Just how we see from Ancient Indian knowledge that “Zero” is the absolute nothingness or “Shunya”, Infinity or “Anantha” is the other end of the spectrum, the endless, boundless, unfathomable expansion, be it of time, space and quantity.
“Anantha” means that which has no – “Antha” or ending. Anantha refers to the endless expansion of the Cosmic Universe. It is a profound concept – one that was not invented but “realised” by ancient Indian sages. There is also a corollary to the concept of Infinity – It can refer not only to something as infinitely large but also as infinitely small.
In the Indian symbolism, infinity was denoted by Anantha Shesha – the coiled snake, whose beginning and end was incomprehensible. It denotes the infinite number of cycles of creation, dissolution and recreation of the universe. This symbolism is visible in numerous sculptures in Indian temples. It was also depicted in paintings and motifs in textiles which could have been a possible medium of its transition to Europe.
There is a famous 5000 year old verse in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, which is recited at the completion of the Homa Ritual, the ‘Poornahuti’. It goes as –
ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते ।
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om Poornnam-Adah Poornnam-Idam
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih ||
The translation is as –
Om, That is Infinite, This is Infinite. From the Infinite comes the Infinity.
If infinity is taken away from Infinite, Only Infinity remains.
In this verse, the word infinite can also be replaced with “Complete”. This verse refers to the Infinite and Divine nature of the cosmos. The same concept when applied to mathematics goes as – when any number is added (enters) or subtracted (leaves) from infinity, the number infinity remains unaltered.
Even in modern mathematics and science Infinity is represented by the symbol ∞ which was given by John Wallis, the english mathematician, in 1655. Thus we see how despite being abstract, the primordial concept of infinity is fundamental to our understanding of the universe.
Also, Read about the Hindu Origin of Zero.
“Roots in India”- Autobiography of India series by D.K. Hari and D.K. Hema Hari by Garuda Prakashan.
Image of Anant Shesha – https://bharathgyanblog.wordpress.com/