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The History & Future of Vedic Maths

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"The world owes most to India in the realm of mathematics, which was developed in the Gupta period to a stage more advanced than that reached by any other nation of antiquity. The success of Indian mathematics was mainly due to the fact that Indians had a clear conception of the abstract number as distinct from the numerical quantity of objects or spatial extension."
A.L. Basham, Australian Indologist in The Wonder That Was India

"India was the motherland of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages. India was the mother of our philosophy, of much of our mathematics, of the ideals embodied in Christianity...of self-government and democracy. In many ways, Mother India is the mother of us all."
Will Durant, American Historian (1885-1981)

Born in the Vedic Age, but buried under centuries of debris, this remarkable system of calculation was deciphered towards the beginning of the 20th century, when there was a great interest in ancient Sanskrit texts, especially in Europe. However, certain texts called Ganita Sutras, which contained mathematical deductions, were ignored, because no one could find any mathematics in them. These texts, it's believed, bore the germs of what we now know as Vedic Mathematics.

Bharati Krishna Tirthaji's Discovery

Vedic math was rediscovered from the ancient Indian scriptures between 1911 and 1918 by Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji (1884-1960), a scholar of Sanskrit, Mathematics, History and Philosophy. He studied these ancient texts for years, and after careful investigation was able to reconstruct a series of mathematical formulae called sutras.

Bharati Krishna Tirthaji, who was also the former Shankaracharya (major religious leader) of Puri, India, delved into the ancient Vedic texts and established the techniques of this system in his pioneering work - Vedic Mathematics (1965), which is considered the starting point for all work on Vedic math. It is said that after Bharati Krishna's original 16 volumes of work expounding the Vedic system were lost, in his final years he wrote this single volume, which was published five years after his death.

Development of Vedic Math

Vedic math was immediately hailed as a new alternative system of mathematics, when a copy of the book reached London in the late 1960s. Some British mathematicians, including Kenneth Williams, Andrew Nicholas and Jeremy Pickles took interest in this new system. They extended the introductory material of Bharati Krishna's book, and delivered lectures on it in London. In 1981, this was collated into a book entitled Introductory Lectures on Vedic Mathematics. A few successive trips to India by Andrew Nicholas between 1981 and 1987, renewed the interest on Vedic math, and scholars and teachers in India started taking it seriously.

The Growing Popularity of Vedic Math

Interest in Vedic maths is growing in the field of education where maths teachers are looking for a new and better approach to the subject. Even students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) are said to be using this ancient technique for quick calculations. No wonder, a recent Convocation speech addressed to the students of IIT, Delhi, by Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi, Indian Minister for Science & Technology, stressed the significance of Vedic maths, while pointing out the important contributions of ancient Indian mathematicians, such as Aryabhatta, who laid the foundations of algebra, Baudhayan, the great geometer, and Medhatithi and Madhyatithi, the saint duo, who formulated the basic framework for numerals.

Vedic Maths in Schools

Quite a few years ago, St James' School, London, and other schools began to teach the Vedic system, with notable success. Today this remarkable system is taught in many schools and institutes in India and abroad, and even to MBA and economics students.

When in 1988, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought to light the marvels of Vedic maths, Maharishi Schools around the world incorporated it in their syllabi. At the school in Skelmersdale, Lancashire, UK, a full course called "The Cosmic Computer" was written and tested on 11 to 14 year old pupils, and later published in 1998. According to Mahesh Yogi, "The sutras of Vedic Mathematics are the software for the cosmic computer that runs this universe."

Since 1999, a Delhi-based forum called International Research Foundation for Vedic Mathematics and Indian Heritage, which promotes value-based education, has been organizing lectures on Vedic maths in various schools in Delhi, including Cambridge School, Amity International, DAV Public School, and Tagore International School.

Vedic Math Research

Researches are being undertaken in many areas, including the effects of learning Vedic maths on children. A great deal of research is also being done on how to develop more powerful and easy applications of the Vedic sutras in geometry, calculus, and computing. The Vedic Mathematics Research Group published three new books in 1984, the year of the centenary of the birth of Sri Bharati Krishna Tirthaji.

Plus Points

There are obviously many advantages of using a flexible, refined and efficient mental system like Vedic math. Pupils can come out of the confinement of the 'only one correct' way, and make their own methods under the Vedic system. Thus, it can induce creativity in intelligent pupils, while helping slow-learners grasp the basic concepts of mathematics. A wider use of Vedic math can undoubtedly generate interest in a subject that is generally dreaded by children.

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