Ancientindian Innovations: Towards a More Sustainable Paradigm

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About this sample


Words: 3715 |

Pages: 8|

19 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018

Words: 3715|Pages: 8|19 min read

Published: Jul 17, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Mathematics
  2. Astronomy
  3. Physics
  4. Chemistry
  5. Medicine & Surgery
  6. Civil Engineering & Architecture
  7. Production Technology
  8. Shipbuilding & Navigatio
  9. Cotton Gin
    Natural Fibers
    Medical Treatments
    Crucible Steel
  10. References

India is a country with a rich culture and heritage. But a very little is known to a few about the ancient india and its civilization than others. More is being learned and encountered from its literatures and puranas and from them we come to know that this is the place for many inventions in the fields of Astronomy, medicine, mathematics, engineering etc.. India has been a center stage for learning since ancient times. The oldest university like Nalanda is one of the good example. The land was most advanced in the fields of science. It has been a major source of wisdom to the world and has advanced in various fields like astronomy, numerology, arithmetic, mineralogy, metallurgy, logic, information and technology.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

Indus Valley Civilization has taught us many lessons . Historical evidences archaeologists prove the dominance of India in the field of science and technology from time to time.

Some of the ancient India’s contributions to the world, to name a few Buddhism and Hinduism; epic stories; many contributions in math including zero, decimals, square roots, algebra, number system 1-9; cures for over 1000 diseases; sewing needles; civil engineering and planned urban townships with sewer systems; the game of checkers, the game of chess, playing cards, snakes and ladders, polo, judo and karate; buttons, the spinning wheel, calico (a woven cotton material), muslim (material); shampoo; the ruler to measure inches; pre-fabricated homes and movable homes; diamonds used in jewelry, bangle bracelets; folk dances, the first flush toilet; high quality steel; the Tambora (musical instrument), and more! Wow! Human knowledge and activities are some of the areas that are covered in ancient and medieval India. Ancient India was a land of sages, saints, Bramhanas and seers as well as a land of scholars and scientists. In this present article we would like to mention some of the innovations made by our ancestors


Mathematics is one of the field which require a higher attention of human brain. India’s Vedic literature, which are around 4000 years old has a mention of mathematics. A number of mathematical treatises were proposed in India between 1000BC and 1000 AD. Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981) said that India was the mother of our philosophy of much of our mathematics. The modern world in now accepting the fact that India is the birth place of several mathematical concepts, including zero, he decimal system, algebra and algorithm, square root and cube root. Zero is a numeral as well as a concept. ‘Sunya’ is the indication of origin from the Indian philosophy which means 'void' and zero emerged as a derivative symbol to represent this philosophical concept. As a proof of Geometrical theories were known to ancient Indians we find displays in motifs on temple walls and gopuras, which are in many cases replete with mix of floral and geometric patterns. The method of graduated calculation was documented in a book named "Five Principles" (Panch-Siddhantika) which dates to 5th Century AD.A. L. Basham, an Australian Indologist, writes in his book, The Wonder That was India that "... the world owes most to India in the realm of mathematics, which was developed in the Gupta period to a stage more advanced than that reached by any other nation of antiquity. Indians had a clear conception of the abstract number as distinct from the numerical quantity of objects or spatial extension this was a clear indication of the success of Indian mathematics.

Algebraic theories and other mathematical concepts, which were in use in ancient India, were collected and further developed by Aryabhatta, an Indian mathematician, who lived in the 5th century, in the city of Patna, then called Pataliputra. He has referred to Algebra (as Bijaganitam) in his treatise on mathematics named Aryabhattiya. Another mathematician of the 12th century, Bhaskaracharya also authored several treatises on the subject - one of them, named Siddantha Shiromani has a chapter on algebra. He is known to have given a basic idea of the Rolle's theorum and was the first to conceive of differential calculus.

In 1816, James Taylor translated Bhaskaracharya's Leelavati into English. Another translation of the same work by English astronomer Henry Thomas Colebruke appeared next year in 1817. The credit for fine-tuning and internationalizing these mathematical concepts - which had originated in India - goes to the Arabs and Persians. Al-Khawarizmi, a Persian mathematician, developed a technique of calculation that became known as "algorism." This was the seed from which modern arithmetic algorithms have developed. Al-Khwarizmi's work was translated into Latin under the title Algoritmi de numero Indorum, meaning The System of Indian Numerals. A mathematician in Arabic is called Hindsa whichmeans from India. The 14th century Indian mathematician Madhava of Sangamagrama, along with other mathematicians of the Kerala school, studied infinite series, convergence, differentiation, and iterative methods for solution of non-linear equations. Jyestadeva of the Kerala school wrote the first calculus text, the Yuktibhasa, which explores methods and ideas of calculus repeated only in seventeenth century Europe.


India'scontributions to the world in the field of astronomy are well known The references to astronomy are found in the Rig Veda, which are dated 2000 BC. During next 2500 years, by 500 AD, ancient Indian astronomy has emerged as an important part of Indian studies and its affect is also seen in various theories of that period. In some instances, astronomical principles were borrowed to explain matters, pertaining to astrology, like casting of a horoscope The calculation to determine the occurrences of eclipses To determine the circumference of Earth. Determining the theory of gravitation Proof that sun was also a star and determination of number of planets under our solar system

The Pleiades are said to have been the wives of the seven sages, who are identified with the seven stars of the Great Bear. The Great Bear's Old Tamil name elu-meen 'seven-star' corresponds to the combination of the pictograms '7' + 'fish', which alone constitutes the entire text of one finely carved Indus seal. The Satapatha-Brahmana states that the six Pleiades were separated from their husbands on account of their infidelity; other texts specify that only one of the seven wives, Arundhati, remained faithful and was allowed to stay with her husband: she is the small star Alcor in the Great Bear, pointed out as a paradigm of marital virtue to the bride in the Vedic marriage ceremonie Evidence for the Harappan origin of this myth is provided, among other things, the evidence of Indus seals shows a row of six or seven human figures; their female character is suggested by one long plait of hair, which to the present day has remained characteristic of the Indian ladies.


The concept of atom in ancient India is derived from the classification of material world in five basic elements. These five 'elements' and such a classification exist since the Vedic times. These five elements were the earth (prithvi), fire (agni), air (vayu), water (jaal) and ether or space (aksha). These elements were also associated with human sensory perceptions: earth with smell, air with feeling, fire with vision, water with taste and ether/space with sound. They believed that the smallest particle which could not be subdivided further was paramanu (can be shortened to parmanu), a Sanskrit word. Paramanu is made of two Sanskrit words, param meaning ultimate or beyond and anu meaning atom.

Thus, the term "paramanu" literally means 'beyond atom' and this was a concept at an abstract level which indicated the possibility of splitting atom, which is now the source of atomic energy. Kanada, a 6th century, Indian philosopher was the first person who went deep systematically in such theorization. Another Indian, philosopher Pakudha Katyayana, also propounded the ideas about the atomic constitution of the material world. All these were based on logic and philosophy and lacked any empirical basis for want of commensurate technology. Similarly, the principle of relativity (not to be confused with Einstein's theory of relativity) was available in an embryonic form in the Indian philosophical concept of 'sapekshavad', the literal translation of this Sanskrit word is theory of relativity.

These theories have attracted attention of the Ideologists, and veteran Australian Ideologist A. L. Basham has concluded that they were brilliant imaginative explanations of the physical structure of the world, and in a large measure, agreed with the discoveries of modern physics.


Ancient India's development in chemistry was not confined to physics, but found development in a variety of practical activities. In any early civilization, metallurgy has remained an activity central to all civilizations from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, to all other civilizations that followed. It is believed that the basic idea of smelting reached ancient India from Mesopotamia and the Near East. Coinage dating from the 8th Century B.C. to the 17th Century A.D. Numismatic evidence of the advances made by smelting technology in ancient

India. Nataraja the God of Dance is made of five metals Pancha-Dhatu. In the 5th century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus has observed that Indian and the Persian army used arrows tipped with iron. Ancient Romans were using armor and cutlery made of Indian iron. In India itself, certain objects testify to the higher level of metallurgy achieved by the ancient Indians. By the side of Qutub Minar, a World heritage site, in Delhi, stands an Iron Pillar. The pillar is believed to be cast in the Gupta period around circa 500 AD. The pillar is 7.32 meters tall, tapering from a diameter of 40 cm at the base to 30 cm at the top and is estimated to weigh 6 tonnes. It has been standing in the open for last 1500 years, withstanding the wind, heat and weather, but still has not rusted, except very minor natural erosion. This kind of rust proof iron was not possible till iron and steel was discovered few decades before.

The advance nature of ancient India's chemical science also finds expression in other fields, like distillation of perfumes and fragment ointments, manufacturing of dyes and chemicals, polishing of mirrors, preparation of pigments and colours. Paintings found on walls of Ajanta and Ellora (both World heritage sites) which look fresh even after 1000 years, also testify to the high level of chemical science achieved in ancient India.

Medicine & Surgery

Ayurveda as a science of medicine owes its origins in ancient India. Ayurveda consistsof two Sanskrit words - 'ayur' meaning age or life, and 'veda' which means knowledge. Thus, the literal meaning of Ayurveda is the science of life or longevity. Ayurveda constitutes ideas about ailments and diseases, their symptoms, diagnosis and cure, and relies heavily on herbal medicines, including extracts of several plants of medicinal values. This reliance on herbs differentiates Ayurveda from systems like Allopathy and Homeopathy. Ayurveda has also always disassociated itself with witch doctors and voodoo. Ancient scholars of India like Atreya, and Agnivesa have dealt with principles of Ayurveda as long back as 800 BC. Their works and other developments were consolidated by Charaka who compiled a compendium of Ayurvedic principles and practices in his treatise Charaka-Samahita, which remained like a standard textbook almost for 2000 years and was translated into many languages, including Arabic and Latin. 'Charaka-Samahita' deals with a variety of matters covering physiology, etiology and embryology, concepts of digestion, metabolism, and immunity. Preliminary concepts of genetics also find a mention, for example, Charaka has theorized blindness from the birth is not due to any defect in the mother or the father, but owes its origin in the ovum and the sperm.

In ancient India, several advances were also made in the field of medical surgery. Specifically these advances icluded areas like plastic surgery, extraction of catracts, and even dental surgery. Roots to the ancient Indian surgery go back to at least circa 800 BC. Shushruta, a medical theoretician and practitioner, lived 2000 years bebore, in the ancient Indian city of Kasi, now called Varanasi. He wrote a medical compendium called 'Shushruta-Samahita. This ancient medical compendium describes at least seven branches of surgery: Excision, Scarification, Puncturing, Exploration, Extraction, Evacuation, and Suturing. The compendium also deals with matters like rhinoplasty (plastic surgery) and ophthalmology (ejection of cataracts). The compendium also focuses on the study the human anatomy by using a dead body.

In ancient India Medical Science supposedly made many advances. Specifically theseadvances were in the areas of plastic surgery, extraction of cataracts, and dental surgery. There is documentary evidence to prove the existence of these practices. An artist's impression of an operation being performed in ancient India. In spite of the absence of anesthesia, complex operations were performed. The practice of surgery has been recorded in India around 800 B.C. This need not come as a surprise because surgery (Shastrakarma) is one ofthe eight branches of Ayurveda the ancient Indian system of medicine. The oldest treatise dealing with surgery is the Shushruta Samahita (Shushruta's compendium). Shusruta who lived in Kasi was one of themany Indian medical practitioners who included Atraya and Charaka. He was one of the first to study the human anatomy. In the Shusruta, Samahita he has described in detail the study of anatomy withthe aid of a dead body. Shusruta's forte was rhinoplasty (Plastic surgery)and ophthalmialogy (ejection of cataracts). Shushruta has described surgery under eight heads Chedya (excision), Lekhya (scarification),Vedhya (puncturing), Esya (exploration), Ahrya (extraction), Vsraya (evacuation) and Sivya (Suturing).

Yoga is a system of exercise for physical and mental nourishment. The origins of yoga are shrouded in antiquity and mystery. Since Vedic times, thousand of years before, the principles and practice of yoga have crystallized. But, it was only around 200 BC that all the fundamentals of yoga were collected by Patanjali in his treatise, named Yogasutra, that is, Yoga-Aphorisms. In short, Patanjali surmised that through the practice of yoga, the energy latent within the human body may be made live and released, which has a salubrious affect on the body and the mind. Now, in modern times, clinical practices have established that several ailments, including hypertension, clinical depression, amnesia, acidity, can be controlled and managed by yogic practices. The application of yoga in physiotherapy is also gaining recognition.

Civil Engineering & Architecture

Gateway At Harappa: Indus Valley Civilization India's urban civilization is traceable to Mohenjodaro and Harappa, now in Pakistan, where planned urban townships existed 5000 years before. From then onwards, the ancient Indian architecture and civil engineering continued to develop and grow. It found manifestation in construction of temples, palaces and forts across the Indian peninsula and the neighbouring regions. In ancient India, architecture and civil engineering was known as sthapatya-kala, literal translation of which means the art of constructing (something). During the periods of Kushan Empire and Maurya empires, the Indian architecture and civil engineering reached to regions like Baluchistan and Afghanistan. Statues of Buddha were cut out, covering entire mountain faces and cliffs, like Buddhas of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Over a period of time, ancient Indian art of construction blended with Greek styles and spread to Central Asia. On the other side, Buddhism took Indian style of architecture and civil engineering to countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, China, Korea and Japan. Angkor Wat is a living testimony to the contribution of Indian civil engineering and architecture to the Cambodian Khmer heritage in the field of architecture and civil engineering.

In mainland India of today, there are several marvels of ancient India's architectural heritage, including World heritage sites like Ajanta, Ellora, Khajuraho, Mahabodhi Temple, Sanchi, Brihadisvara Temple and Mahabalipuram.

Production Technology

Mechanical and production technology of ancient India ensured processing of natural produce and their conversion into merchandise of trade, commerce and export. A number of travelers and historians (including Megasthanes, Ptolemy, Faxian, Xuanzang, Marco Polo, Al Baruni and Ibn Batuta) have indicated a variety of items, which were produced, consumed and exported around that society's "known world" by the ancient Indians.

Shipbuilding & Navigatio

A panel found in Mohenjodaro depicts a sailing craft, and thousands of years later Ajanta murals also depict a sea-faring ship. The science of shipbuilding and navigation was well known to ancient Indians. Sanskrit and Pali texts are replete with maritime references, and ancient Indians, particularly from the coastal regions, were having commercial relations with several countries of across the Bay of Bengal like Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, and even up to China. Similar maritime and trade relations existed with countries across theArabian Sea like Arabia, Egypt and Persia. Even around circa 500 AD, sextants and mariner's compass were not unknown to ancient Indian shipbuilders and navigators. J.L. Reid, a member of the Institute of Naval Architects and Shipbuilders, England, at around the beginning of the 20th century has got published in the Bombay Gazetteer that "The early Hindu astrologers are said to have used the magnet, in fixing the North and East, in laying foundations, and other religious ceremonies. The Hindu compass was an iron fish that floated in a vessel of oil and pointed to the North. The fact of this older Hindu compass seems placed beyond doubt by the Sanskrit word 'Maccha-Yantra', or 'fish-machine', which Molesworth gives as a name for the mariner's compass"

Cotton Gin

Cotton Gin is a machine used to separate cotton from the seeds. The evidence of this machine was found through the carvings on Ajanta caves where the pictures of these machines were engraved. Dating back to 500 AD, this hand roller machine was locally called Charkha. This machine has undergone changes through the course of time but the most primitive form of cotton gin originated from India.


Buttons are a major part of our clothing even today. Buttons were invented in India and various historical evidences and excavations prove that buttons were used by the people belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. Shells were given various shapes and were pierced into a hole. Earlier they were used more as an embellishment but were gradually used to fasten clothes.

Natural Fibers

Natural fibers like wool, cotton and plant originated from India. Evidences show that people of the Indus Valley used cotton and India pioneered the art of cotton spinning and used it in making fabric. Jute, a plant fiber, was cultivated in India since ancient times and was later exported to other countries. Cashmere wool, which is supposed to be the finest wool was first made in Kashmir and was used to make hand- made shawls. These shawls have maintained their richness and exclusivity even today.

Medical Treatments

Leprosy was first noticed by Indians and various ancient remedies are also mentioned in the Atharva Veda. Lithiasis treatment or the treatment for eradicating stones was first introduced in India. Small Pox vaccinations were first cured in India and symptoms and ways of immunization against small pox were mentioned in 8 th century by Madhav. Ayurveda and Siddha are the two primitive methods of treatment that originated in India and are still used as an alternate way of treatment. Theywere used for holistic healing and ancient sages of India mastered this treatment method. Another Indian medical practitioner named Upendra Nath Bramhachari invented methods to treat Visceral Leishmaniasis or Kala Azar. This Nobel Laureate was responsible for the eradication of this ailment.


Diamonds were first mined in India. Huge deposits of diamonds were found in Central India and it gradually developed as a precious stone. India till 18 th century was the only country where diamonds were found and were later on exported to other countries. Indians were well aware of the physical properties of diamond like its durability, ability to cut other hard surfaces, sparkling effect and the refractive property. Various ancient books have mentioned the use of diamond as a tool and have also mentioned the exquisiteness of this sparkling stone.


India was the first nation to have a dock that dated back to 2400BCE. People belonging to the Harappa Civilization were the first to build a dock in Lothal. This proves their immense understanding of oceanology and marine engineering. The Lothal Dock proves their precision and vast knowledge about tidal waves and hydrography. Without having a thorough knowledge of these topics, it is impossible to build a dock.

Crucible Steel

High-quality steel has been produced in South India since ancient times. The technique used to manufacture it was later on called the crucible technique. Pure wrought iron was first put together with glass and charcoal in a container and was heated till the metal melted and absorbed the carbon.


Ink made from various materials was first invented in India. This black pigment was used in writing manuscripts in ancient India. India ink was made by burning tar, pitch, bones. Carbon was the primary pigment of India ink. Mathematics does not make sense without zero. Although it has no value, it plays a vital role in Arithmetic. Aryabhatta was a great mathematician and an ace astronomer. His contribution to mathematics is unimaginable. Use of Place Value System was clearly mentioned in Aryabhatta’s Bhakshali manuscript and thus zero came into existence. No particular symbol was given to zero but the presence of zero was evident from his work.

India is one of the country where one can find the highest availability of resources in terms of heritage, culture, literature and knowledge. Our ancestors have provided all of them in their writings like puranas, itihasas, They were able of imagine beyond their capabilities. All the facilities which we are engaging now are once only imagined and proud by our ancestors. So one must be thankful to our ancestors for reducing the burden on our minds for those innovative thoughts. These are only a few findings, there are lot more to find out from the study of our ancient literature.


ANCIENT INDIAN INNOVATIONS: Towards a More Sustainable Paradigm

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Nagle, G.E.: 2009, Anywhere: how global connectivity is revolutionizing the way we do business (McGraw Hills).

Get a custom paper now from our expert writers.

Drucker, P.:1974, Management: Task, Responsibilities, Practices (Harper and Row).

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