Hindu origin of “Zero” and the Decimal System

Zero means “nothing” and yet Mathematics and science owe a lot to it. The significance of the concept of “Zero” is astounding and revolutionary. Zero was neither invented or discovered but seen and expressed by ancient Indians, from the time of Vedas, as a Universal principal – “Shunya”. Without “Zero”, there can be no Decimal System. 

Is Zero a Number? | Theo-sophical Ruminations

The roman numerals and calendar had no concept of Zero. When it was introduced earlier on in Europe there was resistance to it, and it was incomprehensible to them. Some called it the work of “devil”.

Zero went from India to Europe through Persia and Arabia. It came to Arabia in around 770 AD by a Hindu scholar named Kanaka, who taught Hindu Astronomy and Mathematics to the Arabian Scholars.



Zero is a placeholder for Everything

There is a concept of the golden glowing cosmic egg, “Hiranyagarbha” in the Indian Knowledge system from which the concept of zero as a womb of everything, arises. It is the nothingness from which everything manifests, and this relates to the process of the “Creation of the Universe”.


Historical Evidences

Many historical evidence can be found of the written “zero”. 

The ChaturBhuja temple in Gwalior, India, has the earliest written evidence of the zero symbol as it is known today. It is called “The temple of Zero” dating back to 876 AD.

Chaturbhuj Temple, Gwalior - Wikipedia

Another evidence of zero in the form of a dot, can be found in a stone inscription kept in the Cambodian National Museum, Phnom Penh. Cambodia was also greatly influenced by Indian Culture.The inscription is dated 683 CE. It records the year 605 in the local Cambodian Calendar. 

We also find evidence in arithmetic manuscripts found in Bakshali in Northwest India, which show the use of the decimal value system and the use of 10 numerals. Discovered in 1881, these manuscripts were written on Birch bark leaves. It is estimated that these are as old as the 1st to 3rd century. 

Also Read :  Beeja-Ganitham - The Indian origins of Algebra

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Zero is also the reason behind the binary system of 0-1 on which the entire modern day computing is based upon. All the modern gizmos such as the laptops, mobile phones and tablets wouldn’t have been possible. 

Zero is so simple and yet so powerful because it arises from the universal laws of nature as revealed to the ancient Indian Saints, Mathematicians and Astrologers. Zero truly is a shining example of the great contribution of India to the world. It literally taught the world how to count by using the concept of zero and the decimal system. 



“Roots in India”- Autobiography of India series by D.K. Hari and D.K. Hema Hari by Garuda Prakashan.