Algebra in India: Bījagaṇita

  • Takao Hayashi
Reference work entry

Bījagaṇita, which literally means “mathematics (gaṇita) by means of seeds (bīja),” is the name of one of the two main fields of medieval Indian mathematics, the other being pāṭīigaṇita or “mathematics by means of algorithms.” Bījagaṇita is so‐called because it employs algebraic equations (samīkaraṇa) which are compared to seeds (bīja) of plants since they have the potentiality to generate solutions to mathematical problems. Bījagaṇita deals with unknown numbers expressed by symbols. It is therefore also called avyaktagaṇita or “mathematics of invisible (or unknown) [numbers].” Algebraic analyses are also employed for generating algorithms for many types of mathematical problems, and the algorithms obtained are included in a book of pāṭī. Bījagaṇita therefore also means “mathematics as a seed [that generates pāṭī (algorithms)].”

Extant works in bījagaṇita include chapter 18 (kuṭṭaka only) of Āryabhaṭa's Mahāsiddhānta (ca. AD 950 or 1500), chapter 14 (avyaktagaṇita) of Śrīpati's Siddhāntaśekhara...

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  • Takao Hayashi

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