Bhaskaracharya’s Law of Gravity : Discovered 1200 Years before Newton!

India is considered as a traditional country but the world is unaware of our contributions to this modern world. Our theories were used as a base for many concepts such as weather forecast, astronomy, astrology, aviation etc. India has developed some of the best mathematicians the world has ever seen. Many of these geniuses were not given credit for their work.

An exhibition was held to spread awareness on India’s rich scientific heritage. The exhibition coordinator, Ashish Manjramkar stated

“Very few of us know that speed of light was known to Indians in Vedic period. A shloka says that the speed of light is 2202 yojana per half nimish.  Yojana is a unit of distance which equals to 9.06 miles and half a nimish (nimishardha) is one tenth of a second. The figure is very close to the modern measurement of speed of light.” – Article Res

When we talk about gravity, the first name that pops into our heart is “Sir Isaac Newton”. In school we all have been told the story of how Newton was inspired to formulate “The Universal Law of Gravitation” when an apple fell from a tree. The world believes that Newton was the first to discover the gravitational concepts. You will be surprised to known that the theory of gravitation was created 1200 years before Newton by an Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya.  Before discussing Bhaskaracharya’s contribution let us understand the basic concept of gravity.

Gravity is a universal force that allows a mass of body to attract other masses of body. The bigger a mass of body is, the higher will be the force of gravity.

Importance of Gravity:

Objects stay on earth because of the gravitational pull. Every single body in the universe is affected by gravitational forces which also include the earth, sun and the moon. Tidal waves are created by the gravitational pull of the moon. Sun’s gravitational pull keeps all the planets in the orbit. Earth’s gravity allows it to revolve around the sun.

Now that you have understood the meaning of Gravitation, let’s get back to the work of Bhaskaracharya.

Bhaskaracharya | Image Resource : searchoflife.com

He was one of the most prominent astronomers and mathematicians of the 12th century. He is also considered as the greatest mathematician from the medieval era. He is known amongst the theorist for discovering principles on astronomy and calculus.

He wrote “Siddhānta Śiromaṇī” at the age of 36 in 1150 AD. He also contributed to “Surya Siddhanta” that was originally written by Aryabhatta.

The first principle of gravity was stated by “Bhaskaracharya” and “not Newton”

Bhaskaracharya stated the laws of gravity in the book Surya Siddhanta in 11th century. Thus the law actually exists even before the birth of Sir Isaac Newton (Newton was born in the 16th century).

Surya Siddhanta & Siddhānta Shiromani | Image Resource : quazoo.com

Here are some of the slokas from his book Surya Siddhanta that mentions how gravitation works :

bibhranah paramam saktim brahmano dharanatmikam”
[Surya Sidhantha 12th chapter 32 sloka]

This means: The spherical earth stands at the centre of earth in space due to the dharanatmikam sakti which prevents earth from falling away and helps it to stand firm.

“akrsta saktisca mahi taya yat svastham guru svabhimukham svasaktya
akrsyate tatpatativa bhati same samantat kva patatviyam khe”
[Sidhanta Shiromani, Bhuvanakosa, 6th sloka]

This means: Every object falls on the ground due to earth’s force of attraction. This force allows the sun, earth, moon and constellations to stay in the orbit. – Article Res

Bhaskaracharya wrote a treatise name Lilavati where he answers a question posed by his little daughter. In this book, he answers his daughter Lilavati’s curious questions.

In this book, he explains that earth has gravitational force (gurutvakarshan shakti). There is a mutual attraction between the planets and this allows them to hold themselves firmly in space.

Bhaskaracharya’s Law Of Gravity | Image Resource : flickr.com

He also mentioned the shape of the earth while answering his daughter’s question. Bhaskaracharya states that what we see is not the reality, Earth may appear flat but it is spherical in reality.

He further explains this theory by stating

“if you draw a very big circle and look at one fourth of its circumference, you see it as a straight line. But in true sense it is a circle. Similarly earth is spherical in shape.” – Res

This historical mentions are the proofs that laws of gravity was first discovered in India by Bhaskaracharya.  His laws predates the law of Newton, he did not wait for the apple to fall.  Everybody knows about Newton’s law of Gravity but we don’t have any idea about “Bhaskaracharya’s Law of Gravity”.

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