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Written by Lalit Mishra

(1) Empty space, where nothing is there
(2) Zero

Shoonya or Zero
In the past 50 odd years, a group of world leading renowned historians, working on history of mathematics, has strongly argued against Ved to have the idea of "Zero", Even Indian mathematicians like late Gunakar Mule etc have done no delay in claiming that the term "Shoonya" is not even mentioned in Ved. Everybody has credited Aaryabhatt-1 to have discovered the concept of "Zero" or "Shoonya" and Brahmgupt to have formulated rules for using Zero.

It's all wrong. Evidences are available showing much before Aaryabhatt knew the use of Zero. Vedic sages had already discovered it. They applied Zero in both arithmetic and metaphysical contexts. It's seen that today's so called scholars don't read original scriptures and only on the basis of arguments they do their research, thus, truth hardly comes out, Taitireeya Braahman states word by word how Raashi (astrological Signs) were formed by adjustment of Nakshatra (constellations) many people still believe that formation of Raashi is of Greek or Babylonian origin.

Let us go back to Ved
Rig Ved's Naasadeeya Sookt (10.129) explains "Zero" in metaphysical sense, Refer to its 1st Mantra of this Sookt -

nasadasinno sadasittadanim nasidrajo no vyom paro yat |
kimavarivah kuha kasya sharmannambhah kimasid gahanam gabhiram ||
Vivekaanand Jee has translated it - "Existence (of truth) was not then, nor non-existence, The world was not, the sky beyond was neither. What covered the mist? Of whom was that? What was in the depths of darkness thick?"

Atharv Ved's Mantra 14.2) rather puts the term "Shoonya" or "Zero" in explicit manner,
Shoonyasi Nirirte YajgandhoTisthiratre Prapat meha Ranstha ||

Similarly, sage Pingal also mentions the word "Shoonya" in his Chhanda Shaastra (8.29) in metaphysical sense -
Roopam Shoonyam ||

Bhaagavat Puraan also uses the term "Shoonya" which denotes "Zero" and "Infinity" in one and the same Mantra.
Yatad Brahmam Param Sookshmam A-shoonyam Shoonya kalpitam ||

Further, Yajur Ved (17.2), Nirukt (3.10) and Rig Ved (1.184) carry the decimal numbering system. In this regard, particularly Yajur Ved says -
Shatam Dash Dashatah ||

And Nirukt says multiplication by 2 to 10 makes 20, thus we can see Vaidik sages were using decimal system which consists of numerals from 1 to 9 and a zero to create 10, 20 like numbers -
Vinshati Dwir Darshtah ||

Other Historical Evidences
The Bakshali arithmetic script which was discovered in 1881 and has been estimated as dated to have been written in the time of Aaryabhatt, contains decimal place value system.
Another evidence is a Gurjar king Daddaa's Daan Patra (order) of 594 AD, which is written in Braahmee script, So, it gets established that during the time of Aaryabhatt and even before his time decimal system was in use in India and Zero was known to Indians since Vaidik age. Thus Aaryabhatta was not the first Indian who discovered Zero but he was the first known Indian who documented it's use in arithmetic.


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/16/12