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Alberuni in India

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Last updated: November 20, 2017

In 1017 A.D., at the behest of Sultan Mahmud of Persia, Alberuni (a.k.a. Al-Biruni) traveled to India to learn about the Hindus, "and to discuss with them questions of religion, science, and literature, and the very basis of their civilization". He remained in India for thirteen years, studying, and exploring.

Alberuni's scholarly work has not gotten the great recognition it deserves. Not for nearly eight hundred years would any other writer match Alberuni's profound understanding of almost all aspects of Indian life [1].

Alberuni was a true genius -- he was renowned as a mathematician, and an astronomer prior to his India mission -- and has successfully captured the the time and meaning of India in his writings. For instance he gives the Hindu's concept of God in Chapter II of his Tarikh al-Hind (History of India) which is astonishingly faithful to the complex definitions the Hindus believe in.

Alberuni not only studied Sanskrit literature, but also met many a Indian mathematicians and philosophers. It is rather ironic that some of the the most comprehensive study of India of the middle ages is performed by an Islamic scholar. In his notes we not only find elaborate descriptions of travel tales, but also discussions of divinity, literature, and mathematical equations.

 

References

  • [1] Edward Sachau (Translator), Ainslie Embree (Editor), Alberuni's India,  Norton, 1971External Link
  • [2] Alberuni's India, 1988 External Link

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