Aryabhata was a famous mathematician and astronomer of the Gupta period. He is credited with the invention of the decimal. For the first time in Indian history, he had discussed astrology and mathematics in different forms. For a long time, he was often neglected among Indian scientists. In the second half of the twentieth century, he came into the limelight again when in 1975, Indian scientists launched a satellite named Aryabhata in space.
The early life of Aryabhata
Aryabhata was born on 13 April 476 in Kusumpur (modern Patna). There is no authentic mention of who his parents were. According to scholar S. Pillai, Aryabhata was married and had a son named Devarajan. Devarajan was also a great scholar of astrology.
Aryabhata is believed to have received his early education in Kusumpur. Later he went to Nalanda University to get higher education. There he studied Prakrit, Apabhramsa, and Sanskrit languages as well as Vedas, Upanishads, philosophical texts. Aryabhata was a staunch opponent of superstitions and stereotypes since childhood. He did not believe in any traditional thing at all. He used to do his proper investigation and then believed. Therefore Aryabhata never endorsed the notion that has been going on since the Vedic period, under which it was believed that the earth is stationary and the sun revolves around it. He concluded after various experiments that the Sun is stationary and the spherical Earth revolves around it. Aryabhata has propounded this conclusion in principle in his treatise “Aryabhatiyam“.
Aryabhata’s incredible work
In the sixteenth century, the same fact and theory were also propounded by the Western astronomer Copernicus (1473 -1543). It is an irony that this important work of scientists like Copernicus etc. was praised all over the world, whereas Aryabhata had propounded this scientific fact about 1500 years ago. Then scholars like Varahmihir, Brahmagupta, Lalacharya, etc. criticized him severely because this discovery of Aryabhata was against the ancient Vedic tradition and Puranas. Aryabhata was later proved right. In this way, Aryabhata was probably the first scientist of the world, who propounded the earth travel theory.
Aryabhata used to do the work of teaching to distribute the acquired knowledge among the students. He was counted among the best teachers of his time. Therefore he was bestowed with the title of Kulap. It means the Vice-Chancellor of a university. It is said that the Gupta dynasty king Budhgupta made him the vice-chancellor of Nalanda University. Later, famous scholars like Latdev, Prabhakar, Lalacharya, etc. became the chief disciples of Aryabhata. Aryabhata was bestowed with many honors by later scholars. Bhaskar I has given him respectful addresses like Shrimadbhat, Prabho, Prabhu, etc.
Aryabhatiyam is actually the oldest astrological text of India, which was composed by Aryabhata in the year 499 at the age of just 23 years. The creation of this original book is one of his great scientific achievements. It contains mathematical formulas. Its composition method is indicative of Aryabhata’s acumen. It is divided into four parts Dashgitikapad, Ganitapada, Kalakriyapad and Golapada. There is a total of 121 verses in it.
In this book, Aryabhata declared that the earth is round and rotates on its axis. This leads to day and night. At the same time, he also said that the moon has no light of its own, but shines with the light of the sun.
Aryabhata gave scientific reasons for the solar eclipse and lunar eclipse, that these eclipses are not caused by Rahu grasping the Sun or the Moon, but due to the shadows falling on Earth and Moon.
There are only 11 verses in the fourth chapter of Aryabhatiyam, which covers topics related to counting the Sun, Moon, and other motions on the celestial sphere. In this book, Aryabhata has propounded a unique method of writing large numbers in a nutshell with the help of vowels and consonants. Under this, starting from क, the letters of each class should be treated in square places, and starting from अ, vowels should be treated in non-verbal places.
Tithi and year in Aryabhatiyam
In the third chapter, Aryabhata has given verses related to the calculation of time. In these, the units of time and angle, the conjunction and transit of planets, solar-lunar month, Sawan Nakshatra day, Adhimaas, Kshaya Tithi, Ravi year, Celestial year, epoch classification, planetary motion, and time is taken to rotate, calculate the distance between the planet and the center of the earth, their speed, etc. are described.
Aryabhata was an astrologer and astronomer as well as a skilled mathematician. In Aryabhatiyam’s Dashgeetikapad, he composed the verses of Jyotishyoga numbers in a new way. He used the letter symbols of vowels and consonants to represent the largest numbers. He gave the value of pie as 3.1416 and called it an approximate value.
Time calculation in Aryabhatiyam
Aryabhatiyam is also a major text of astrology, in which many labor-intensive investigations propounded by Aryabhata are found. In this the scientific analysis of time calculation becomes clear. He described time as eternal, and infinite and divided it into many parts. Aryabhata explained solar day, lunar day, and constellation day. He observed celestial bodies, planets, and innumerable stars for years and established the corresponding principles. He told the measure of one yojana to be 9 miles. Also, he established a new tradition of creating an epicycle of planetary motion.
Aryabhata described the earth as made up of four great elements – soil, water, fire, and air. He also gave an explanation about the attraction power of the earth. This suggests that he was familiar with gravity long before Newton. Aryabhata has proved the height of the atmosphere to be 109 miles from the surface of the earth, which is close to modern measurements. He was the first astronomer who established the sources related to spherical astrology and started a new tradition.
Like Indian Astrology, Aryabhata himself gave different values for the deflection in his texts by doing his own perforation. Various instruments have been described in Surya Siddhanta also. Scientists like Varaha Mihir, Brahmagupta, etc. also followed this tradition.
According to mathematicians like DE Smith, Aryabhata died in 550 at the age of 74.