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Zero a Hero”

Students makes a Hurray! Whenever I asked them: “What is Indian Contribution to the world of Mathematics?” ?

Do you really mean our contribution is zero!

Then students smiles and says we invented Zero! Nothing is also something!

Now, let us examine the biography of Zero. The word ‘zero’ comes from the Arabic ‘al-sifr’. Sifr in turn is a transliteration of the Sanskrit word “shunya” meaning void or empty which became later the term for zero. The concept of Zero introduced to Europe during the 12th century. Leonardo Fibonacci (and by Nemorarius a less known mathematician) stated it as ‘cifra’ from which emerged the present ‘cipher’. In French, it became ‘chiffre’, and in German ‘ziffer’, both of which mean zero

The earliest use of Zero(shunya) symbol

Pingala used zero in his Sanskrit Grammer text Chanda Sutra (~200 BC) while explaining the number of arrangements of long and short syllables.

In gayatri chandas, one pada has six letters. When this number is made half, it becomes three (i.e the pada can be divided into two). Remove one from three and make it half to get one. Remove one from it, thus gets the zero (Soonya).


The Bakshali manuscript (c 200) contains the use of zero in calculations. The manuscript use bindu- (dot symbol) for zero to explain: The Square of forty different places is 1600.

The operation of addition and subtraction of zero are mentioned in Panchasidhantika of Varahamihira (505).

The complete decimal arithmetic can be found in the commentary of Aryabhatiya of Bhaskara I(c525)

The results of operations by zero are explained in the work of Brahmagupta (628) and in all later mathematical treatises. We can see the earliest use of zero in algebra in Brahmasphuta siddhanta .

The Gwalior inscriptions also contain Zero, as small circles. This is the form that has been in use even before eighth century.

The inscription contains two instances of the symbol zero: in the number '270', referring to a piece of land of size 270 x 187 hastas, where hasta is a unit of length, and in the number "50", referring to a daily gift of 50 garlands of flowers.

Ref: History of Indian Mathematics :BB Dutta

Proud to be an Indian!

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