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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Namagiri and the Mysticism of Ramanujan's Math



One of my greatest intrigues of Ramanujan's life (as indicated earlier when I overviewed the new film on his life) was always his claim of receiving mathematical insights, in his dreams, directly from the Hindu Goddess Namagiri. Since the movie was unsatisfactory in further fleshing out that storyline, I searched for a bit more information on the Web:

Ramanujan's parents had prayed to Namagiri to bless the family with a son prior to Ramanujan's birth. It was also Namagiri who purportedly gave permission for Ramanujan to travel to England and work with Hardy.
The brief Wikipedia page for Namagiri has just a few more details of Namagiri 'proposing mathematical formulae' to Ramanujan which he would then "have to verify."  The page offers one dream example from Ramanujan as follows:
"While asleep, I had an unusual experience. There was a red screen formed by flowing blood, as it were. I was observing it. Suddenly a hand began to write on the screen. I became all attention. That hand wrote a number of elliptic integrals. They stuck to my mind. As soon as I woke up, I committed them to writing."
Overall though, I'm surprised by how little I can find about the Namagiri/Ramanujan connection. Given the amazing volume and breadth of Ramanujan's work over his short life, and the claim that so much of it emanated from dreams involving the Hindu Goddess, I would expect there to be more fascinating stories about such.

If anyone out there does know more about the Namagiri connection, or Web links to additional info, please let us know in the comments. Or, can anyone think of any other accomplished mathematician who claimed to gain his/her knowledge in some similarly mystical way (I can't)? [I was asking this same basic question over 3 years ago when "Mathematics Rising" blog touched on the same subject.]


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