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The Indian roots of Geometry


Geometry is one of the oldest branches of mathematics that deals with distance, shapes, sizes and relative positions of objects. Did you know that Geometry has its origins in India and was called Gyamiti? Gyamiti was part of larger Ganitham (mathematics). Gyamiti comes from the word Jya which literally means bowstring. It represents the earth on which one stood and the canopy shape of the sky when viewed from the earth, was the bow.

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This ancient way of looking at the sky as an arching canopy paved the way for understanding, tracking and measuring the movement of celestial objects like the sun, the moon, zodiacs etc. This gave birth to the focussed branch of mathematics revolving around arcs, chords and angles. Apparently, the word Geo denoting anything to do with Earth also comes from Jya or the bowstring shaped Earth.

Indians historically have had a vast knowledge of space, shapes and sizes. They had distinct meaningful names such as Kshetra for plane figures, Ghana (cubic), Chiti (pile of bricks), Krakachya (saw shaped) and Chaya (shadows). The application of all this knowledge was visible in the flourishing of rich architecture, ship building, ports, water harnessing projects, town planning and astronomy in India.

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Geometry is a part of the vast scope of knowledge of mathematics which originated in India including the decimal system, which literally taught the world how to count and also the origins of Algebra. Geometry is yet another one of the wonderful gifts of India to the world. 

Fun fact – Did you know even the concept of Algorithm despite being named after the Arabic mathematician Al Khwarizmi, has its roots in the Indian numerals. Khwarizmi’s book, translated by the European mathematician Adelard, was called “De Numero Indico”.

Also read –  India – A land of metrics and measurement and Beeja-Ganitham – The Indian origins of Algebra.

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