Glory of Bharath  »  Scientists of Bharath - I
476-550 CE
Aryabhata was the first in the line of great mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy. His most famous works are the Aryabhatiya (499 CE, when he was 23 years old) and the Arya-siddhanta.

Aryabhata mentions in the Aryabhatiya that it was composed 3,600 years into the Kali Yuga, when he was 23 years old. This corresponds to 499 CE, and implies that he was born in 476 CE. Aryabhata provides no information about his place of birth. The only information comes from Bhaskara I, who describes Aryabhata asasmakiya, "one belonging to the asmaka country." While asmaka was originally situated in the northwest of India, it is widely attested that, during the Buddha's time, a branch of the Asmaka people settled in the region between the Narmada and Godavari rivers, in the South Gujarat-North Maharashtra region of central India. Aryabhata is believed to have been born there. However, early Buddhist texts describe Asmaka as being further south, in dakshinapath or the Deccan, while other texts describe the Asmakas as having fought Alexander, which would put them further north.

It is fairly certain that, at some point, he went to Kusumapura for advanced studies and that he lived there for some time. Both Hindu and Buddhist tradition, as well as Bhaskara I (CE 629), identify Kusumapura as Pa?aliputra, modern Patna. A verse mentions that Aryabhata was the head of an institution (kulapa) at Kusumapura, and, because the University of Nalanda was in Pataliputra at the time and had an astronomical observatory, it is speculated that Aryabhata might have been the head of the Nalanda university as well. Aryabhata is also reputed to have set up an observatory at the Sun temple in Taregana, Bihar. Works
Aryabhata is the author of several treatises on mathematics and astronomy, some of which are lost. His major work, Aryabhatiya, a compendium of mathematics and astronomy, was extensively referred to in the Indian mathematical literature and has survived to modern times. The mathematical part of the Aryabhatiya covers arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry, and spherical trigonometry. It also contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums-of-power series, and a table of sines. The Arya-siddhanta, a lost work on astronomical computations, is known through the writings of Aryabhata's contemporary, Varahamihira, and later mathematicians and commentators, including Brahmagupta and Bhaskara I. This work appears to be based on the older Surya Siddhanta and uses the midnight-day reckoning, as opposed to sunrise in Aryabhatiya. It also contained a description of several astronomical instruments: the gnomon (shanku-yantra), a shadow instrument (chhAyA-yantra), possibly angle-measuring devices, semicircular and circular (dhanur-yantra / chakra-yantra), a cylindrical stick yasti-yantra, an umbrella-shaped device called thechhatra-yantra, and water clocks of at least two types, bow-shaped and cylindrical.

A third text, which may have survived in the Arabic translation, is Al ntf or Al-nanf. It claims that it is a translation by Aryabhata, but the Sanskrit name of this work is not known. Probably dating from the 9th century, it is mentioned by the Persian scholar and chronicler of India, Abu Rayhan al-Biruni.

Direct details of Aryabhata's work are known only from the Aryabhatiya. The name "Aryabhatiya" is due to later commentators. Aryabhata himself may not have given it a name. His disciple Bhaskara I calls it Ashmakatantra (or the treatise from the Ashmaka). It is also occasionally referred to as Arya-shatas-aShTa (literally, Aryabhata's 108), because there are 108 verses in the text. It is written in the very terse style typical of sutra literature, in which each line is an aid to memory for a complex system. Thus, the explication of meaning is due to commentators. The text consists of the 108 verses and 13 introductory verses, and is divided into four padas or chapters:

Gitikapada (13 verses): large units of time-kalpa, manvantra, and yuga-which present a cosmology different from earlier texts such as Lagadha's Vedanga Jyotisha (1st century BCE). There is also a table of sines (jya), given in a single verse. The duration of the planetary revolutions during a mahayuga is given as 4.32 million years.

Ganitapada (33 verses): covering mensuration (k?etra vyavahara), arithmetic and geometric progressions, gnomon / shadows (shanku-chhAyA), simple, quadratic, simultaneous, and indeterminate equations (kuTTaka)

Kalakriyapada (25 verses): different units of time and a method for determining the positions of planets for a given day, calculations concerning the intercalary month (adhikamAsa), kShaya-tithis, and a seven-day week with names for the days of week.

Golapada (50 verses): Geometric/trigonometric aspects of the celestial sphere, features of the ecliptic, celestial equator, node, shape of the earth, cause of day and night, rising of zodiacal signs on horizon, etc. In addition, some versions cite a few colophons added at the end, extolling the virtues of the work, etc.

The Aryabhatiya presented a number of innovations in mathematics and astronomy in verse form, which were influential for many centuries. The extreme brevity of the text was elaborated in commentaries by his disciple Bhaskara I (Bhashya, 600 CE) and by Nilakantha Somayaji in his Aryabhatiya Bhasya, (1465 CE).

Place value system and zero
The place-value system, first seen in the 3rd century Bakhshali Manuscript, was clearly in place in his work. While he did not use a symbol for zero, the French mathematician Georges Ifrah argues that knowledge of zero was implicit in Aryabhata's place-value system as a place holder for the powers of ten with null coefficients. However, Aryabhata did not use the Brahmi numerals. Continuing the Sanskritic tradition from Vedic times, he used letters of the alphabet to denote numbers, expressing quantities, such as the table of sines in a mnemonic form.

Pi as irrational
Aryabhata worked on the approximation for Pi (p), and may have come to the conclusion that p is irrational. In the second part of the Aryabhatiyam (ga?itapada 10), he writes:

caturadhikam satama??agu?am dva?a??istatha sahasra?am ayutadvayavi?kambhasyasanno v?ttapari?aha?.
"Add four to 100, multiply by eight, and then add 62,000. By this rule the circumference of a circle with a diameter of 20,000 can be approached."
This implies that the ratio of the circumference to the diameter is ((4+100)8+62000)/20000 = 62832/20000 = 3.1416, which is accurate to five significant figures.

It is speculated that Aryabhata used the word asanna (approaching), to mean that not only is this an approximation but that the value is incommensurable (or irrational). If this is correct, it is quite a sophisticated insight, because the irrationality of pi was proved in Europe only in 1761 by Lambert). After Aryabhatiya was translated into Arabic (820 CE) this approximation was mentioned in Al-Khwarizmi's book on algebra.

Mensuration and trigonometry
In Ganitapada 6, Aryabhata gives the area of a triangle as
tribhujasya phalashariram samadalakoti bhujardhasamvargah
that translates to: "for a triangle, the result of a perpendicular with the half-side is the area."

Aryabhata discussed the concept of sine in his work by the name of ardha-jya. Literally, it means "half-chord". For simplicity, people started calling it jya. When Arabic writers translated his works from Sanskrit into Arabic, they referred it as jiba. However, in Arabic writings, vowels are omitted, and it was abbreviated as jb. Later writers substituted it with jiab, meaning "cove" or "bay." (In Arabic, jibais a meaningless word.) Later in the 12th century, when Gherardo of Cremona translated these writings from Arabic into Latin, he replaced the Arabic jiab with its Latin counterpart, sinus, which means "cove" or "bay". And after that, the sinus became sine in English.

Indeterminate equations
A problem of great interest to Indian mathematicians since ancient times has been to find integer solutions to equations that have the form ax + b = cy, a topic that has come to be known as diophantine equations. This is an example from Bhaskara's commentary on Aryabhatiya:

Find the number which gives 5 as the remainder when divided by 8, 4 as the remainder when divided by 9, and 1 as the remainder when divided by 7

That is, find N = 8x+5 = 9y+4 = 7z+1. It turns out that the smallest value for N is 85. In general, diophantine equations, such as this, can be notoriously difficult. They were discussed extensively in ancient Vedic text Sulva Sutras, whose more ancient parts might date to 800 BCE. Aryabhata's method of solving such problems is called the ku??aka method. Kuttaka means "pulverizing" or "breaking into small pieces", and the method involves a recursive algorithm for writing the original factors in smaller numbers. Today this algorithm, elaborated by Bhaskara in 621 CE, is the standard method for solving first-order diophantine equations and is often referred to as the Aryabhata algorithm. The diophantine equations are of interest in cryptology.

In Aryabhatiya Aryabhata provided elegant results for the summation of series of squares and cubes:

Aryabhata's system of astronomy was called the audAyaka system, in which days are reckoned from uday, dawn at lanka or "equator". Some of his later writings on astronomy, which apparently proposed a second model (or ardha-rAtrikA, midnight) are lost but can be partly reconstructed from the discussion in Brahmagupta's khanDakhAdyaka. In some texts, he seems to ascribe the apparent motions of the heavens to the Earth's rotation. He also treated the planet's orbits as elliptical rather than circular.

Motions of the solar system
Aryabhata appears to have believed that the earth rotates about its axis. This is indicated in the statement, referring to Lanka, which describes the movement of the stars as a relative motion caused by the rotation of the earth:
"Like a man in a boat moving forward sees the stationary objects as moving backward, just so are the stationary stars seen by the people in Lanka (or on the equator) as moving exactly towards the west."

But the next verse describes the motion of the stars and planets as real movements: "The cause of their rising and setting is due to the fact that the circle of the asterisms, together with the planets driven by the provector wind, constantly moves westwards at Lanka."

Lanka (Sri Lanka) is here a reference point on the equator, which was the equivalent of the reference meridian for astronomical calculations. Aryabhata described a geocentric model of the solar system, in which the Sun and Moon are each carried by epicycles. They in turn revolve around the Earth. In this model, which is also found in the Paitamahasiddhanta (CE 425), the motions of the planets are each governed by two epicycles, a smaller manda (slow) and a larger sighra (fast). The order of the planets in terms of distance from earth is taken as: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the asterisms."

The positions and periods of the planets was calculated relative to uniformly moving points. In the case of Mercury and Venus, they move around the Earth at the same speed as the mean Sun. In the case of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, they move around the Earth at specific speeds, representing each planet's motion through the zodiac. Most historians of astronomy consider that this two-epicycle model reflects elements of pre-Ptolemaic Greek astronomy. Another element in Aryabhata's model, the sighrocca, the basic planetary period in relation to the Sun, is seen by some historians as a sign of an underlying heliocentric model.

Aryabhata states that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight. Instead of the prevailing cosmogony in which eclipses were caused by pseudo-planetary nodes Rahu and Ketu, he explains eclipses in terms of shadows cast by and falling on Earth. Thus, the lunar eclipse occurs when the moon enters into the Earth's shadow. He discusses at length the size and extent of the Earth's shadow and then provides the computation and the size of the eclipsed part during an eclipse. Later Indian astronomers improved on the calculations, but Aryabhata's methods provided the core. His computational paradigm was so accurate that 18th century scientist Guillaume Le Gentil, during a visit to Pondicherry, India, found the Indian computations of the duration of the lunar eclipse of 30 August 1765 to be short by 41 seconds, whereas his charts (by Tobias Mayer, 1752) were long by 68 seconds.

Aryabhata's computation of the Earth's circumference as 39,968.0582 kilometres was only 0.2% smaller than the actual value of 40,075.0167 kilometres. This approximation was a significant improvement over the computation by Greek mathematician Eratosthenes (200 BCE), whose exact computation is not known in modern units but his estimate had an error of around 5-10%.

Sidereal periods
Considered in modern English units of time, Aryabhata calculated the sidereal rotation (the rotation of the earth referencing the fixed stars) as 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds; the modern value is 23:56:4.091. Similarly, his value for the length of the sidereal year at 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, and 30 seconds is an error of 3 minutes and 20 seconds over the length of a year.

As mentioned, Aryabhata claimed that the Earth turns on its own axis, and some elements of his planetary epicyclic models rotate at the same speed as the motion of the Earth around the Sun. The planetary orbits were also given with respect to the Sun and he also states: "Whoever knows this Dasagitika Sutra which describes the movements of the Earth and the planets in the sphere of the asterisms passes through the paths of the planets and asterisms and goes to the higher Brahman." Thus, it has been suggested that Aryabhata's calculations were based on an underlying heliocentric model, in which the planets orbit the Sun.

Aryabhata's work was of great influence in the Indian astronomical tradition and influenced several neighbouring cultures through translations. The Arabic translation during the Islamic Golden Age (820 CE), was particularly influential. Some of his results are cited by Al-Khwarizmi and in the 10th century Al-Biruni stated that Aryabhata's followers believed that the Earth rotated on its axis.

His definitions of sine (jya), cosine (kojya), versine (utkrama-jya), and inverse sine (otkram jya) influenced the birth of trigonometry. He was also the first to specify sine and versine (1 - cos x) tables, in 3.75 intervals from 0 to 90, to an accuracy of 4 decimal places.

Aryabhata's astronomical calculation methods were also very influential. Along with the trigonometric tables, they came to be widely used in the Islamic world and used to compute many Arabic astronomical tables (zijes). In particular, the astronomical tables in the work of the Arabic Spain scientist Al-Zarqali (11th century) were translated into Latin as the Tables of Toledo (12th c.) and remained the most accurate ephemeris used in Europe for centuries.

Calendric calculations devised by Aryabhata and his followers have been in continuous use in India for the practical purposes of fixing the Panchangam (the Hindu calendar). In the Islamic world, they formed the basis of the Jalali calendar introduced in 1073 CE by a group of astronomers including Omar Khayyam, versions of which (modified in 1925) are the national calendars in use in Iran and Afghanistan today. The dates of the Jalali calendar are based on actual solar transit, as in Aryabhata and earlier Siddhanta calendars. This type of calendar requires an ephemeris for calculating dates. Although dates were difficult to compute, seasonal errors were less in the Jalali calendar than in the Gregorian calendar.

India's first satellite Aryabhata launched on 19th April 1975 and the lunar crater Aryabhata are named in his honour. An Institute for conducting research in astronomy, astrophysics and atmospheric sciences is the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) near Nainital, India. The inter-school Aryabhata Maths Competition is also named after him, as is Bacillus aryabhata, a species of bacteria discovered by ISRO scientists in 2009.

- October 11
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