India kicks off our “Country Spotlight” section of International Student Voice Magazine! Learn more about ancient India and the contributions this country has given to the world.
India, one of the oldest civilizations on the earth has just become the buzz word across the globe once again in this decade for various reasons. Some will say it will be the source of ‘Human Capital’ for the future, others talk about its robust economic growth, some talk about its fast growing I.T. industry. Some analysts, such as Peter Drucker, projected India as the next super power in 2050. As usual, critics started criticizing by saying it is just a hype and over exaggerated projection.
Well, we do not know precisely what future holds for India. Nevertheless, there will be no smoke without fire, let us know and decode its DNA by exploring the paradise called India. For that we need go a few thousand years back.
Before the Mayans of Mexico developed their complex imperial state, or before the pharaohs of Egypt built the great pyramids, before the powerful kings of Persia conquered the Babylon, or before Alexander the great crushed the army of Darius and established his sovereignty all over the known world, or before imperial dynasties of China constructed the forbidden city, before the supremacy of roman empire, back then, India was living in its golden age with advanced civilization and great scientific knowledge.
Imagine the world which was living in the pre-historic era. At that time, only India had a flourishing urban civilization called “Indus Valley Civilization” on banks of the Indus River. It was the oldest civilization. This is the first civilization on the earth which had sophisticated city planning including drainage system and multistory brick houses. Just then, they had exceptional knowledge in metallurgy.
Think of a society which doesn’t have a number system, cannot even count. At that juncture, it was Aryabhata —an Indian, who discovered the number zero which allowed the society to count. The current number system is also invented by Indians. These discoveries paved the way to modern scientific development. This is the corner stone, upon which the entire modern science and technology developed.
He also approximated the value of (pi). His major work included in Aryabhatiya, a compendium of mathematics and astronomy. Mathematical part of his work covers major areas of math, such algebra, trigonometry, fractions and quadratic equations.
Aryabhata is the first person to measure the distance between the sun and the earth accurately. He also pointed that earth rotates on its own axis and is the first person to explain the concept of an eclipse scientifically.
Ancient Indians also developed and used many instruments to measure time. Among the notable ones are water clocks and sundials. They also developed several astronomical instruments which include Shanku Yantra (the gnome), Chaya Yantra, (shadow instrument) and many angle measuring instruments.
Sanskrit is the mother of all languages. India is the birth place of Sanskrit and it is one of the official languages still spoken in India. This language allowed them to spread their knowledge. According to Rick Briggs, senior scientist in artificial intelligence at NASA, Sanskrit is the only language in which messages can be translated to machine in the least number of words.
Medicine, Plastic surgery:
Sashrutha, “father of surgery”, had performed many difficult surgeries, thousands of years before in India, which includes cosmetic surgery, rhinoplasty. Sushrutha samhitha, collection of his surgical practices, which includes diagnosis, treatment of prognosis for many ailments. This is the oldest available material for surgical procedures.
Ayurveda, an ancient Indian school of medicine, which believes there is a strong correlation between mental thoughts and physical body. Ayurvedic practitioners developed many medicinal preparations, which are still used in many countries in the South East Asia.
Yoga, another great meditation method, was developed in ancient India. Even today many people across the world practice this meditation and yoga will keep your mental and physical health in order. It is believed that good practice of yoga keeps you away from many dangerous diseases. Many researchers suggest that yoga is a better preventive medicine for many incurable diseases.
Ancient Indians have exceptional skills in metallurgy; they developed some religious objects with the iron, interesting thing is rust failed to destroy them, even thousands of years after their manufacturing, even today, they are still uncontaminated by rust. There are some scientific proofs that they used many elements such as zinc, copper and other metals. They used iron to make their weapons.
World’s first university “Takshashila” existed in India (now this place is in Pakistan due to partition) thousands of years ago, which was the source of the knowledge to entire world. This university produced many great scholars, among them the most notable scholar is Chanakya who wrote a book called Arthashastra (Economics). This is one of the oldest books in the subject of economics.
The current Indian National Security Advisor said that Chanakya’s principles in Arthashastra are still valid even today’s contemporary life.
Grand Anicut, one of the oldest bridges in the world, was built on the river Kaveri in India. This structure is still in full use today. The first dock was built by Indians around 2400 BCE, at Lothal in India. These indicate the engineering skills of ancient Indians.
Ancient India is also birth place to many religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. All these religions are co-exist in India today. India is the only country that produced these many religions and still able to balance diverse religious atmospheres.
Role of Women in Society:
Ancient Indians gave women greater importance, in fact they enjoyed equal status with men. Scholars believed that many civilizations at that time did not give equal rights to women. They educated women in the Vedic period. Women used to get married at a mature age and free to select their husbands.
Chess, (Chaturanga) is also invented by Indians thousands of years before; they used to play it for strategic development of their military. They used to divide the board into four parts, infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariotry. Scientist also believes that ‘snake and ladder’ game also invented by Indians.
Cotton, Gossypium herbaceum, was first cultivated by ancient Indians around 7,000 years ago. They produced the finest cotton of their time, most of the people used to think it was silk. They also developed some spinning and fabricating techniques. Indian agriculture dates back to 9,000 BC. They domesticated many plants and animals. Scientists believe that first spinning mill could have developed by Indians.
“Kama sutra” is an ancient Indian manual for human behavior in family life. Most people think it is a manual about human sexual behavior, however, this book also teaches one how to behave and enjoy family life. It is also one the oldest available guides to human behavior.
Diamonds were first discovered by Indians and they used them to decorate crowns and other valuable things. According to Gemological Institute of America, India was the only source of diamonds until 1896. India produced some of the best diamonds in the world, one of them was Koh-I-Noor diamond. It’s currently held by Great Britain in their queen’s crown.
These are all just tip of the large iceberg, scholars believe that there are many more discoveries by ancient Indians still yet to be discovered. In sum, India laid down the true foundation to our modern civilization thousands of years back and driven the world from the dark to light by providing their exceptional contribution to the mankind.
Some famous quotes about India:
Albert Einstein :“We owe a lot to Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.”
Will Durant, American historian: “India was the motherland 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 the Buddha, of ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through village community, of self governance and democracy; mother India in many ways the mother of us all.”
Mark Twain, well-known American author: “India is the cradle of human race, the birth place of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and great-grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”
Max Muller, German Scholar: “ 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.”
Hu shih, former Ambassador of China to USA, “India conquered and dominated China culturally for 20 centuries without ever having to send a single solider across her border.”
Article written by ISV Ambassador, Digamber Eslampure
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