The distinctness and functional potential of Indian astronomy and mathematics were brought forth by K Ramasubramanian, professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay at the Indic Thoughts Festival (15-18 December).
The unique features of Indian mathematics and astronomy, said Ramasubramanian, lie in the way they were practised, the way they evolved, the style in which they were transmitted and the purpose for which they have been developed.
A large corpus of scientific literature in Sanskrit, including works in mathematics and astronomy, has been composed in the form of “delightful” verses with clarity and precision, he said.
Whether it’s mathematics, astronomy, natyasastra, ayurveda or philosophy, they have been conveyed through a beautiful media – a versified form.
The first thing that comes to mind when there is a need to find out the direction from a specific location, is magnetic compass. But Ramasubramanian rejects this to say such tools are not the answer. Even in the absence of such tools, the date on which sun rays would fall on a temple idol was predicted with precision.
Ancient India’s scientific practices had the answers to this!
Indian astronomy has been characterised by extraordinary precision with far more accurate predictions made by Indian astronomers by way of a tradition that maintained records verbally for thousands of years.
Highlighting the ubiquity of mathematics, Ramasubramanian said there should be an emphasis on learning skills to use mathematics.
Mathematics is all-encompassing and plays a role in every field, whether spirituality, religion or mundane work. It’s employed in kamasastra, arthasastra and gandharvasastra.
Today, it is “abstract” mathematics that is being taught.
A return to the teachings of Aryabhata, Panini, Brahmagupta and Pingala is the way forward; abstract mathematics is simply not enough, he said.