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IIT-KGP is now attempting to prove that ancient India inspired Pythagoras’ theorem & MSMEs

Prof. Joy Sen, head of IKS centre, says his claim is based on ancient Indian texts, research is not about 'BJP or RSS', but about ‘righting history of human knowledge’.

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New Delhi: IIT Kharagpur’s (IIT-KGP) Centre of Excellence for Indian Knowledge Systems (IKS) is attempting to prove how ancient India inspired the Pythagoras’ theorem, and that the concepts of supply and demand, as well as micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) had Indian roots.

Professor Joy Sen, chairperson of the IKS centre, said his claim is based on Numidian Latin writer Apuleius’ assertion that Pythagoras had visited South India 100-300 years prior to Alexander the Great.

Sen claims that books like Surya Siddhanta and the Shulba Sutras laid the foundation for the Pythagorean theorem. “Apuleius mentions Pythagoras visiting South India. So, there is a possibility that Indian mathematical knowledge informed the development of Greek mathematics and geometry,” he told ThePrint.

Sen attributes his MSMEs claim to Buddhist and Jain texts from 600 BCE and the Ramayana, which described ancient India as having 16 to 22 Mahajanapadas (oligarchic republics), which had small specialised businesses and traded with each other, creating the concept of demand and supply.

“In 600 BCE, India already had something which later emerged in the United States, where each state was known to be a leading producer of something. For example, California was known for gold mines, Wyoming was rich in natural resources, New York and New Jersey were known for maritime port activity,” Sen said.

“India had a similar concept where, for example, Magadha was good at producing something which Anga was not good at. Then these products were traded among the Mahajanapadas, which I believe was the theory of supply and demand in practice in ancient India,” Sen said.

Also read: Modi govt looks to link Vedic texts with modern knowledge system, will fund research

‘No politics in research’

Prof. Sen said his research isn’t driven by any politics or ideology.

“I was introduced to the concept of Indian metaphysics in 1987 in Iowa, by a professor who was a Christian from the American Midwest. It is neither about the BJP, or RSS or Right-wing, nor is it politically driven by the Left-wing. We focus on India’s contribution to the world, our focus is not on Hinduism and Buddhism, it’s a middle path,” he said.

“It’s about righting the history of human knowledge that is not so correct. Right now, there is barely any mention of how India has contributed to the foundational knowledge in areas of mathematics, sciences, and economics,” Sen continued.

“We have all been erroneously programmed to think the West is the hub of all knowledge, and that’s actually a debatable hypothesis. Children growing up in India should know their history and sometimes the history of events present in textbooks is not always the full picture. There is no better time to attempt a course correction from the scientific racism that believed the White man was superior to all,” he added.

Also read: Nehru said romanticisation of past doesn’t solve today’s problems. India needs to re-read him

But, did Pythagoras visit India at all?

This is not the first time Prof. Sen has made claims like these. Last year, he had drawn flak for a 2022 calendar that attempted to disprove the Aryan invasion theory by referring to the Vedas.

Historian Meera Nanda had, in an article, demolished the claim of ancient Indian roots to the Pythagorean theorem, saying that Mesopotamians had figured out the relationship between the sides of a right-angled triangle described by the theorem at least a millennium before it was postulated in ancient India.

Even Prof. Sen’s claim that Pythagoras visited South India is disputed. The book ‘Sins of the Flesh: A History of Ethical Vegetarian Thought’ by Rod Preece, challenges the theory that Pythagoras visited India, pointing out that Lucius Apuleius (AD 124–170) claimed that Pythagoras had learned much of his philosophy from Indian wisdom “but not that he visited the subcontinent”.

According to Preece, “The Indophile theosophist Annie Besant went so far as to say, ingenuously, that ‘he [Pythagoras] brought from India the wisdom of the Buddha, and translated it into Greek thought’.”

In contrast, Thomas Tryon (1634-1703) thought Pythagoras visited India and taught the Brahmins their philosophy, Preece’s book adds.

(Edited by Manoj Ramachandran)

Also read: Babri, Saraswati, Aryans – There are rival Indian histories now and campuses are the warzone


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