Bhaskaracharya … By Prof. Mohan Apte


Bhaskaracharya wrote Siddhanta Shiromani in 1150 AD when he was 36 years old. This is a mammoth work containing about 1450 verses. It is divided into four parts, Lilawati, Beejaganit, Ganitadhyaya and Goladhyaya. In fact each part can be considered as separate book. The numbers of verses in each part are as follows,
Lilawati has 278, Beejaganit has 213, Ganitadhyaya has 451 and Goladhyaya has 501 verses.
One of the most important characteristic of Siddhanta Shiromani is, it consists of simple methods of calculations from Arithmetic to Astronomy. Essential knowledge of ancient Indian Astronomy can be acquired by reading only this book. Siddhanta Shiromani has surpassed all the ancient books on astronomy in India. After Bhaskaracharya nobody could write excellent books on mathematics and astronomy in lucid language in India. In India, Siddhanta works used to give no proofs of any theorem. Bhaskaracharya has also followed the same tradition.
Lilawati is an excellent example of how a difficult subject like mathematics can be written in poetic language. Lilawati has been translated in many languages throughout the world. When British Empire became paramount in India, they established three universities in 1857, at Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. Till then, for about 700 years, mathematics was taught in India from Bhaskaracharya’s Lilawati and Beejaganit. No other textbook has enjoyed such long lifespan.


Lilawati and Beejaganit together consist of about 500 verses. A few important highlights of Bhaskar’s mathematics are as follows,
Terms for numbers
In English, cardinal numbers are only in multiples of 1000. They have terms such as thousand, million, billion, trillion, quadrillion etc. Most of these have been named recently. However, Bhaskaracharya has given the terms for numbers in multiples of ten and he says that these terms were coined by ancients for the sake of positional values. Bhaskar’s terms for numbers are as follows:
eka(1), dasha(10), shata(100), sahastra(1000), ayuta(10,000), laksha(100,000), prayuta (1,000,000=million), koti(107), arbuda(108), abja(109=billion), kharva (1010), nikharva (1011), mahapadma (1012=trillion), shanku(1013), jaladhi(1014), antya(1015=quadrillion), Madhya (1016) and parardha(1017).


Kuttak is nothing but the modern indeterminate equation of first order. The method of solution of such equations was called as ‘pulverizer’ in the western world. Kuttak means to crush to fine particles or to pulverize. There are many kinds of Kuttaks. Let us consider one example.
In the equation, ax + b = cy, a and b are known positive integers. We want to also find out the values of x and y in integers. A particular example is,
100x +90 = 63y
Bhaskaracharya gives the solution of this example as, x = 18, 81, 144, 207… And y=30, 130, 230, 330…
Indian Astronomers used such kinds of equations to solve astronomical problems. It is not easy to find solutions of these equations but Bhaskara has given a generalized solution to get multiple answers.

Chakrawaal is the “indeterminate equation of second order” in western mathematics. This type of equation is also called Pell’s equation. Though the equation is recognized by his name Pell had never solved the equation. Much before Pell, the equation was solved by an ancient and eminent Indian mathematician, Brahmagupta (628 AD). The solution is given in his Brahmasphutasiddhanta. Bhaskara modified the method and gave a general solution of this equation. For example, consider the equation 61×2 + 1 = y2. Bhaskara gives the values of x = 22615398 and y = 1766319049
There is an interesting history behind this very equation. The Famous French mathematician Pierre de Fermat (1601-1664) asked his friend Bessy to solve this very equation. Bessy used to solve the problems in his head like present day Shakuntaladevi. Bessy failed to solve the problem. After about 100 years another famous French mathematician solved this problem. But his method is lengthy and could find a particular solution only, while Bhaskara gave the solution for five cases. In his book ‘History of mathematics’, see what Carl Boyer says about this equation,
‘In connection with the Pell’s equation ax2 + 1 = y2, Bhaskara gave particular solutions for five cases, a = 8, 11, 32, 61, and 67, for 61×2 + 1 = y2, for example he gave the solutions, x = 226153980 and y = 1766319049, this is an impressive feat in calculations and its verifications alone will tax the efforts of the reader’
Henceforth the so-called Pell’s equation should be recognized as ‘Brahmagupta-Bhaskaracharya equation’.
Simple mathematical methods
Bhaskara has given simple methods to find the squares, square roots, cube, and cube roots of big numbers. He has proved the Pythagoras theorem in only two lines. The famous Pascal Triangle was Bhaskara’s ‘Khandameru’. Bhaskara has given problems on that number triangle. Pascal was born 500 years after Bhaskara. Several problems on permutations and combinations are given in Lilawati. Bhaskar. He has called the method ‘ankapaash’. Bhaskara has given an approximate value of PI as 22/7 and more accurate value as 3.1416. He knew the concept of infinity and called it as ‘khahar rashi’, which means ‘anant’. It seems that Bhaskara had not notions about calculus, One of his equations in modern notation can be written as, d(sin (w)) = cos (w) dw.

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