Finding New Links in Regional Rituals

June 29, 2010
School of Arts and Sciences, Amritapuri

The square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle equals the sum of squares of the other sides. Most students are familiar with this definition of the Pythagorean theorem; it is taught to them in school.

ŚulbasūtraHowever, what most students never learn is that the earliest statement on this theorem is found not in European or Western texts, but in an ancient Indian treatise, the Śulbasūtra of Baudhyana. Baudhyana was an early Indian mathematician who made significant contributions in this field.

Interesting facts about Baudhyana’s Śulbasūtra and its application to Vedic rituals in Kerala were recently presented by Br. Sivanandan D. S. of the Amrita School of Arts and Sciences at the 45th All India Oriental Conference in Tirupathi.

Titled, Regional Adaption of Śulbasūtra Tradition as Evident in the Agnichayana Ritual of Kerala – A Study, Sivanandan’s paper won the Dr. V. G. Rahurkar Prize for the best paper presented by a young scholar in the conference’s Vedic session.

“Nearly 100 papers were presented in the Vedic session,” shared Sivanandan.

What exactly is the Śulbasūtra and why was Sivanandan motivated to study this ancient text?

“The Śulbasūtras are appendices to the Vedas that have rules for constructing altars,” explained Sivanandan. “In ancient India, altars were built for Vedic rituals in such a way, that they had to conform to very precise measurements.”

ŚulbasūtraSivanandan studied two recent Vedic rituals that were performed in Kerala. He compared the measuring instruments and units for measuring linear dimensions used in these rituals to those mentioned in the ancient text. He analyzed the dimensions of the altar space.

What did he find?

“With some regional adaptations, the Śulbasūtra tradition is followed to this day in Kerala,” he stated.

The paper discussed the regional adaptations as well. “A hitherto unknown application of Katapayàdi system in Vedic geometry is used.” Regional texts on Vedic rituals were also consulted.

Sivanandan had earlier presented a paper titled The Continuity of Śulbasūtra Tradition as Evident in the Agnichayana Ritual of Kerala – A Critical Study at the International Conference on Sanskrit and Intellectual Heritage.   Read News »

Sivanandan is studying the ancient texts for his doctoral dissertation. We congratulate this young scholar for the honor received and wish him all the best!

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