What were some astonishing discoveries in the ancient Indian civilization?

Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:

Thank you for the A2A.

My top vote would go to the Aranmula Mirror.

To quote from the Wikipedia page on them,

Aranmula kannadi (Malayalam: ആറന്മുളക്കണ്ണാടി, meaning the Aranmula mirror) is a handmade metal-alloy mirror, made in Aranmula, a village in the state of Kerala, India. Unlike the normal ‘silvered’ glass mirrors, being a metal-alloy mirror, it is a front surface reflection mirror, which eliminates secondary reflections and aberrations typical of back surface mirrors. The exact metals used in the alloy are unknown to people and is maintained as a Vishwakarma (Malayalam: വിശ്വകർമ്മജർ) family secret; however metallurgists suggest the alloy to be a mix of copper and tin. It is then polished for several days in a row to achieve their reflective surface. They are considered to be the one among the eight auspicious items or “ashtamangalyam” that makes up the entry of the bride at the venue of the wedding. These unique metal mirrors are the result of Kerala’s rich cultural and metallurgical traditions, and have great historical and cultural value and are even considered to bring good luck.

Produced by a single extended family in Aranmula, the origins of the Aranmula kannadi are linked with the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple. Legend has it that eight families of experts in temple arts and crafts were brought by the royal chief to Aranmula from Tirunelveli district to work in the Parthasarathy temple centuries ago on the mirrors.

The British Museum in London has a 45 centimeter tall Aranmula metal mirror in its collection. The mirrors have received a geographical indication (GI) tag in 2004-05.

They are so beautiful to behold and I remember how, as a child, I stared at it in wide-eyed wonder when my father explained to me that it is just polished metal. To me, it seemed like magic!

This was used as the dressing mirrors for the royal and feudal households of yore. Being made entirely of metal, there was no question of it ever cracking if it fell down. But if indeed it did crack, it was considered to be a very bad omen…a harbinger of times to come.

It was polished occasionally to bring back the shine. Here is a picture of an artisan checking for surface inaccuracies…

The key feature of this mirror is that it gives a distortion free image. There are many legends associated with the magical Aranmula mirror.

The four families with whom the secret formula for making the mirror rests are said to have been brought in from Tamil Nadu to work at the Sree Parthasarathy Temple at Aranmula. They were of the Vishwakarma sect and were skilled in architecture and metallurgy. While attempting to create an exquisite crown, they tried several combinations of metals and by sheer accident, they got a combination with a very high reflective properties. As they had arrived at that combination by accident, they did not know the proportions and everyone was very upset about the fact that they would not be able to create one more like that again. It is said that Goddess Meenakshi of Madurai appeared int he dreams of one of the elderly women of the family and revealed the secret formula to her.

Even to this day, production of each mirror is done in a sacred way and it is is created after prayers and offerings to God.

The prices for these mirrors start from around INR 1,500.00 for the smallest hand held vanity mirrors, and may go up to well over INR 40,000.00+ for more elaborate ones.

If you see the picture below, you will see that there is no gap between the reflection and the object…

We have one kept along with the ashtamangalyam in our prayer room back home. And I’m mighty proud of it too ^_^

What were some astonishing discoveries in the ancient Indian civilization?


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