Construction, Civil engineering and Architecture
Iron pillar of Delhi:The world’s first iron pillar was the Iron pillar of Delhi—erected at the time of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–413). The pillar has attracted attention of archaeologists and materials scientists and has been called “a testament to the skill of ancient Indian blacksmiths” because of its high resistance to corrosion.
Stepwell: Earliest clear evidence of the origins of the stepwell is found in the Indus Valley Civilization’s archaeological site at Mohenjodaro in Pakistan and Dholavira in India. The three features of stepwells in the subcontinent are evident from one particular site, abandoned by 2500 BCE, which combines a bathing pool, steps leading down to water, and figures of some religious importance into one structure. The early centuries immediately before the common era saw the Buddhists and the Jains of India adapt the stepwells into their architecture. Both the wells and the form of ritual bathing reached other parts of the world with Buddhism. Rock-cut step wells in the subcontinent date from 200 to 400 CE. Subsequently, the wells at Dhank (550-625 CE) and stepped ponds at Bhinmal (850-950 CE) were constructed.
Stupa: The origin of the stupa can be traced to 3rd-century BCE India. It was used as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics. The stupa architecture was adopted in Southeast and East Asia, where it evolved into the pagoda, a Buddhist monument used for enshrining sacred relics.
Squat toilet: toilets platforms above drains, in the proximity of wells, are found in several houses of the cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa from the 3rd millennium B.C.
Ruler: Rulers made from Ivory were in use by the Indus Valley Civilization in what today is Northwestern India and Pakistan prior to 1500 BCE. Excavations at Lothal (2400 BCE) have yielded one such ruler calibrated to about 1/16 of an inch—less than 2 millimeters. Ian Whitelaw (2007) holds that ‘The Mohenjodaro ruler is divided into units corresponding to 1.32 inches (33.5 mm) and these are marked out in decimal subdivisions with amazing accuracy—to within 0.005 of an inch. They correspond closely with the “hasta” increments of 1 3/8 inches traditionally used in South India in ancient architecture. Ancient bricks found throughout the region have dimensions that correspond to these units.’ Shigeo Iwata (2008) further writes ‘The minimum division of graduation found in the segment of an ivory-made linear measure excavated in Lothal was 1.79 mm (that corresponds to 1/940 of a fathom), while that of the fragment of a shell-made one from Mohenjodaro was 6.72 mm (1/250 of a fathom), and that of bronze-made one from Harappa was 9.33 mm (1/180 of a fathom).’ The weights and measures of the Indus civilization also reached Persia and Central Asia, where they were further modified.
Weighing scale: The earliest evidence for the existence of weighing scale dates to 2400 BC-1800 BC in the Indus valley civilization prior to which no banking was performed due to lack of scales.
Crescograph: The crescograph, a device for measuring growth in plants, was invented in the early 20th century by the Bengali scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose.
Incense clock: The incense clock is a timekeeping device used to measure minutes, hours, or days, incense clocks were commonly used at homes and temples in dynastic times. Although popularly associated with China the incense clock is believed to have originated in India, at least in its fundamental form if not function. Early incense clocks found in China between the 6th and 8th centuries CE—the period it appeared in China all seem to have Devanāgarī carvings on them instead of Chinese seal characters. Incense itself was introduced to China from India in the early centuries CE, along with the spread of Buddhism by traveling monks. Edward Schafer asserts that incense clocks were probably an Indian invention, transmitted to China, which explains the Devanāgarī inscriptions on early incense clocks found in China. Silvio Bedini on the other hand asserts that incense clocks were derived in part from incense seals mentioned in Tantric Buddhist scriptures, which first came to light in China after those scriptures from India were translated into Chinese, but holds that the time-telling function of the seal was incorporated by the Chinese.
Metallurgy and Metals manufacturing
Crucible steel: Perhaps as early as 300 BC—although certainly by 200 BC—high quality steel was being produced in southern India, by what Europeans would later call the crucible technique. In this system, high-purity wrought iron, charcoal, and glass were mixed in a crucible and heated until the iron melted and absorbed the carbon.
Wootz steel: Wootz steel is an ultra-high carbon steel and the first form of crucible steel manufactured by the applications and use of nanomaterials in its microstructure and is characterised by its ultra-high carbon content exhibiting properties such as superplasticity, high impact hardness and held sway for over a millennium in three continents – a feat unlikely to be surpassed by advanced materials of the current era. Archaeological and Tamil language literary evidence suggests that this manufacturing process was already in existence in South India well before the common era, with wootz steel exported from the Chera dynasty and called Seric Iron in Rome, and later known as Damascus steel in Europe. Reproduction research is currently being undertaken by various scientists like Dr. Oleg Sherby and Dr. Jeff Wadsworth and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have all done research, attempting to create steels with characteristics similar to Wootz, but without success J.D Verhoeven and Al Pendray attained some success in the reconstruction methods of production, proved the role of impurities of ore in the pattern creation, and reproduced Wootz steel with patterns microscopically and visually identical to one of the ancient blade patterns.
Seamless celestial globe: Considered one of the most remarkable feats in metallurgy, it was invented in India in between 1589 and 1590 CE. 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.
Computers and programming languages
J Sharp: Visual J# (pronounced “jay-sharp”) programming language was a transitional language for programmers of Java and Visual J++ languages, so they could use their existing knowledge and applications on .NET Framework. It was developed by the Hyderabad-based Microsoft India Development Center at HITEC City in India.
Kojo: Kojo is a programming language and integrated development environment (IDE) for computer programming and learning. Kojo is an open-source software. It was created, and is actively developed, by Lalit Pant, a computer programmer and teacher living in Dehradun, India.
Universal Serial Bus: Co-Inventor of USB is an Indian-born American computer architect Ajay Bhatt.
Science and Technology
Plough: The earliest known instance of a ploughed field was found at Kalibangan
India ink: Known in Asia since the third millennia BCE, and used in India since at least the 4th century BCE. Masi, an early ink in India was an admixture of several chemical components., with the carbon black from which India ink is produced obtained by burning bones, tar, pitch, and other substances. Documents dating to the 3rd century CE, written in Kharosthi, with ink have been unearthed in East Turkestan, Xinjiang. The practice of writing with ink and a sharp pointed needle was common in ancient South India. Several Jain sutras in India were compiled in ink.
Iron and mercury coherer: In 1899, the Bengali physicist Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose announced the development of an “iron-mercury-iron coherer with telephone detector” in a paper presented at the Royal Society, London. He also later received U.S. Patent 755,840, “Detector for electrical disturbances” (1904), for a specific electromagnetic receiver.
Microwave Communication: The first public demonstration of microwave transmission was made by Jagadish Chandra Bose, in Calcutta, in 1895, two years before a similar demonstration by Marconi in England, and just a year after Oliver Lodge’s commemorative lecture on Radio communication, following Hertz’s death. Bose’s revolutionary demonstration forms the foundation of the technology used in mobile telephony, radars, satellite communication, radios, television broadcast, WiFi, remote controls and countless other applications.
Murty Shearing Interferometer: Invented by M.V.R.K. Murty, a type of Lateral Shearing Interferometer utilizes a laser source for measuring refractive index.
Mysorean rockets: One of the first iron-cased and metal-cylinder rockets were deployed by Tipu Sultan’s army, ruler of the South Indian Kingdom of Mysore, and that of his father Hyder Ali, in the 1780s. He successfully used these iron-cased rockets against the larger forces of the British East India Company during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. The Mysore Rockets of this period were much more advanced than what the British had seen, chiefly because of the use of iron tubes for holding the propellant; this enabled higher thrust and longer range for the missile (up to 2 km range). After Tipu’s eventual defeat in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War 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.
Reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance: RISUG, formerly referred to as the synthetic polymer styrene maleic anhydride (SMA), is the development name of a male contraceptive injection developed at IIT Kharagpur in India by the team of Dr. Sujoy K Guha. Phase III clinical trials are underway in India, slowed by insufficient volunteers. It has been patented in India, China, Bangladesh, and the United States. A method based on RISUG, Vasalgel, is currently under development in the US.
Shampoo: The word shampoo in English is derived from Hindustani chāmpo (चाँपो [tʃãːpoː]), and dates to 1762. A variety of herbs and their extracts were used as shampoos since ancient times in India. A very effective early shampoo was made by boiling Sapindus with dried Indian gooseberry (aamla) and a few other herbs, using the strained extract. Sapindus, also known as soapberries or soapnuts, is called Ksuna (Sanskrit: क्षुण) in ancient Indian texts and its fruit pulp contain saponins, a natural surfactant. The extract of Ksuna, creates a lather which Indian texts identify as phenaka (Sanskrit: फेनक), leaves the hair soft, shiny and manageable. Other products used for hair cleansing were shikakai (Acacia concinna), soapnuts (Sapindus), hibiscus flowers, ritha (Sapindus mukorossi) and arappu (Albizzia amara). Guru Nanak, the founding prophet and the first Guru of Sikhism, made references to soapberry tree and soap in 16th century. Washing of hair and body massage (champu) during a daily strip wash was an indulgence of early colonial traders in India. When they returned to Europe, they introduced their newly learnt habits, including the hair treatment they called shampoo.
Toe stirrup: The earliest known manifestation of the stirrup, which was a toe loop that held the big toe was used in India in as early as 500 BCE or perhaps by 200 BCE according to other sources. This ancient stirrup consisted of a looped rope for the big toe which was at the bottom of a saddle made of fibre or leather. Such a configuration made it suitable for the warm climate of most of India where people used to ride horses barefoot. A pair of megalithic double bent iron bars with curvature at each end, excavated in Junapani in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh have been regarded as stirrups although they could as well be something else. Buddhist carvings in the temples of Sanchi, Mathura and the Bhaja caves dating back between the 1st and 2nd century BCE figure horsemen riding with elaborate saddles with feet slipped under girths. Sir John Marshall described the Sanchi relief as “the earliest example by some five centuries of the use of stirrups in any part of the world”. In the 1st century CE horse riders in northern India, where winters are sometimes long and cold, were recorded to have their booted feet attached to hooked stirrups. However the form, the conception of the primitive Indian stirrup spread west and east, gradually evolving into the stirrup of today.
Pseudomonas putida: Indian (Bengali) inventor and microbiologist Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty created a species of man made micro organism to break down crude oil. He genetically engineered a new species of Pseudomonas bacteria (“the oil-eating bacteria”) in 1971. United States Supreme Court granted Chakrabarty’s invention patent even though it was a living species. The court ruling decreed that Chakrabarty’s discovery was “not nature’s handiwork, but his own…” The inventor Chakrabarty secured his patent in 1980(see Diamond v. Chakrabarty)
Chaturanga: The precursor of chess originated in India during the Gupta dynasty (c. 280-550 CE). Both the Persians and Arabs ascribe the origins of the game of Chess to the Indians. The words for “chess” in Old Persian and Arabic are chatrang and shatranj respectively — terms derived from caturaṅga in Sanskrit, which literally means an army of four divisions or four corps. Chess spread throughout the world and many variants of the game soon began taking shape. This game was introduced to the Near East from India and became a part of the princely or courtly education of Persian nobility. Buddhist pilgrims, Silk Road traders and others carried it to the Far East where it was transformed and assimilated into a game often played on the intersection of the lines of the board rather than within the squares. Chaturanga reached Europe through Persia, the Byzantine empire and the expanding Arabian empire. Muslims carried Shatranj to North Africa, Sicily, and Spain by the 10th century where it took its final modern form of chess.
Kabaddi: The game of kabaddi originated in India during prehistory. Suggestions on how it evolved into the modern form range from wrestling exercises, military drills, and collective self-defense but most authorities agree that the game existed in some form or the other in India during the period between 1500 and 400 BCE.
Ludo: Pachisi originated in India by the 6th century. The earliest evidence of this game in India is the depiction of boards on the caves of Ajanta.
Pachisi, an ancient Hindu game represented in the caves of Ajanta. A variant of this game, called Luodo, made its way to England during the British Raj.
Cloth and Material production
Button: Ornamental buttons—made from seashell—were used in the Indus Valley Civilization for ornamental purposes by 2000 BCE. Some buttons were carved into geometric shapes and had holes pierced into them so that they could be attached to clothing by using a thread. Ian McNeil (1990) holds that: “The button, in fact, was originally used more as an ornament than as a fastening, the earliest known being found at Mohenjo-daro in the Indus Valley. It is made of a curved shell and about 5000 years old.”
Snakes and ladders: Vaikunta pali Snakes and ladders originated in India as a game based on morality. During British rule of India, this game made its way to England, and was eventually introduced in the United States of America by game-pioneer Milton Bradley in 1943.
Suits game: Kridapatram is an early suits game, made of painted rags, invented in Ancient India. The term kridapatram literally means “painted rags for playing.” Paper playing cards first appeared in East Asia during the 9th century. The medieval Indian game of ganjifa, or playing cards, is first recorded in the 16th century.