KOCHI: The Illustrated Lilavati, an illustrated maths book, brings the classical Sanskrit work on mathematics to a colorful graphic novel format, with 25 illustrated problems and solutions, and snippets of history and trivia.
In 1150 AD Bhaskaracharya wrote Lilavati, which contains definitions, examples and algorithms in arithmetic, geometry, combinations, linear and quadratic equations.
Lilavati immediately superseded previous works and became the standard textbook on arithmetic in India. It retained that status over many centuries. Hundreds of manuscript copies, and many translations and commentaries on the book were produced by astrologers and poets from Rajasthan to Orissa, from Kerala to Agra.
According to Akbar’s court poet Faizi who translated the book to Persian in 1587, Lilavati was named after Bhaskara’s daughter. Lilavati’s horoscope indicated that she would remain unmarried unless married at an auspicious moment. Bhaskara devised a water clock to alert him of the correct time. In her curiosity, Lilavati went to look at the device and a pearl from her bridal dress accidentally dropped into it, and stopped the flow. The auspicious moment for the wedding thus passed unnoticed leaving a devastated father. It is then that he promised his daughter to write a book in her name, one that would remain till the end of time.
Bhaskara blends poetry and mathematics with lively examples that invoke bees, flowers, kings and Gods. The books was translated to English in 1816 by John Taylor, a government surgeon in Bombay. An excerpt from this translation -
The square root
of a number of bees,
and also eight ninths
of the whole,
alighted on the Jasmins;
and a female bee buzzed
responsive to the hum
of the male inclosed at night in a water-lily.
O beautiful damsel,
tell me the number of bees?
The illustrated Lilavati introduces this classic in 106 illustrated panels, with crisp and colorful images, and many insights to the history of Indian mathematics, like the Indian method of multiplication on a dust-board, meters of Sanskrit poetry and the purity of gold.
The Illustrated Lilavati is one of the first offerings from www.LiLboox.com which specializes in electronic graphic novels that draws material from Indian literature. The graphics and print is large enough to be read comfortably in a smartphone. It is available on iTunes, Google Play and Kindle.