Aryabhata (आर्यभट) Ancient indian mathematician & cosmologist.


Aryabhata (आर्यभट)

Aryabhata mentions in the Aryabhatiya that it was composed 3,600 years into the Kali yuga. when he was 23 years old. This corresponds to 499 CE, and implies that he was born in 476.

Aryabhata I was 1st in the line of great mathematician-astronomers  from the classical age of Indian mathematics  and Indian Astronomy. His works include the ”Aryabhatiya” (499 CE, when he was 23 years old) and ”arya siddhanta”.


(All the planets whether moving in the orbits or in eccentric circles, move anticlockwise from their apogees and clockwise from their perigees.
Aryabhattiyam -Chapter 3 ,verse 17

Taken from:Awakening Indians to India by Chinmaya Mission


The works of Aryabhata dealt with mainly mathematics and astronomy. He also worked on the approximation for pi (π).

The Aryabhatiya of Aryabhata (CE 476â5500 is one of the most important texts in the history of Indian mathematics and astronomy. He composed this work at the age of 23.

Here are some of his noted achievements that are found in Aryabhatiya:

1. Aryabhata asserted that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight and that the orbits of the planets are ellipses.

2. He also correctly explained the causes of eclipses of the Sun and the Moon.

3. His value for the length of the sidereal year at 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes 30 seconds is only 3 minutes 20 seconds longer than the true value of 365 days 6 hours 9 minutes 10 seconds.

4. He estimated the value of ‘Pi’ as : “Add four to one hundred, multiply by eight and then add sixty-two thousand. The result is approximately the circumference of a circle of diameter twenty thousand. By this rule the relation of the circumference to diameter is given.” In other words, Pi=62832/20000 = 3.1416, correct to four rounded-off decimal places.

5. Aryabhata accurately calculated the Earth’s circumference as 24,835 miles, which was only 0.2% smaller than the actual value of 24,902 miles. This approximation remained the most accurate for over a thousand years.


Aryabhata is the author of several treatises on mathematics and astronomy, some of which are lost.

His major work, Aryabhatiya, a compendium of mathematics and astronomy, was extensively referred to in the Indian mathematical literature and has survived to modern times. The mathematical part of the Aryabhatiya covers arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry and spherical trigonometry. It also contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums-of-power series, and a tables of sines.

The Arya-siddhanta, a lot work on astronomical computations, is known through the writings of Aryabhata’s contemporary, Varahmihira , and later mathematicians and commentators, including Brahmagupta and Bhaskara-I . This work appears to be based on the older surya siddhanta and uses the midnight-day reckoning, as opposed to sunrise in Aryabhatiya. It also contained a description of several astronomical instruments: the gnomon (shanku-yantra), a shadow instrument (chhAyA-yantra), possibly angle-measuring devices, semicircular and circular (dhanur-yantra / chakra-yantra), a cylindrical stick yasti-yantra, an umbrella-shaped device called the chhatra-yantra, and water clocks of at least two types, bow-shaped and cylindrical.

Aryabhata was an author of at least three astronomical texts and wrote some free stanzas as well.

The surviving text is Aryabhata’s masterpiece the Aryabhatiya which is a small astronomical treatise written in 118 verses giving a summary of Hindu mathematics up to that time. Its mathematical section contains 33 verses giving 66 mathematical rules without proof. The Aryabhatiya contains an introduction of 10 verses, followed by a section on mathematics with, as we just mentioned, 33 verses, then a section of 25 verses on the reckoning of time and planetary models, with the final section of 50 verses being on the sphere and eclipses.

There is a difficulty with this layout which is discussed in detail by van der Waerden in [35]. Van der Waerden suggests that in fact the 10 verse Introduction was written later than the other three sections. One reason for believing that the two parts were not intended as a whole is that the first section has a different meter to the remaining three sections. However, the problems do not stop there. We said that the first section had ten verses and indeed Aryabhata titles the section Set of ten giti stanzas. But it in fact contains eleven giti stanzas and two arya stanzas. Van der Waerden suggests that three verses have been added and he identifies a small number of verses in the remaining sections which he argues have also been added by a member of Aryabhata’s school at Kusumapura.

The mathematical part of the Aryabhatiya covers arithmetic, algebra, plane trigonometry and spherical trigonometry. It also contains continued fractions, quadratic equations, sums of power series and a table of sines. Let us examine some of these in a little more detail.

First we look at the system for representing numbers which Aryabhata invented and used in the Aryabhatiya. It consists of giving numerical values to the 33 consonants of the Indian alphabet to represent 1, 2, 3, … , 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100. The higher numbers are denoted by these consonants followed by a vowel to obtain 100, 10000, …. In fact the system allows numbers up to 1018to be represented with an alphabetical notation. Ifrah in [3] argues that Aryabhata was also familiar with numeral symbols and the place-value system. He writes in [3]:-

… it is extremely likely that Aryabhata knew the sign for zero and the numerals of the place value system. This supposition is based on the following two facts: first, the invention of his alphabetical counting system would have been impossible without zero or the place-value system; secondly, he carries out calculations on square and cubic roots which are impossible if the numbers in question are not written according to the place-value system and zero.

Next we look briefly at some algebra contained in the Aryabhatiya. This work is the first we are aware of which examines integer solutions to equations of the form by = ax + c and by = axc, where a, b, c are integers. The problem arose from studying the problem in astronomy of determining the periods of the planets. Aryabhata uses the kuttaka method to solve problems of this type. The word kuttaka means “to pulverise” and the method consisted of breaking the problem down into new problems where the coefficients became smaller and smaller with each step. The method here is essentially the use of the Euclidean algorithm to find the highest common factor of a and b but is also related to continued fractions.

Aryabhata gave an accurate approximation for π. He wrote in the Aryabhatiya the following:-

Add four to one hundred, multiply by eight and then add sixty-two thousand. the result is approximately the circumference of a circle of diameter twenty thousand. By this rule the relation of the circumference to diameter is given.

This gives π = 62832/20000 = 3.1416 which is a surprisingly accurate value. In fact π = 3.14159265 correct to 8 places. If obtaining a value this accurate is surprising, it is perhaps even more surprising that Aryabhata does not use his accurate value for π but prefers to use √10 = 3.1622 in practice. Aryabhata does not explain how he found this accurate value but, for example, Ahmad [5] considers this value as an approximation to half the perimeter of a regular polygon of 256 sides inscribed in the unit circle. However, in [9] Bruins shows that this result cannot be obtained from the doubling of the number of sides. Another interesting paper discussing this accurate value of π by Aryabhata is [22] where Jha writes:-

Aryabhata I’s value of π is a very close approximation to the modern value and the most accurate among those of the ancients. There are reasons to believe that Aryabhata devised a particular method for finding this value. It is shown with sufficient grounds that Aryabhata himself used it, and several later Indian mathematicians and even the Arabs adopted it. The conjecture that Aryabhata’s value of π is of Greek origin is critically examined and is found to be without foundation. Aryabhata discovered this value independently and also realised that π is an irrational number. He had the Indian background, no doubt, but excelled all his predecessors in evaluating π. Thus the credit of discovering this exact value of π may be ascribed to the celebrated mathematician, Aryabhata I.

We now look at the trigonometry contained in Aryabhata’s treatise. He gave a table of sines calculating the approximate values at intervals of 90°/24 = 3° 45′. In order to do this he used a formula for sin(n+1)x – sin nx in terms of sin nx and sin (n-1)x. He also introduced the versine (versin = 1 – cosine) into trigonometry.

Other rules given by Aryabhata include that for summing the first n integers, the squares of these integers and also their cubes. Aryabhata gives formulae for the areas of a triangle and of a circle which are correct, but the formulae for the volumes of a sphere and of a pyramid are claimed to be wrong by most historians. For example Ganitanand in [15] describes as “mathematical lapses” the fact that Aryabhata gives the incorrect formula V = Ah/2 for the volume of a pyramid with height h and triangular base of area A. He also appears to give an incorrect expression for the volume of a sphere. However, as is often the case, nothing is as straightforward as it appears and Elfering (see for example [13]) argues that this is not an error but rather the result of an incorrect translation.

This relates to verses 6, 7, and 10 of the second section of the Aryabhatiya and in [13] Elfering produces a translation which yields the correct answer for both the volume of a pyramid and for a sphere. However, in his translation Elfering translates two technical terms in a different way to the meaning which they usually have. Without some supporting evidence that these technical terms have been used with these different meanings in other places it would still appear that Aryabhata did indeed give the incorrect formulae for these volumes.

We have looked at the mathematics contained in the Aryabhatiya but this is an astronomy text so we should say a little regarding the astronomy which it contains. Aryabhata gives a systematic treatment of the position of the planets in space. He gave the circumference of the earth as 4 967 yojanas and its diameter as 1 5811/24 yojanas. Since 1 yojana = 5 miles this gives the circumference as 24 835 miles, which is an excellent approximation to the currently accepted value of 24 902 miles. He believed that the apparent rotation of the heavens was due to the axial rotation of the Earth. This is a quite remarkable view of the nature of the solar system which later commentators could not bring themselves to follow and most changed the text to save Aryabhata from what they thought were stupid errors!

Aryabhata gives the radius of the planetary orbits in terms of the radius of the Earth/Sun orbit as essentially their periods of rotation around the Sun. He believes that the Moon and planets shine by reflected sunlight, incredibly he believes that the orbits of the planets are ellipses. He correctly explains the causes of eclipses of the Sun and the Moon. The Indian belief up to that time was that eclipses were caused by a demon called Rahu. His value for the length of the year at 365 days 6 hours 12 minutes 30 seconds is an overestimate since the true value is less than 365 days 6 hours.

Bhaskara I who wrote a commentary on the Aryabhatiya about 100 years later wrote of Aryabhata:-

Aryabhata is the master who, after reaching the furthest shores and plumbing the inmost depths of the sea of ultimate knowledge of mathematics, kinematics and spherics, handed over the three sciences to the learned world.

download free Aryabhattiya here-

Aryabhattiya english translation by clark-

The Aryabhatiya; with the commentary Bhatadîpikâ of Paramâdîçvara


About hiddengrail

i am nothing... i am just a guard of the grail. My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all...
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