Fun Facts: India
"India is an abstraction.... India is no more a political personality than
Europe. India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than
The name "India" comes from the River Indus, whose valleys were home to
an early civilisation. These people referred to the river as the Sindhu,
which Persians converted to "Hindu".
Plastic surgery first took place in India around 600 B.C. It was first
used to reconstruct the noses of criminals, which had been amputated as
punishment, using skin from the forehead.
The oldest known repair surgery dates back to 49 B.C., when the Hindu
surgeon Susruta carried out an operation to treat intestinal perforations
and obstructions by joining together the damaged parts of the intestine
after cutting into the abdomen. He sutured the segments by placing the
freshly-cut heads of giant black ants on the edges of the opposing sections,
demonstrating knowledge of the antiseptic properties of the formic acid that
is secreted by the ant heads.
Arabic numerals are not Arabic. While Europe obtained this system
from the Arabs, the Arabs in turn obtained this system from the Hindus
around the middle of the eighth century. The Hindu writer Aryabhata
first described the new system in the year 499. The invention of the
sign for zero made arithmetic computation much easier. In contrast,
calculation was more awkward in the Roman numeral system.
Marco Polo reported a strict sense of justice in India. If a man would
not pay his debt, the creditor would draw a circle around the debtor.
If the debtor should try to step out of the circle, he would be liable
to punishment by death.
Babur, the first Moghul emperor of India, marched through the Khyber
Pass onto the North Indian plain in 1526. The then North Indian
ruler, an Afghan king, Sultan Ibrahim, leading an army of 100,000
men, attacked the invaders and lost, despite the nearly ten-to-one
odds in manpower in his favour. The reason for Babur's triumph was
an ancient Chinese invention that the Sultan had never heard of -
The political unification of North India began with Akbar, the
Moghul emperor (1556-1605). Prior to Akbar, the Muslim rulers of
India regarded non-Muslims as second-class citizens who had to pay
a poll tax (ziziya) to live in a Muslim land. Akbar,
on the other hand, married women of royal Hindu families, gave
Hindus access to the inner circles of his court, and abolished the
ziziya and the Hindu pilgrimage tax.
Akbar, third Moghul Emperor of India (1556-1605), was
not only a brilliant general and ferocious fighter, but also imported
rare plants and grasses, grafted trees, crossbred doves, maintained zoological
notebooks, commissioned translations of Aristotle and other Greek
philosophers, wrote letters to the Pope and to two Spanish kings, and
initiated the first Anglo-Indian diplomatic relationship when he
corresponded with Queen Elizabeth I.
Persian poet Abul Feizi Hindi, personal tutor to the
three sons of the Moghul Emperor Akbar, was paid annually for 15 years
the equivalent sum of gold of the combined weight of his three students.
The fourth Moghul Emperor, Jahangir, who ruled from 1605 to 1627,
had a harem of 300 royal wives, 5,000 more women, and 1,000
young men for alternate pleasures. His stables contained
12,000 elephants, 10,000 oxen, 2,000 camels,
3,000 deer, 4,000 dogs, 100 tame lions, 500 buffalo, and 10,000
The Taj Mahal in Agra, one of the world's most beautiful buildings,
was built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1659)
as a mausoleum for one of his wives, Mumtaz Mahal, who, on her deathbed in
1631, extracted a promise from her husband to take care of her children
and to build a suitable monument for her. Masons from northern India,
calligraphers from Baghdad and Shiraz, and various specialists from
all around the Muslim world designed and supervised building activities
as well as planning the garden. The work was coordinated by Ustad Isa
The first six Moghul Emperors of India ruled in an unbroken succession
from father to son for nearly 200 years, from 1526 to 1707, a remarkable
feat as there was no tradition of primogeniture and the contest for the
throne was often bloody.
The Taj Mahal was scheduled to be torn down in the 1830s so that its
marble facing could be auctioned off in London to the landed English
gentry. Wrecking machinery was moved into the garden grounds and work
was about to begin when word came from London to cancel the demolition.
The first auction of marble facades of Indian buildings had been a
failure, so tearing down the 200-year-old mausoleum would not be worth it.
Over a period of 500 years, a secret religious sect in India called
the Thugs ritually murdered about 12 million people. The term "thug"
originally was Hindi for "swindler". Starting in the thirteenth
century, the Thugs travelled about India in bands, preying on travellers,
whom they would strangle and rob. The Thugs were fanatically devoted
to Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction. They lasted until around the
1830's, when the occupying British destroyed the destructive sect.
The first successful corneal transplant was performed as early as 1835
by a British army surgeon in India whose pet antelope, who had only one
eye, had a badly scarred cornea. He removed a cornea from
a recently killed antelope and transplanted it into his pet's eye. The
operation was a success, and the pet was able to see.
India has a bill of rights for cows.
India is the world's second most populous country, with a population
of more than 1,000,000,000. The world's third most populous country,
the United States, has a population less than 30% of that of India.
36% of NASA employees, 34% of Microsoft employees, 28% of IBM
employees, 17% of Intel employees, and 13% of Xerox employees are
In the late nineteenth century, the Duke of Beaufort discovered a game in India called "poona."
Attempting to introduce the game into England,
he found Englishmen unwilling to play a game called "poona." He
renamed the game "badminton", after his estate in Somerset, and
it caught on.
Four major religions were born in India: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Around 25% of the world's population follows one of these four religions.
In 1907, the British Plague Commission in India reported an outbreak
of bubonic plague that took six months just to move 300 feet.
As a gesture of contempt for a defeated monarch, the Rajah of
Partabgarh crowned a jackal as ruler of Garwara. The jackal
reigned for 12 years.
A few decades ago, when a bus fell into a river just outside New Delhi,
all 78 passengers drowned because they belonged to two separate castes,
and did not share a rope that would have allowed them to climb to safety.
More mosques (300,000) are in India than in any other country.
India is the world's largest democracy, with an estimated 550 million voters.
In 1974, H. M. Chennabasappa, Public Works Minister for the state of
Kamataka, India, informed the state legislature that his political enemies
had hired witches and sorcerers to kill him. The state's chief minister
ordered senior police officials to find the sorcerers.
Although it has been illegal in India since 1961 to demand a dowry as a condition of
marriage, in 1987 at least 1,786 Indian brides were killed
by their husbands or their husbands' families because their dowries were too
In Pandhurna, India, the annual Gotmaar Festival is held. After a full moon
in early September, all activity in the village ceases, and the males of the
village divide themselves into two groups, spending the rest of the day
attempting to injure or kill as many of the opposing group as possible by
The first temple in the world made out of granite is the Brihadeswara Temple
at Tanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India. The shikhara of the temple is made from a
single 80-tonne piece of granite. The temple was built in just five years
(1004–1009), during the reign of Rajaraja Chola.