Aryabhata – The Life and Works of an Ancient Indian Scholar

What We Did

In this animated documentary we explore the life and works of Aryabhata (a.k.a. Aryabhatta), an ancient Indian mathematician and astronomer. Aryabhatta has been one of the most influential scholars of the Indian subcontinent. Although the accuracy of his calculations of the solar year and the worlds rotation has been astonishing, we know little about the history of his life.

We developed the script, designed the visual elements and animated the elements of this short documentary format internally. Only the voice over was produced by an external voice artist for us.

Chapters of the Documentary:
00:00 Introduction to Aryabhata
00:30 Brief History of Indian Mathematics
02:11 Aryabhata’s Life & Works
03:43 Spread of Ideas
03:57 Mathematical Concepts
05:04 Astronomy
06:32 Critics
07:05 Honours
07:19 Outro

Script  of the Documentary

When you think of the 5th century, you might imagine Attila the Hun or the fall of the Western Roman Empire. But did you know that at the same time, far from the chaos in Europe, a young Indian scholar calculated pi, the earth’s diameter and assigned the start of the day to midnight? His name was Aryabhatta. Let us take a closer look at this fascinating persona.

Spanning back several centuries before Aryabhata’s times there has been a tradition of Indian mathematics. Archaeological records of it date all the way back to the Harappan Indus Valley Civilization in the Early Bronze Age. They indicate the widespread use of geometry, unified scales and advanced brick technology that influenced later Vedic temples. From 1500 to 500 BC the Hindu civilization arose after the influx of tribes of Indo-Aryan origin from the Iranian plateau. The mixture between the religion of the new arrivals and the culture of the Harapan people led to Vedic geometry that focused on the construction of sacrificial and fire altars.

Between 500 BC and 400 AD the culture of altar sacrifice declined with the rise of new philosophies such as Jainism and Buddhism. This shifted the scope of mathematics, from having a primarily religious to a more philosophical focus. The rise and rule of the Gupta dynasty from approx. 400 – 600 AD is synonymous to a time of prosperity and stability. This extraordinary time saw the flowering of the Indian civilization and advances in science, philosophy, medicine, logic, grammar, and literature. Aryabhata himself lived at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th century and was therefore part of this Golden Era.

With his radically new ideas about the world and the universe, Aryabhatta was one of the first Indian scholars to vigorously challenge the dogmas of traditional Vedic Brahminism. Sadly, we know nothing about his subsequent life. Even about his birthplace there is widespread debate, with theories ranging from places in the south all the way to the northeast of India.

All we know is that at some point in his life, Aryabhatta lived in Kusumapura, near Patalipurta, modern-day Patna. The city was at the time the capital of the Gupta dynasty. Here he composed at least two major works, the Aryabhatiya (c. 499) and the now lost Aryabhatasiddhanta. He was only 23 years old at that time.

His surviving first work, the Aryabhatiya, was particularly popular in South India, where numerous mathematicians wrote commentaries on it over the ensuing millennium. His second work, the Aryabhatasiddhanta circulated mainly in the northwest of India and had a profound influence on the development of Islamic astronomy. It is one of the earliest astronomical works to assign the start of each day to midnight. His works spread westward, where he was known to Arabic Muslim scholars as “Arjabhad” and to Europeans in the middle Ages as “Ardubarius”.

Let us dive into Aryabhatta’s surviving work to understand why his findings were so revolutionary for his time.

In the field of mathematics Aryabhatta gave detailed descriptions on trigonometric functions. In addition to developing sine and cosine functions, he also worked on the approximation for pi. In the second part of his book, Aryabhatiyam, he wrote: “Add four to 100, multiply by eight, and then add 62,000. By this rule the circumference of a circle with a diameter of 20,000 can be approached.

Some historians even believe that Aryabhata used the word āsanna (approaching), to mean that the value of pi is irrational. This would mean that the young mathematician was even further ahead of his time. In Europe it was not until 1761 when the Swiss polymath Johann Heinrich Lambert proved the irrationality of pi.

Aside from these mathematical findings, Aryabhata is also known for his new ideas about the workings of the universe. Astronomy was the most reputed branch of study among the Indians because their religious affairs were and, in many cases, still are directly related to it. The accuracy of Aryabhata’s astronomical calculations is especially astonishing.

Translated into today’s units of time, Aryabhata calculated the rotation time of the earth referencing the fixed stars as 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds, which is extremely close to the modern value. Similarly, his value for the length of the sidereal year at 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, and 30 seconds contains an error of only 3 minutes and 20 seconds over the length of a year.

Furthermore, this young scholar was the first to explain Solar and lunar eclipses scientifically rather than mythologically. Instead of the prevailing cosmology in which eclipses were caused by the deities Rahu and Ketu, he explains eclipses in terms of shadows cast by and falling on Earth. Although Aryabhattas genius in his field was recognized, his views were criticised by Indian scholars in his lifetime and subsequent centuries. Brahmagupta attacked him in the 7th century for his concept of the world rotating around its own axis with stationary asterisms.

Thanks to the ensuing school of mathematical thought in Southern India and the Arabic translations, Aryabhatta has not been forgotten, despite the controversy surrounding and the subsequent purge of his works in Northern India. To honour Aryabhata’s role as the subcontinents most influential astronomer, a crater on the moon and the first artificial satellite, designed and built in India, were both named after Aryabhata. We hope you enjoyed our video on the life and work of Aryabhatta. Follow us on Instagram for more documentaries!

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Script – That Works Media UG (haftungsbeschränkt)
Animation – Johannes Westphal & Siddharth Muralidharan
Editing – Siddharth Muralidharan
Voice Artist – J.P. Wrigth
Music – Marti Bharath (
Sound Design – Marti Bharath (

Author: That Works Media UG (haftungsbeschränkt)

Utilized Software:
Premiere Pro,
Adobe After Effects,
Adobe Photoshop


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