On the verge of India's 75th independence anniversary, we've pulled together surprising insights that'll give you an edge and make you an expert in India's rich history.
Where it Began:
India’s heritage is obviously way older than 75 years - in fact, its roots go back over 5000 years to the bronze ages where the Indus Valley Civilization was comparable with those of the ancient Egyptians.
The Indus people gave rise to many manufacturing techniques and inventions such as buttons,natural fiber production (cotton, jute, and wool), and lost wax casting to name a few. Some have even come to define India – the sari, that iconic garment is famously worn by Indian women, is also 5000 years old.
Soon after, Aryans (Sanskrit for 'Noble People') migrated from the north to the Valley and Ganges Plains around 3500 years ago. Their poetic use of language earned them their namesake as they developed hymns and stories of the world's origin. Unfortunately, their name, along with the swastika, was hijacked by thefar-right as early as 1850. However, it wasn't all poetry and politics; they also gave rise to new crafts such as leatherwork, tanning, pottery, and textile dyeing.
The Middle Ages saw a fusion of cultures as Hindus learned of geography,arithmetic, and chemistry from the Muslim world. Muslims learned of yoga and Vedanta (Hindu philosophy), medicine, and astrology from the Hindu world. Together they developed the famous Mughal Empire – Think of the Qutub Minar, Red Fort, or the Taj Mahal (you must know this one!).
How it Went:
Then came the colonists. The Portuguese established a colony in Goa in 1510 to spread European culture to the world, followed by the British, who established a British Raj (King) in 1857 till 1947. Interestingly, Goa was not free until 15 years after India and only became an official state in 1987.
India’s rich material resources and manufacturing fuelled one of the world’s biggest corporations –The East India Company. A company so big that it had its own army, territory, and near-monopoly of the world’s supply of tea. Working with the Mughal emperor Jahangir around 1600 the company pioneered the ‘factory system’, where representatives called ‘factors’ were left behind to oversee sourcing and negotiation of goods.
The British rule helped get rid of inhuman social practices such as female infanticide, child marriage,polygamy and sati (self-sacrifice of a widow on her husband’s cremation fire - ouch). They also brought new ideas on freedom and human rights,which encouraged several reformation movements.While the positive or negative impact of the British rule is debatable, it certainly paved the way for India as we know it – Multifaceted yet united and more outward looking than ever before.
Where it’s Going:
As we edge closer to India’s 75thanniversary, India is soon to become the world’s most populous country, expected to overtake China by 2022, and cementing its position as the world’s largest democracy (check out how that’s done).
The continent is already the biggest exporter to the US for homeware, and with a big push and incentives from the government, it’s expected to export even more - 100 billion dollars’ worth more in the next year and a trillion dollars’ worth by 2028! Campaigns such as ‘Make in India’ and cash incentives by the government ($1 billion in cash if you set up a semi-conductor factory in India) are quickly transforming the country into the next World Factory.
We hope you enjoyed this snapshot of our past, present, and future, but for those who want an encore, here’s a list of inventions that didn’t find a home in the article itself:
The number ‘Zero’.Invented in India, it’s now essential to binary coding, and we wouldn’t have the internet and modern world without it. You’re welcome.
The numeric system. That’s right after zero came 1,2,3,4,5 and the rest. Developed from the 1st to 4th Century, they were adopted by Arabic mathematicians and popularised worldwide.
· Cataract Surgery. Using a curved needle, Sushruta, a physician-developed the procedure in the 3rd Century.
· Chess. From the 6th century Gupta period. Apparently, the invention of ‘Zero’ was a critical precursor to the creation of Chess.
Snakes & Ladders. Invented by a poet called Gyandev in the 13th Century and was originally called ‘Mokshapat’.
Shampoo. Invented in 1762 as a herb and oil head massage called ‘chāmpo’in Hindi.
Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear your thoughts.