That is the rationale of the proverbial phrase, Pinde Pinde Brahmande; or Yat Pinde Tat Brahmande – ‘What is found in the microcosm also exists in the macrocosm.’ Da Vinci’s iconic image also conceals a solution to an ancient mathematical problem called squaring the circle. Ancient geometers found it impossible to construct a square with the same area as a given circle, within a finite number of steps and using only a compass and a ruler.
Individually, it is easy to calculate the area of the circle: take the value for pi and multiply it by the radius squared. Similarly, to get the area of a square, you multiply it by the square of its base. But how do you take a circle with a certain area and construct a square with an exact same area? That, in essence, is the old riddle of squaring the circle. Da Vinci places the man with outstretched hands squarely in the centre of a circle as well as the middle of the square.
That explains the four-armed version of the single man: In one version, the circle touching the fingertips has been drawn, with the navel as the perfect centre of the body. In the other, the outstretched span of his arms and the height serves as a perfect measure of the square. This is an artist’s or an architect’s resolution of the problem of squaring the circle. The image also reveals Da Vinci’s deep understanding of ideal proportions. That, in turn, was based on a profound understanding of mathematics and art.
Da Vinci’s drawing also reveals an innovative interpretation of the ancient text, which is coupled with careful observation of real flesh-and-blood bodies. While imposing the circle upon the square, for instance, he correctly surmises that the square cannot have the same centre as the circle, the navel, but is somewhat lower in the anatomy.
Such insights are an intrinsic part of Da Vinci’s startling genius, one that sets him apart from countless also-ran imitators. He also departs from Vitruvius by drawing the arms raised to a position in which the fingertips are level with the top of the head, rather than Vitruvius’ much lower angle, in which the arms form lines passing through the navel.
The drawing itself has often been used as an implicit symbol of the fundamental symmetry of the human form, which by extension supposedly reflected the deeper and grander symmetry of the universe as a whole.
Various combinations of arm and leg positions of the Vitruvian Man actually create 16 different poses. Still, in the final analysis, Sage Markandeya’s model achieves a greater depth than that of the Roman scholar simply because the former’s ‘calculations were more precise and mathematical,” Jaiswal told us.
“While Vitruvius uses the length of the face as unit to measure the human body; Indian rishis used a much smaller unit – the width of an angula, a single finger.The applicability of a smaller measuring unit gave Sage Markandeya the advantage to measure smaller body parts too,” Jaiswal said.
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