Interesting Facts About India
With snow-clad mountains at the north, arid deserts in the west, perennially wet jungles in the east and a sublime coastline in the south, India is a country like no other. Most people know India as the largest democracy, second most populous country, top IT hub and the like, but there are several other interesting facts about this part of the world that are amazing and thought-provoking. In this section we look at the lesser-known yet intriguing facts of the seventh largest country in the world.
- India is the world's largest, oldest, continuous civilization.
- About 5,000 years ago, Indians established the Harappan Civilization in the Sindhu Valley (Indus Valley Civilization) when many other cultures were still only nomadic forest dwellers. This early empire was larger than any other empire, including Egypt and Mesopotamia.
- The name ‘India’ is derived from the River Indus (also referred to as Sindhu).
- The official Sanskrit name of India is ‘Bharat’, named after the legendary king in the epic ‘Mahabharata’.
- The Art of Navigation was born in the River Indus (Sindhu) 6000 years ago. The word ‘Navigation’ and ‘Navy’ are derived from the Sanskrit words 'Navgatih' and 'Nou' respectively.
- After the Indus Civilization, the Aryans reigned over India. This period is called as the Vedic age. The mingling of ideas of the Aryans and Indus Valley religions formed the basis of Hinduism.
- The Aryans recorded the Vedas, the first Hindu scriptures.
- Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) was the first important figure to bring India into contact with the West.
- The earliest cotton in the world was spun and woven in India.
- Chess was invented in India. It was originally called ‘Chaturanga’, meaning ‘The Four Members of an Army’ referring to Elephants, Horses, Chariots and Foot Soldiers.
- The game of Snake & Ladder (Mokshapat) was created by the 13th century poet saint Gyandev. Ladders represented virtues and snakes represented vices. The game was played with cowrie shells and dices. In time, the game underwent several modifications, but the essence remained the same ‘Good Deeds take people to Heaven and Evil to a Cycle of Re-births’.
- A sea link between Europe and the East was discovered by Portuguese explorer Vasco-da-Gama (1460-1524) who landed in Calicut, India, in 1498.
- The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631). This architectural marvel took 22,000 workmen and 22 years to build.
- Christopher Columbus, attracted by India's wealth, had come looking for a sea route to India when he discovered America by mistake.
- India was one of the richest countries in the world until the British rule in the 17th Century.
- Tea has been growing in India centuries before the British began its commercial cultivation.
- Until 1896, India was the only source of diamonds in the world.
Civil & Administration
- Indira Gandhi was India’s first and only female Prime minister.
- The Indian National Flag comprise of three horizontal bands of color: Saffron for Courage and Sacrifice, White for Truth and Peace, & Green for Faith, Fertility, and Chivalry. An emblem of a Dharma Chakra, or Wheel of Life is at the center of the white band.
Culture, Tradition & Languages
- Sanskrit is the most suitable language for computer software - Forbes Magazine, July 1987.
- India doesn’t have a national language.
- The official languages of Indian Union are Hindi and English.
- There are 22 official languages (including centre and state) of India.
- About 1,652 dialects are spoken in the country.
- India is the largest English speaking nation in the world.
- Around 4,700 daily papers (in over 300 languages) and 39,000 journals & weeklies are published in India.
- Dancing is one of India’s most highly developed artforms and is an integral part of temple worship.
- The sari dates back to at least 100 B.C.
- The Indian Film Industry is the world’s largest film industry in terms of ticket sales and number of films produced and second largest in terms of revenue.
- Martial Arts were first created in India, and later spread to Asia by Buddhist missionaries.
- Yoga originated in India about 5,000 years ago.
Ayurveda & Medicine
- Charaka, the Father of Medicine consolidated Ayurveda 2,500 years ago. It is the earliest school of medicine known to mankind.
- Over 2,600 years ago, Sushruta (regarded as the Father of Surgery) and his team conducted complicated surgeries like cataract, artificial limbs, cesareans, fractures, urinary stones, plastic surgery and brain surgeries.
- Ancient Indian texts have detailed scriptures of plastic surgery, anesthesia, anatomy, embryology, digestion, metabolism, physiology, etiology, genetics and immunity.
Religion & Worship
- India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
- These 4 religions are followed by 25% of the world’s population.
- Jainism was founded in 600 B.C., Buddhism in 500 B.C. and Sikhism in 1577 (in the Holy city of Amritsar, Punjab).
- Every major world religion is represented in India – 80.5% Hindus, 13.4% Muslims, 2.3% Christians, 1.9% Sikh, 0.8% Buddhists, 0.5% Jain and 0.6% others.
- India has the third largest population of Muslims in the world.
- Jews have lived continuously in India since 200 B.C.
- Christians have lived continuously in India since 52 A.D.
- Varanasi (Benaras) was called ‘The Ancient City’ when Lord Buddha visited it in 500 B.C.
- Varanasi is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world.
- The oldest European church (1503) and synagogue (1568) in India are in Cochin, Kerala.
- The World's First Granite Temple is the Brihadeswara Temple at Tanjavur (Tamil Nadu) built between 1004 AD and 1009 AD during the reign of Rajaraja Chola.
- The most visited religious pilgrimage destination in the world is The Vishnu Temple at Tirupathi (Andhra Pradesh) built in the 10th century. On an average 50,000 – 100,000 pilgrims visit this holy place daily. It is also the second richest pilgrimage centre in the world.
- The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum (Kerala) is the richest pilgrimage centre in the world.
- The temples of Khajuraho are famous for their erotic sculptures.
- The self renewing Banyan Tree is India’s national tree and is considered a symbol of immortality as mentioned in many Indian myths and legends.
- Rivers have been worshipped as goddesses because they bring water to an otherwise dry land. A dip in the Holy Ganges is believed to wash away all sins in one’s life.
- To avoid polluting the elements (fire, earth, water, air), followers of Zoroastrianism in India don’t bury their dead; instead they leave the bodies in buildings called “Towers of Silence” for vultures to pick clean. After the bones dry, they are swept into a central well.
- The Lotus Temple (Bahai House of worship in Delhi) is shaped like a lotus flower with 27 gigantic petals covered in marble. The lotus is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists.
- The Kumbh Mela is a huge Hindu religious festival that takes place in India every 3 years. It is the largest peaceful gathering in the world. The mass of humanity can be seen from satellite images.
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Education, Mathematics & Science
- India invented the 'Place Value System' and the 'Decimal System' (100 B.C.).
- Zero was invented by Aryabhatta.
- Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus originated in India.
- Quadratic Equations were used by Sridharacharya in the 11th century.
- The world's first university was established in Takshila in 700 B.C. More than 10,500 students from all over the world studied more than 60 subjects.
- The University of Nalanda built in the 4th century was one of the greatest achievements of ancient India in the field of education.
- Bhaskaracharya (Bhaskara II) correctly calculated the time taken by the earth to orbit the Sun (365.258756484 days was his estimate) hundreds of years before any other person.
- The value of "pi" was first calculated by the Indian Mathematician Baudhayana, and he explained the concept of what is known as the Pythagorean Theorem. He discovered this in the 6th century, long before the European mathematicians.
- India has only one time zone, The Indian Standard Time (IST) which is GMT+5:30.
- India has the largest Post Office network (150,000 post offices) in the world.
- Meghalaya is the wettest inhabited place on the planet.
- The National Animal of India is the Bengal Tiger.
- White tigers are only found among Indian Tigers.
- The National Bird of India is the Peacock.
- The National Fruit of India is the Mango.
- The National Sport of India is Hockey.
- The most popular sport in India is cricket.
- The world's highest cricket ground (2,444m above sea level) is in Chail, Himachal Pradesh. It was built in 1893.
- It is illegal to take the Indian currency, the rupee, out of India.
- Mother Teresa first donned her famous sari in 1948; it has become the uniform for nuns in her order.
- The name ‘Himalayas’ come from the Sanskrit words ‘hima’ (snow) and ‘alaya’ (adobe).
- The Himalayas contain nine of the world’s ten highest peaks.
- The Himalayas spans about 2,400 km and are slowly growing taller (2.5cm every year).
- The Dubbawalas of Mumbai deliver around 200,000 lunch boxes daily at an extremely small nominal fee. They only make an error of only 1 in 8 million deliveries.
- The 125-year old Dubbawala industry continues to grow at 5-10% per annum reported The New York Times in 2007.
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