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Fifteen Indian Inventions and Discoveries

That Shaped the Modern World - Part 1 of 3

Fifteen Indian Inventions and Discoveries



According to the celebrated American author of The Story of Civilization, Will Durant, “It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier, 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.

India was the mother of our race and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages. She was the mother of our philosophy, mother through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics, mother through Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity, mother through village communities of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.

Despite India’s extraordinary civilisational achievements being well documented by respected Western scholars, accurate knowledge of the country’s history has seldom entered the public domain, most especially in Britain.

This  article, the first in a new series about an India that many of us know little about, lists the first four of fifteen ground-breaking contributions that India has made to the lives that all of us lead today in Britain, and around the world.

..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

indian numbers1. The Indian/Hindu Numeral System:

Few people are aware that the numbers that we all use today are an Indian invention. Often referred to as Arabic numerals, after the Arab traders who brought Indian mathematical concepts to the West, this path-breaking Indian invention replaced the cumbersome Roman numeral system in use in the West until then, and stands as one of the greatest human inventions of all time.

We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.  ~ Albert Einstein

The ingenious Indian system succeeded where the efforts of other great civilisations failed, and today underpins the foundation of modern mathematics and its infinite uses in our day-to-day lives.

Beyond the numeral system itself, a number of other critical mathematical principles also have their routes in India, whose scientific texts and discoveries were regularly studied by foreign scholars, from Greek philosophers to Arab mathematicians, and from British inventors to Nazi and Cold War era rocket and nuclear scientists.

Nearly all the philosophical and mathematical doctrines attributed to Pythagoras are derived from India.  ~ Ludwig von Shroeder

steel2. Carburised Steel:

Ancient Indians were known pioneers in metallurgy, and had mastered the production of high quality steel more than two thousand years before the process was finally demystified (including through the scientific investigations of Michael Faraday) in Britain and Europe. The legendary Indian Wootz Steel was a source of astonishment to other great civilisations from Ancient Greece to Persia, and from Arabia to Ancient Rome. It was so advanced and prized that it was selected by King Porus as a gift over the gold and silver also offered to him by Alexander the Great.




The ancient Indian technique of making high quality steel today forms the basis of modern steel production for everything from the vehicles we travel in, to the cutlery we eat with. Barely seven decades after independence, India has again become a world leader in metallurgy and high quality steel production.

Ved_Vayas3. Contributions to Western Philosophy:

Historians are well aware that the Ancient Greeks and Romans were infatuated with India, just as our forefathers in Britain were during the early modern era. As much as the Ancient Greeks marvelled over Indian technology, town planning and state craft, they also actively sought new ideas and thoughts from India’s Vedic scriptures and philosophers, as well as by learning at ancient Indian universities such as Taxila and Nalanda.

Many scholars have pointed to significant Indian contributions to Ancient Greek philosophy, often portrayed as the foundation of human – and certainly Western – philosophy. In a thorough recent analysis in The Shape of Ancient Thought, American scholar Thomas McEvilley also details how Indian philosophy directly influenced key facets of pre-Socratic Greek philosophy.

“Is it not probable that the Brahmins were the first legislators of the earth, the first philosophers, the first theologians ? The Greeks, before the time of Pythagoras, travelled into India for instruction.”
~ Voltaire.

Weaver_in_India4. Clothing the world:

Another revolutionary Indian contribution was the development, production and use of cotton textiles for clothing. The Ancient Greeks were initially not even familiar with cotton, instead often wearing animal skins until the wars of Alexander the Great, during which they discovered and started using Indian garments, which essentially clothe all of us today.

Hundreds of years before the Christian era, cotton textiles were woven in India with matchless skill, and their use spread to the Mediterranean countries.
~ The Columbia Encyclopaedia

For us in Britain, it is important to be aware that one of the pillars of our wealth as a modern nation, and a foundation of our industrial revolution, was directly derived from knowledge and experience of high quality textiles production and trade gained in India, as well as what many economic historians argue was the deliberate dismantling of India’s pioneering textiles industry. In his book The Political Economy of Imperialism, Dan Nadudere states that “It was by destroying the Indian textile industry that the British textile industry ever came up at all.”

In next article, I will highlight five further remarkable but mostly unknown Indian discoveries that are central to our daily lives. For a broader understanding of an India that few of us are aware of, I would recommend watching the brilliant British historian Michael Wood’s The Story of India, previously broadcast by the BBC in Britain and via PBS in the United States.

If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India.
~ Max Mueller

~ Abhaey Singh

Part 2 at:  15 Indian Inventions & Discoveries 

Part 3 at:  15 Indian Inventions & Discoveries

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17 Responses to "Fifteen Indian Inventions and Discoveries"

  1. Thomas  May 3, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    No idea when our politicians will sell india….

    Reply
  2. Supreeth Shekar  June 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    Million Thanks to the people behind sanskriti magazine. Great job. Yearning for more articles.

    Reply
  3. reya  July 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    I don’t know who all are working to prepare such great articles with a brillient thought but I appreciate the work of the Sanskriti Team and thank them for this wonderful job.
    sheer respect to you all.

    Reply
    • Sanskriti  July 15, 2014 at 10:31 pm

      Thank you for the compliments, Reya.

      Reply
  4. mukesh purohit  December 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I am reading almost all the articles published on Sanskrit magazine website and I wants give you big thanks for sharing this great knowledge with us. Keep it up guys.

    Reply
  5. nagms1956@gmail.com  December 31, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    I am proud to be a Hindu and that is what my parents have thought me and I will always be proud of my culture and heritage, of my country and countrymen. It does not mean we hate others. May knowledge come all directions is every Hindus motto, I believe.

    Reply
  6. sanjay  January 2, 2015 at 5:12 am

    It is commendable that so much efforts are being put in to enlighten the Indians about the great heritage they own. Thanks dear fellows for the great work you have started,

    Reply
  7. Om Prakash Sharma  February 13, 2015 at 11:03 am

    I know I will be an odd man out when every one is here appreciating the efforts put by Sanskriti team in bringing out the truth about Hindus. I very much too appreciate in bringing out these incredible facts to the Hindus who have for one reason or the other did know these.As a boy I was fortunate to be infuenced by my grand maternal father ( Nana) who though was not a priest or teacher but had great and the most modern thoughts about Hinduism and people used to listen to him with rapt attention. And over a period of time when I grew up while studying science I continued reading great Hindu literay personalities, books like Geeta and Ramayana I came to know most of these things.But I get stuck with one strange thing about Hindus. Why did we cede ground to the invaders when we had such great warriors like Lord Rama, Chandra Gupt and Ashoka the great and also great preachers like Lord Krishna and Chankya who preached us to remain strong to protect our culture and inventions. It is said that a weak and meek person can not afford to have a beautiful wife because he will not be able to keep her. A strong man will surely snatch her from him. Please Hindus wake up please and be strong and stay strong and reasonable.

    Reply
  8. norga  April 17, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Pls check, your facts, india still lags much behind in production of high grade steel, most of the car steel is still imported.

    Why make generic statement and misguide people

    Reply
  9. vipin  May 12, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    These days I open FB only to read Sanskriti magazine. Good job and awesome reads…

    Reply
    • Sanskriti  May 12, 2015 at 1:20 pm

      thank you for the kind words, they are really appreciated.

      Reply
  10. Prabin K Padhy  May 12, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    Team Sanskriti,

    My heartfelt thanks to you all for such research and publishing. Never before such magnificent details about our ancient culture, wisdom, Hinduism and sanatana practices were known to public. Since last 60+ years the Indian public especially the Hindus are kept in dark about the rich cultural heritage, knowledge and wisdom their forefathers had…. It was actually “Mere desh ki dharti sona ugley ugley hire moti” justification and last 800 years of Islamic invasion made all ignorant…. But thanks to you SANSKRITI TEAM, we are now able to know all the things of past glory and civilization of HINDUISM… I salute you all for the excellent work and do keep us aware of such things…. I am already a fan at your Facebook page and have added lot many other friends to like the page….

    Sadar Pranam,
    Prabin Padhy
    Bhubaneswar
    Odisha

    Reply
  11. Byasadev Pany  June 22, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    The contribution of India to the stock of human knowledge is zero.
    Zero unites opposites, nothing and yet everything!
    As a number, it represents the void, the all encompassing void which is the ultimate existence.
    The concept of zero enabled the positional system of numeration giving birth to the decimal system and several other systems including the binary system which is basic requirement of computer science.
    Not only zero, we have also the Panini grammar which is unparalleled.
    We must probe into our heritage. It has astounding treasures!
    Thanks Team Sanskriti.

    Reply
  12. Vivek Sharma  June 23, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Very nice article!

    Thanks for compiling this.

    Reply
  13. Jay Joshi  September 28, 2015 at 9:39 am

    and these 15 are merely among tons of them…

    Reply
  14. Rahul  March 25, 2016 at 2:01 am

    Good job ur team .keep realising our culture.

    Reply
  15. Aru  September 15, 2016 at 4:15 am

    In a good article only one minor flaw – why continue to use title The Great for Alexander? Massive deaths numbers to fulfill mad ambition and we continue to repeat the conquerors history every time we use such. Textbooks or western authors may continue but we at least should drop.

    Reply

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