We, the people of Bharat, cultivated some sort of inferiority complexes during the last more than a millennium, thanks to the slavery we had been suffering for such a long time, from Islamic invaders to the Portuguese to the Dutch, to the French to the British! The longtime slavery resulted in the intellectual serfdom of our people. And, during the British Raj they implemented deliberate measures like Babu-making educational methodologies which kept on teaching us that we did not have scientific knowledge or wisdom at all and we were mere snake charmers and proponents of occultism and superstitions.
Sangamagrama Madhavan is one of the greatest scientists we forgot to remember. He is the man who formulated the fundamentals of modern Mathematics. Mathematics underwent revolutionary progress by the development of Calculus and the theories of modern mathematical analysis. It is generally assumed, they were the contributions of the European renaissance. Isaac Newton (1642–1727), Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) and James Gregory (1638–1675) are considered as the originators of modern Mathematical Theories. Ancient Mathematics is related to Euclidean heredity and myths and Archimedes stories. They all are Greek oriented. Recently The Ritual Origin of Geometry of Seidenberg threw lot of lights in this area. The Origin of Mathematics (published by the University Press of America) brings a new revelation in the existing thoughts. Several archeological excavations taking place in Bharat and assumptions on the basis of modern Science and evidences from the Astronomy and natural Sciences highlight the non-European values of the Science, especially Mathematics.
Madhavan who lived in the 14th century, is well known as the link of the Guru-Shishya (Teacher-Student) chain who revealed the studies on the universe about two centuries before the life times of Johannes Kepler and Nicolaus Copernicus even though those studies were attributed to these two foreign scientists. Madhavan’s order of scientists had propagated the scientific knowledge which is now credited to Newton, Leibniz and Gregory.
Charles Wish, a British writer, had introduced Madhavan back in 1825 in his article carried by a science magazine published by Royal Asiatic Society. But, there were no takers for it. But, the initiatives of Prof KV Sharma and C Rajagopal, after a century, helped to draw the attention of the scientific historians to the Mathematical heredity of Kerala. The endeavours of Dr George Geevarghese Joseph, a Keralite and the emeritus Professor in Manchester University, gave impetus to the current drive in this regard. Dr Joseph’s push towards the exploration of non-European Mathematical Science could unveil the saga of the global spread of Bharateeya Mathematical legacy. But, still it is not much known even to the Keralites. It is nowhere in the text books or university syllabus or any research studies on it.
Bharateeya Mathematical heredity flowed from 1200 BC to 800 AD sans any break. The Kerala flow started from Madhavan (1340–1425) and culminated at Sankara Varman (1774–1839). When ancient universities of Bharat like Nalanda, Takshashila, Vikramashila and Kagi had to undergo umpteen political and social challenges and when the kingdom of Vijayanagar slipped into fall, the activities of the scholars concentrated in Kerala. This part of the country enjoyed the stable, calm and quiet atmosphere. Zamorins of Kozhikode (Samoothiri Kings) gave all sorts of encouragements to the scholars through several major temples.
European oriented scientific schools of thought were very much powerful to eclipse the Bharateeya Mathematical schools. Charles Wishe’s aforementioned article was penned and published as the result of the efforts put in by Prince Sankara Varman (Wishe’s friend and a scholar in Mathematics) of Kolathunadu, Malabar. But it was ignored as it was not in conformity with the colonial agenda of those days.
The term “impartiality” was alien to the European scholars of those days. The opinion of Bentley, who was considered to be a prominent scholar of 19th century, pertaining to Brahmasphuta theory, is a clear example for this mindset of the Europeans. This is his reaction to the English translation of the theory: “Here is another fraud. I know him. The target of this fraudulent method is to declare Varahamihira, an Akbar’s contemporary, as a scholar of ancient India.” No doubt, he was not unaware of the difference between life times of Varahamihira (505–587 AD) and Akbar (1542–1605).
Their intention was crystal clear. They wanted to establish that the country they were trying to colonise had nothing to be proud of. Sankara Varman tried to tell the whole world the history of the three hundred years long studies and researches started by Sangamagrama Madhavan. Kerala’s golden age of Mathematics was launched by Madhavan. It is assumed that Madhavan lived in today’s Irinjalakkuda, Thrissur district, during 1340 to 1425. The legacy of education and scholarship the neighbouring Kodungallur had wielded those days might have aroused the genius of Madhavan. The planetarium of the nearby Mahodayapuram and the history of Arayabhatta might have influenced him. KV Sharma establishes that the theories of Golavadam, Madhyamanayanaprakaram, Mahanjanayanaprakaram, Lagnaprakaranam, Venwaroham, Sphutachandrapthi, Aganitha Grahachara, Chandravakyani, etc. belong to Madhavan. But, it is a fact that necessary researches are yet to take place in this regard. Among them Venvaroham is the only printed book of Madhavan. And, it was done by an NGO like Swadeshi Shasthra Prasthanam, the Kerala chapter of Vijnana Bharati. The hints of his works are seen in the books of his disciples.
The rise of Sangamgrama Madhavan from the forgetful darkness is absolutely necessary for the scientific renaissance of this country. The western scholars like Isaac Newton, Lenitas and James Grigori are famous among our people of even elementary educational background. They had actually used Madhavan’s discoveries after 2–3 centuries. But, unfortunately he is not a known figure even in his birth place! Shiksha Bachavo Andholan has founded Madhava Ganitha Kendra (Madhava Mathematical Centre) as a step towards the great goal.
As Madhavan paved the way for a unique method for studying Mathematics, Jyeshattadevan presented Calculus in the form of a book. The book is called Yukthi Bhasha (in Malayalam). The 3rd sloka of Venvaroham of Madhavan refers to himself. That reference leads to Irinjalakkuda in Thrissur district, his native place. Since last three years, Shiksha Bachavo Andholan has been organizing Bharatheeya Ganitha Sammelanam (Mathematics Conference) and Madhavan memorial felicitation and endowment in Irinjalakkuda on the National Mathematics Day, that is December 22. Every year, more and more people visit there to learn about Madhavan.
A Vinod (The writer is Kerala state convener of Shiksha Bachao Andolan) (As told to T Satisan)