The inventions in ancient India

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Anupama Nair


What is the difference between us humans and other creatures? The answer is simple – the power of thinking. If we didn’t, we would have been still like the early men and lived in caves still. There would have been no inventions and our lives would have been different. I am going to talk about inventions that changed human lives and made our lives simpler and easy to live

The first major discovery was fire. When humans, first used fire, is still not definitively known, but, like the first tools, it was probably invented by an ancestor of Homo Sapiens (man) as the evidence of burnt material can be found in caves used by Homo Eructus or ‘upright man’ around one million or maybe even one and half million years ago. However, the invention of fire helped men to stop eating raw food and instead, cook it and also keep warm during cold days and nights. Nearly lakhs of years ago, Hominid activity was excavated in the Indian subcontinent and goes back to over 250,000 years, and we can proudly say, “one of the oldest inhabited regions on the planet”.

However, unfortunately, the West overlooked our greatness and only writes about the greatness of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman or Mesopotamian civilization, even though our Indus Valley Civilization is older and greater than any of these. India also has a long history of sericulture. The archaeological discoveries in Harappa and Mohenjodaro suggest that sericulture, using wild threads from native silk-room species, existed in India between 2450 BC and 2000 BC, and the Indus silks were obtained from more than one species. The fibers discovered were dated to around 2450–2000 BC and were processed using similar techniques as found in China

According to historians, the Indus Valley Civilization had revealed the evidence of dentistry being practiced as far back as 7000 BC. One site in Mehrgarh (modern day Pakistan) even showed evidence of healers curing tooth disorders with bow drills. Incredible isn’t it. Another feature of the Indus Valley Civilization was the use of water-flushed toilets. Both in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, almost every home had a flush toilet, connected to a sophisticated sewage system. Areas of the Indus Valley Civilization in both Pakistan and Western India have had rulers or scales of ivory uncovered from ruins. One such specimen was even calibrated to 1/16 of an inch—less than 2 millimeters. These kinds of rulers were clearly very prominent, as even bricks of the valley’s buildings were found to follow the same measurements. The earliest existence of weighing scales also dates back to the Indus valley civilization, where balances were used to compare measure and compare goods in trade.

The Indian subcontinent was the birth place of Ayurveda and Yoga, around 5000 BC. The therapies generally include complex herbal compounds, minerals and metal substances. Indian physicians were known to practice a different kind of cataract surgery than that was known to the Greeks. It was performed with a tool called the Jabamukhi Salaka, a curved needle used to loosen the lens and push the cataract out of the field of vision. Greek scientists of the time travelled to India to see these surgeries, and the technique was even introduced into China from India.

The world’s first university was established in Takshashila in 700 BC. It is estimated that more than ten thousand students from all over world studied more than sixty subjects. The University of Nalanda was built in the 400 BC. The Chinese scholar Hiuen Tsang studied in Nalanda and his writings tell us about the greatness of the University. Unfortunately, the University was burnt by Bakhtiyar Khilji. What a great loss to the world

Written evidence of martial arts in Southern India dates back to 2nd century BC to 2nd century AD. Kalarippayattu was Indian martial arts system developed in ancient Kerala. It is still very popular. For all its importance, it may surprise you to learn that zero is a relatively recent concept in human history, though it still has its roots in ancient times. The more complete vision of zero didn’t emerge until the 7th century in India, when the Hindu astronomer Brahmagupta wrote rules for using zero in mathematical operations and equations, introducing the concept that zero could be seen as a number of its own.

We Indians need to be proud of our culture and if you read most of the ancient inventions originated in India. In the next part I will talk about in the Middle Ages, and the Modern World


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