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# Indian numerals

India has produced many numeral systems. Arguably all of these numeral systems could be called Indian numerals. For the purpose of this article however the term Indian numerals will refer only to the positional base 10 numeral systems written in the Devanagari script.

Written below is a list of the Indian numerals, their corresponding Arabic numeral and their Hindi pronunciation.

Indian NumeralArabic NumeralPronunciation
0shuunya
1eik
2do
3tiin
4chaar
5paanc
6cei
7saan
8aaTh
9naun

Today these numerals are used in all Indian languages that use the Devanagari script. Most Indian languages which use other Brahmic scripts use analogous numeral systems except with different glyphs for the 10 digits.

## History

Somewhat speculatively Indian numerals can be traced to China. According to the theory Chinese merchants or Buddhist pilgrims introduced into India a numeral system similar to the Chinese Hua Ma system (see Chinese numerals). By the middle of the 1st Millennium AD a base 10 numeral system with 9 glyphs was being used in India. This numeral system spread to the Middle East and is believed to have greatly contributed to the development of Arabic numerals. In 662 a Nestorian bishop living in what is now called Iraq said of the numerals:

I will omit all discussion of the science of the Indians ... of their subtle discoveries in astronomy - discoveries that are more ingenious than those of the Greeks and the Babylonians - and of their valuable methods of calculation which surpass description. I wish only to say that this computation is done by means of nine signs. If those who believe that because they speak Greek they have arrived at the limits of science would read the Indian texts they would be convinced even if a little late in the day that there are others who know something of value."

Significantly however the numerals described lack a zero digit. This is despite the fact that Indian mathematicians had studied zero for centuries. As a consequence it would have been hard to discriminate 6002 from 60002 and virtually impossible to discriminate 6200 from 62000 except from context. In India the first record of the zero digits being used - both after and in between nonzero numbers - dates from 876 AD. Records show that Muslim mathematicians working primarily in what is now Iraq had arrived at this same step at roughly the same time (874 AD). Unlike the Arab numerals which were known solely to mathematicians until the 13th century Indian numerals were widely used in India among all literate professions from at least 1000 AD.

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