August 29th, 2006

1996, December the 7th.
Place: On the dias of SriKrishnadevaraya Andhara Bhashaa Nilayam

What is 2 power 103?

The answer was 32 digits long, and he took no time to answer.

If you number the alphabet ‘Ka’ to ‘Ksha’ (telugu alphabet) serially like 1, 2, 3 etc., what is the product of ‘Sa’, ‘Re’, ‘Ga’, ‘Ma’, ‘Pa’, ‘Da’, ‘Ni’?

The answer came in a zip….80 Crores, 5 lakhs and 6 thousand.

Poeple might take hours to solve these puzzles with the help of a pen and a paper, but he takes no time and answers them with enormous ease.

Is he educated? NO.

Can he see and read texts with his own eyes? Unfortunately, NO. He is blind by birth.

Hundreds of questions were shooted at him that day. Perspicacious were his answers, sagacious were his instints and astute was his brilliance. Other mathematicians took hours to solve them.

The man in debate is the Mathematical Genius Lakkoju Sanjeevaraya Sarma. He is a ‘new moon’ decorating the Universe of Mathematics. The man, who performed more than 6,000 mathematical shows, displaying his acumen and shrewed undestanding of mathematics, across various states in India.

Remember the old ‘rice grains’ puzzle? As a reward for defeating the king in a chess game, the winner asks the king to put 1 rice grain in the first square of the chess board and then double it to 2 and keep it in the 2nd square, then 4 in 3rd and 8 in 4th, and similarly untill all the 64 squares are filled up. To sum up all those rice grains is no unpretentious task. But Sarma gave the answer without any hesitation. “1,84,46,74,40,73,70,95,51,615” (1 Crore 84 lakh 46 thousands of 74 Crores 40 lakhs and 73 thousands of 70 Crores and 95 lakhs and 51 thousand and 615), Sarma’s voice resonated from the dias, swiftly.

(Author: Just to make things more interesting….
If a square meter of rice bag can hold 1 crore 50 lakh grains, it would require 1 crore 20 lakh crore square meters of rice bags to hold all the grains on the chess board. If you fill these grains in a 4 meter high and a 10 meter wide tube, you would require 300 crore kilometers of tube, which is twice the distance from Earth to Sun.)

This sounds gargantuan of a task, but for Sarma, it is as simple as 1+2 for us. Sarma was born in Kallur village in Proddutur Taluk of Cudapah district in Andhra Pradesh in the year 1907 on November the 22nd. His mother was Nagamamba and the father, Peda Pullaiah. The home nurse adviced the parents to kill the baby and bury him, as he was blind by birth. Some relatives went far ahead and threw rice grains in his throat, to kill him. But death was not ready to pick up Sarma at that time.

Braille was not invented by that time, and Sarma doesn’t had any aided schools or organizations for blind to get trained. He just used to learn from other pupils when they read the lessons out loud for him. He followed small calculations that he used to hear from his parents and nurtured his skill on to became the ‘genius’ without knowing how 1,2,3s actaully look like. He was raised mostly by his mother as his father died when he was very young. His help to the local farmers with their calculations on their crop, got him some perks to live on. He was also attracted to classical music and started learning violin, while pioneering in math.

The first stage performance was held in 1928 and the saga continued till 1995, gaining high accolades and respects from various intellectual communities across India and eventually around the globe. He was the main attraction at the All India Congress Convention in Nandyal in 1928, held on November 15th. Many awards were won, many records were broken as time passed by. Nehru and prominent national politicians were impressed by his sheer genius, and he was soon recognized as a ‘National property’. He was the first person to design a calendar that fits in our palm and covers 4,000 years. The then president of India ‘Dr.Rajendra Prasad’ was so flattered by this genius, that he mailed his salary to Sarma as a kind gesture. He was an inspiration to the youth at colleges and Universities; many followed his footsteps and generated lots of interest in Mathematics. He was honoured with various gold medals from different institutions and presented with thousands of certificates. It is his back luck, actually more of ours, that his 14 gold medals were stollen in an railway compartment on October 1oth, 1964.

He was invited to US in 1993 by some local Telugu commities, but due to Visa delays, he couldn’t not attend the convention there. The Indian origins in US were not blessed enough to have glimpses of the genius.

John Milton, Braille inventor Louis Braille, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu are some of the most respected blind people in the world. You know what, they were not blind by birth, they became blind in their later age. Indian mathematical prodigies like Bhaskaracharya, Srinivasa Ramanujam and Shakuntala Devi were well educated and trained unlike Sarma, who doesn’t have any education, and never saw any alphabet or letters. He cultivated his sheer brilliance just from listening to others. Sarma is one amongst the world renouned 6 mathematics poineers.

One of the Governer Generals of British time gave a statement in press, “We would unveil a statue of Sarma, in the middle of London and offer prayers each day, had he been born in England”. Sarma never lived in riches, his life was poor and he lived poorly. We Indians couldn’t preserve the legends like Srinivasa Ramanujam, let alone people like Sarma. December the 2nd, year 1997 witnessed his last breaths. He spent his last days reciting to his violin in the holy feet of Lord Siva in Sri-Kala-Hasti.

Nobel prizes, Magsaysays, Gyaan Peeths seem to be very small now…!?!

(Author: This is an as-is excerpt from an article in a local news paper, translated. I would like to thank the publisher and the writer for letting us know that there was person of heavenly genius in our country who pioneered the art of Mathematics. Many respects for a wonderful human like Sarma. I am proud to be an Indian.)

One Response to “1,2,3,4..”

  1. T Sekhar on September 2, 2009 5:21 am

    I have met this great personality late Shri Lakkoju Sanjeevaraya Sarma – he was my father’s close friend and used to visit our home in Hyderabad. I has learn some small mathematical shortcuts from him during my school days. He was a (blind) GENIUS!

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