Do you know the origin of Numbers which we use today has roots in our ancient Indian Number system?
Or that the number “Zero” or Shunya, as it is called in Hindi, is the biggest contribution of India to the world?
Curious to know more? Read on…
Ganith and Ankh
The Hindi numerals we use today are similar to the numbers which are referred world-over as Hindu Arabic numerals. They are written in the Devanagari script, the script for Hindi as well as Sanskrit alphabets. The emphasis of these numbers is on decimal place value systems.
Math is called “Ganith” (meaning to count), and numbers as ankh in the Hindi language since ancient times. The number base is 10 and this is the base used all over the world today.
History of Numbers and its links to the Hindi Numerals
Excavations of Ishango and Lembobo bones highlight the use of Mathematicssince 40,000+ years.
Tracing history we find that, Egyptians were said to be the first to create numerals, (symbols to represent numbers) using figures called Hieroglyphics. Greeks followed this up by their Ionian and Doric numbers.
Roman Civilization numerals are still learned in schools. One is represented by “I”, two by “II”, and five by “V”…and so on. But they were not suitable for large number computing.
Mayan civilization had a Number system with 3 symbols 0, 1, 5 represented by a shell, dot and vertical line respectively but with a number base 20.
The Babylonian civilization had a number base of 60. They were the ones who developed the 24-hour clock with this number base were 60 minutes means an hour and 60 seconds means a minute.
Each of the systems was tried and tested by many countries and civilization. However, there were numerous difficulties and Kings and commoners’ alike felt a need for a number system that could help in computing for trade and civil matters alike.
Around the sixth and seventh centuries, Arabs trading and conquering parts of India took along some Indian mathematicians and math concepts back to their countries. This fact is reiterated by a mention in treaties of Severus Sebokht, a scholar who lived in Persia around that time.
The Arabs found that the Indian numeral system was appropriate for their calculations in matters of trade and inheritance laws.
Great progress was made based on the numeral system and Greek mathematics in Arabic countries during this time. The decimal place value system, algebra, geometry, and trigonometry were developed that forms the basis for modern mathematics. The mathematical scholar Al-Khwarizmi summarized all these advances in maths in his book “the Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing.” His footsteps were followed by Abu Kamil and later by Europeans like Fibonacci when it was introduced in Europe.
This is how numbers from India traveled to Europe and later to all parts of the world.
How old is Indian Number System.
The math concepts that the Arabs took from India itself is thousands of years old! Its number system could measure the biggest and the smallest place value systems easily. You can comprehend its ancient origins and practicality from the following cases.
The Yajur Veda set to have been composed in the Iron Age (approximately)has mentions of a big number – 1 trillion = 1,000,000,000,000.
Such a huge number was not possible to compute with the Roman or Mayan math system existing at that time.
According to Indian ancient texts, the Indian timeline scales are measured 4 yugs called chatur yug.
The name of the yugs and the number of years (approximately)ascribed to them are as follows:
Sat yug= 17, 28,000 years
Tret yug = 12,96,000 years
Dwapar yug = 8,64,000 years
Presently we are in Kali yug that will be in the reckoning for 4,32,000 years
So 1 chaturyug is equal to 43,23,000 years
One day of Brahma (another measurement also called Kalpa)=1000chaturyugs
So a day of Brahma (Kalpa) is = 43,23,000,000 years!
1 Kalpa is 4.32 billion years!
The Indian system of numbers made the possible calculation of numbers with a place value of billion and trillion years, not possible with other systems existing in ancient times.
The ancient system helped compute numbers below 1 too.
The size of an atom was measured accurately. Smaller units like Dhansi are mentioned in an ancient text called Charak samhiti.
Where 1 dhansi = 0.123 milligram
Truti is the smallest part of time meaning 291, 60,00,000th part of the day, which is equal to 30 microseconds. Such is the history of Hindu Arabic numerals.
Cardinal and Ordinal Hindi Numbers
- After ten, the series begins as “gyrah” (11) ending with the same prefix until the number Bees (20). And it goes on.
- Each tenth number has a specific name and the next nine numbers take it as a prefix for example 21 is called ikkees (ees). So 30 is called Thees and the numbers that follow have prefix tis.
- 40 is Chalis, 50 is Pachas, 60 is Sath, 70 is Sattar, 80 is assi and ninety is nabbe.
- Hundred is called Soou and thousands is called Haazar.
- One lakh = 1,00,000 and
- One crore = 1,00,00,000 which is equal to ten lakhs
“Th” of English ordinals becomes “va” in Hindi.
1st becomes pahala
2nd is Dusara
3rd is Thisra
4th is Choutha
5th is Panchva
6th is Chatha
7th is Saatva
8th is Attva
9th is Nauva
10th is Dasva
Sometimes there are variants in the name – for example, 67 is called “sadat” by some and sarsat by some. Both are correct. So, the names of the numbers used for academic purposes are generally in line with the name list advocated by the Government of India department – Central Hindi Directorate, Ministry of Education and Social Welfare.