Discovery of India

Filed on August 18, 2020

"..India has sent to the West such gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all, numerals and the decimal system. She was the mother of our philosophy.. of much of our mathematics.. of the ideals embodied in Christianity.. of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all." Will Durant, American author

India is one of the oldest civilisations in the world, resplendent with a rich history and culture as well as a strong and long scientific and technological tradition. It should therefore come as no surprise that many significant inventions have come out of India. Also, many nations have been influenced by the rich heritage that the nation has openly shown the world. Although the list is exhaustive, let's take a look at some of her famous exports to the world.

First university

As early as 700 BC, there existed a giant University at Takshashila, located in the northwest region of India. It had 300 lecture halls, laboratories, a library and a towering observatory for astronomical research.


Although Babylonians used zero to signify the 'absent', Indians were the first to use the zero as a symbol and in arithmetic operations.



A significant contribution in the field of healthy living, India introduced the world to yoga, which was discovered and practised in the country since ancient times, with origins tracing back to Adi Yoga, the first yoga guru. Today, people practice 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 21 every year, and the man responsible for this day is none other than India Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who initiated the concept.


Board games

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 US.



The origins of buttons trace back to the Indus Valley Civilisation in 2000 BC. 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.


Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine which dates back to Iron Age India (1 BCE) and is still practised today as a form of complementary and alternative medicine.



Shampoo was 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 champo, which comes from the Sanskrit word, Chapayati, meaning massage or knead.


New religions

Jainism has historically been largely confined to India, whereas Buddhism originated in India, but subsequently flourished and developed several branches in other Asian countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Japan and China. Today, Buddhism is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers. Over seven per cent of the global population are known as Buddhists.

Cataract surgery

In India, cataract surgery was performed with a curved needle used to loosen the lens and push the cataract out of the field of vision. The eye would later be soaked with warm butter and then bandaged.

Flush toilets

It's only after one's been camping and had to venture deep into the woods to further acquaint oneself with nature, that one truly appreciates the necessity of a flush toilet. Archaeological evidence has shown that the idea of a flushing toilet was pioneered by the Indus Valley Civilisation (ca. 3,300 - ca. 1,300 BCE). The Bronze Age civilisation settled in modern day Kashmir, where innovative reservoirs and sewage systems connected to individual houses were discovered.


Indigo dye

Indigo, a blue pigment and a dye used in India, is the earliest major centre for its production and processing. The Indigofera tinctoria variety of Indigo was domesticated in India. Indigo made its way to the Greeks and Romans via various trade routes, and was valued as a luxury product.

The USB (Universal Serial Bus)

A man with many accolades under his belt, Ajay V. Bhatt, an Indian-American computer architect, made the USB - a little portable device that is capable of storing a large chunk of data and hosting transfers.

Wireless communication

This invention revolutionised the way we communicate. While historians credit England's Guglielmo Marconi with inventing the wireless radio communication, Jagadish Chandra Bose was actually the first to demonstrate the use of radio waves for communication publicly back in 1895, exactly two years before Marconi.


Natural fibres

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 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 - 4th BCE and converted the cotton into threads, which were later used in fabrics. Since ancient times, India has been growing jute and exporting its raw form to the West.


Fibre optics

Can you imagine a world where you couldn't look at cute videos of cats or find the latest viral videos in your e-mail inbox? Apart from being enabled by fibre optics, the invention use extends beyond the web and into transport, telephone communication and the medical world. Narinder Kapany, a physicist and entrepreneur born in Moga, Punjab, is widely credited as the 'father of fibre optics'.


Crystallised sugar

The process of producing crystallised sugar from sugarcane was discovered at the time of Imperial Guptas, and the earliest reference of candied sugar comes from India. The process was soon transmitted to China with travelling Buddhist monks. Chinese documents confirm two missions to India for obtaining technology for sugar-refining.

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