Sunday, January 6, 2008

Indian Genealogy

How many of you can name your Great grand father? Chances are that very few of you can. The western civilization has been very good about maintaining genealogical records but somehow, this process has been lost in the Eastern culture.

For hundreds of years, Indians have visited places like Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, Bodh Gaya in Bihar and the holy sites of Hinduism where "Kumbh Melas" were organized. One familiar and common site on all these places has been the presence of "Pundas" and "Bhats (pronounced as Bhaat)" these are the guys have been responsible for tracking Hindu families across generations.

I remember when I was 4-5 years old, a "Punda" visited my house in Indore. There was utter panic in the house. But this gentleman quickly made himself at home in a corner and opened his shoulder bag, took out his books and started rattling off names of my ancestors. He finally collected information about my family and took some "Dakshina" and walked off.

In the central part of Madhya Pradesh, there is a tribe of "Bhils (pronounced Bheels)". These are the original aborigines of India. For the past one or two generations, some of these have been converted to Islam. Interestingly, these guys still follow some Hindu customs -- like during the marriage ceremony, they have the Nikah (which is a Muslim Custom), followed by a Tika (which is a Hindu Custom). This tribe has a direct connection to another tribe in Rajasthan -- a tribe called as Bhats (pronounced -- Bhaat). The Bhats travel to the Bhil tribes every couple of years and record their family changes, which include new births, deaths, migrations etc.

In the past, per the Hindu traditions, the final right of every Hindu was supposed to be doing ghe final "Pind Daan" in Gaya. This ended up with the family "Punda" recording the details of the family.

With the new trends in India, these ancient traditions are losing their values. Not many travel to the Kumbha Melas, and not many visit places like Gaya. Also, with the changes in economy in India, the modern generation is forgetting the importance of these traditions. The Pundas and the others doing this work are losing interest in continuing this line of work. The result is that the Genealogy charts of Hindus are not getting updated. The Muslims in the ‘Bhil" tribes of Madhya Pradesh have tried to get the Bhats to destroy the old records, to destroy the historical evidence of the tribes being Hindus.

What is needed is a serious effort on behalf of all Indians to revive this tradition. Or find out a way to record the genealogical changes in the families. This will need NGOs, volunteers, and a lot more. But this is of utmost importance that this be done.

Remember, very few people can name their great grandfathers.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Indian contributions to the world

My family attends a Sunday school here in Us, where the elders try to keep the youth (and adults) updated about the Indian Culture. My daughters often ask me what the Indians have contributed to the world. So I decided to list some major contributions here. All links below are connected to Wikipedia.

I will continue adding to these as the time goes on. I invite you all to send me details on other similar contributions. Feel free to add more to this here.


Aryabhatta was born in 476 AD in Kusumpur, Bihar.

He is the first in the line of great mathematician-astronomers from the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy. When he was 23 years old, he wrote his most famous work -- the Aryabhatiya (499), which was a text on astronomy and an unparalleled treatise on mathematics.

Aryabhatt's intellectual brilliance remapped the boundaries of mathematics and astronomy. He also wrote the Arya-Siddhanta, a lost work on astronomical computations, is known through the writings of Aryabhata's contemporary Varahamihira, as well as through 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. This also contained a description of several astronomical instruments, the gnomon (shanku-yantra), a shadow instrument (chhAyA-yantra), possibly angle-measuring devices, semi-circle and circle shaped (dhanur-yantra / chakra-yantra), a cylindrical stick yasti-yantra, an umbrella-shaped device called chhatra-yantra, and water clocks of at least two types, bow-shaped and cylindrical.

A third text that may have survived in Arabic translation is the Al-ntf or Al-nanf, which claims to be a translation of Aryabhata, but the Sanskrit name of this work is not known. Probably dating from the ninth century, it is mentioned by the Persian scholar and chronicler of India, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī.

Major contributions of Aryabhatta

  • Process of calculating the motion of planets

  • Process of calculating the time of eclipses.

  • Aryabhatta was the first to proclaim that the earth is round and that it rotates on its axis, orbits the sun and is suspended in space - 1000 years before Copernicus published his heliocentric theory.
  • Calculating Pi to four decimal places: 3.1416. Centuries later, in 825 AD, the Arab mathematician, Mohammed Ibna Musa credited the value of Pi to the Indians, "This value has been given by the Hindus."
  • Found the sine table in trigonometry.
  • His most spectacular contribution was the concept of zero without which modern computer technology would have been non-existent. Aryabhatt was a colossus in the field of mathematics.


Bhaskara was born in the obscure village near Bijjada Bida (in present day Bijapur district, Karnataka state, India.

He later became the head of the astronomical observatory at Ujjain. Bhaskaracharya's work in Algebra, Arithmetic and Geometry catapulted him to fame and immortality.

His renowned mathematical works called "Lilavati" and "Bijaganita" are considered to be unparalleled and a memorial to his profound intelligence. Its translation in several languages of the world bears testimony to its eminence. In his treatise "Siddhant Shiromani" he wrote about planetary positions, eclipses, cosmic science, mathematical techniques and astronomical equipment.

In the "Surya Siddhant" he makes a note on the force of gravity: "Objects fall on earth due to a force of attraction by the earth. Therefore, the earth, planets, constellations, moon, and sun are held in orbit due to
this attract
." Bhaskaracharya was thus the first to discover gravity, 500 years before Sir Isaac Newton.

He was the champion among mathematicians of ancient and medieval India. His works fired the imagination of Persian and European scholars, who through research on his works earned fame and popularity.

Some of Bhaskara's contributions to mathematics include the following:

  • A proof of the Pythagorean theorem by calculating the same area in two different ways and then canceling out terms to get a2 + b2 = c2.
  • In Lilavati, solutions of quadratic, cubic and quartic indeterminate equations.
  • Solutions of indeterminate quadratic equations (of the type ax2 + b = y2).
  • Integer solutions of linear and quadratic indeterminate equations (Kuttaka). The rules he gives are (in effect) the same as those given by the renaissance European mathematicians of the 17th century
  • A cyclic, Chakra-vala (Chakra means cyclic or circular) method for solving indeterminate equations of the form ax2 + bx + c = y. The solution to this equation was traditionally attributed to William Brouncker in 1657, though his method was more difficult than the chakravala method.
  • His method for finding the solutions of the problem x2 − ny2 = 1 (so-called "Pell's equation") is of considerable interest and importance.
  • Solutions of Diophantine equations of the second order, such as 61x2 + 1 = y2. This very equation was posed as a problem in 1657 by the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat, but its solution was unknown in Europe until the time of Euler in the 18th century.
  • Solved quadratic equations with more than one unknown, and found negative and irrational solutions.
  • Preliminary concept of mathematical analysis.
  • Preliminary concept of infinitesimal calculus, along with notable contributions towards integral calculus.
  • He conceived differential calculus, after discovering the derivative and differential coefficient.
  • Stated Rolle's theorem, a special case of one of the most important theorems in analysis, the mean value theorem. Traces of the general mean value theorem are also found in his works.
  • Calculated the derivatives of trigonometric functions and formulas.
  • In Siddhanta Shiromani , Bhaskara developed spherical trigonometry along with a number of other trigonometrical results.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Who are the guys living in India today?

Who is a modern Indian? What I am trying to understand and ask is who are the people living in India today?

The country has a known history of about 12000 years. If you look at the Geography around India, you will find that it is a land of rivers. A town like Belgaum has over 100 streams of fresh water. The state of Punjab is called as the land of five rivers. The surrounding countries like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, China, and Burma are basically deserts. So it is natural that people from these countries traveled into India and many stayed there.

There is a saying in India that there are 18 different styles of turbans and 1800 different races in India. This should tell us how many different kind of people live in the country.

All these different people were welcome into the Hindu community, with out any qualms. It goes to the credit of the open mindedness of the people of the region that everyone has been welcome into their folds, irrespective of the race or religion.

Keeping that in perspective, I am always surprised that people call the Hindus as fanatics and intolerant. There are fanatics in every religion, and those are always bad for every religion. However let us consider the fact that how many different races are living in that country, before we start calling those guys names.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Vedic Intelligence

For a long time, I heard and learned that the Aryans came and conquered India around 1500 BC. Somehow, that never made any sense to me. I always wondered that if that was the case, did Ramayana and Mahabharata ever take place in India? I have been reading those sacred texts ever since I can remember and my curious mind always wanted to know the truth.

Finally Ajit, my brother-in-law, sent me a link about a research on this.

Google video about Vedic Intelligence

Having been to many of these cities myself, I always believed that somehow there was some fact in the Vedas. I think, somehow, this research tells me that things really happened as described in the Vedas.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


This blog will try to give the details of the Extremely Rich Traditions and Culture. It is not going to be a small task, but I will try my best to do justice to it. I plan to go about it as I encounter incidents in my daily life that remind of how things happen in India and how they are still relevant today.

I hope you will find this to be an interesting reading.
Please feel free to send me your comments, links, and suggestions. I hope you will enjoy reading about this country and its very rich traditions and culture.