The Umbrella Was Invented 4,000 Years Ago! Here’s How

If there is one thing Popatlal of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah is loyal to – it is his umbrella. Like him, in this season, many of us don’t leave home without an umbrella to shield us from the rains and other times from the sun. But have you ever wondered how umbrellas came into existence?

The very first use of an umbrella dates back to 21 AD in China. Wang Mang, a Hans Dynasty official, wanted atop a four-wheel carriage. A collapsible umbrella was recovered from his tomb later.

Alternatively, some believe that the umbrellas were invented by the Egyptians – with use of palm leaves or feathers and sticks – symbolising nobility. But dry, desert areas could not possibly put this genius invention to full use. The Chinese did.

In the ancient book of Chinese ceremonies, ‘Zhou Li’ there is a reference about a dais being constructed on top of imperial vehicles- the description of this dais as per the book resembles that of an umbrella.

It is an interesting thing to note that the Chinese character for an umbrella is 傘 (sǎn) which looks just like an umbrella. Some investigators think that the idea of an umbrella as we know today was inspired by the ‘tent’. Could a mushroom have been an inspiration as well?

From China, the umbrella’s design travelled to Japan, Persia, Korea and other parts of the world through the Silk Road. In China, ‘parasol’ is the more apt word to use in place of an ‘umbrella’.

In Greece, the umbrella was considered to be a lavish accessory for a ‘lady of fashion’. If men carried it, they were ridiculed.

The word umbrella is actually derived from the Latin word umbella, where umbel is the name of a flower that looks just like an umbrella. When we mix the word umbella with umbra – gives us umbrella. Umbra means shadow.

An umbel flower | Photo: asergeev.com

The compact umbrellas that we use today were developed in 1928-29. It is indispensable now!

Did you know that the umbrellas have also been used as weapons of attack? According to Birmingham Post, in 1978, Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov was killed in London by a dose of ricin injected via a modified umbrella. Yeah, it does not just happen in the movies! Remember, Alia Bhatt’s move to kill her suspecting brother-in-law in Raazi? Umbrella again.

Rain is nature’s art; umbrella is man’s art. When you walk with your umbrella in a rainy day, you walk with a super art which is a combination of two different arts!”

– Mehmet Murad ildan

Heer Khant
Heer Khant

Traveller | Writer | Photographer | Maverick | Social Worker | Lawyer | A freedom-loving woman for whom words are like wings to her soul. She believes in aliens, hates boundaries and lives like the first human on Earth.

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