For the purposes of this list, inventions are regarded as technological firsts developed in India, and as such does not include foreign technologies which India acquired through contact. It also does not include technologies or discoveries developed elsewhere and later invented separately in India, nor inventions by Indian emigres in other places. Changes in minor concepts of design or style and artistic innovations do not appear on the list.
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."
Carbon pigment: The source of the carbon pigment used in India ink was India. In India, the carbon black from which India ink is produced is obtained by burning bones, tar, pitch, and other substances. Ink itself has been used in India since at least the 4th century BCE.Masi, an early ink in India was an admixture of several chemical components. Indian documents written in Kharosthi with ink have been unearthed in 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.
Calico: Calico had originated in the subcontinent by the 11th century and found mention in Indian literature, by the 12th-century writer Hemachandra. He has mentioned calico fabric prints done in a lotus design. The Indian textile merchants traded in calico with the Africans by the 15th century and calico fabrics from Gujarat appeared in Egypt. Trade with Europe followed from the 17th century onwards. Within India, calico originated in Kozhikode.
Carding devices: Historian of science Joseph Needham ascribes the invention of bow-instruments used in textile technology to India. The earliest evidence for using bow-instruments for carding comes from India (2nd century CE). These carding devices, called kaman and dhunaki would loosen the texture of the fiber by the means of a vibrating string.
Map showing origin and diffusion of chess from India to Asia, Africa, and Europe, and the changes in the native names of the game in corresponding places and time.
Chintz: The origin of Chintz is from the printed all cotton fabric of calico in India. The origin of the word chintz itself is from the Hindi language word चित्र् (chitr), which means an image.
Crucible steel: Perhaps as early as 300 BCE—although certainly by 200 CE—high quality steel was being produced in southern India also 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. The first crucible steel was the wootz steel that originated in India before the beginning of the common era. Archaeological and Tamil languageliterary evidence suggests that this manufacturing process was already in existence in South India well before the Christian era, exported from the dynasty Chera and called Seric Iron in Rome.
Close-up of wootz steel, pioneering steel alloy matrix developed in India.
Incense clock: 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 travelling 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.
Indian clubs: The Indian club—which appeared in Europe during the 18th century—was used long by India's native soldiery before its introduction to Europe. During the British Raj the British officers in India performed calisthenic exercises with clubs to keep in for physical conditioning. From Britain the use of club swinging spread to the rest of the world.
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. This game was played by the Mughal emperors of India; a notable example being that of Akbar, who played living Pachisi using girls from his harem. A variant of this game, called Luodo, made its way to England during the British Raj.
The Great Stupa at Sanchi (4th-1st century BCE). The dome shaped stupa was used in India as a commemorative monument associated with storing sacred relics.
Palampore: पालमपुर् (Hindi language) of Indian origin was imported to the western world—notable England and Colonial america—from India. In 17th-century England these hand painted cotton fabrics influenced native crewel work design. Shipping vessels from India also took palampore to colonial America, where it was used in quilting.
Prayer flags: The Buddhistsūtras, written on cloth in India, were transmitted to other regions of the world. These sutras, written on banners, were the origin of prayer flags. Legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to the Shakyamuni Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags used by the devas against their adversaries, the asuras. The legend may have given the Indian bhikku a reason for carrying the 'heavenly' banner as a way of signyfying his commitment to ahimsa. This knowledge was carried into Tibet by 800 CE, and the actual flags were introduced no later than 1040 CE, where they were further modified. The Indian monk Atisha (980-1054 CE) introduced the Indian practice of printing on cloth prayer flags to Tibet.
Prefabricated home and movable structure: The first prefabricated homes and movable structures were invented in 16th-century Mughal India by Akbar. These structures were reported by Arif Qandahari in 1579.
Radio: The first public demonstration of the use of radio waves for communication was made by Jagadish Chandra Bose, who first demonstrated the use of the radio in Calcutta, in 1895, two years before a similar demonstration by Marconi in England. 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.
Ruler: Rulers made from Ivory were in use by the Indus Valley Civilization in what today is Pakistan and some parts of Western India 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 Mohenjo-Daro 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 Mohenjo-daro was 6.72 mm (1/250 of a fathom), and that of bronze-made one from Harapa 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.
Seamless celestial globe: Considered one of the most remarkable feats in metallurgy, it was invented in Kashmir by Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in between 1589 and 1590 CE, and twenty other such globes were later produced in Lahore and Kashmir during the Mughal Empire. 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. These Mughal metallurgists pioneered the method of lost-wax casting in order to produce these globes.
Shampoo: The word shampoo in English is derived from Hindustanichāmpo (चाँपो [tʃãːpoː]), and dates to 1762. The shampoo itself originated in the eastern regions of the Mughal Empire that ruled erstwhile India, particularly in the Nawab of Bengal where it was introduced as a head massage, usually consisting of alkali, natural oils and fragrances. Shampoo was first introduced in Britain by a Bengali entrepreneur from Bihar named Sake Dean Mahomed, he first familiarized the shampoo in Basil Cochrane's vapour baths while working there in the early 19th century. Later, Sake Dean Mahomed together with his Irish wife, opened "Mahomed's Steam and Vapour Sea Water Medicated Baths" in Brighton, England. His baths were like Turkish baths where clients received a treatment of champi (shampooing). Very soon due to Sake Dean Mahomed fame as a bathing expert he was appointed ‘Shampooing Surgeon’ to both George IV and William IV.
Single roller cotton gin: The Ajanta caves of India yield evidence of a single roller cotton gin in use by the 5th century. This cotton gin was used in India until innovations were made in form of foot powered gins. The cotton gin was invented in India as a mechanical device known as charkhi, more technically the "wooden-worm-worked roller". This mechanical device was, in some parts of India, driven by water power.
Snakes and ladders: 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.
Stepwell: Earliest clear evidence of the origins of the stepwell is found in the Indus Valley Civilization's archaeological site at Mohenjodaro in Pakistan. 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.
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.
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.
Wootz steel: Wootz originated in India before the beginning of the common era. Wootz steel was widely exported and traded throughout ancient Europe, China, the Arab world, and became particularly famous in the Middle East, where it became known as Damascus steel. Archaeological evidence suggests that this manufacturing process was already in existence in South India well before the Christian era they also made trains what were pulled by horses under ground.
Jute plants Corchorus olitorius and Corchorus capsularis cultivated first in India.
Cashmere wool: The fiber is also known as pashm or pashmina for its use in the handmade shawls of Kashmir, India. The woolen shawls made from wool in Kashmir region of India find written mention between the 3rd century BCE and the 11th century CE. However, the founder of the cashmere wool industry is traditionally held to be the 15th-century ruler of Kashmir, Zayn-ul-Abidin, who employed weavers from Central Asia.
Indigo dye: Indigo, a blue pigment and a dye, was used in India, which was also the earliest major center for its production and processing. The Indigofera tinctoria variety of Indigo was domesticated in India. Indigo, used as a dye, made its way to the Greeks and the Romans via various trade routes, and was valued as a luxury product.
Jute cultivation: Jute has been cultivated in India since ancient times. Raw jute was exported to the western world, where it was used to make ropes and cordage. The Indian jute industry, in turn, was modernized during the British Raj in India. The region of Bengal was the major center for Jute cultivation, and remained so before the modernization of India's jute industry in 1855, when Kolkata became a center for jute processing in India.
Sugar refinement: Sugarcane was originally from tropical South Asia and Southeast Asia. Different species different locaations are' originating in India and S. edule and S. officinarum coming from New Guinea. The process of producing crystallized sugar from sugarcane was discovered by the time of the Imperial Guptas, and the earliest reference of candied sugar comes from India. The process was soon transmitted to China with traveling Buddhist monks. Chinese documents confirm at least two missions to India, initiated in 647 CE, for obtaining technology for sugar-refining. Each mission returned with results on refining sugar.
Chakravala method: The Chakravala method, a cyclic algorithm to solve indeterminatequadratic equations is commonly attributed to Bhāskara II, (c. 1114 – 1185 CE) although some attribute it to Jayadeva (c. 950~1000 CE). Jayadeva pointed out that Brahmagupta’s approach to solving equations of this type would yield infinitely large number of solutions, to which he then described a general method of solving such equations. Jayadeva's method was later refined by Bhāskara II in his Bijaganita treatise to be known as the Chakravala method, chakra (derived from cakraṃ चक्रं) meaning 'wheel' in Sanskrit, relevant to the cyclic nature of the algorithm. With reference to the Chakravala method, E. O. Selenuis held that no European performances at the time of Bhāskara, nor much later, came up to its marvellous height of mathematical complexity.
Zero, symbol: Indians were the first to use the zero as a symbol and in arithmetic operations, although Babylonians used zero to signify the 'absent'. In those earlier times a blank space was used to denote zero, later when it created confusion a dot was used to denote zero (could be found in Bakhshali manuscript). In 500 AD circa Aryabhata again gave a new symbol for zero (0).
Law of signs in multiplication: The earliest use of notation for negative numbers, as subtrahend, is credited by scholars to the Chinese, dating back to the 2nd century BC. Like the Chinese, the Indians used negative numbers as subtrahend, but were the first to establish the "law of signs" with regards to the multiplication of positive and negative numbers, which did not appear in Chinese texts until 1299. Indian mathematicians were aware of negative numbers by the 7th century, and their role in mathematical problems of debt was understood. Mostly consistent and correct rules for working with negative numbers were formulated, and the diffusion of these rules led the Arab intermediaries to pass it on to Europe.
Madhava series: The infinite series for π and for the trigonometric sine, cosine, and arctangent is now attributed to Madhava of Sangamagrama (c. 1340 – 1425) and his Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics. He made use of the series expansion of to obtain an infinite series expression for π. Their rational approximation of the error for the finite sum of their series are of particular interest. They manipulated the error term to derive a faster converging series for π. They used the improved series to derive a rational expression, for π correct up to eleven decimal places, i.e. . Madhava of Sangamagrama and his successors at the Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics used geometric methods to derive large sum approximations for sine, cosin, and arttangent. They found a number of special cases of series later derived by Brook Taylor series. They also found the second-order Taylor approximations for these functions, and the third-order Taylor approximation for sine.
Pascal's triangle: Described in the 6th century CE by Varahamihira and in the 10th century by Halayudha, commenting on an obscure reference by Pingala (the author of an earlier work on prosody) to the "Meru-prastaara", or the "Staircase of Mount Meru", in relation to binomial coefficients. (It was also independently discovered in the 10th or 11th century in Persia and China.)
Sign convention: Symbols, signs and mathematical notation were employed in an early form in India by the 6th century when the mathematician-astronomer Aryabhata recommended the use of letters to represent unknown quantities. By the 7th century Brahmagupta had already begun using abbreviations for unknowns, even for multiple unknowns occurring in one complex problem. Brahmagupta also managed to use abbreviations for square roots and cube roots. By the 7th century fractions were written in a manner similar to the modern times, except for the bar separating the numerator and the denominator. A dot symbol for negative numbers was also employed. The Bakhshali Manuscript displays a cross, much like the modern '+' sign, except that it symbolized subtraction when written just after the number affected. The '=' sign for equality did not exist. Indian mathematics was transmitted to the Islamic world where this notation was seldom accepted initially and the scribes continued to write mathematics in full and without symbols.
Cataract in the Human Eye—magnified view seen on examination with a slit lamp. Indian surgeon Susruta performed cataract surgery by the 6th century BCE.
Ayurvedic and Siddha medicine: Ayurveda and Siddha are ancient systems of medicine practiced in South Asia. Ayurvedic ideas can be found in the Buddhist Canonical writings (mid-first millennium BCE). Ayurveda has evolved over two thousand years, and is still practiced today. In an internationalized form, it can be thought of as a complementary and alternative medicine. In village settings, away from urban centres, it is simply "medicine." The Sanskrit word आयुर्वेदः (āyur-vedaḥ) means "knowledge (veda) for longevity (āyur)". Siddha medicine is mostly prevalent in South India, and is transmitted in Tamil, not Sanskrit, texts. Herbs and minerals are basic raw materials of the Siddha therapeutic system whose origins may be dated to the early centuries CE.
Cataract surgery: Cataract surgery was known to the Indian physician Sushruta (3rd century CE). In India, cataract surgery was performed with a special tool called the Jabamukhi Salaka, a curved needle used to loosen the lens and push the cataract out of the field of vision. The eye would later be soaked with warm butter and then bandaged. Though this method was successful, Susruta cautioned that cataract surgery should only be performed when absolutely necessary. Greek philosophers and scientists traveled to India where these surgeries were performed by physicians. The removal of cataract by surgery was also introduced into China from India.
Cure for Leprosy: Kearns & Nash (2008) state that the first mention of leprosy is described in the Indian medical treatise Sushruta Samhita (6th century BCE). However, The Oxford Illustrated Companion to Medicine holds that the mention of leprosy, as well as ritualistic cures for it, were described in the Atharva-veda (1500–1200 BCE), written before the Sushruta Samhita.
Plastic surgery: Treatments for the plastic repair of a broken nose are first mentioned in the Edwin Smith Papyrus, a transcription of an Ancient Egyptian medical text, some of the oldest known surgical treatise, dated to the Old Kingdom from 3000 to 2500 BC. Plastic surgery was being carried out in India by 2000 BCE. The system of punishment by deforming a miscreant's body may have led to an increase in demand for this practice. The surgeon Sushruta contributed mainly to the field of plastic and cataract surgery. The medical works of both Sushruta and Charak were translated into Arabic language during the Abbasid Caliphate (750 CE). These translated Arabic works made their way into Europe via intermediaries. In Italy the Branca family of Sicily and Gaspare Tagliacozzi of Bologna became familiar with the techniques of Sushruta.
Lithiasis treatment: The earliest operation for treating lithiasis, or the formations of stones in the body, is also given in the Sushruta Samhita (6th century BCE). The operation involved exposure and going up through the floor of the bladder.
Low-cost sanity pad machine: Arunachalam is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad making machine and has innovated grass-roots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India.
Diamond mining and diamond tools: Diamonds were first recognized and mined in central India, where significant alluvial deposits of the stone could then be found along the rivers Penner, Krishna and Godavari. It is unclear when diamonds were first mined in India, although estimated to be at least 5,000 years ago. India remained the world's only source of diamonds until the discovery of diamonds in Brazil in the 18th century.Golconda served as an important centre for diamonds in central India. Diamonds then were exported to other parts of the world, including Europe. Early references to diamonds in India come from Sanskrit texts. The Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions diamond trade in India.Buddhist works dating from the 4th century BCE mention it as a well-known and precious stone but don't mention the details of diamond cutting. Another Indian description written at the beginning of the 3rd century describes strength, regularity, brilliance, ability to scratch metals, and good refractive properties as the desirable qualities of a diamond. A Chinese work from the 3rd century BCE mentions: "Foreigners wear it [diamond] in the belief that it can ward off evil influences". The Chinese, who did not find diamonds in their country, initially used diamonds as a "jade cutting knife" instead of as a jewel.
Bhatnagar-Mathur Magnetic Interference Balance: Invented jointly by Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar and K.N. Mathur in 1928, the so-called 'Bhatnagar-Mathur Magnetic Interference Balance' was a modern instrument used for measuring various magnetic properties. The first appearance of this instrument in Europe was at a Royal Society exhibition in London, where it was later marketed by British firm Messers Adam Hilger and Co, London.
Mahalanobis distance: Introduced in 1936 by the Indian (Bengali) statistician Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (29 June 1893 – June 28, 1972), this distance measure, based upon the correlation between variables, is used to identify and analyze differing pattern with respect to one base.
Raman effect: The Encyclopædia Britannica (2008) reports: "change in the wavelength of light that occurs when a light beam is deflected by molecules. The phenomenon is named for Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, who discovered it in 1928. When a beam of light traverses a dust-free, transparent sample of a chemical compound, a small fraction of the light emerges in directions other than that of the incident (incoming) beam. Most of this scattered light is of unchanged wavelength. A small part, however, has wavelengths different from that of the incident light; its presence is a result of the Raman effect."
Iron working: Iron works were developed in India, around the same time as, but independently of, Anatolia and the Caucasus. Archaeological sites in India, such as Malhar, Dadupur, Raja Nala Ka Tila and Lahuradewa in present-day Uttar Pradesh show iron implements in the period between 1800 BCE—1200 BCE. Early iron objects found in India can be dated to 1400 BCE by employing the method of radiocarbon dating. Spikes, knives, daggers, arrow-heads, bowls, spoons, saucepans, axes, chisels, tongs, door fittings etc. ranging from 600 BCE to 200 BCE have been discovered from several archaeological sites of India. Some scholars believe that by the early 13th century BC, iron smelting was practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date the technology's inception may be placed earlier. In Southern India (present day Mysore) iron appeared as early as 11th to 12th centuries BC; these developments were too early for any significant close contact with the northwest of the country. In the time of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–413 CE), corrosion-resistant iron was used to erect the Iron pillar of Delhi, which has withstood corrosion for over 1,600 years.
^Stephen M. Edwardes and Herbert Garrett; Mughal rule in India, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 1995, 374 pages ISBN 81-7156-551-4, ISBN 978-81-7156-551-1 From p.288: Pachisi, an ancient Hindu game represented in the caves of Ajanta, is said to have been played by Akbar on the marble squares of a quadrangle in [[Agra fort]] and in the Khas Mahal at Fatehpur Sikri, with young slave girls in place of the coloured pieces.
^"Hyder Ali, prince of Mysore, developed war rockets with an important change: the use of metal cylinders to contain the combustion powder. Although the hammered soft iron he used was crude, the bursting strength of the container of black powder was much higher than the earlier paper construction. Thus a greater internal pressure was possible, with a resultant greater thrust of the propulsive jet. The rocket body was lashed with leather thongs to a long bamboo stick. Range was perhaps up to three-quarters of a mile (more than a kilometre). Although individually these rockets were not accurate, dispersion error became less important when large numbers were fired rapidly in mass attacks. They were particularly effective against cavalry and were hurled into the air, after lighting, or skimmed along the hard dry ground. Hyder Ali's son, Tippu Sultan, continued to develop and expand the use of rocket weapons, reportedly increasing the number of rocket troops from 1,200 to a corps of 5,000. In battles at Seringapatam in 1792 and 1799 these rockets were used with considerable effect against the British." - Encyclopædia Britannica (2008). rocket and missile.
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