Oxford “zero” research again proves that Hinduism contributed to science

Zero, Hinduism, Bakhshali manuscript, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Hindus

A highly significant research by University of Oxford has revealed that ancient Indian Bakhshali manuscript, dating to 3rd or 4th century, contained the world’s oldest recorded origin of the zero symbol that we use today. This was the time when Hinduism was flourishing in India and present day neighboring nations such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Zero, Hinduism, Bakhshali manuscript, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, Hindus
Bakhshali manuscript, Courtesy of Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

The zero symbol that we use today reportedly evolved from a dot that was used in ancient India and can be seen throughout this seminal mathematical text held at University of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries, which contains hundreds of zeroes. In 628 CE, Indian astronomer/mathematician Brahmagupta wrote Brahmasphutasiddhanta, which is the first document to discuss zero as a number. Hinduism lays stress on spirituality and rationality which helps in scientific inquiry, many Hindu scholars have often said.

The Oxford report states:

The earliest recorded example of the use of zero was previously believed to be a 9th century inscription of the symbol on the wall of a temple in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. The study findings predate this event and therefore have great historical mathematical significance.

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Although a number of ancient cultures including the ancient Mayans and Babylonians also used the zero placeholder, the dot’s use in the Bakhshali manuscript is the one that ultimately evolved into the symbol that we use today. India was also the place where the symbolic placeholder developed into a number in its own right, and the concept of the figure zero as it exists today, was born.

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Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Today we take it for granted that the concept of zero is used across the globe and is a key building block of the digital world. But the creation of zero as a number in its own right, which evolved from the placeholder dot symbol found in the Bakhshali manuscript, was one of the greatest breakthroughs in the history of mathematics.
‘We now know that it was as early as the 3rd century that mathematicians in India planted the seed of the idea that would later become so fundamental to the modern world. The findings show how vibrant mathematics have been in the Indian sub-continent for centuries.’

The Bakhshali manuscript was found in 1881, buried in a field in what was then an Indian village called Bakhshali, now in Pakistan. It is broadly recognised as the oldest Indian mathematical text, however, the exact age of the text is widely contested.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, commended Oxford University for this remarkable revelation; and added that this proved that the concept of zero, which was of paramount importance to the world we live in today, was used by mathematicians in India as early as in third century.

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It again affirmed the rich scientific and mathematical traditions of Hinduism and its role and contributions in the development of science and technology, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out.

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Rajan Zed urged other major universities of the world to undertake extensive research into ancient Hindu treatises, texts and manuscripts; thus sharing the wisdom and concepts of this oldest religion with the rest of the world.

Radiocarbon dating research was conducted at University of Oxford for this study on Bakhshali manuscript, which consists of 70 fragile leaves of birch bark.

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