(Last Updated on : 18/11/2009)
The Indian Number System or the Indian Numerals is commonly known as the Hindu-Arabic numeral system or even Arabic numerals in the West because it had reached the Western countries through Arabia. It can well be claimed that most of the positional base 10 numeral system owes its origin to India, where for the first time the concept of numerology had originated. Later the Indian numerals were adopted by Persian Mathematicians in India.
The digits 1 to 9 had evolved from the Brahmi numerals which came into being during the middle of the third century BC. But the Brahmi numerals did not include the place value of numbers instead it included additional symbols for the tens, and separate symbols for hundred and thousand. The Brahmi symbols on the other hand were not just symbols of the digits between 1 and 9. Rather the situation was all the more complicated because it did not have a place-value system and as a result it included symbols for many numbers. Another trouble with this set of symbols was that there was no particular symbol for the digits 2 and 3; they were derived from the symbol of 1.
The inscriptions of Brahmi symbols are found in a number of caves and coins in regions like Mumbai
and Uttar Pradesh
. Such inscriptions suggest the fact that Brahmi symbols were used for a long span of time almost till the 4th century AD.
With regard to the origin of the Brahmi symbols two kinds of hypothesis have been advanced. The first one says that the Brahmi symbols were derived from an early set of alphabets or they were derived from an earlier set of digits. The decimal place system in India dates back to 500 ca. The inclusion of zero as the tenth positional unit was made by Brahmagupta in the 7th century BC.
If one moves forward with his journey to find out the next stage of development from the Brahmi symbols one arrives at the Gupta Period. The Gupta Empire in India
had reigned from early 4th century AD to late 6th century AD. Although the Gupta numerals had evolved from the Brahmi numerals but they were known as Nagari numerals or the Devanagari numerals. The new set of numerals of the Gupta dynasty had evolved during the 7th century AD and had continued till the 11th century AD. In fact the numerals that had evolved during the Gupta era were considered the most beautiful form of numerals.
The positional decimal notation known by the term algorism uses various symbols. The symbols which are used in the Indian numeral system have also been adopted from the set of Brahmi symbols.
Rather it can be concluded saying that the concept of zero or "shunya" which was used in the Indian numeral system for the first time had profound influence in the world of Mathematics.