From a rail network that carries as many people every day as the population of Australia to cities as old as time, India is home to some pretty incredible things.
India isn’t just home to two of the world’s oldest languages, it also runs the largest postal service system in the world. You probably knew that. But did you know that Mahatma Gandhi isn’t the father of our nation, the national official language isn’t what you’d think it is and, oh yes, Chicken Tikka Masala isn’t an Indian creation. Here are 10 incredible facts about India you likely didn’t know.
1. Hockey is not India’s national game
Contrary to what you’ve read and have been told, field hockey isn’t India’s national game. In fact India doesn’t have a national game at all. This was revealed when a 10-year-old girl filed an RTI in 2012 asking when the government had issued an order that made hockey India’s national game. The Ministry of Youth Affairs conceded that no such order had ever been issued! And so while hockey is generally believed to be India’s national game, it isn’t one officially.
2. Mahatma Gandhi is not the Father of the Nation
The curiosity of the same girl led the Prime Minister’s Office to admit that while all of us accept Mahatma Gandhi as the Father of the Nation, no Government Order has granted him the official title. And so Gandhi even as Gandhi remains the face of the Indian currency, he isn’t the Father of the Nation, officially.
3. Hindi is not India’s national language
It wasn’t a 10-year-old girl but the Gujarat High Court that observed in 2010 that even though it’s used widely and most people have accepted it as a national language, there is nothing on record that suggests that any provision had been made or an order issued by the government declaring Hindi to be India’s national language. The Constitution of India does, however, recognise 22 official languages and the 1961 census recognises 1,652 languages in India.
4. India is also home to two of the world's oldest languages
Sanskrit, whose origins can be traced back to 2 BC and Tamil, records of whose earliest usage can be traced back to 300 BC in the form of Sangam literature find their origins in India. Both the languages continue to be spoken today. Tamil is far more widely used than Sanskirt but the latter continues to be the lingua franca for majority of Hindu prayers and is spoken widely in Mattur, a village in Karnataka.
5. And to one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities
According to legend, origins of Varanasi can be traced back to 5,000 years ago however evidence of inhabitation goes back only about 3,000 years. Even so, it remains one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
6. Highest cricket ground in the world
Located at a height of 2,144 metres above sea level, the Chail cricket ground in Himachal Pradesh is the highest in the world to host international matches.
7. Number of people travelling by Indian railways every day is almost as much as the population of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Hong Kong together
Indian Railways carries close to 30 million people every day. That’s about as much as the combined population of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Hong Kong.
8. India is home to the largest postal network in the world
What started as the British government’s spy operation is, today, the largest postal network in the world. With close to 156,000 post offices and over 460,000 employees, India Post has the only floating post office (in Srinagar) and the highest one (in Hikkim at 15,500 feet above sea level) in the world.
9. Chicken Tikka Masala isn’t an Indian invention
The story goes that Chicken Tikka Masala was invented in Glasgow when, back in the 1960s, a local walked into an Indian restaurant and requested for gravy with this Chicken Tandoori. The resultant dish became so popular that the British claimed it as their national dish. It remains, however, a Scottish invention.
10. Sugar was first manufactured in India
Finally, something that was invented in India – sugar! It is believed that sugar was first manufactured in India sometime after the first century CE. In fact literature written between 1500 and 500 BC provides the earliest documentation of sugar cultivation in India.