Pythagoras mentioned in Vedas?-A simpler explanalation

Vishal Agarwal vishalagarwal at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 14 23:16:38 UTC 1999

Dear Toke,

Detailed response is as below:

----Original Message Follows----
From: Toke Lindegaard Knudsen <tlk at MATH.KU.DK>
Subject: Re: Pythagoras mentioned in Vedas?-A simpler explanalation
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 11:38:56 +0200

VA Wrote:
 > I advance a simpler explanation:
 > The Pythagoras theorem has been stated in the Baudhayana Sulba Sutras.
 > many Hindus (like Sayanacarya) include even the Kalpasutras in the
 > of Vedas, and the Hare Krishnas include even the Puranas etc. in 'Vedic
 > Literature.'
Toke wrote:
Actually I do not have enough knowledge on this.  I rely mostly on
translations of the Sulbasutras and related articles and essays
which deal primarily with the mathematics.  I also want to know
more about the actual rituals and the procedures involved (other
than the geometric constructions).  I was referred to one book
called "Agni" edited by Frits Staal, which I somehow have
difficulties finding.
VA WRITES: The complete reference for the concerned book is given below
(beware however that it is biased towards the Srauta rituals of the
Nambudiri community and so is not really representative of of the entire
gamut of Vedic ritual). Several American libraries have this text and so you
can order it via ILL.
Author:         Staal, Frits.

Title:          Agni, the Vedic ritual of the fire altar / by Frits Staal,
                   collaboration with C.V. Somayajipad and M. Itti Ravi
                   Nambudiri ; photographs by Adelaide de Menil.

Published:      Berkeley, Ca. : Asian Humanities Press, 1983.

Description:    2 v. : ill. (some col.) ; 30 cm. + 2 cassettes in case (22

Subjects, Library of Congress :
                 Agnicayana (Hindu rite)

Contributors:   Somayajipad, C. V. (Cherumukku Vaidikan)
                 Itti Ravi Nambudiri, M.
                 De Menil, Adelaide.

Notes:          2 folded leaves in back pockets of v. 2.
                 Includes index.
                 Bibliography: p. 703-716.

ISBN:           0895814501 (set)

Toke wrote:
Does anyone have other references to these
VA WRITES: Unfortunately, the books I am aware of are in Hindi, Sanskrit,
Gujarati and Marathi. These might not of much help to you. But you could do
an author's search under 'Frits Staal' or a keyword search under 'Srauta'

Toke Wrote:
Also good references concerning the Vedas (explanations
of the divisions of the Veda, relations between different Vedic
literatures, relations between Vedas and, say, Kalpasutras) would
be appreciated.
VA WRITES: The best works are again in India vernaculars (One is a massive 8
volume series, and the other is a 3 volume one). For your purposes, you
might useeither of the following2  small texts in English:

1. Author:         Shastri, Gaurinath Bhattacharyya.

Title:          A history of Vedic literature / by Gaurinath Sastri.

Published:      Calcutta : Sanskrit Pustak Bhandar, 1982.

Description:    vi, 201 p. ; 23 cm.

Subjects, Library of Congress :
                 Vedas--Criticism, interpretation, etc.
                 Hindu literature--History and criticism.

2. Author:         Sharma, S. N. (Shambhu Nath), 1936-

Title:          A history of Vedic literature <by> S. N. Sharma.

Edition:        <1st ed.>

Published:      Varanasi, Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1973.

Description:    142 p. 23 cm.

Subjects, Library of Congress :
                 Vedic literature--History and criticism.

Other titles:   Vedic literature.

Series:         Chowkhamba Sanskrit studies, v. 92

Notes:          Running title: Vedic literature.
                 Bibliography: p. <131>-132.

In addition to these two, there is another highly accessible series by Jan
Gonda, a description of the first volume of which is as below. However, the
scope of these volumes is different and you might get lost. Besides, they
are replete with errors and other shoddy work: (Volume1 is on Samhitas and
Brahmanas--two major branches of Vedic literature)

3.  Title:          A History of Indian literature / edited by Jan Gonda.

Published:      Wiesbaden : Harrassowitz, 1973-

Description:    v. 24 cm.

Subjects, Library of Congress :
                 Indic literature--History and criticism.

Contributors:   Gonda, J. (Jan), 1905-

Notes:          Issued in parts.


 > The fact that the theorem attributed to Pythagoras is stated in the
 > Baudhayana Sulba as well is publicized in 100's of Mathematics texts
 > prescribed for children in Indian schools (as also the fact that the
 > 'Pascal's Triangle' occurs in Pinagalacarya's Chhanda sutras and so on).
 > Since one of the persons involved in the discussion is a Hare Krishna, we
 > might surmise that he got his facts slightly mixed up.
I am not sure I completely understand what you mean.  Is it that
since the theorem of Pythagoras is mentioned in the Sulbasutras,
which is considered Vedic by some, the Hare Krishna mistook this
to mean that Pythagoras was in India?  It seems a little simplistic
and not so plausible to me.

VA WRITES: Apologies for the condensed argument. What I meant was that some
Indians use the fact priority of the Baudhayana Sulba Sutras to argue that
the Pythagoras theorem was invented here and this knowledge then went to
Greece. The Hare Krishnas also typically believe that India was the origin
of sciences.  Actually, in the absence on any reasonable data, we can only
speculate on the reasons of the Hare Krishna's statement and cannot reach
any definite conclusion. Since you are a  mathematician, you are well
conversant with the scientific method and therefore were able to find the
loophole in this statement. But as your knowledge of Indology grows, you
will discover that statistically insignficant data (or even outliers) are
used to construct grand theories by Indologists. Any inconveneient data is
often ignored or brushed aside :-). The theories proposed by other
listmembers cannot be certain either, due to the insufficiency of data on
which they are based. But to be certain, Pythagoras is not at all mentioned
in the Vedic Samhitas and Brahmanas.
BTW, I have the relevant volume of the 8 volume work on Vedic literature
(which I have mentioned above) and this work has several chapters on the
Sulba sutras. If you could email me (personally)  specific querries, I could
try translating the portions you require, if they are short enough.

Best regards and good luck,


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