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.
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
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
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.
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
was in his Brahma-sphu siddhanta, for the first time ever
had be formulated the rules of the operation zero,
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.
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.