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It is well established that zero as a numerical notation was discovered in India. But, when did it occur has divided the historians. The Bakhshali manuscripts dating back to 200A.D. does represent µsunya´ as both dot and a small circle. But, the first inscriptions with the notation of zero as circle can be found in Malay inscriptions at Kotakapur(686 A.D.). Since these were based upon Saka calendar and Hinduized kingdoms, it is presumed that the idea emerged in India. Though, the first record of use of zero in India dates back to 876A.D. This inscription is found on tablets in Gwalior. The time is relevant with regard to spread of new doctrines across Indian geo-cultural region and discussed later. The greatest ancient Indian mathematician Aryabhatta who built new calendars by fixing beginning of sidereal time in 499A.D. composed Aryabhattia at around same time. But, in all likelihood, he was not aware about the operation of zero, nor any notation determined for zero. He did develop alpha-numeric system. He apportioned certain values to 33 consonants from 1-25 and later 30-100. The vowels attached to the basic consonants changed the numerical value as a series of power of Using these signs, the numbers upto 10 to the power 18.The Aryabhatia system is summarized below:

Ka 1 Cha 6

Kha 2 Chha 7

Ga 3 Ja 8

Gha 4 Jha 9

Nga 5 Aena 10

Ta 11 T 16 Pa 21 Ya 30 Sha 70

Tha 12 Th 17 Pha 22 Ra 40 Ssha 80

Da 13 Da 18 Ba 23 La 50 Sa 90

Dha 14 Dha 19 Bha 24 Va 60 Ha 100

Na 15 Na 20 Ma 25

Now, 64 can be written in alphabet as gha (4) +va(60) or ghava.Thus Aryabhatta developed the versification of mathematical works. This system clearly lacked any positional value and a numerical notation for zero. Stephen Chrisomalis concludes in his monumental work, Numerical Notation: A comparative History,Cambridge:2010) that ³the concept of sunya or ³emptiness´ existed in the fifth century AD and may have prefigured the use of positional numerals in India, but no good evidence survives for an actual ciphered-positional numeration system prior to the seventh century AD, long after Aryabhata¶s death.´ (p.208) But, Aryabhata did use the word "kha" for numeric position and it was used later as the name for zero. Since kha in Aryabhata¶s system denotes mere number 2, which for there were existing notation, what actually favoured the use of ³kha¶ to designate ³zero´ in words and then as the sign of small circle?

Before delving upon this kha-movement, we may sum up the beginning of use of kha/small circle for zero.

It was a succeeding mathematician , Brahmagupta, who is credited with discovering zero and giving sutras for the operation of zero in 628 AD.. In chapter 18 of his worked Brahmasphutasiddhanta (Corrected Treatise of Brahma), Brahmagupta describes about Zero as the numerals which stood for nothing . His formulations are as below: The sum of zero and a negative number is negative, the sum of a positive number and zero is positive, the sum of zero and zero is zero. A negative number subtracted from zero is positive, a positive number subtracted from zero is negative, zero subtracted from a negative number is negative, zero subtracted from a positive number is positive, zero subtracted from zero is zero. Similarly, he gave the operation of zero as a multiplier correctly. But, he could not handle the formulation of zero as divisor. For Brahmagupta, it would give 0 which was fallacious. This problem was taken up by Mahavira two centuries later in his Ganita Sara Samgraha .But, even he fumbled and stated that if 0 is the divisor, the number would remain unchanged . Bhaskara wrote Lilavati during 12 th century and he could put in proper perspective various operation of 0. One thing is interesting. Kha became synonymous with zero beginning from Aryabhatta and later were more widely used in spiritual tradition than in the mathematical world.

Kha-Effect Aryabhata uses the word ³kha´ to denote emptiness.Suryadeva commenting on Aryabhata¶s kha, says that , ³khani sunya upa lakshitani´In Brahmagupta¶s work, the word gets prominence. Kha and sunya(void) is used synonymously. In Lilavati, when one come across the chapter on description of Sunya(zero), it¶s a veritable carnival of kha. The verse reads as follows:

Yoge kham kshepsamam, vargado kham, khabhajito rashi Khahara syat, khaguna kham, khaguna nishchantayashcha sheshvidhau!! (verse 46)

Ananda Coomarswami had written an oblique piece on the concept in 1934,Kha and other words denoting Zero, in connection with the Indian Metaphysics of space(Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, VII(1934). He has tried to trace the origin of the use of kha for space to Rigveda in the context of the ³hole in the nave of a wheel through which the axle runs´.He states that sunya(void) as well as purna(full) have a common reference in the Vedas. Since, the Vedic seers were enamored by the

wheel(chakra), the names of various parts of wheel were used to explain metaphysical concepts. Now, kha is the nabhi of the wheel, the space within the hub. Nbahi is also the navel, navel of beings and things. Thus, kha is the central space of things and beings. In the Rigveda, kha or nabhi ³of the world wheel is regarded as the receptacle and fountain of all order, formative ideas and goods´(Coomarswami).

I find it unlikely that Vedas were influencing mathematical formulations during a period when there was growth of new sects, a synthesis of Buddhism and Saivism was going on and various tantra sects were emerging. Moreover, it was also the millennium moment from the Buddhamahaparinirvana calendar which resulted into refixation of nakshatra chakra by Aryabhata in 499A.D. Rather mathematicians had adopted reverse approach to the Vedas. While in the Vedas, there are instances of numbers denoting things like number 12 denotes the ³year´, the mathematicians like Aryabhata opted to formulate alpha-numeric system where now the numbers were versified. This was a prominent reversal of Vedic approach. I would like to emphasize that some momentous churning occurred during the period from Aryabhatta's time to Brahmagupta's time that made zero(sunya/kha) to emerge as a category. the notation of small circle emerged only during the later half of the seventh century. This was the period of rise of Siddha tradition in India which had significant impact over structure of Indian culture. The Siddhas were adept in bodily techniques and oblique statements. The Siddha movement and the emergence of circle to denote zero seems connected.

If one juxtaposes the greatest tantra literature, Tantraloka and the Para-Trika-Vivarana by Abhinavagupta written at the time when Lilavati was composed by Bhaskar; one will be amazed at similarities of many ideas. Kha is the mantra of absorption. Since, the Universe is viewed as a pulsating process between manifestation and absorption, emergence and dissolution, the great thinkers of the time began to work out the methods for achieving the state of permanent quietude, purna Santi. Kha became a mantra. It became the mantra to realize ten succeeding inner spaces of peace, the ten khas. By using the mantra of kha, the yogis were taught to awaken the Kundalini energy in the median nerve. The ultimate kha is empty space of heart wherein consciousness shines alone without any covering. From kha, another concept of khechari developed.Khechari is ³khe charati iti khechari´-which moves in kha(space) is khchari. Kha is the symbol of undifferentiated ultimate consciousness. It is the samvid-sakti, consciousness-power. Abhinavagupta¶s definition of khechari is very homologous to Bhaskar or other mathematicians conception about Kha.¶khe brahmani abhedarupe sthitva carati iti khechari´-khechari is that which while stationed in Brahman /Absolute, in unity, moves about´, states Abhinavagupta. It¶s the nature of mathematical zero. Though, it is indistinguishable from the void, it moves about and gives power to the numbers. Khechari like zero is dynamic. Abhinavagupta even explained about various dynamic modes of khechari like vyomachati, gochari, dikchari, bhuchari just like the number of zero that succeeds a numeral adds to the power of number. Its clear that the kha pervaded literature of tantra as well as mathematical treatises simultaneously.

Khechari mudra and kha The Nath sect is believed to have emerged during 9th century. They were instrumental in spreading hathayoga techniques. In Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Khechari Mudra is described as below:

³Verse 32. The Kechari Mudra is accomplished by thrusting the tongue into the gullet, by turning it over itself, and keeping the eyesight in the middle 37. Turning the tongue upwards, it is fixed on three ways (esophagus, windpipe and palate). Thus it makes the Khechari Mudra, and is called the Vyoma Chakra. 38. The Yogi who sits for a minute turning his tongue upwards, is saved from poisons, diseases, death, old age, etc. 39. He who knows the Khechari Mudra is not afflicted with disease, death, sloth, sleep, hunger, thirst, and swooning. 40. He who knows the Khechari Mudra, is not troubled by diseases, is not stained with karmas, and is not snared by time. 41. The Siddhas have devised this Khechari Mudra from the fact that the mind and the tongue reach akasa(sky) by its practice.´

(One can visualize the inner circle as the folded tongue of khechri mudra and the outside curve as the open mouth. Structure of phoneme kha thence corresponds with the khechari mudra of yogies)

Thus, the Khechari mudra for the Siddhas and Nathas were meant to accomplish mastery over space, the void ,the sky by doing which they believed ,they could achieve the Full Realization. What is interesting that though, small circle is present in Devnagari script in many letters like tha, tha, va, ba, ma, bha; but only the letter kha assumed significance in denoting sky/space/hole/circle. It has to do with khechari mudra . Once a yogi folds the tongue, the mudra assumes the form of a ³kha´. Based upon spiritual experiments ,they might have realized that this gesture makes them feel lighter and experience the expanse of consciousness. The correspondence between the structure of phoneme kha, the gesture of khechari mudra appears to be a journey of phoneme mysticism. In Indian tradition, phonemes are always considered as mere subtler form of the grosser Reality. The word is the World. Thus, the phoneme kha and the khechari mudra became one by the relationship of hierarchy of manifestation. What is interesting that like mathematical conception of kha, the mystical conception of kha incorporates paradoxical ends of void and Expansion of fullness. Thus, one finds in the texts like Tantraloka how Purnatasparsha and Kha fuse at a point. The Fullness of the Touch of Reality and the pervasion of inner most space of heart is achieved at same times. The eternity and the nothingness became one and the same.

It is like a wheel, without end. Perhaps the small circle notation of zero emerged from the idea of wheel during those centuries. Sunya, chakra and siddhas After the attack of Huns during middle of the fifth century, Indian sub-continent was gripped by the millennium fever. The millennium had approached from Buddha Parinirvana calendar. There was a spurt in composition of literature like Puranas to describe about the coming avatars. At this time, the idea of chakra spread all across. If one cycle was ending, another cycle shall begin with new avatar commanding the righteous society. Chakras entered into tantra rituals. Practitioners believed that by performing chakraworship, they would be able to sail across the millennium time. Various kind of sects centered around ritual like ganachakra, kalachakra ,srichakra, chakrasamvara emerged. The circle became important in popular perception. The circle, triangle and dots were used to construct mystical diagrams in various rituals. But, it was the circle which won the race since those times appeared to the thinkers and the royalty as so cyclic. One can see the impact over Indian society after Aryabhat recalculated nakshatrachakra and fixed sidereal time as zero in 499A.D. Subsequently, the chakra ideas peaked and so did the conception of zero and later its notation as circle during middle of seventh century. Emergence of notation for zero was dictated more by the religious needs rather than mathematical exploration. The idea of kha, sunyata, khechari and chakra fused together to provide the most wonderful gift to the modern world. (Niraj, 0300 hrs.,31st May,2011)

References: 1. Ananda K. Coomarswami, Kha and other words denoting Zero, in connection with the Indian Metaphysics of space(Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies, VII(1934) 2. Stephen Chrisomalis , Numerical Notation: A comparative History,Cambridge:2010 3. Lilian Silburn, Kundalini-energy of the depths, SUNY,1988 4. Jaidev singh,Abhinavagupta-Para-Trisika-Vivarana,The Secret of Tantrik Mysticism, MLBD,1988 4. K.V.Sarma eds. Lilavati of Bhaskaracarya with Kriyakramakari of Sankara & Narayan,VV Research Institute,1975 5.B.B.Datta &A.N.Singh, History of Hindu mathematics, Asia Publishing House, 1935 6.R.N.Mukherjee, Background to the Discovery of the Symbol for Zero, downloaded from http://www.new.dli.ernet.in/rawdataupload/upload/insa/INSA_1/20005af8_225.pdf

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UsefulNot usefulTuesday, May 31, 2011 ZERO AND INDIAN TRADITION Zero and Indian Tradition
It is well established that zero as a numerical notation was discovered in India. But, when did it occur has divided the h...

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 ZERO AND INDIAN TRADITION Zero and Indian Tradition

It is well established that zero as a numerical notation was discovered in India. But, when did it occur has divided the historians. The Bakhshali manuscripts dating back to 200A.D. does represent µsunya´ as both dot and a small circle. But, the first inscriptions with the notation of zero as circle can be found in Malay inscriptions at Kotakapur(686 A.D.). Since these were based upon Saka calendar and Hinduized kingdoms,

It is well established that zero as a numerical notation was discovered in India. But, when did it occur has divided the historians. The Bakhshali manuscripts dating back to 200A.D. does represent µsunya´ as both dot and a small circle. But, the first inscriptions with the notation of zero as circle can be found in Malay inscriptions at Kotakapur(686 A.D.). Since these were based upon Saka calendar and Hinduized kingdoms,

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