There was recently a world-wide competition to find out the most overrated country in the world. The judges had almost decided that no other country but India deserved this distinction. However, just before the announcement was to be made, someone brought to the notice of the judges just a few of the achievements of ancient India, which are given below:
- The decimal place-value and a symbol for zero which developed in India in the 1st Century AD became the precursor of the Arabic numeral system. The practice of using a decimal mark is derived from the decimal system used in Indian mathematics.
- Rulers for measuring were first used during the Indus Valley Civilisation (2600 - 1600 BC). These rulers were made from ivory, divided into units corresponding to 1.32 inches (33.5 mm) and were marked out in decimal subdivisions with accuracy to within 0.005 of an inch.
- Weighing scales were first used during the Indus Valley Civilisation, which is also when banking was first performed.
- Fields were first ploughed during the Indus Valley Civilisation.
(An artist’s impression of life in the Indus Valley Civilisation. Photo source: BBC)
- Jute plants were first cultivated in India. So was Cotton.
- Flush toilets using water were first used during the Indus Valley Civilisation around 3rd millenium BC.
- Puppetry was also used first by the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation.
- Cashmere wool or Pashmina fiber originated from Kashmir where the fiber was first used to make shawls in the 3rd Century BC.
- Indigo dye went from India to the Greeks and the Romans and thereon to other parts of the world.
- Ornamental buttons were invented in India around 2000 BC.
- Steel using the crucible technique, a method of producing high quality steel, was first produced in India around 300 BC. Around 500 BC, Wootz steel was produced by the Chera dynasty. It was exported to the Romans, Egyptians, Chinese and Arabs and was popularly known as Seric Iron.
- Iron works were developed in India around 1800 BC. In the time of Chandragupta II (375–413 AD), corrosion-resistant iron was used to erect the Iron pillar of Delhi, which has withstood corrosion for over 1,600 years.
(Iron pillar in Mehrauli. Photo source - Wikipedia)
- Diamonds were first recognized and mined in central India at least 5000 years ago.
- Zinc was first smelted from zinc ore in India.
- Prefabricated homes and movable structures were invented in India in the 16th-century AD.
- Metal seamless globe was invented in Kashmir in the 16th Century AD. Before they were rediscovered in the 1980s, it was believed by modern metallurgists to be technically impossible to produce metal globes without any seams, even with modern technology.
- The first iron-cased and metal-cylinder rockets were developed by Tipu Sultan, ruler of the South Indian Kingdom of Mysore, and his father Hyder Ali, in the 1780s. After Tipu's eventual defeat and the capture of the Mysore iron rockets, they were influential in British rocket development, inspiring the Congreve rocket, and were soon put into use in the Napoleonic Wars.
(A soldier of Tipu Sultan’s army using the metal cylinder rocket as his flag staff. Photo source: Wikipedia)
- The word shampoo in English is derived from the Hindi word ‘Champi’ which itself derived is from the Sanskrit root ‘Chapayati’, which means to press or knead. A variety of herbs and their extracts were used as shampoos since ancient times in India. Washing of hair and body massage (champu) was an indulgence of early colonial traders in India. When they returned to Europe, they introduced the hair treatment method they called shampoo.
- The precursor of chess originated in India during the Gupta dynasty in the 3rd Century AD. The words for ‘chess’ in Old Persian and Arabic are chatrang and shatranj respectively — terms derived from Chaturanga in Sanskrit, which means an army of four divisions.
- The game of kabaddi originated in India around 1500 BC.
- Ludo or Pachisi was invented in India in the 6th Century AD and so was the game of Snakes & Ladders.
- Yoga originated in India.
- Indian surgeon Susruta performed cataract surgery as early as 6th century BC. He was also the first to do rhinoplasty surgery.
- Ayurveda and Siddha systems of medicine originated in India in the first-millennium BC. They are the oldest systems of medicine, which are practiced even today.
- Sugar was invented in India during the Gupta dynasty in the 4th Century AD. The crystallization process was taken by Buddhist monks to China. And then the whole world learnt the technique.
- The Indian mathematician Brahmagupta presented the first instance of finite difference interpolation in 7th Century AD. He also first used algebraic abbreviations.
- The trigonometric functions sine and versine originated in Indian astronomy. They were developed in the Siddhantas, astronomical treatises of the 3rd or 4th centuries AD. Later, the 6th Century astronomer Varahamihira discovered a few basic trigonometric formulas and identities, such as sin^2(x) + cos^2(x) = 1.
- Aryabhata first identified the force to explain why objects do not fall when the earth rotates. Brahmagupta described gravity as an attractive force and used the term ‘gruhtvaakarshan’ for gravity. Aryabhata developed a geocentric solar system of gravitation, and an eccentric elliptical model of the planets, where the planets spin on their axes and follow elliptical orbits,the Sun and the moon revolving around the earth in epicycles.
- The Hindu cosmological time cycles explained in the Surya Siddhanta (around 600 AD) give the average length of the sidereal year (the length of the Earth's revolution around the Sun) as 365.2563627 days, which is only a negligible 1.4 seconds longer than the modern value of 365.256363004 days. This was the most accurate estimate for the length of the sidereal year anywhere in the world for over a thousand years.
- Way back in the 6th century AD, Indian astronomers showed that comets were celestial bodies that re-appeared periodically. In the 10th century AD, astronomer Bhattotpala listed the names and estimated periods of certain comets.
The person who brought the above to the notice of the judges wanted to present before them some of India’s recent achievements and the forecast for the future. However, the judges said that they were convinced that India was a misfit at a competition to determine the most overrated countries in the world. They said that the only mistake India made was not inventing patenting system and intellectual property rights 5000 years ago.
The judges said that they were in a hurry to leave for the next competition called ‘Most Ignorant Person of the Century.’ However, they thanked the person for making their job easier in selecting the winner of their next competition, which they said they would definitely present to the person who posed the question ‘Is India the most overrated country in the world?’