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Q. Did U Know that the Concept of Zero originated in Ancient India ?

Ans. The concept of zero originated in Ancient India. This concept may seem to be a very ordinary one and a claim to its discovery may be viewed as queer. But if one gives a hard thought to this concept it would be seen that zero is not just a numeral. Apart from being a numeral, it is also a concept, and a fundamental one at that. It is fundamental because, terms to identify visible or perceptible objects do not require much ingenuity. But a concept and symbol that connotes nullity represents a qualitative advancement of the human capacity of abstraction.

In absence of a concept of zero there could have been only positive numerals in computation, the inclusion of zero in mathematics opened up a new dimension of negative numerals and gave a cut off point and a standard in the measurability of qualities whose extremes are as yet unknown to human beings, such as temperature.

In ancient India this numeral was used in computation, it was indicated by a dot and was termed Pujyam. Even today we use this term for zero along with the more current term Shunyam meaning a blank. But queerly the term Pujyam also means holy. Param-Pujya is a prefix used in written communication with elders. In this case it means respected or esteemed.

The reason why the term Pujya - meaning blank - came to be sanctified can only be guessed. Indian philosophy has glorified concepts like the material world being an illusion Maya), the act of renouncing the material world (Tyaga) and the goal of merging into the void of eternity (Nirvana). Herein could lie the

reason how the mathematical concept of zero got a philosophical connotation of reverence. In a queer way the concept of 'Zero' or Shunya is derived from the concept of a void. The concept of void existed in Hindu Philosophy hence the derivation of a symbol for it. The concept of Shunyata, influenced South-east asian culture through the Buddhist concept of Nirvana 'attaining salvation by merging into the void of eternity' (Ornate Entrance of a Buddhist temple in Laos) It is possible that like the technique of algebra; the concept of zero also reached the west through the Arabs. In ancient India the terms used to describe zero included Pujyam, Shunyam, Bindu the concept of a void or blank was termed as Shukla and Shubra.

The Arabs refer to the zero as Siphra or Sifr from which we have the English terms Cipher or Cypher. In English the term Cipher connotes zero or any Arabic numeral. Thus it is evident that the term Cipher is derived from the Arabic Sifr which in turn is quite close to the Sanskrit term Shubra. The ancient India astronomer Brahmagupta is credited with having put forth the concept of zero for the first time: Brahmagupta is said to have been born the year 598 A.D. at Bhillamala (today's Bhinmal ) in Gujarat, Western India.

Much is known about Brahmagupta's early life. We are told that his name as a mathematician was well established when Vyaghramukha of the Chapa dyansty m him the court astronomer. Of his two treatises, Brahma-sputa siddhanta and Karanakhandakhadyaka, first is more famous. It was a corrected version of the old Astronomical text, Brahma siddhanta.

It was in his Brahma-sphu siddhanta, for the first time ever had be formulated the rules of the operation zero, foreshadowing the decimal system numeration. With the integration of zero into the numerals it became possible to note higher numerals with limited characters. In the earlier Roman and Babylonian systems of numeration, a large number of chara acters were required to denote higher numerals. Thus enumeration and computation became unwieldy. For instance, as the Roman system of numeration, the number thirty would have to be written as X: while as per the decimal system it would 30, further the number thirty three would be XXXIII as per the Roman system, would be 33 as per the decimal system.

Thus it is clear how the introduction of the decimal system made possible the writing of numerals having a high value with limited characters. This also made computation easier. Apart from developing the decimal system based on the incorporation of zero in enumeration, Brahmagupta also arrived at solutions for indeterminate equations of 1 type ax2+1=y2 and thus can be called the founder of higher branch of mathematics called numerical analysis.

Brahmagupta's treatise Brahma-sputa-siddhanta was translated into Arabic under the title Sind Hind). For several centuries this translation maintained a standard text of reference in the Arab world. It was from this translation of an Indian text on Mathematics that the Arab mathematicians perfected the decimal system and gave the world its current system of enumeration which we call the Arab numerals, which are originally Indian numerals.

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