Sanskrit's potential for scientific use was greatly enhanced as a result of the thorough systemisation of its

grammar by

Panini. On the basis of just under 4000

sutras (rules expressed as aphorisms), he built virtually the whole structure of the

Sanskrit language, whose general 'shape' hardly changed for the next two thousand years. An indirect consequence of Panini's efforts to increase the

linguistic facility of

Sanskrit soon became apparent in the character of

scientific and

mathematical literature. This may be brought out by comparing the grammar of

Sanskrit with the

geometry of

Euclid - a particularly

apposite comparison since, whereas

mathematics grew out of

philosophy in ancient

Greece, it was partly an outcome of

linguistic developments in

India.

Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages. The Backus Normal Form (see also Backus-Naur Form under BNF) was discovered independently by John Backus in 1959, but Panini's notation is equivalent in its power to that of Backus and has many similar properties. It is remarkable to think that concepts which are fundamental to today's theoretical computer science should have their origin with an Indian genius around 2500 years ago.

At the beginning of this article we mentioned that certain concepts had been attributed to Panini by certain historians which others dispute. One such theory was put forward by Indraji in 1876. He claimed that the Brahmi numerals developed out of using letters or syllables as numerals. Then he put the finishing touches to the theory by suggesting that Panini in the eighth century BC (earlier than most historians place Panini) was the first to come up with the idea of using letters of the alphabet to represent numbers.

There are a number of pieces of evidence to support Indraji's theory that the Brahmi numerals developed from letters or syllables. However it is not totally convincing since, to quote one example, the symbols for 1, 2 and 3 clearly don't come from letters but from one, two and three lines respectively.

Even if one accepts the link between the numerals and the letters, making Panini the originator of this idea would seem to have no more behind it than knowing that Panini was one of the most innovative geniuses that world has known so it is not unreasonable to believe that he might have made this step, too.

Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

Vedic religion gave rise to a study of mathematics for constructing sacrificial altars in the Sulbasutras. Then it was Jaina cosmology which led to ideas of the infinite in Jaina mathematics. Later mathematical advances were often driven by the study of astronomy. Well, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that astrology formed the driving force since it was that "science" which required accurate information about the planets and other heavenly bodies and so encouraged the development of mathematics.

Religion too played a major role in astronomical investigations in India for accurate calendars had to be prepared to allow religious observances to occur at the correct times. Mathematics then was still an applied science in India for many centuries with mathematicians developing methods to solve practical problems.

Yavanesvara, in the second century AD, played an important role in popularising astrology when he translated a Greek astrology text dating from 120 BC. If he had made a literal translation it is doubtful whether it would have been of interest to more than a few academically minded people. He popularized the text, however, by resetting the whole work into Indian culture using Hindu images with the Indian caste system integrated into his text.
The Indian methods of computing horoscopes all date back to the translation of a Greek astrology text into Sanskrit prose by Yavanesvara. Yavanesvara (or Yavanaraja) literally means "Lord of the Greeks" and it was a name given to many officials in western India during the period 130 AD - 390 AD. During this period the Ksatrapas ruled Gujarat (or Madhya Pradesh) and these "Lord of the Greeks" officials acted for the Greek merchants living in the area.

The main ideas of Jaina mathematics, particularly those relating to its cosmology with its passion for large finite numbers and infinite numbers, continued to flourish with scholars such as Yativrsabha. He was a contemporary of Varahamihira and of the slightly older Aryabhata. We should also note that the two schools at Kusumapura and Ujjain were involved in the continuing developments of the numerals and of place-valued number systems. The next figure of major importance at the Ujjain school was Brahmagupta near the beginning of the seventh century AD and he would make one of the most major contributions to the development of the number systems with his remarkable contributions on negative numbers and zero. It is a sobering thought that eight hundred years later European mathematics would be struggling to cope without the use of negative numbers and of zero.

Sources: http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Panini.html

Staal, F. 1988. Universals. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

http://history.math.csusb.edu/Mathematicians/Panini.html

http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/HistTopics/Indian_mathematics.html#s23

http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Yavanesvara.html