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Durable Link to this BlogWednesday, June 12, 2002

Alberuin's India

Alberuni's India

Alberuni (973-1043 CE) was a distinguished scholar at the court of Mahmud of Gazni. He had passion for astronomy and mathematics and he knew the advances made in those fields though Arab translations. He accompanied his patron on his Indian invasions with a view to undertake their in-depth study. He soon realized that learning Sanskrit was indispensable for both the sciences in India, and historically, he is the first Islamic scholar to study Sanskrit. He translated astronomical works of Brahmagupta and Varahamira. But his magnum-opus was History of India (Tarikh-i-Hind) which throws light on customs, manners, religious beliefs, and holy texts of the period India.

Alberuni appears to have quite a modern mind, though he lived in middle ages. His guiding principles were careful examination of written traditional documents. He claims to have brought Hindu scholars from remote places of India to help him study Sanskrit. He traveled through Northern parts of India and delivered his own conclusions that "this land has once been a sea which by degrees has been filled by the alluvium of streams", which was proved correct in the later centuries.

Modern scholars have found elements of evolution and Malthusian theory in his work. Alberuni's "India" gives many details of Indian practices which he considered strange. To other Muslims of his time, Hinduism and other religions were only superstitions marked by blatant idolatry, whereas Alberuni correctly understood the essence of Hinduism as monistic, stressing the ultimate unity of all things.

See Also:
• History of India
• Alberuni's 11th Century India

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Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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