20 Incredible Facts from the Ancient History of India

India is one of the world’s oldest, largest and continuous civilisations. It is the seventh largest country and also the largest democracy. India has a rich heritage and history, advanced ancient technique and has contributed massively to the world. As Mark Twain rightly said, “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great-grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most constructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”

Here are twenty facts about ancient India that will leave you mesmerized!

20. India never invaded any country

In her last 100000 years, India has never invaded any country. Though there were many wars fought within the nation, it never invaded other countries. India was in itself very rich until the time of the British rule in the 17th century.

19. Indus valley civilisation was one of the most advanced civilisations

Indus valley civilisation was an ancient civilisation located in northwest India. It is believed to be the oldest and largest amongst the four ancient civilisations of the world. 1056 cities have been found and at its peak, it is believed to have had a population of around 5 million. Archaeologists have found various toys and game pieces like chess. A distorted form of dice has also been found. All the cities were planned and seemed to have a standardisation level. They also had a very advanced sanitation and drainage system.

18. India had a well-developed concept of water harvesting

Floods and droughts were very common in ancient India and so people learnt the art of water harvesting. These practices differed from region to region. It not only helped the people but was also good for the environment. Chanakya’s Arthshastra talks about irrigation through water harvesting. Many kings built structures to conserve water or to divert flood waters to save and use them.

17. Art of navigation was developed in Indus around 6000 years ago

The art of navigation was developed by the people of Indus Valley civilisation around 6000 years ago in River Indus. The word navigation has been derived from a Sanskrit word ‘Navgathi’. The Harappan civilisation used these skills to build a strong trading system with other civilisations. The Rig-Veda also has examples of ships crossing the rivers and oceans.

16. India had important centres of learning

India had various centres of learning, some of which later developed into universities. Nalanda University was established in the 5th Century in Bihar and taught Buddhist studies, fine arts, medicine, mathematics, politics and astronomy. Takshashila University, the worlds first university, was established 2700 years ago and taught Vedas, philosophy, Ayurveda, grammar, surgery, music, dance, etc. Other universities include Vikramashila University, Valabhi University and Pushpagiri University. Most of these universities were destroyed by the invaders, which lead to a loss of various books and ancient Indian knowledge.

15. Ayurveda, the earliest school of medicine, was developed in India

Ayurveda, the science of life, is almost 5000 years old. Hindu Vedas consider Ayurveda as a gift of God that the sages got through deep meditation. The use of Ayurveda increased around 1500 B.C. People from various parts of the world came to learn this art of healing. Ayurveda formed the basis of various other schools of medicine like Islamic and European.

14. Sushruta, a great physician from ancient India, conducted complicated surgeries

Sushruta lived in India in between 1000 and 800 B.C., is also known as the “Father of surgery”. He knew around 300 types of surgeries and worked with 125 surgical instruments. Sushruta carried out many complex surgeries like that for cataract, brain surgery, extraction of foreign bodies, plastic surgeries, etc. He is the author of the treatise The Compendium of Sushruta, which is one of the most important books on ancient medicines. It contains descriptions of a number of illnesses, medicines, and cures.

13. Bhaskaracharya was the first person to calculate the time taken to orbit the sun

Bhaskaracharya, a famous mathematician, in his work Surya Siddhanta, calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun to 9 decimal places. He calculated this value in the 5th century, much before astronomer Smart. Bhaskaracharya’s value was found to be erroneous by 0.0002%.

12. Solar eclipse and lunar eclipse were explained in India in the 5th century

Aryabhatta, a great astronomer, mathematician and scientist, correctly explained the causes behind the eclipse, in the 5th century. Earlier, people believed that the eclipse was caused by Rahu and Ketu but, Aryabhatta explained it in terms of the shadows cast by and falling on the earth and the position of sun, moon and earth. He also explained certain other astronomical things.

11. India was the first one to calculate the circumference of the Earth

Bhaskaracharya, in the 5th century, gave a very simple way to calculate the circumference of the earth. First, you take two places on the same longitude and then find the distance between these places. Now, the distance that corresponds to 360 degrees can be found by multiplying the distance by 360. According to Bhaskara, the circumference of the earth was around 39736 kilometres, which is very close to the now known circumference of 40212 kilometres.

10. Zero and the decimal system were invented in ancient India

Zero, being used as a symbol for distinguishing between numbers, had been seen in various scripts throughout the world but, only in India did it evolve as a number in itself. The decimal system, also, was in place during the Harappan civilization, as has been seen in the analysis of weights from that time. The knowledge of numbers and decimal system, especially zero helped in better calculations during a trade.

9. Ancient India has contributed immensely to the field of mathematics

Mathematics in the Indian has a very rich history. Apart from zero and the decimal system, India has made contributions in calculus, trigonometry, algebra, geometry and quadratic equations. India’s influence spread to China and the nations around. All this happened 3000 years ago, much before the Europeans had started. The concept of negative numbers also developed in India and was explained by the example of fortune and debt.

8. Yoga originated in India

Yoga, a form of physical and mental exercise to connect the soul with the universal spirit, originated in India about 5000 years ago during the pre-Vedic times. It has also been mentioned in the Rigveda. The rise of Buddhism and Jainism in India led to the rise in popularity of yoga. Yoga reached the west around the 19th century as the health and mental benefits became clearer and scientifically proven. Today, this ancient Indian art is practised worldwide.

7. Indians knew how to extract zinc as early as 10th century BC

People of Indus Valley civilisation knew how to extract zinc by the process of distillation, as early as the 10th century. Zinc purification is a very difficult process due to the required temperature control but these people seemed to have figured it out. This discovery and usage of zinc led to the making of zinc utensils. Zinc mines were existing and active in Rajasthan area during that time.

6. Buddhism and Jainism were established in India along with Hinduism and Sikhism

Buddhism and Jainism, two major religions, were formed in India in the 500 and 600 B.C. respectively. This period led to a rise of the Vedanta, yoga and the various centres of education. It was during this time that the Upanishads were also written. Hinduism and Sikhism also originated in India. These four religions that originated in India are followed by around 25% of the world’s population.

5. Snakes and ladders was created in India

Snakes and ladders was created in India in the 13th century by a poet called Gyandev. It was originally called “Mokshapat”. The snakes were vices while the ladders represented virtue. It was initially played using shells and dice. The game has gone through various modifications, but its basic structure is still the same.

4. Varanasi is the oldest city in the world that is inhabited even today

According to the legends, Varanasi is said to be around 5000 years old, making it the worlds oldest city. Habitation proofs as old as 3000 years have been found, making it the oldest city in India Inhabited even now. It is the holiest city in the world for the Hindu community. Its location on the banks of the sacred river Ganges makes it a huge pilgrimage site and also an ideal place for people to live in.

3. The concept similar to that of test-tube baby is mentioned in Mahabharata

According to Mahabharata, Gandhari gave birth to 101 kids. The story and logic behind how this happened are: she had actually given birth to a mass of flesh, which was nothing like a baby. Sage Vyasa cut this mass and kept it in 101 different pots that contained certain herbs and powers that would give life to the baby. This way, after waiting for some time, her 101 kids were born. This concept can be compared with a test-tube baby or an incubator.

2. Longest poetry of the world

The Mahabharata is the longest epic poem in the world. It is a major Sanskrit epic of India, apart from The Ramayana. The Mahabharata is roughly 4 times the size of The Ramayana. It talks about the Kurukshetra war and the Kauravas and Pandavas.

 1. Sanskrit is the world’s oldest systematic language

Sanskrit in the ancient times was considered to be Gods language and was created in a very systematic way. It is made up of the natural progression of sounds by humans. It forms the basis of many languages such as French, German, English, etc. Ancient forms of words such as trigonometry, shampoo, father, yoga, etc can be found in Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a scientific language, and people who can speak in Sanskrit can generally easily learn and talk in other languages as well, with correct pronunciations.

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Niharika Tiwari

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