Vedic Mathematics—An introduction
Thursday,10 August 2023 09:11 PM IST
Vedic Mathematics is India’s gift to the World like Yoga and Ayurveda. The benefit of learning Vedic Mathematics is you will be able to calculate much faster compared to the traditional system of mathematics used. Vedic Mathematics is a collection of Sutras and techniques to solve mathematical problems in easy and faster way. It consists of 16 Sutras or formulae and 13 sub-sutras or sub-formulae which can be used for problems involved in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, conics etc.
Vedic Mathematics is a system of mathematics which was discovered by the great Indian mathematician Jagadguru Shri Bharathi Krishna Tirthaji in 1918 and he published his findings in a ‘Vedic Mathematics Book’. Veda is a Sanskrit word that meant ‘knowledge’. “Using regular mathematical steps, solving problems sometimes are complex and time consuming. However, by using general techniques of Vedic Mathematics and Specific Techniques, numerical calculations can be done very fast.
Jagadguru Bharathi Krishna Tirthaji Maharaj was born in 1884 in Puri. He was very good in subjects like mathematics, science, humanities and he excelled in Sanskrit language. He was also interested in spiritualism and mediation. In fact, while he was practicing meditation in the forest near Sringeri, he rediscovered the Vedic sutras. He claimed that he learnt Sutras and Techniques from the Vedas especially ‘Rig-Veda’ and he automatically rediscovered them when he was practicing meditation for 8 years.
Later, he wrote the sutras on manuscripts but were unfortunately lost. Finally in year 1957, he wrote introductory volume of 16 sutras which is called as Vedic Mathematics and planned to write other sutras later. But soon he developed cataract in both of his eyes and passed away in 1960. Krishna Tirtha, stated that the sutras and other accessory content were found after years of solitary study of the Vedas in a forest. They were evidently contained in the ‘pariśiṣṭa’, a supplementary text of the Atharva Veda. He does not provide any more bibliographic clarification on the sourcing. The editor of the book, Professor V.S. Agrawala argued that “since the Vedas were defined as the traditional repositories of all knowledge, any knowledge can be de facto assumed to be in the Vedas, irrespective of whether it may be physically located in them”. He even considered Krishna Tirtha's work as a pariśiṣṭa in itself.
However, many mathematicians and STS scholars noted that the Vedas did not contain any of those sutras and sub-sutras. When challenged by Shukla, a mathematician and a historiographer of ancient Indian mathematics, to locate the sutras in the Parishishta of a standard edition of the Atharvaveda, Krishna Tirtha stated that they were not included in the standard editions but only in an undiscovered version, which he discovered by chance, and the foreword and introduction of the book also took a similar stand. Sanskrit scholars had also confirmed that the linguistic style did not correspond to the time-spans but rather reflected contemporary Sanskrit.
Dani, a professor of Mathematics pointed out that the contents of the book have ‘practically nothing in common’ with the mathematics of the Vedic period or even with subsequent developments in Indian mathematics. Multiple techniques in the book involved the use of high-precision decimals. These were unknown during the Vedic times and were introduced in India only in the sixteenth century, as works of numerous great and ancient mathematicians such as Aryabhata, Brahmagupta and Bhaskara were entirely based on fractions. Some of the sutras even ran parallel to the General Leibniz rule and Taylor's theorem (which, per Krishna Tirtha, were to be yet studied by the western world during the time of his writing) but ultimately boiled down to the sub-elementary operations of basic differentiation on polynomials. From a historiographic perspective, India had no minimal knowledge about the conceptual notions of differentiation and integration.
Benefits of Vedic Mathematics
Why is Vedic Mathematics needed?
Vedic scholars did not use figures for big numbers in their numerical notation, and they preferred to use the Sanskrit alphabets, with each alphabet constituting a number. Several mantras, in fact, denote numbers, that included the famed Gayatri Mantra, which added to 108 when decoded.
Vedic Mathematics provides answer in one line where as conventional method requires several steps. It is an ancient technique, which simplifies multiplication, divisibility, complex numbers, squaring, cubing, square and cube roots. Even recurring decimals and auxiliary fractions can be handled by Vedic Mathematics. Vedic Mathematics forms part of Jyotish Shastra which is one of the six parts of Vedangas. The Jyotish Shastra or Astronomy is made up of three parts called Skandas. A Skanda means the big branch of a tree shooting out of the trunk.
In Vedic Mathematics System a manual approach is preferred. The simplicity of Vedic Mathematics encourages most calculations to be carried out without the use of paper and pen. Methods like Shudh Method is applicable in statistics. This mental approach sharpens the mind, improves memory and concentration and also encourages innovation.