You would be surprised if we were to tell you that back in high school, we were taught only a very small part of Indian history. India, one of the oldest and richest civilisations in the world has a history and a list of accolades to its name that could not be contained in any books, and is certainly so much more than dynasties and the royals. From medicine to fashion, the nation has contributed to furthering many fields that have made life easier, globally.
While there is a long and winding list of inventions that India has contributed to the world, the following are some of the inventions that give us the right to give our collective selves a pat on the back.
I. Diamond Mining and Tools
If you take a look at portraits of our historic royalty, the love that our country has for diamonds will be made apparent. The Koh-i-Noor diamond, one of the largest cut diamond is of Indian origin. Dating back to antiquity, diamond mining has been a part of India and was the only source of the diamond until the 1700s. This is not to say, however, that reliable evidence of the mining tools being innovated in India has been found as yet. If not for the diamond mining industry that began between 800-600 BCE in the nation, the world would have been a much different place.
II. Ludo, Snake and Ladder
I am not sure if this invention qualifies as something that changed the world but my editor insists that it is a part of the article. However, there is no doubt that ludo and snakes & ladders have been our companions during several boring train journeys, and hangout sessions with friends and family. Ludo, one of the most popular board games in the world was invented in medieval India. It is the modern-day rendition of Pachisi, a game whose history can be traced back to the 16th century and was a favourite of Mughal emperors, especially Akbar. A more serious and philosophical game called Gyan Chaupar was the inspiration behind Snakes and Ladders. Originally, this game was more than just a quest to get to the top, but rather a spiritual quest for liberation from variances of Karma.
While the history of these games goes way back, they still continue to be one of the most loved board games to this day. The Coronavirus-induced lockdown has only solidified this fact. Even with Mini Militia and PUBG as competitions for them, the mobile versions of these games continue to be popular.
III. Sewage & Drainage System
There is no invention more vital than the modern sewage system. In Mohenjodaro (now in Sindh, Pakistan), back in c. 2800 BCE, sewage systems built into the outer walls of homes were a common fixture. Featuring a sophisticated sewage system that could clear out the waste, the Indus Valley city of Lothal also had water-based cleansing systems in 2350 BCE, while the rest of the world was still using a system that was much more primitive. This system was one of the major bases for the development of the toilets that makes our daily lives much easier.
An integral part of Indian History, cotton agriculture and processing has shaped India. Its history can be traced back to the 4th millennium BCE. Cotton fabrics were discovered during the excavation of a Mohenjodaro site. The presence of Cotton fabric in India was mentioned across many texts. From Hindu Hymns in 1500 BCE to the writings of Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BCE, cotton was mentioned as a miracle fabric. This production spread to Arabian countries and the rest of the world. But the vivid prints of Indian cotton fabrics, still continue to be world-famous.
The little fasteners that literally hold us together are one of the most indispensable things in our lives. While they are considered more functional rather than ornamental these days, buttons began as sartorial flourishes spotted on clothes in Mohenjodaro circa 2800-2600 BCE. Made of shells and stones, this Indus Valley invention slowly made its way to other nations.
While the Babylonians and Egyptians were first to approximate the value of Pi, Indian mathematicians calculated its further decimal points. Even though our ancestors did not call it ‘Pi’, they were amongst the first ones to observe the fact that the perimeter of a circle increases in proportion to its diameter. Aryabhatta, in 476AD, approximated the value of Pi accurately to four decimal places and then Madhava in 1340AD calculated this to eleven decimal places.
One of the most brilliant modern mathematicians, Srinavasa Ramanujan, who even has a museum dedicated to him in India, created a unique formula to calculate the value of Pi up to 18 decimal places.
VII. Fibonacci Series
One of the most important mathematical formulas, the Fibonacci sequence has a history in Indian mathematics that can be dated back to 450-200 BC. The sequence, which is called ‘nature’s secret code,’ was used in everything from Sanskrit Poetic tradition to the Natya Shastra, it can also be used to make sense of everything from the Great Pyramid of Ghiza to the spirals on a Romanesco Broccoli. Outside the Hindu-Arabic numeric system, the sequence was only mentioned starting in 1202, by Fibonacci.
VII. USB (Universal Serial Bus)
Yes, everyone's talking about cloud storage these days but only 90s kids will remember the massive jump from CDs to USB. It completely revolutionized data storage and transference owing to its convenient design and function. "Plug and play" — that's what we used to say when a friend would bring the latest PC game loaded onto their pen drive. The USB standard was developed by Ajay Bhatt, an Indian-American computer architect, during his time at Intel Corporation. Bhatt played a pivotal role in the creation of the USB 1.0 specification, which was released in 1996.
USB not only changed the idea of data transference but also the intrinsic way devices are connected to computers, providing a universal and versatile method for connecting peripherals such as keyboards, mice, printers and more. The USB standard's widespread adoption simplified the user experience by eliminating the need for multiple specialized connectors and facilitated the development of a wide range of devices that can easily connect to computers and other host systems. Hats off to Ajay Bhatt from all the geeks around the world for such an innovative invention.
Yoga, the holy grail connecting white people to our country, originated in ancient India. Jokes aside, it is a holistic practice that encompasses physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines. The practice of yoga involves various postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation, all aimed at promoting physical health, mental well-being, and spiritual growth. The ancient Indian sage Patanjali is credited with compiling the Yoga Sutras, a foundational text that outlines the philosophy and practices of yoga. Over time, yoga evolved into a globally recognized form of exercise and self-care, with millions of practitioners worldwide. Its impact on the world is profound, as it offers a means of promoting physical fitness, stress reduction, and mental clarity.
Writing this reminds me that I have to wash my hair. I blame winters — It gives you to the perfect excuse not to bathe daily. But I'm sure you agree with me about how light-weight, breezy, smooth and shiny your hair feels after a good shampoo. Well, you can thank the good folks of ancient India for that as well.
The word 'shampoo' itself is derived from the Sanskrit word 'champu', which means to massage or knead. In ancient India, people used a combination of herbs and natural ingredients to cleanse and beautify their hair. These early forms of shampoo were typically made from a variety of plant extracts, such as amla, reetha, and shikakai, which were known for their cleansing and nourishing properties. The traditional method of hair cleansing involved massaging these herbal pastes into the scalp and rinsing them out with water from local rivers or streams. Over time, this practice evolved and spread to other parts of the world, eventually leading to the development of the modern liquid shampoo that we use today.
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