The ancient Greeks called us Indoi meaning 'the people of the Indus'. As far back as the 3rd century BCE, the Persians referred to us as those who live in Hindustan. In those early days of frugal mass communication, such were the stories that trickled out to the wider world that travellers set out to discover this exotic place that lay beyond the Hindukush Mountains. While some came over the mighty Himalayas, others sailed the ocean to reach the sub-continent. Since the dawn of recorded history this land has seen a steady stream of visitors come to its shores. And shores it had plenty, on account of a good part of it being a peninsula.
Some came in peace, others for trade and then some to conquer. But whatever their reason, ultimately, they all assimilated with the existing cultures and made the sub-continent the melting pot of vibrant life that it is today. So okay, that's a lot of boring history...just the kind you want to avoid reading or having to learn by rote. But then it's that time of the year again, time to brush up a bit on the Republic. So here are some things you may already know, but is good to remember once more! And some of this stuff will really make you proud.
On last count, India had 22 official languages. The footnote here is that in 1961, the Indian Census recognized 1652 different languages in the sub-continent. But noted that only around 150 had a sizable speaking population. It is more than possible that many of us reading this very article are conversant in at least three Indian languages.
The official duration of the National Anthem is 52 seconds. This means, it has to be sung in under a minute at any official function! Go figure.
While chili is the most widely used spice in India, a quick search online will get you lists of more than 200 kinds of Indian desserts. Talk about being hot and sweet!
If your favourite snack is the samosa, then know this. It is not an Indian native! The samosa is a close cousin of the Middle Eastern Sambosa from where it traveled with traders and invaders to your plate.
Though not the richest, the Indian Space program is still among the top five in the world. The first rocket that we launched was carried to the launch site on a bicycle, making what is today an iconic and pithy image!
Rakesh Sharma the first Indian in space when asked by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi how India looked from space, said "Saare Jahan se Acha"!
We computed the value of pi
And developed Calculus
Also Algebra and Trigonometry. Now you see why we could never have escaped them in school. We were responsible for them as a race!
Plastic Surgery was performed for the first time in human history here, purportedly by a medical genius called Sushruta, several centuries before Christ.
We invented Snakes and Ladders
We are also a clean people - we invented the Shampoo.
And buttons. Yes, those fiddly things on your clothes.
And more recently, discovered water on the moon.
I rest my case. If that didn't jog the old memory and make you preen a bit, I don't know what will.
The age of the civilization on the subcontinent is still under furious debate. That it is among the oldest ones has never been doubted. But how old has been the question. The last study that was published in 2016 say we may well be the continuation of an 8000 year old line of civilizations that followed one from the other. Held together today, within the borders of a 67 year old Republic.
Happy Republic Day.