Being one of the oldest civilisations in the world, complete with a rich history and culture as well as a strong and long scientific and technological tradition, it comes as no surprise that many significant inventions have come out of India. Here is a look at 11 of the finest creations.
The biggest and the most important contribution to the history of mathematics was ‘Zero’, which is literally nothing, but without it, there would have been no binary system and subsequently, no computers. And who gave the world this numeral? All thanks need to go to the man of numerous mathematical and astronomical talents, Aryabhata. Indians were the first one to use ‘Zero’ as a symbol and in mathematical operations, such as addition, subtraction, etc.
If you’ve ever undergone Ayurvedic therapy, you’ve got to thank India for it or more precisely, the Father of Medicine, Charaka, who was one of the prime contributors to Ayurveda. ‘Ayurveda’ means ‘science of life’; it is a traditional school of medicine, invented and practised in India for over 5,000 years, and helps people attain good health and living, without the use of prescription drugs. This ancient system of medicine has persisted even in the 21st century, and in recent years, it has gained popularity across the world as a complementary and alternative medicine.
A man with many accolades under his belt, Ajay V. Bhatt (an Indian-American computer architect) made the USB, a little removable storage device that is capable of holding a large chunk of data storage and transfer. Plus, it’s easy to carry and use.
That’s right – you have India to thank for board games, such as the classic ‘Chess’ and ‘Snakes and Ladders’. Chess is the game of intellectuals, and it originated as ‘Ashtapada’ during the Gupta period around the 6th century AD. Gyandev, a 13th-century poet, invented ‘Snakes and Ladders’, originally known as ‘Mokshapat’. The snakes represent vices, while ladders denote virtues. During the British rule in India, this ancient Indian game made its way to England and later to the USA.
A significant contribution in the field of healthy living, India introduced the world to yoga, discovered and practised in the country since ancient times, with origins tracing back to Lord Shiva (also known as Adi Yoga), the first yoga guru. Today, people practise this spiritual, physical and mental exercise across the world on a daily basis for healthy living. Moreover, the world celebrates ‘International Yoga Day’ on June 21st every year, and the man responsible for this day is none other than India Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, who initiated the concept of practising yoga and celebrating it as Yoga Day.
Yes, you have India to thank for shampoo, invented in 1762 in the eastern parts of the Mughal Empire and used as a ‘head massage’, comprising of natural oils and herbs. The English word ‘shampoo’ derives its name from the Hindi word ‘chāmpo’, which comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Chapayati’, meaning massage or knead.
This invention revolutionised the way we communicate. While historians credit Guglielmo Marconi with inventing the wireless radio communication, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose was actually the first person who demonstrated the use of radio waves for communication publicly back in 1895, exactly two years before Marconi gave a similar demo in England. In other words, Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose invented wireless communication technology, which enables people to communicate quickly and transmit information over a distance without the need for electrical conductors, wires or cables.
You will be surprised to learn that buttons also come from India. Yes, it’s true! The origins of buttons trace back to the Indus Valley Civilisation in 2000 BCE. Some 5,000 years ago, they were made out of seashells and formed into geometric shapes with tiny holes bored into them. In the past, they were used for ornamental purposes, but gradually, people started to use them for fastening clothes.
India has been contributing substantially to the field of medicine for centuries. Indians first identified and cured leprosy by using ancient remedies mentioned in the Atharva Veda (1500–1200 BCE), though its inventor’s name remains unknown. Lithiasis refers to the formation of stones in the body, and India was the first to treat this disease in a treatment described in the Sushruta Samhita (6th century BCE), a textbook on ancient surgery.
This one is another breakthrough in the field of medicine. For cataract surgery, the world can thank Sushruta, an Indian physician who developed this operation in the 3rd century CE. He was also the main contributor to the Sushruta Samhita. He performed this surgery using a curved needle (called Jabamukhi Salaka) that loosened the lens and then pushed the cataract into the back of the eye. The surgeon used warm butter to soak the eyes and then placed bandages on them until they were healed. This method was successful; however, Sushruta advised everyone to perform this surgery only when necessary. Eventually, this operation was later extended to the West and across the world. While it may seem unbelievable, it’s true!
The products made from natural fibres, such as jute, cotton and wool, all have their origins in India. The finest wool – cashmere wool – came from the Kashmir region of India and was used for making woollen shawls. The country also pioneered jute and cotton cultivation. The inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilisation grew cotton during the 5th millennium–4th millennium BCE and converted the cotton into threads, which were later used in fabrics. Also, since ancient times, India has been growing jute (a plant fibre) and exporting raw jute to the West.