What is Indian about the Mathematics of India?
In contrast to the first three Parts of this book, this concluding Part IV has little that is strictly mathematical and nothing that is new; it is, instead, a synthesis of the more prominent of the many facets of the mathematics of India that give it a distinctive cultural personality of its own. We have already come across quite a few of them in their isolated settings but our primary focus in the coverage until now has been on the mathematics itself (and, to a modest extent, its historical background). And we have seen that that is wholly in tune with the widely accepted view that at its core the discipline of mathematics ’ the finest attestation of the capacity of the human mind to reason things through “minutely and precisely” (to invoke the gift attributed to Agni the divine enumerator in the Ṛ gveda) ’ is largely free of the cultural context. The total mathematical profile of a civilisation, however, encompasses more than the universal and immutable mathematical truths it discovered for itself, more than can be gathered together in a neat collection of theorems. Questions concerning such intangibles as the value attached to mathematical activity, the manner in which new directions of mathematical enquiry were picked (or picked themselves), how mathematical ideas were motivated, pursued and made use of, in other words the philosophical and cultural whole of which mathematics was a part, seem to have not always the same answers in different cultures.
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