Rishi Pingala-Inventor of Binary Numbers[2nd Century BC]

Rishi Pingala was an ancient Indian mathematician who authored the Chandaḥśāstra (also called Pingala-sutras), the earliest known treatise on Sanskrit prosody. The Chandaḥśāstra is a […]

Rishi Pingala was an ancient Indian mathematician who authored the Chandaḥśāstra (also called Pingala-sutras), the earliest known treatise on Sanskrit prosody.

The Chandaḥśāstra is a work of eight chapters in the late Sūtra style, not fully comprehensible without a commentary. It has been dated to the last few centuries BCE. Main commentaries on ‘Chandaḥśāstra‘ are ‘Vrittaratnakara‘ by Kedara in 8th century AD, ‘Tatparyatika‘ by Trivikrama in 12th century AD and ‘Mritasanjivani‘ by Halayudha in 13th century AD. The complete significance of Pingala’s work can be understood by the explanations found in these three commentaries.

Rishi Pingala (in Chandaḥśāstra 8.23) has assigned the following combinations of zero and one to represent various numbers, much in the same way as the present day computer programming procedures.

0 0 0 0 numerical value = 1

1 0 0 0 numerical value = 2

0 1 0 0 numerical value = 3

1 1 0 0 numerical value = 4

0 0 1 0 numerical value = 5

1 0 1 0 numerical value = 6

0 1 1 0 numerical value = 7

1 1 1 0 numerical value = 8

0 0 0 1 numerical value = 9

1 0 0 1 numerical value = 10

0 1 0 1 numerical value = 11

1 1 0 1 numerical value = 12

0 0 1 1 numerical value = 13

1 0 1 1 numerical value = 14

0 1 1 1 numerical value = 15

1 1 1 1 numerical value = 16

Rishi Pingala is credited with using binary numbers in the form of short and long syllables (the latter equal in length to two short syllables), a notation similar to Morse code. Pingala used the Sanskrit word śūnya explicitly to refer to zero.

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