From Shampoo to gravity, India is home to numerous valuable discoveries that revolutionised the world we live in today. Over the years, our humble nation has made a significant amount of discoveries in the field of science and mathematics. But you’d be surprised to know that some of the now widely popular discoveries and inventions that sound western find their roots in ancient India. To help you get a sense of how incredible our incredible country is, we list down 15 Famous inventions and discoveries of India that have helped humanity. Check them out!
1. Cataract Surgery
A frequent but unpleasant medical condition that plagues the elderly is Cataract i.e. clouding of the eye lens. The surgery that takes care of this issue was invented by Sushruta, an Indian physician, way back in the 3rd Century. He used to perform this surgery with the help of a special tool called ‘Jabamukhi Salaka’, which looks more like a curved needle. He only recommended this procedure when absolutely necessary cause it was a risky affair back in those days. The surgery was a matter of interest to various international scientists and philosophers who used to visit India for it. China too bequeathed this procedure from India.
Champu, derived from Chapyathi (Sanskrit for knead), is a Hindi word that influenced the term shampoo. But did you know that this everyday toiletry used worldwide was originally devised by Guru Nanak in the 16th Century? He referenced the use of natural ingredients like gooseberry, soapberry, and hibiscus to wash and cleanse one’s hair. The British took the concept of shampoo from India and spread it all over the world. Shampoo definitely remains one of the most incredible discoveries of ancient India. Next time you shampoo, you know who to thank for it!
3. Plastic Surgery / Cosmetic Surgery
Hollywood and Bollywood celebs are no strangers to cosmetic surgical procedures, inspiring many to go under the knife to achieve what they weren’t gifted with naturally. But you’d be mindblown to learn that reconstructive surgical techniques were too used by Sushruta in 800 BC. During that time there was a practice of punishing criminals by deforming their faces, and it’s widely believed that this rather cruel practice led to the development and improvisation of plastic surgery techniques by Sushruta who used it to reform their mutilated faces.
4. Diamond Mining
While Marilyn Monroe may have made diamonds every girl’s best friend, not many know that these precious gems first came to be in the 4th Century, all thanks to India! Diamond mining in India dates back to some 5,000 years, way before the rest of the world. India remained the only producer of diamonds in the world up until the 18th century. Ancient Indian scriptures from the 3rd century onwards talk of a precious stone, which later came to be known as a diamond. India exported this precious form of carbon all over the world, till many years later when diamond mines were discovered in other parts of the world. It goes without saying that diamonds remain one of the most incredible (and sparkling) discoveries of ancient India.
Mathematics, though frequently loathed, plays a vital role in our lives. It’s said that even insects use math for existence. And surprisingly, math wouldn’t exist without zero. The concept of zero surfaced in the 5th century in India. Before this discovery, mathematicians couldn’t perform even the simplest of arithmetic. Zero allows one to perform a variety of mathematical functions and India is to be thanked for it. Another important fact related to zero that dates back to ancient India is the discovery of the symbol of zero (0) by Aryabhata.
Well, this one is a no-brainer as Yoga is recognised worldwide as quintessentially Indian, but the story behind it is interesting nonetheless. The practice of Yoga dates back to ancient India many a thousand years ago, and Lord Shiva is seen as the first Yogi. Yuj is the Sanskrit root of Yoga, which means unite. So, Yoga focuses on uniting the mind with the body. This practice is universally accepted and aims at overcoming all kinds of suffering, physical and mental. Yoga is often considered a substitute to work-out and stays one of the most incredible and most popular discoveries of India.
Who discovered gravity? No! It wasn’t Newton. It was Aryabhata who uncovered the idea of gravity and then came Newton who invented the Laws of Gravity. Aryabhata explained why objects do not fall when the earth rotates and developed a model of the solar system, explaining why the planets spin on their axis. Bet you didn’t know that!
Another significant discovery of India is of a measuring Ruler, or what is often referred to as scale. Rulers may seem ordinary but they are a great deal important for engineering and geometry to measure distances and rule straight lines. The use of rulers dates back to 1,500 BC, and it was the people of the Indus Valley civilisation that devised this tool. The rulers of ancient times were made of ivory and had decimal subdivisions of them.
9. Wireless Communication
A day without WIFI is a day of pure agony. But not many know that WIFI wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the discovery of radio waves. Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose, a renowned Indian scientist, discovered the idea of using radio waves for telegraphy in 1909. Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose was responsible for many scientific teachings and received a lot of recognition for his inventions. The finding of radio waves for communication revolutionised how we communicate today and unquestionably is one of the most incredible discoveries of India.
10. Cotton Cultivation
There’s nothing really that matches the warmth of a loose fitting cotton t-shirt during the scorching heat of the typical Indian summers. Well, you’d be surprised to know that Indians were also one of the earliest cultivators of cotton. In the latest archeological finds in Mehrgarh (now in Pakistan) it was found that early cotton Cultivation in the subcontinent dates back to 5000 BCE. The Indus Valley civilization started to cultivate cotton in 3000 BCE.
11. Decimal System
As much as we hate maths, turns out, our ancestors in India taught the rest of the world how to count. The Hindu numeral system is a positional decimal numeral system and is now the most common symbolic representation of numbers in the world. The system was developed between the 1st and 4th centuries by Indian Mathematicians and was adopted by Arabs by the 9th century (which is why it’s also called the Hindu-Arabic numeral system.)
12. Binary Code
Do you love wasting your day away surfing the web as much as we do? If yes, you have the Indian scholar named Pingala to thank. Back in the 2nd century BC, Pingala developed a binary system to describe Prosody (the study of metre in poetry). He used binary numbers in terms of short and long syllables, known as laghu (light) and guru (heavy) respectively.
13. Fibonacci numbers
Even though widely credited to the Italian mathematician named Fibonacci, Fibonacci numbers were described way earlier by an Indian scholar. Pingala, who was active during 2/3 BCE, described the Fibonacci sequence in his work as matrameru.
Most ancient civilizations and cultures developed their own versions of ink independently. In South India, much was written with a needle dipped in ink. Many Jain and Buddhist Sutras have been compiled and written in ink.
15. Fiber Optics
The fast internet has made things better for all of us. We can now stream our favourite shows online, watch our favourite content makers on the various social media platforms, even learn new skills like cooking and playing a new instrument! And for that, we have of course many inventors, engineers and scientists to thank for. When it comes to fiber optics, a technology that delivers super-fast internet to your home, we have to thank Narinder Singh Kapany. He is known as the “father of fiber optics.” He was even covered as one of the seven “Unsung heroes” by Fortune magazine.
Bet you are awestruck by this list. What do you’ve to say about these famous inventions and discoveries of India? Have we missed out on any notable work? Do let us know in the comments below!