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Book on India's Contribution to the World's Culture

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"If there is one place on the face of this Earth
where all the dreams of living men have found a home
from the very earliest days when Man began the dream of existence,
it is India."

- Romain Rolland - French Philosopher 1886-1944

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Continuity and Change:
Caprisoned Elephants
lumber along the Raj Path
in New Delhi as a part of India's
Republic Day parade.

This book aims at disproving the generally held belief that in
ancient times India had only been a land of spiritual development
with modest achievements as far as material culture goes. In the
opinion of many Westerners as well as some educated Indians,
ancient India was only a land of sages, seers. hermits and
philosophers or Sadhus, Sanyasis, Rishis and Gurus as they
are called. But though spiritual philosophies did flower in India,
they were not the only contribution of India to human civilization.

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Table of Contents

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Home

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You are currently viewing the Introduction

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Chapter 1:

Production Technology and
Mechanical Engineering

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Chapter 2

Shipbuilding and Navigation

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Chapter 3

Architecture and Civil Engineering

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Chapter 4

Mathematics

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Chapter 5

Astronomy

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Chapter 6

Physics and Chemistry

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Chapter 7

Medical Science

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Chapter 8

Fine Arts

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Chapter 9

Sports and Games

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Chapter 10

Philosophy

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Chapter 11

Summing Up

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Glossary

Sanskrit-English Glossary

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Next Book

A Search for Our Present
in History

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The impression that India is only a land of spiritual development
exists because India has been the birthplace of
non-temporal values and attitudes like renunciation, meditation, the
physico-psychic discipline of Yoga, the concepts of non-violence (Ahimsa),
Equality among religions that has found its expression in
our policy of religious tolerance 'Sarva Dharma Samabhava'., etc.

Even in today's world we see spiritual movements like Ramakrishna Mission,
ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness),
Chinmaya Mission, etc., originating in India and spreading internationally.
These movements flourish especially in western countries.
Thousands of westerners flock to India for
spiritual enlightenment. The influence of
Swami Vivekananda on the west is well known.

Vaishnava temple at
Khajuraho. These temples built
by the Chandella Rajputs
in the 9th to the
11th century took Indian
temple architecture
to its zenith.

India has had a long tradition of spiritual development and
since ancient times, foreigners especially the Greeks have
been enamoured of it. Many foreigners who came to India as
invaders and traders embraced Indian religions like Buddhism and
Hinduism and were absorbed into Indian society. Apart from the
Greeks (Yavanas), they included Persians (Para-shakas or
Para-shikas - forerunners of present day Parsis), Huns (Hunas)
and Mongols (Kushanas). Many emperors looked upon as Indians
were actually of foreign origin. Notable among them were Milinda
or Menander who was a Greek, Kanishka who was a Kushana
(Mongol), Rudradaman who was a Shaka ( Scythian ).

But, India also has a fair share in enriching the world's material culture.
It is not well know that among other things; the distillation of perfumes,
the making of dyes, the extraction of sugar, the weaving of cotton (muslin) cloth,
and even the techniques of algebra and algorithm, the concept of zero, the
technique of surgery, the concepts of atom and relativity, the principle of
magnetism actually utilised
in making a Mariner's Compass, the herbal
system of medicine, the technique of alchemy, the smelting of metals,
the game of Chess, the martial art of Karate, etc., are to be found
in ancient India and there are evidences which indicate
that they might have originated here.

But while doing this it has to be acknowledged that in the
last millennium India has been a borrower of the ingredients of
material culture. But in antiquity when with the exception
of Greece and Rome, the west constituted the under-developed world, India had
attained a high level of material culture which was contemporaneous with the
civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotemia. Upto the end of the
first millennium A.D., India was way ahead of the
developed countries of today.

Spires of temples at Jodhpur.

All this is not being said here, with the intention of justifying
any resting on our laurels, but to make it evident that deep in
our history the inhabitants of this country have achievements to
their credit. But lost as they are in the hazy past, coupled with
our country today being painted as a borrower of technology,
expertise, commodities, etc., from the developed west, makes
it doubly difficult for us to lay claim to the heritage,
howsoever infinitesimal, that we have bequeated to the world's
culture in earlier times.

In the following chapters we shall take up a few of these issues
and trace the roots of their origin, development and transmission
the world over.

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Go on to the next chapter

Ancient India's Contribution to
Production Technology and Mechanical Engineering

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Sudheer

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