Mathematics and Medicine in Sanskrit

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Item Code: IHL130
Author: Dominik Wujastyk
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788120832466
Pages: 210
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8 Inch X 5.8 Inch
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Book Description
From the Jacket

The chapters in this volume were originally presented in the panels on Scientific Literature at the 12th World Sanskrit Conference in Helsinki, Finland. They represent some of the most up – to – date scholarship on the history of early science in India being done today. The first part of the book focuses on the history of mathematical commentaries and the role of illustration in Sanskrit mathematical manuscripts. The second part of the book investigates fundamental Ayurvedic theories, Ayurvedic rites for childbirth, the cultural history of medicine in the Early Modern period, the anthropology of spirit of one of the oldest surviving of spirit of one of the oldest surviving Ayurvedic texts.

This book will be of interest to historians of science, students of classical Indian history and culture, and anyone wanting to know where the cutting edge of the history of early Indian science is today.

Dominik Wujastyk was educated in the exact sciences (Physics, London University) and in Asian Studies (Sanskrit and Pali, Oxford University). He is currently appointed at University College, London where he holds a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellowship. He has recently been researching the history of Ayurveda in the Early Modern period from 1550 – 1750. His publications include Metarules of Paninian Grmmar, A Handlist of the Sanskrit and Prakrit Manuscripts in the Wellcome Library, The Roots of Ayurveda, Studies in Indian Medicine History, Contagion in Pre – Medicine Societies. He is on the editorial board of the journals Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, The Indian Journal of History of Science, and International Journal of Hindu Studies, and is and co-founder and co-editor of two book series, Sir Henry Wellcome Asian Series (Brill), and Indian Medical Tradition Series (Motilal Banarsidass).

Petteri Koskikallio and Asko Parpola, Secretary General and President, respectively, of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference, are Finnish Indologists. Asko Parpola is Professor Emeritus of South Asian and Indo – European Studies at the University of Helsinki.



Professor Asko Parpola and the organizers of the Twelfth World Sanskrit Conference, held at the University of Helsinki in July 2003, kindly invited Professor Michio Yano and myself to organize a conference panel dedicated to Scientific Literature. The papers in the present volume are a selection of those presented by the scholars who participated in that panel.

Scholars who participated, but whose papers are not part of this volume, included Alakananda Bandyopadhyaya (“Scientific Studies in Kalidasa”), Anasuya Bhowmik (“The Concept of Sala, ‘House,’ in the Puranas and Vastu Texts”), M. G. Dhadphale (“A Few Unnamed, and Therefore Unnoticed, Sciences in Ancient Indian Literature, Sanskrit and Pali”), N. L. Jain (“Technical Sciences in Jaina Canons”), Frederick M. Smith (“The Textuality and Practice of Exorcism and Mental Health Care in Present – day Kerala”), B. V. Subbarayappa (“The Nyaya – Vaisesika Literature: Its Importance for the World History of Science”), and Michio Yano (“Pancanga: Past and Present”). The participation of all the members of the panel was valuable, stimulating and created a remarkable series of opportunities for reflection, conversation, and mutual learning. In many case it was also good to renew old academic friendships, and make new ones, one of the principle pleasures of a good conference.

The title of the present volume may initially suggest that it will have something to say about iatromathematics, the application of the astral sciences to healing. This form of healing has a long history in India, and it would certainly deserve further study, but it is not the topic of this book. The title Mathematics and Medicine in Sanskrit simply announces the contiguous publication of the conference proceedings on these two subjects. Nevertheless, there are certain threads of continuity that run through the both parts of the book. The first is a commitment to the original source materials in the Sanskrit language, which deepens and broadens our understanding of medieval Indian science in the only truly authentic manner. But this is only to be expected in papers from a Sanskrit conference. Where several of the contributions go further is in engaging directly with Sanskrit manuscript materials. Indologists have always been fascinated with manuscripts, which are beautiful and interesting antiquities in their own right, that bring us into direct physical connection with the great scholars and scribes of past ages. And several of the chapters in this book show that the engagement with manuscripts is still one of the most productive and exciting areas of Indological study. The Indian Government’s National Mission for Manuscripts was launched just six months before the Helsinki Sanskrit conference, and has rapidly built itself into a major force for cultural preservation, scholarship, education and outreach. Thanks to the work of the Mission, Sanskrit scholars can look forward to improved access to manuscript materials, and the discoveries and refinements of knowledge that will inevitable follow. Several of the Studies in this volume demonstrate compellingly how the discovery and study of Sanskrit manuscripts is critical for the development of the history of Indian science.

Another unifying feature of the scholarly methodology displayed in the present book is the interesting combination of Sanskrit and Indological skills with those of “disciplinary neighbours”. Thus, the authors demonstrate a command of skills not just in Sanskrit the authors demonstrate a command of skills not just in Sanskrit philology and Indian codicology, but also in mathematics, geometry, medical botany, social history, religious studies, anthropology and trans – cultural psychiatry. This is a scholarly development that has the potential to bring the fruits of Sanskrit studies to a contemporary audience far beyond Indology, and conversely to act as an invitation to thinkers outside Sanskrit studies to consider seriously how Sanskrit cultural studies can contribute to a richer view of global history.

No Sanskritist working today can avoid view the sense of doom that hangs over our professional field, as one university department after another closes down or cancels Sanskrit courses. In my view, the survival of our field depends on our abilities to adapt flexibly in taking advantage of new funding models, to appeal to new constituencies of students and researchers, and to co- opt the interest and collaboration our disciplinary neighbours. It is striking to note, then, that only one of the contributors to the present volume is currently appointed at a department that could be called strictly Indological. This surely says some thing about how future scholarship in Sanskrit and the history of Indian science may flourish, and it is a testimony to the adaptability and commitment of the scholars who here present their research results.

Although he did not participate in the conference, I find it impossible to complete this introduction without mentioning Professor David Pingree, who died last year. Professor Pingree was a deeply valued personal friend and teacher of many of us in the history of Indian science, including Professor Yano and myself. He seemed to be a true sarvajna, generous to a fault with his encyclopedic learning and his personal kindness. In spite of his giant legacy of publications, so much more has passed with his passing. His contributions to the history of Indian science – have staked out a realm of scholarship and provided research materials that will certainly still be productive a century from now. It is not surprising that his research is cited by half the contributors to his volume. I have taken the opportunity to list below some of his most recent publications. His 2003c article on “The Logic of Non – Western Science” is a particularly sparkling piece, and an accessible starting point for anyone interested in finding out about the social organization of mathematical scholars in pre – colonial India, and the amazing results they achieved.

Professor K.V. Sarma, whose survey begins this book, also passed away in 2005, a few months before Professor Pingree. These two giants of the study of Indian mathematics and astronomy did not always see eye – to – eye, especially on the issue of the role of observational astronomy in the development of Jyotihsastra. Yet they both functioned at such a high level of expertise that they were able to stimulate and contribute to each other’s scholarship in a way that few other scholars could match. Each build upon the work of the other in important ways, moving the field forward for the rest of us. In 1991, Professor Sarma described the contents and importance of the Ganita Yuktibhasa of Jyesthadeva (composed ca. 1530), a work in his mother tongue, Malayalam that contained mathematical advances truly extraordinary for its date. The Yuktibhasa remained dear to his heart, and for many years he held on to the intention of producing an edition of the Malayalam original and the Sanskrit translation, and his own English translation and explanation of the whole. It is a matter of deep satisfaction that this monumental work was completed and began to be published before he passed away (Sarma 2004).

I should like to offer my thanks to Professor Michio Yano, who fully shared the burden of planning and running the conference panel. I should like to thank all the authors for their patience and helpfulness; it really has been a pleasure to work with them in making this book. All those who attended the conference in Helsinki will share a sense of gratitude to Professor Asko Parpola and his colleagues for their work in creating a simply wonderful week of intellectual delights. The organization was nothing short of superb, and everyone felt the benefit of it. I should like gratefully to acknowledge the support of the Finnish Cultural Foundation that has made the publication of this book possible. Finally, special thanks go to Dr Petteri Koskikallio of the University of Helsinki, the general editor of this series of conference proceedings. He has labored over several years to coordinate the work of hundreds of authors and over a dozen books. He could not have been a more gracious and helpful colleague.




  Contributors vii
  Dominik Wujastyk  
  Introduction 1
  K. V. Sarma  
  Sanskrit and Science: A New Area of Study 7
  I Mathematics 19
  A. K. Bag  
  Solution of Second Degree Indeterminate Equations in Sanskrit Texts 21
  Jean Michel Delire  
  Chronological Inferences from a Comparison Between Commentaries on Different Sulbasutras 37
  Agathe Keller  
  Bhaskara I’s Geometrical Diagrams in the Aryabhatiyabhasya 63
  II Medicine 103
  G. Jan Meulenbeld  
  Some Neglected Aspects of Ayurveda or the Illusion of a Consistent Theory 105
  Dagmar Benner  
  Samskaras in Vagbhata’s Astangahrdayasamhita: garbhadhana, rtusamgamana, pumsavana 119
  Dominik Wujastyk  
  Contrasting Examples of Ayurvedic Creativity Around 1700 139
  Antti Pakaslahti  
  Terminology of Spirit Illness: An Empirical Study of a Living Healing Tradition 155
  Tsutomu Yamashita  
  Some Notes on the Bheda (la) samhita 193
  Index 205

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