Asian regions.

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Historical sites affected by the Epic floods around 3000 BCE, in a geographical arc

It is interesting that, if we look at the arc of the coastline from Arabia to India, we find different descriptions of floods having occurred in these areas. All the local legends of the floods, in these different parts of civilization, seem to converge around the period 3000 BCE.

Sumeria

The Epic of Atrahasis describes a great flood that submerged the Sumerian civilization around 3000 BCE.

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Epic of Atrahasis flood

Noah’s Ark

The Biblical flood in which Noah’s ark rescued various species for the continuity of life is said to have occurred around 3000 BCE.

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Noah’s arc

Mesopotamia

Mesopotamia had the famous legend called the epic of Gilgamesh. Most of the epic of Gilgamesh is lost to mankind due to widespread destruction which happened to their civilization because of a massive tidal wave.

Many scholars independently have arrived at a date of around 2800 BCE for when this civilization was washed out by a massive tidal wave. Some stone inscriptions have also been deciphered which speak of an extensive flooding which annihilated civilizations. They have been dated to 3123 BCE.

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Gilgamesh and stone inscription

Kumari Kandam

In South India, in the Sangam literature, we have mention of a Kadalkol, a sea rising, swallowing the land of Kumari Kandam.

Kumari Kandam is the lost submerged land, south of the southern coast of India. Description of the sea engulfing the land of Kumari Kandam is described in detail, in the ancient Tamil texts.

Tamil texts such as Silappadigaram, Manimeghalai, PuraNanooru, Aga Nanooru, Ain Thinai and Ettu Thogai, describe the submergence of Kumari Kandam as having occurred many thousand years ago.

Poompuhar

Poompuhar was a prosperous port which also finds mention in early Sangam Tamil literature. Today Poompuhar is a small coastal town in Tamil Nadu.

Marine archaeologists, Dr.S.Badrinarayan, former Director General of the Geological Survey of India and Graham Hancock, author of the book, “Underworld”, have photographed the old Poompuhar submerged in the sea, a few miles off the coast of the present day Poompuhar. They estimate this submergence to have taken place about 5000 years ago i.e. around 3000 BCE.

The same Tsunami?

The massive tidal wave at Dwaraka and the other similar tidal waves in the Gilgamesh epic, the Bibilical flood, the tidal wave in Sumeria and Mesopotamia as well as Kumari Kandam and Poompuhar, all occurred around the 3000 BCE period. The same Tsunami had perhaps struck other civilizations too in this geographical arc.

More on this in our book “Historical Krishna” and “Triple Eclipse”.

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Purandara Dasa

Birth

One of the foremost composers of Carnatic Music, Purandara Dasa was born at Kshemappura in Karnataka in 1484 CE. He was named Srinivasa Nayaka after the ‘Lord of Seven Hills’ in Tirupati.

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Purandara Dasa

Wealthy Person, Extreme Miser

Srinivasa Nayaka was a shrewd businessmen, the biggest jeweller of his times. He was so rich that he was nicknamed Nava Koti Narayana, meaning his wealth was more than 9 crores of those days’ currency. To expressively state this, he installed 9 kalasa on the top facade of his house, to announce to the world that he was wealthy to the extent of 9 crores.

On the other hand he was an extreme miser.

The incident that changed his life

According to the local legends, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a poor man and approached Srinivasa Nayaka at his shop. He asks Srinivasa Nayaka for money. Srinivasa Nayaka refuses to lend him a penny. After repeated pleas, this man goes to the richest house in that town. Incidentally, this house happens to be the house of Srinivasa Nayaka himself. There he asks his wife for charity. His kindhearted wife finds nothing else but her own nose ring to give in charity.

This man now goes to Srinivasa Nayaka’s shop with the nose ring. As Srinivasa Nayaka had earlier refused to give him any wealth, this poor man pledges for money by giving the nose ring to Srinivasa Nayaka.

Srinivasa Nayaka recognizes it to be his wife’s nose ring, asks him to wait, locks up the nose ring in his safe vault in the shop and goes home to accost his wife.

He asks her to bring him her the nose ring. His wife is at a loss as to how to explain to her miserly husband the charity, dhana that she has done. All the same, in his presence, she goes to the cupboard and opens her jewel box, praying to Devi, to save her. And Lo! She finds her nose ring in her jewel box and with a sigh of relief hands it over to Srinivasa Nayaka.

Now it was Srinivasa Nayaka’s turn to be perplexed. He takes this nose ring and runs to his shop. He opened his safe vault where he had locked his nose ring earlier. Lo and behold, the nose ring was no longer there.

Srinivasa Nayaka then learnt of all that had happened from his wife. By then, the old man had vanished and was not traceable. Srinivasa Nayaka learnt a big lesson from this miracle.

This incident changed his life. It shook him into realization that he was an epitome of Narada, the Divinity for Music.

Wandering Life

Srinivasa Nayaka then gave up his wealth in charity and started a wandering devotional life along with his family, to inspire devotion to the Lord in people, through his compositions.

The subsequent life of Purandara Dasa was spent travelling and composing many songs on Lord Narayana.

He composed over 4 lakh odd songs.

He travelled all across the country visiting major temples such as Tirupati and Pandharapura. He got the name Purandara Dasa after the Deity at Pandharapura – Panduranga, Dasa meaning ‘Servant’.

Formulated Carnatic Music learning

Purandara Dasa formulated the method of learning Carnatic music that is still followed. He brought together the components of Carnatic Music such as Bhava, Raga and Laya.

Pitamaha of Carnatic Music’

He is fondly known as the ‘Grandfather, Pitamaha of Carnatic Music’ for his great contributions to this form of Music.

Purandhara Upanishad

His work consisting of the 4 lakh songs are respectfully referred to as, ‘Purandhara Upanishad’.

Purandara Dasa left for the heavenly abode in 1564 CE, on a Pushya Amavasya Day which falls in the month of January-February.

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Jallian Wala Bagh Massacre

Jallian Wala Bagh Massacre still lingers in our minds.

On 13th April, 1919, the people of Amritsar were peacefully celebrating the Punjabi New Year –Baisakhi at Jallian Wala Bagh, a public garden in Amritsar, when they were mercilessly shot down on the orders of General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, of the colonial British force, and under the approval of Michael O Dwyer, the then Lieutenant Governor of Punjab.

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One of the worst massacres in the history of humanity, the aftermath of which saw the whole country rising up.

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Jallianwala Bagh tragedy

From this rage was born a freedom fighter who avenged this brutal slaughter.

Advent of Udham Singh

His name is Udham Singh!

If you haven’t heard his name, then we need to understand that there are many such forgotten heroes of this land, who sacrificed their present for our future.

Udham Singh is popularly known as Shaheed-i-Azam Sardar Udham Singh, meaning “The great martyr Udham Singh.”

He was born on 26th December, 1899, at Sunam in Punjab.

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Udham Singh

Ram Mohammed Singh Azad

Udham Singh was a person who believed in the harmony of all religions. He changed his name to Ram Mohammed Singh Azad.

Inspired by Bhagat Singh

The Jallian Wala Bagh tragedy of 1919 had a great impact on the young Udham Singh, when he was just 20 years. From then on, he began to take part in the Indian Freedom Struggle. He was very much inspired by the revolutionary activities of Bhagat Singh and his group, and followed in his footsteps.

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Bhagat Singh

Joining Ghadar Party

In 1924, he became involved with the Ghadar Party, a party founded by the Sikhs in US and Canada, with the aim of securing freedom for India, from the British. He lived in these countries for the next 3 years.

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Ghadar Party Symbol

Return to India

In 1927, he returned to India, under the request of Bhagat Singh, with 25 associates as well as many arms and ammunitions.

Arrest and Release

He was soon prosecuted and sent to prison by the British, for 5 years, for carrying these weapons.

In 1931, he was released, but his actions were under constant surveillance.

Escape to Germany

Udham Singh, however didn’t give up. The constant thought in his mind was to avenge the Jallian Wala Bagh massacre.

He was able to evade the police and slip away to Kashmir. From here, he escaped to Germany.

Reaches London

In, 1934, he reached London, where he planned to assassinate Michael O Dwyer, who had approved the Jallian Wala Bagh massacre, as the Governor of Punjab.

He had to however wait for another 6 years to actually execute his plan.

Assassination of Michael O Dwyer

On 13th March, 1940, Michael O Dwyer was to speak at the joint meeting of the East India Association at 10 Caxton Hall, in London. Udham Singh found this an apt opportunity to aim at his target. He hid a revolver in his jacket, took a comfortable seat, and shot Dwyer twice, as he was moving towards the speakers’ stage. This was on the eve of Baisakhi.

Michael O Dyer was immediately killed, and Udham Singh was arrested at the site.

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Udham Singh being taken away, after he shot Michael O Dwyer

Udham Singh’s reply at the Trial

On 1st April, 1940 charges were formally framed against him.

When asked about his motivation, during the trial, Udham Singh had replied,

“I don’t care. He deserved it. He was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people, so I have crushed him. For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance. I am happy that I have done the job. I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. I have seen my people starving in India under the British rule. I have protested against this, it was my duty. What a greater honour could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?”

Martyrdom

Udham Singh was convicted and sentenced to death, by the British Court.

On 21st July, 1940, he was martyred at the Penton Ville Prison.

This act of Udham Singh in 1940, was an important step towards India’s freedom in 1947.

A martyr whose name should be written in golden letters for his contribution towards Indian Independence.

Madan Mohan Malviya

Madan Mohan Malviya is one of those notable leaders that this country has seen. His role in the Indian Freedom struggle and his contributions towards education can scarcely be missed as his legacy stands tall even today after 71 years of his leaving the mortal coil.

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Madan Mohan Malviya

Great Educationist

The Banaras University, the largest residential university in Asia is one of those great legacies that Malviya left behind in his role as an educationist. The university now provides higher education to more than 12000 students across various streams like science, arts and technology.

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Banaras Hindu University

Freedom Fighter

As the president of the Indian National Congress for four times, Malviya played a vital role in the freedom struggle. He was an important in the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi.

On Par with Gandhi

Malviya is perhaps the only freedom fighter who has been compared with ‘the Mahatma’. Mrs Sarojini Naidu described Malviya’s courtesy as being far greater and sweeter than ‘the Mahatma’.

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Sarojini Naidu

Mahatma Gandhi himself lauded Malviya’s efforts in saving innocent lives of Indians after the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy.

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Madan Mohan Malviya and Mahatma Gandhi

A committee was formed under the presidency of Malviya in 1919, soon after the tragedy to build a memorial for the martyrs who died in the attack.

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Jallainwala Bagh Memorial

Prince among Beggars

Mahatma Gandhi called Malviya, the ‘Prince among Beggars’ for his capacity to repeatedly collect funds as huge as 1 crore rupees for public cause. The Banaras University was formed as result of Malviya’s ability to collect funds.

Other Initiatives and Roles

Malviya was also one of the founders of the Indian scouts, and also founded the newspaper, ‘The Leader’ published in the year 1909. He also served as the chairman of Hindustan Times newspaper from 1924 to 1946.

Great Orator

Malviya was also a great orator which earned him the title “Silver tongued orator”, due to his great command in English.

Mahamana’

For the varied roles in many fields, he was conferred the title, “Mahamana’, by the people, meaning ‘the Great One’, towards the end of his life, as the whole nation recognized the contributions of this great freedom fighter, politician, educationist and orator.

Madan Mohan Malviya passed away on November 12th, 1946 at Varanasi.

He was bestowed with the Bharat Ratna in 2015.

Swami Vivekananda’s Yatra to Kanyakumari

Swami Vivekananda travelled mostly on foot all over India from the Himalayan peaks, through the land, to Kanyakumari, the southeren tip of Indian peninsula, reaching there on 24th December, 1892.

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Swami Vivekananda

Wandering Monk

It is for this ceaseless travel that Swami Vivekananda has been respectfully referred to as the ‘Wandering Monk’. He swam across the waters to a large rock, just off the tip of the land, sat there in meditation for 3 days, 24th, 25th and 26th, realized the reasons as to why his mother land, Bharatha Desha which had its days of glory, fallen in his times.

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Swami Vivekananda, the Wandering Monk

The answer that came to him in meditative state, after his physically observing the length and breadth of the land during his travels, are poignant indeed. Some of the thoughts that came to him which he has expressed in his speeches and works can be assimilated here for our understanding.

Bhogya – Self-Indulgence

This land has Bhog, food prosperity, whereas people had become Bogyam, interested only themselves, their immediate fame and their self-aggrandizement, not giving a thought to the consequences of what it would lead to and who was feeding them this bhogya, and for what purpose.

If somebody is offering you bhogya, food and wealth and other minor worldly pleasures, they are doing so to please you, for, they expect from you to do something to you in return, what you normally would not do. It is selling of one self’s momentary bodily pleasures, pleasures of flesh.

These thoughts that passed through his mind, was the clarity that occurred to Swami Vivekananda.

Halasyam – Laziness

This was leading to apparent stupidity among people because of their craving. This in turn led to laziness, halasyam. The key people who had the role to be vibrant were put into a stupor.

Nirbhayatvam – To be fearless

To do any work successfully against the existing odds, one has to be fearless. This land and its people had the kshatriya bhava, to do things fearlessly. The word kshatriya does not denote only caste. It denotes a state of mind which exhibits fearlessness, a sense of capacity, capability, in trying to achieve ones goal that one has set out to achieve. What Swami Vivekananda saw was that, this innate quality of nirbhayatvam had gone missing from the masses.

In its place, there was a mentality of paying obeisance to the new colonial masters. This nirbhayatvam or kshatriya bhavam is not only to be exhibited in the battlefield, but is that which must exist in our attitude, for, every day is a battle. The land as a whole had slid into divisions.

Slide of Indian civilization

While, the division of labour and specialization of family skills and helped in the productivity of land through millennia, its stratification and hardening that happened from time to time in the mindset, had created vicissitudes in the very body of the population. This had happened like never before. This aided the divide and rule policy that the colonial masters were quick to seize up for their benefit. These were the 3 key point that Swami felt were the reasons for slide of Indian civilization from its hoary heights. These were the stark point that came to his minds when he swam back on 27th, from the rock in the sea to the mainland, where the Kanyakumari temple stands at the land’s end.

Meditating on Bharath Mata

Through times, different sanyasis had meditated on different divinities for boons and or for wellbeing of society. In contrast, Swami Vivekananda meditated on a rock in the sea of Kanyakumari at the foot of the land mass of Bharatha and meditated on the divinity of Bharat Mata, trying to find out the reasons for our slide, how the civilization can once again be rejuvenated for the single-minded effort of his. Swami Vivekananda is commonly referred to as Patriotic Saint. This is not to say that the other saints are not patriotic, but is to empathize that, Swami Vivekananda’s call of patriotism, an analysis stood out in the hour at the time of dire needs.

After the successful visit of Swami Vivekananda to USA, in particular to the Chicago address at the world religions conference on 11th September in 1893, Swami Vivekananda further analyzed the reasons for the decline of the Indian civilization.

In comparison to the American civilization doing well then, India lacked of organizing ability, to perform in a united way.

In stark contrast, he could see this organizing ability and standing united among Americans during his nearly 4 year stay in USA. The other stark aspect that came forth to his mind was that the Indians did not know the greatness of their land.

Calculus was discovered in India

— Dr. M Lavanya
Physicist

Knowledge and Indian civilization

Most of the amazing science and technology knowledge systems of the modern world are credited to have started around the time of the Renaissance movement in Europe in ~ the 15th century. These knowledge systems are generally traced back to roots in the civilization of Ancient Greece, and occasionally, that of Ancient Egypt. Hence, most of the heroes we are taught about in school and college are European, or Greek.

As for India, or even China, it would appear that they have played a minimal role in this magical story. Hence, many (western) accounts of the “Ascent of Man” do not devote even a single line to India’s contributions.

The trouble of course is that few of us know what exactly the Indian contributions are. This is due to the utter neglect of organized, extensive, detailed, and scholarly studies of these in modern India. Incidentally, this is in contrast to the attitude in almost any other country – people elsewhere have a keen interest and fierce pride and celebrate their own contributions to world knowledge and heritage. Several countries also make a living out of their past through tourism!

 However, there does exist, thanks in part to valiant individual efforts, some kind of a background awareness that the Indian civilization is in fact one of the most ancient and glorious, and that India has contributed enormously, perhaps even predominantly, to the growth of world civilization and knowledge in practically every field, ranging from the mundane and practical to the unworldly and spiritual.

Some well-known early Indic contributions to Mathematics

In the sciences, seminal contributions have in fact been made by Ancient India to mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, metallurgy, the list is long.

Some Indian contributions to mathematics are well known (at least in India) : the zero, the decimal place value system and the commonly used numerals, the so-called “Indo-Arabic” numerals (called Arabic numerals in the West) were discovered in Ancient India. In fact, the importance of these is such that without these, mathematics (and science, commerce, etc.) as we know it would not have even existed!

Further, few are aware that there has been a continuous unbroken tradition of mathematics in India from at least a thousand BCE (and perhaps even several thousand BCE) to ~ 200 years ago, and then again in the modern era.

The discovery of the Kerala School of Mathematics

A relatively recently discovered field is what goes by the name of the “Kerala School of Mathematics” which flourished in a tiny corner of present-day Kerala during ~ 1300-1600 CE.  Many details about the work of this school and the story of the mathematicians who contributed to it are only now being researched. This despite the fact that this work was brought to the attention of western scientists almost 200 years ago.  In 1834,  an Englishman named Charles  M. Whish  published an article  entitled “On the Hindu quadrature of the circle and the infinite series of the proportion of the circumference to the diameter exhibited in the four sastras, the Tantrasangraham, Yukti-Bhasha, Caruna-Padhati and Sadratnamala” in a journal called the ‘Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society’ of Great Britain and Ireland. But the article was long ignored.

What was the main contribution of the Kerala school?

The Kerala school of mathematicians drew inspiration from much earlier texts, mainly Āryabhata’s Āryabhatiya (499 CE). The Āryabhatiya had in fact been a very influential text all over the country, and also, through its translations, in the Arab world and in Europe.

The Kerala mathematicians, starting with Mādhava, developed some amazing mathematics – in particular, the branch of mathematics that is known today as Calculus, one of the foundation stones of modern science which developed from Europe.

We have all been taught in school that Calculus was discovered by (Leibniz and) Newton. But Newton’s Magnum Opus, the Principia Mathematica, in which he discusses the Calculus essential for his Laws of Motion, was written around ~1700 CE. Thus, even orthodox historians and scientists now agree that the Kerala Calculus pre-dates that of Newton by at least a clear 200 years.

 A little more on some of the contributions of the Kerala school

Calculus is the mathematical study of change, and its essence is the use of  infinitesimals / limits  (and, one of the passages to “limit” is by summing an infinite series).

The concept of limit as given by Nīlakantha in Āryabhatiya-bhāsya :

“k+.TMa :pua:naH ta.a:va:de:va va:DRa:tea ta.a:va:dõ Ra:tea .ca ?”

How is it that [the sum of the series] increases only up to that [limiting value] and that certainly increases up to that [limiting value]?

  • Infinite series expansions for trigonometric functions (e.g., sine, cosine, arctan, ..) (now attributed to Newton), and finite series approximations to them.
  • Estimation of correction terms and their use in the generation of faster convergent series.
  • Extrapolations for sin Ө and cos Ө for nearby Ө’ values to the second and third order of (Ө- Ө’).
  • Binomial series expansion.
  • Taylor series expansion.
  • Infinite series expansion of  π (now known as the “Gregory – Leibniz series”).
  • Discussion of irrationality of  π.
  • Sum of natural numbers
  • Summation of series (Sankalita in Sanskrit) (i.e., Integration ).
  • Instantaneous velocity (of planets) and derivatives.

Besides arriving at the infinite series, that several forms of rapidly convergent series could be obtained is remarkable. Further, many equations that we use in Calculus which are attributed to western mathematicians were clearly known to the Indian mathematicians. They laid the foundations of Calculus, which is recognized as one of the foundations of modern science, and which has applications in many fields including engineering and economics.

These mathematicians also made important contributions to astronomy, but those will be the subject of a separate article. In fact,  much of this work seems to have arisen from an interest in predicting planetary positions, sunrise, sunset etc. to a very high accuracy for the  conduct of worldly affairs.

Who were these people ? – some historical details

Most of these developments took place in temple-villages around a river called Nila in the ancient days (and currently called river Bharatha, the second longest river in Kerala) during ~ 1300-1600 CE. In fact, the area over which this work was carried out was so localized, that some scholars suggest that the school is more appropriately named the “Nila School of Mathematics”. One of the key villages was Sangamagrāma, which was possibly the present-day village of Irinhalakkuta (about 50 km to the south of Nila). (However, there are a few other possible candidates for Sangamagrāma , such as Kudalur and Tirunavaya). What is more certain was the existence of a remarkable lineage of mathematicians in and around Sangama-grama of which the pioneer,  Mādhava (~1340-1420)   seems to be the one who discovered many of the basic ideas of Calculus.

The Kerala school was a culmination of the school of Āryabhata and seems to have been the last bastion of mathematics in India till the modern era. The school seems to have died out soon after the arrival of the Portuguese in Kerala for obvious historical reasons.

The Lineage

  • Mādhava (c.1340–1420) of Sangamagrāma

Pioneer of the Kerala School, discovered many of the basic ideas of Calculus.

The only works of his which seem to be extant are Venvāroha and Sphutacandrāpati.

  • Parameśvara (c. 1380–1460) of Vatasseri

Mādhava’s disciple, great observer and prolific writer.

  • Nīlakantha Somayājī (c. 1444–1550) of Kundāgrama

Monumental works: Tantrasangraha and Āryabhatiya-bhāsya.

  • Jyesthadeva (c. 1530)

Author of the celebrated Ganita Yuktibhāsā (in Malayalam prose).

  • Śankara Vāriyar (c.1500–1560) of Tr.ikkutaveli

Author of two major commentaries.

  • Acyuta Pisārati (c. 1550–1621)

Disciple of Jyesthadeva,  a polymath

  • Pudumana Somayaji

Work : Karana Paddhati

  • Rājā Śankaravarman  (c.1830) of Kadattanadu

Work : Sadratnamala.

These (and other ancient) texts were written on (dried) palm leaves, which last for ~ 400 years. The language used was mostly Sanskrit and the mathematics was given in verse! in sutras.

Did Calculus travel from Kerala to Europe?

The big question now is: did the Europeans know of the Kerala Calculus? Circumstantial evidence indicates that they did, as many texts from Kerala were translated and transmitted to Europe during this period by the Jesuit priests who had learnt the local languages. Further, it is well known that there have been strong links through trade from times immemorial between Kerala and the West.

However, scholars suggest that more direct evidence is required that the knowledge of the Kerala mathematics was indeed transferred to the West. For instance, can we find translations of the Kerala texts, dating to around 1600 CE, from Sanskrit and Malayalam to English or any of the European languages? An extensive search needs to be carried out in both Kerala and European libraries. Unfortunately, some important libraries have been lost : in 1663, the Dutch  burned down the Jesuit library of Cochin which contained many volumes in local and European languages; and in 1775, almost all the archives and libraries in Lisbon, Portugal (including those which housed their colonial records), were destroyed by an earthquake.

Summary

As we have mentioned earlier, the essence of Calculus is the use of limits. We end this brief article with the following quotes, the first by Charles Seife in “Zero:The Biographyof a Dangerous Idea” (Viking, 2000; Rupa & Co. 2008):

“The Greeks could not do this neat little mathematical trick. They didn’t have the concept of a limit because they didn’t believe in zero. The terms in the infinite series didn’t have a limit or a destination; they seemed to get smaller and smaller without any particular end in sight. As a result the Greeks couldn’t handle the infinite. They  pondered the concept of void but rejected zero as a number, and they toyed with the concept of infinite but refused to allow infinity – numbers that are infinitely small and infinitely large – anywhere near the realm of numbers. This is the biggest failure in the Greek Mathematics, and it is the only thing that kept them from discovering Calculus.

Unlike Greece, India never had the fear of the infinite or of the void. Indeed, it embraced them. Indian mathematicians did more than simply accept zero. They transformed it changing its role from mere placeholder to number. The reincarnation was what gave zero its power. The roots of Indian mathematics are hidden by time. Our numbers (the current system) evolved from the symbols that the Indians used; by rights they should be called Indian numerals rather than Arabic ones. Unlike the Greeks the Indians did not see the squares in the square numbers or the areas of rectangles when they multiplied two different values. Instead, they saw the interplay of numerals—numbers stripped of their geometric significance. This was the birth of what we now know of as algebra.”

And finally, a quote by the famous mathematician John von Neumann:

“The calculus was the first achievement of modern mathematics and it is difficult to overestimate its importance. I think it defines more unequivocally than anything else the inception of modern mathematics, and the system of mathematical analysis, which is its logical development, still constitutes the greatest technical advance in exact thinking.”

Further reading

Interested readers can find mathematical and historical  details in the following articles (and references therein):

1) K. V. Sarma, K. Ramasubramanian, M. D. Srinivas and M. S. Sriram, “Ganita-Yukti-Bhasha (Rationales in MathematicalAstronomy) of Jyeshthadeva”, Springer (2008).

2) K. Ramasubramanian and M. D. Srinivas, “Studies in the History of Indian Mathematics”  Ed. by C. S. Seshadri, Hindustan Book Agency, New Delhi, pgs. 201 – 286 (2010).

 3) T. Padmanabhan, “Dawn of Science : Calculus is  developed in Kerala”, Resonance pgs. 106 -115 (Feb 2012).

4) “Science and Technology in Ancient India”, Ed. Editorial Board, Vijnan Bharati, Mumbai (2006).

The possible transmission of calculus from India to Europe – Dr. Bhaskar Kamble

The development of the infinitesimal calculus is considered to be a watershed event in the history of science and mathematics. Its importance in the natural sciences cannot be overestimated. Among the people credited for its invention are John Wallis (1616-1703 CE), Isaac Newton (1642-1727 CE), and Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716 CE).

Very roughly speaking, calculus handles those problems where the rate at which ‘something’ is increasing is itself changing in time. Simple examples can include the case where the speed (the rate at which the distance is increasing) is changing in time, or the case where the acceleration (the rate at which the speed is changing in time) is changing in time. Together with Newton’s three laws of motion, which are physical in content, it offers a powerful tool to mathematically describe physical phenomena.

However, the standard story of calculus being developed in Europe independently by Newton and Leibniz, which is so universally accepted today, may well be in need of a major revision. Just like the concept of zero and the decimal number system originated in India, it is now well known that the concept of calculus also originated in India three centuries before it first appeared in Europe [1,2]. There is strong circumstantial evidence to suggest that these ideas and concepts were systematically appropriated by the church in Europe at the end of the 16th century and subsequently passed off as a European invention.

The earliest notion of calculus, specifically differential calculus, is to be found in the notion of tatkalika gati (Sanskrit: instantaneous velocity), of Bhaskaracharya (1114-1185 CE), in his monumental work Siddhanta Shiromani. In this text, he explicitly demonstrates and makes use of the relation which is a standard result of differential calculus, to determine the instantaneous velocity of a planet. He also states one of the most important results of differential calculus – that the derivative vanishes at the points of minima or maxima, and also states what is today known as the Rolle’s theorem in analysis/calculus [2].

sine_differential

The tradition of mathematics in India has a long and hoary past, with several shining names such as Aryabhata, Bhaskara I, Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta, Varahamihira, and so on. The schools started by several of these mathematicians would constantly develop and improve upon the discoveries of the earlier mathematicians, and come up with significant new results in the process. The most sophisticated insights and developments undoubtedly come from the work of what is known as the Kerala school of mathematics, which was extant from 1300-1600 CE. They wrote commentaries on the works of earlier mathematicians such as Aryabhata and Bhaskara, and made important discoveries in what is known today as calculus. That these mathematicians developed calculus 300 hundred years before Newton and Leibniz did is obvious [1,2], but what is more interesting is how and why their work was hauled off to Europe, plagiarized, and passed off as a European invention. In this post I will try to shed light on how this occurred.

Till the 15th – 16th centuries, it is important to remember that the church dominated all spheres of life in Europe. Central to its aims was the establishment of Christianity throughout the world and destroy all ‘pagan’ and ‘heathen’ cultures in the process. The genocide of Red Indians in the Americas, or of aborigines in Australia, or Hindus in India (especially the Goa inquisition in the 16th century), are a direct consequence of these aims, and so are the continued attempts of today by Christian missionaries to convert people of other faiths into Christianity. To further these expansionist policies, it was necessary to go to far-away lands and ‘civilize’ and Christianize the ‘natives’. To do so, however, needed navigational skills which, in turn, needed a good knowledge of astronomy (for example while navigating with the help of the stars) and a good knowledge of trigonometry (for example to calculate the latitude and longitude). In particular, trigonometric tables of the sine and cosine functions are a must for accurately determining the latitude at sea based on the altitude of the pole star.

There was another very important reason why the church needed astronomical knowledge – to carry out the calendar reform. The calendar originally used by the church was the Julian calendar, which had an error of one day in a century. This error was accumulating over the centuries and was causing the date of Easter to drift further and further away from the spring equinox into summer. It was very important for the church to set it right. A good calendar is also essential for good navigation, and thus the problem of navigation and the calendar were closely related. Thus, the issues of navigation and the calendar were high priority programs by the church, and several mathematicians involved with the church were actively involved in finding solutions. Attractive prizes were offered to anyone who could come up with solutions to these problems. The most important member in this regard is Christoph Clavius, who modified the curriculum of the priests in Collegio Romano to teach them mathematics, and himself designed the mathematical content of the curriculum, as well as writing a text book on mathematics to be used by the priests in their education.

In spite of this, as is well known, European astronomy and mathematics of those times was hopelessly lacking in the required knowledge [3]. And at the same time, the astronomical and mathematical knowledge of India was much superior to that of Europe. The works of several Indian mathematicians were well known in Europe, thanks to Arabic translations of Sanskrit texts, and the subsequent translations into Latin [4]. Also Fibonacci had introduced the Indian number system to Europe in 1202 CE. The navigational skills of Indian merchants was also something of a legend [5].

To realize just how advanced the Indian mathematics was at this time, we need to look at the achievements of the Kerala school. The tradition of the Kerala school was started by Madhava of Sangamagrama (1340-1425 CE), who was followed by several brilliant mathematicians and astronomers which include Parameshvara (1380-1460 CE), Nilakantha Somayaji (1444-1544 CE), and Jyeshthadeva (1500-1610 CE). Madhava is credited with many of the discoveries of the Kerala school, but verly little of his writings survive. The results obtained by him are further elaborated and developed by later scholars such as Nilakantha Somayaji in his work Tantra Sangraha, and Jyeshthadeva in his work Yukti Bhasha. The Yukti Bhasha is a veritable text book of calculus, and offers detailed explanations of most of the results obtained by the Kerala scholars. The scholars of this school also made several astronomical observations and collected the data in their works, and proposed significant improvements of the then prevailing astronomical models. Among the achievements of the Kerala school are the systematic development of the ‘limit’ procedure, which is so central to calculus, the systematic analysis of inifinte series, infinite series expansions of the sine, cosine and arctan functions, (the so-called Taylor series of today), a plethora of series expansions of pi (including the one known today as the Gregory series, 300 years before Gregory discovered them), important contributions in spherical trigonometry, and the development of much improved astronomical models based on actual observations. A practical application, much sought after by European navigators, was the calculation of sine tables, which had been carried out by Madhava up to an accuracy of eight decimal places [6,7]. An interesting application of this work was the calculation of pi up to 17 decimal places, which is coded beautifully through the kattapayadi system in the Sadratnamala of Shankara Varman.  In fact many of the works of these mathematicians are still subjects of active research by modern mathematicians! And of course, behind this there was a whole body of work by earlier Indian mathematicians such as Aryabhata, Bhaskara I and II, Brahmagupta etc.

It is in the light of this vastly superior Indian mathematics and astronomy, and the tremendous eagerness of the church to possess this knowledge, that the situation in Europe in the 15th – 16th centuries must be viewed. As already mentioned, Christoph Clavius had set up the mathematical syllabus of the Jesuit priests, and in 1578, the first batch of the most capable priests trained by him, which included Matteo Ricci, Johann Schreck, and Antonio Rubino, were dispatched to the Malabar region of Kerala, including Cochin, which was the epicenter of the Kerala mathematics.

Once they were there, they set up a printing press, learnt the local language, and gained the patronage and trust of the local scholars and royal personages. And now began in earnest the task to acquire Indian texts, translate them, and dispatch them back to Europe [7]. However, all this was kept a top secret. Even today, if you make a Google search on Matteo Ricci, you will never find the real reason why he was there, although it will be mentioned that he was in Kerala. And this, in spite of the fact Ricci and Rubino have been recorded in correspondence as answering requests for astronomical information from Kerala sources [8].

However, there is enough circumstantial evidence to prove that the transfer of the calculus from India indeed took place. First, there is little doubt about the real intention behind the trip of the Jesuits to Kerala: before being sent to India in 1578, not only were they trained in mathematics by the leading astronomer of those days, Christoph Clavius,  but also that, soon thereafter in 1582, the Gregorian calendar reform took place [9]! Remember that the calendar reform was one of the pressing concerns of the church and, what is more, the committee that carried out this reform was also headed by Christoph Clavius!

Next, as mentioned already, the Kerala mathematicians had created extensive tables of sines and cosines to a high degree of accuracy. Now, in 1607, Clavius published these tables under his name, without explaining how he carried out the calculations [10]! This again leaves no doubts as to the source of these tables.

The above two circumstances are quite strong to come to the conclusion that the Europeans surreptitiously used the Kerala texts, but there is more. At the end of the 16th century, the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe came up with his ‘Tychonic model’ of planetary motion, wherein Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn revolve around the sun, but the sun is revolving around the earth. What is interesting to note here is that this is exactly the model proposed by Nilakantha in his Tantra Sangraha some 300 years earlier [11]! What a ‘coincidence’! Remember that Tycho Brahe in the capacity of the Royal astronomer of the Holy Roman Empire had easy access to all the Kerala texts sent by missionaries such as Ricci. He was also known to be extremely secretive and jealous about the astronomical observations and other documents in his possession [11]. The only explanation and conclusion is that Brahe was in possession of the work of the Kerala school of mathematics which he used to come up with his ‘Tychonic model’.

We must also mention that Jyeshthadeva’s Yuktibhasha gives a formula involving a passage to infinity to calculate the area under a parabola. The same formula was used by Fermat, Pascal, and Wallis [8]. Wallis is also given partial credit for the development of calculus. It is thus quite safe to conclude that the Kerala texts fell into the hands of these mathematicians, based on whose work Newton and Leibniz came up with the ideas of calculus. The possibility that Newton and Leibniz had direct access to these texts cannot be ruled out.

Finally the question may be raised as to why the church kept all this activity so secret. The answer is obvious: the church could not possibly carry out its noble mission of ‘civilizing pagan cultures’ and at the same time accept that these cultures had a much advanced scientific culture upon which it (the church) was so dependent! This only makes sense since it is difficult for a ‘superior’ race to cope with the fact that an ‘inferior’ race can have a civilization and culture much more advanced than theirs. This is the reason why the Aryan race theory was created by the European imperialists when the antiquity and culture of the Hindu civilization was discovered [12]. Moreover, in the case of the church, anyone who professed to be using ‘pagan’ sources of knowledge ran the certain risk of being a heretic and being burnt at the stake for ‘devil-worship’. This certainly was a good enough incentive for anyone to conceal the true sources of knowledge! In this context, it is instructive to read the following quote from [13]:

“There is nothing ‘natural’ or universal in hiding what one has learnt from others: the Arabs, for instance, did not mind learning from others, and they openly acknowledged it. This is another feature unique to the church: the idea that learning from others is something so shameful that, if it had to be done, the fact ought to be hidden. Therefore, though the church sought knowledge about the calendar, specifically from India, and profusely imported astronomical texts … this import of knowledge remained hidden.”

Since the modern world is fortunately not governed by ecclesiastical restrictions anymore, and since it is good scientific practice to give credit where it is due, it is time that we revise the standard story of calculus and honor and remember its original inventors from Bharat.

References:

[1] ‘On the Hindu quadrature of the circle, and the infinite series of the proportion of the circumference to the diameter exhibited in the four Sastras, the Tantra Sangraham, Yucti Bhasha, Carana Padhati, and Sadratnamala’, by C. M. Whish, published in the  Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol.  3, No. 3, pp. 509–523.

[2] Encyclopedia of the history of science, technology and medicine in non-western cultures (two volumes), ed. Helaine Selin, Springer.

[3] To understand the status of European navigation in the 16th century, look up Navigation, Maths and Astronomy: the Pagan Knowledge, by D. P. Agrawal ( http://www.indianscience.org/essays/15-%20E–Navigation%20&%20Math.pdf  ).

[4] In this context we note how the modern names for the trigonometric functions ‘sine’ and ‘cosine’ originated: “When Arabic writers translated his (Aryabhata’s) works from Sanskrit into Arabic, they referred it as jiba. However, in Arabic writings, vowels are omitted, and it was abbreviated as jb. Later writers substituted it with jaib, meaning “pocket” or “fold (in a garment)”. (In Arabic, jiba is a meaningless word.) Later in the 12th century, when Gherardo of Cremona translated these writings from Arabic into Latin, he replaced the Arabic jaib with its Latin counterpart, sinus, which means “cove” or “bay”; thence comes the English sine” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryabhata#Trigonometry).

[5] One of the best kept secrets of Western history is that Vasco da Gama and Columbus were no good navigators at all. It is commonly assumed that Vasco da Gama ‘discovered’ India- he did nothing of the sort. In fact he was safely escorted to India by an Indian merchant from Gujarat, named Kanha, from the African coast.

[6] See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madhava’s_sine_table

[7] C.K. Raju (2007). Cultural foundations of mathematics: The nature of mathematical proof and the transmission of calculus from India to Europe in the 16 thc. CE. History of Philosophy, Science and Culture in Indian Civilization. X Part 4. Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations. pp. 114–123.

[8] D. F. Almeida and G. G. Joseph, Eurocentrism in the history of mathematics: the case of the Kerala school, Race and Class, Vol. 45(4): 45-59 (2004).

[9] Resulting in the so-called Gregorian calendar, which is the one used today.

[10] Christophori Clavii Bambergensis, Tabulae Sinuum, Tangentium et Secantium ad partes radij 10,000,000 (Ioannis Albini, 1607), as quoted in C. K. Raju, Teaching mathematics with a different philosophy, Part 2: Calculus without Limits, Science and Culture 77(7-8) (2011) pp. 280-285.

[11] C. K. Raju, Ending Academic Imperialism: a Beginning. Available online at http://www.ckraju.net/papers/Academic-imperialism-final.pdf

[12] An excellent account of the Aryan race theory is given in Breaking India, by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan.

[13] D. P. Agrawal, Navigation, Maths and Astronomy: the Pagan Knowledge. The article can be accessed at http://www.indianscience.org/essays/15-%20E–Navigation%20&%20Math.pdf