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The 20 most clever inventions made by Indians, that most Indians do not know about!

India has been the cradle of civilization since times immemorial. When humans from the rest of the world were still hunters and nomads, our sages and Rishis had made startling discoveries in various fields including science, medicine, astronomy etc. What Europeans ‘discovered’ was already a part of Hindu scriptures. It is now known that Aryabhatta discovered zero and the numeral system is use isn’t Arabic but Indian which was carried to Europe by Arab traders. However, there are numerous other inventions and discoveries which we ourselves don’t know were made by our ancestors. Here are a few such inventions which not many know were made by Indians

1) Buttons: Those simple embellishments we use on our garments, from shirts to tops, was, believe me or not, was used by people belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization as early as 2000 BCE. Archaeological remnants from Mohenjo-Daro have attested this fact. Although their exact purpose isn’t known they were probably used more as an ornamental piece. Such buttons were made out of terracotta and semi-precious stones.

2) Chess: The precursor to chess and other similar board games was the Indian board game ‘Chaturanga’ developed during the Gupta Empire in 6th Century AD. It travelled to medieval Europe through Sassanid Persia. Chaturanga is a combination of Chatur meaning four and Anga meaning parts; used in reference to the four divisions of the army. Mention of the game is found in Banabhatta’s Harsha Charitha (circa 625 AD).

3) Pre-fabricated home and moveable structure: Earliest prefabricated homes and movable structures were an invention of Mughal India. Such architectural structures were erected during Akbar’s time in the 16th century.

4) Ruler: This simple device that we use in our everyday life was in use even before 1500 BCE. Excavations threw up ivory rulers/scales with a precision of decimal subdivisions that is hard to believe. But it shouldn’t actually come as a surprise considering that ancient Rishis knew mathematics so accurately.

5) Shampoo: This one may be a surprise element in here. Nawabs of Bengal were said to use them as head massage oil around 1762. It was this that later evolved into shampoo. In fact the word Shampoo is derived from ‘Champo’, an indigenous term for head massages.

6) Snakes and ladders: Ancient Indians used folklores, tales and games to impart lessons of morality. It was known as Vaikunta Pali, a game of morality where every good deed earned a forward move and a bad move brought one down. British took it with them to England and from there American game pioneer Milton Bradley introduced it in USA in 1943.

7) Cotton cultivation: This again takes us to the cradle of civilization that is the banks of the Indus and Sarasvati. This is where cotton was first cultivated as early as 5th-4th millennium BCE. Indian cotton fetched a premium and was shipped far and wide including the Mediterranean and beyond.

8) Fibonacci numbers: It is an integer sequence which was first described by Virahanka circa 700 AD. Other ancient mathematicians who detailed this sequence were Gopala (1135) and Hemachandra (1150). All of these scholars were, however, improving on the works of Pingala (200 BC) on Sanskrit prosody.

9) Decimal system, Quadratic formula and Zero: As I mentioned earlier, mathematics has been the forte of Indian scholars and seers since ancient times. One of the foremost mathematicians of ancient India was Brahmagupta (598-668 CE). Brahmagupta formula known as Quadratic formula, matrix and theorem are popular mathematical discoveries made by the great scholar. Besides this decimal mark was also derived from decimal system used in Indian mathematics.

10) Suits game: Indians have a special affinity for sports and games, be it indoor or outdoor. This card game has its origins here and was known as Krida-patram in India.

11) Cataract surgery: It is not for nothing that Susruta, who lived around 600 BCE, is known as ‘the father of surgery’. He has detailed several accounts of surgery in his work Susruta Samhita. He knew how to perform cataract surgery and this knowledge was passed on to the Chinese and Greeks who came here to learn the art of performing surgeries.

12) Diamond mining: Among the many arts and sciences that ancient Indians knew metallurgy and ore extraction was one. About 5000 years ago diamond fields were identified and mined in Central India. Much before diamond mines were discovered in Brazil, India was the sole global supplier of diamonds.

13) Water on moon: The credit of discovering lunar water goes to ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1, India’s first mission to the moon.

14) Radio/Wireless communication: Although Marconi was awarded Nobel Prize in 1909 for contributing to the developement of wireless telegraphy, it was Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose who made the first public demonstration of radio waves for communication in 1895, couple of years before Marconi. Recognition came to Sir Bose much later, a century after his death to be precise. However, nothing can take away the fact that it was Bose who shaped modern wireless communication.

15) Flush toilets: Would you believe that flush toilets were first used by people of Indus Valley civilization? They not only had an advanced sewage system but were proficient in hydraulic engineering as well. Each house had its own toilet which was connected to a sophisticated sewage mechanism.

16) Binary codes: It was Indian scholar Pingala (circa 200 BC) who first described binary numbers.

17) Steel and metal works:  As mentioned earlier, Indians had a comprehensive knowledge of metallurgy. Much before the West, Indians produced high quality steel. The distinction of producing a seamless celestial globe goes to ancient Indians.

18) Ink: Ink made using carbon pigment, known as Musi, was prevalent in ancient India. Besides sharp needles were the favour instruments of writing since 4th century BC, particularly in South India.

19) Fiber optics: One of India’s less celebrated inventor is Dr. Narinder Singh Kapany who has been given the epithet ‘Father of Fiber Optics’ because it was he who pioneered the fiber optics technology.

20) Plastic surgery: As already mentioned Indian physician Susruta was a pioneer in surgeries. But did you plastic surgery was done in our country much before him that is around 2000 BCE?

There is much to be proud about our country but is even more essential that we take inspiration from our ancestors and let our creativity do the talking. Let’s conquer the world….AGAIN!!!


Latha Iyer**

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