Virasat – Voyage through Our Legacy

Aryavrat has illuminated the world with its knowledge since time immemorial. Science and technology in ancient and medieval India covered all the major branches of human knowledge and activities, including mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry, medical science and surgery, fine arts, mechanical and production technology, civil engineering and architecture, shipbuilding and navigation, sports and games. Let us continue our voyage through some landmarks events of ancient Indian landscape.

Buttons: Yes. You read it right! Buttons dated back to 5000 years back are found amongst the artifacts recovered from Indus Valley Civilization. These are the earliest known devices used for fastening clothes. They were carved from sea-shells.

Smelting of zinc: Zinc smelting is the process of converting zinc concentrates into pure zinc. Zinc smelting has historically been more difficult than the smelting of other metals, e.g. iron, because in contrast, zinc has a low boiling point. At temperatures typically used for smelting metals, zinc is a gas that will escape from a furnace with the flue gas and be lost, unless specific measures are taken to prevent it. Considering the conditions stated, it required a high degree of technical expertise to extract/smelt zinc from ores. India was the first to smelt zinc by the distillation process, an advanced technique derived from a long experience of ancient alchemy. The distillation process dates back to 900 years ago and is an important contribution of India to the world of science. It is notable that the ancient Persians too tried to reduce zinc oxide in an open furnace but failed!

Wootz steel: The fabled Wootz steel was a pioneering steel alloy matrix produced by the Tamils of Chera dynasty. Wootz steel is characterized by a unique pattern of bands and was known by many names such as Ukku, Hindwani and Seric iron across the Indian subcontinent. This steel was made to create the world famous Damascus sword of the ancient world. Swords made of this steel did not differentiate between the softest of the silken scarf or the hardest block of wood! They could through both like butter.
It is worth noting, that the scientists of modern era have not been able to replicate this steel even with today’s cutting-edge technology. Reproduction research 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.

Ludo: Today, children the world over play ludo as a popular strategy board game for two to four players. Very few know that this game originated from India’s very own Pachisi which finds references from as long back as 6th century. This game is also immortalized in the frescoes of Ajanta. Pachisi was patented with the addition of a cubic die as Ludo, in England in 1896. Fragments of original name still cling to the game in North America, where it is sold as Parchisi. Our Pachisi of yore is Parchis in Spanish and Praxis in Catalan.

Weighing scale: The world today is obsessed with weights! Weight to lose, weight to pick (in gym) and weights of all kinds! But, where would’ve all this be if the residents of Indus Valley Civilization had not devised scales. Yes. That’s right!  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. This can be acknowledged with a ton of claps.. pun intended!

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