Iron Pillar of Delhi

Iron Pillar of Delhi

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Iron Pillar of Delhi

The Iron Pillar of Delhi probably dates to the reign of Chandragupta II. The iron pillar is impressively rust resistant and has a number of inscriptions carved into it, the earliest in Sanskrit.

Many thanks to Ken Creed for sending us these pictures, which were taken by his wife's uncle Terry Ruff during his time with No.357 Squadron, a special operations unit that operated over Burma, Malaya and Sumatra.

लौह स्तंभ

दिल्ली का लौह स्तम्भ, दिल्ली में क़ुतुब मीनार के निकट स्थित एक विशाल स्तम्भ है। यह अपनेआप में प्राचीन भारतीय धातुकर्म की पराकाष्ठा है। यह कथित रूप से राजा चन्द्रगुप्त विक्रमादित्य (राज ३७५ - ४१३) से निर्माण कराया गया, किन्तु कुछ विशेषज्ञों का मानना है कि इसके पहले निर्माण किया गया, सम्भवतः ९१२ ईपू में। इस स्तम्भ की उँचाई लगभग सात मीटर है और पहले हिन्दू व जैन मन्दिर का एक भाग था। तेरहवीं सदी में कुतुबुद्दीन ऐबक ने मन्दिर को नष्ट करके क़ुतुब मीनार की स्थापना की। लौह-स्तम्भ में लोहे की मात्रा करीब ९८% है और अभी तक जंग नहीं लगा है।

The Incredible Rust-Resistant Iron Pillar of Delhi

In the Qutb complex of Delhi stands one of the most curious metal objects in the world - the so called “Iron Pillar of Delhi”, which does not seem to rust, despite being over a thousand years old. The height of the pillar, from the top of its capital to the bottom of its base is 7.2 metres, of which 1.1 metre is underground. The base rests on a grid of iron bars soldered with lead into the upper layer of the dressed stone pavement. The pillar's lower diameter is 420 mm (17 in), and its upper diameter 306 mm (12.0 in). It is estimated to weigh more than six tons.”

While several inscriptions are found on the pillar, the oldest one is a six-line three stanza Sanskrit inscription in verse form. As the name Chandra is mentioned in the third verse, scholars have been able to date the making of the pillar to the reign of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375-415 A.D.), a Gupta king. Although it stands in Delhi today, how this pillar got there, and its original location is still a subject of scholarly discussion.

Detail showing the inscription of King Candragupta II. Photo source: Wikipedia

One theory suggests that from its original location, the pillar was moved and erected in the main temple at the fortress city of Lal Kot at Dhilli (modern Delhi) when it was developed by the Tomar king, Anangapala II, in A.D. 1050. This is based on an inscription found on the pillar itself. In A.D. 1191, Anangapala’s grandson, Prithiviraj Chauhan, was defeated by the slave army commander of Muhammad Ghori of Ghazni, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, and Lal Kot fell into the hands of the invading Muslim army. In order to commemorate his victory, Aibak erected a mosque, called the Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam), in Lal Kot. This mosque was built on the base of a temple, albeit not the one where the pillar was erected. Using archaeological evidence, and facts based on temple architecture, it has been proposed that the pillar was moved from the Tomar temple to its present location in front of the mosque in the Qutb Complex.

As mentioned earlier, one of the most interesting qualities of this pillar is its resistance to corrosion. Several theories have been put forward to explain this phenomenon. These theories fall into two main categories – material factors (favoured by Indian investigators), and environmental factors (favoured by foreign investigators).

One of these theories, the “Mixed Potential Theory” suggests that there is a co-relation between the processing, structure, and properties of the pillar’s iron. Based on scientific analysis, it has been shown that these three factors work together to form a protective passive layer of rust on the Iron Pillar of Delhi. As a result, the pillar does not undergo further corrosion, and appears to have not rusted over a thousand year.

Nevertheless, this ability to resist corrosion is not unique to the Iron Pillar of Delhi. Research has shown that other large ancient Indian objects have a similar property. These include the iron pillars at Dhar, Mandu, Mount Abu, Kodochadri Hill, and iron cannons. Hence, it may be said that the ancient Indian iron-workers were highly skilled at forging iron objects. In a report published in the journal Current Science, R. Balasubramaniam of the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, stated that the pillar is "a living testimony to the skill of metallurgists of ancient India"

The quality of the iron used in the pillar is exceptionally pure and the detail at the top of the pillar demonstrates the skill of the craftsmen. Photo source: Wikipedia

One final thought regarding the Iron Pillar of Delhi: What man can make, man can also destroy. In 1997, a fence was erected around the pillar as a response to the damage caused by visitors. According to a popular belief, it is considered good luck if one could stand with one’s back to the pillar and make one’s hands meet behind it. Consequently, the protective passive layer of rust on the surface of the iron would have been inadvertently removed by visitors over time, leading to significant wear and visible discoloration on the lower portion of the pillar. It would be a great shame indeed if such monuments that reflect mankind’s ingenuity fall victim not to the ravages of time, but to the actions of man himself.

Featured image: The Iron Pillar of Delhi. Photo source: Wikipedia

Balasubramaniam, R., 1998. The Corrosion Resistant Delhi Iron Pillar. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 27 March 2014].

Balasubramaniam, R., 2002. Delhi Iron Pillar: New Insights. New Delhi: Aryan Books International.

Iron Pillar of Delhi

The Iron Pillar of Delhi is one of the most unique metallic objects in the world. It stands amongst the ruins of the Quwwat-Ul-Mosque, which dates back to the 4th Century A.D. The pillar was forged 1,600 years ago (sometime in 300 AD) and moved to Delhi about 1,000 years ago before the mosque was built. The pillar is made up of nearly seven tonnes of 98 percent wrought iron of pure quality. It stands tall at 7.2 metres.

The pillar bears an inscription which states that it was erected as a flagstaff in honour of the Hindu God, Vishnu, and in the memory of the Gupta King Chandragupta II (375-413). Mystery surrounds the pillar in question.

How was a pillar of this size moved to its present location is the first mystery? The second mystery, however, is a little more intriguing. Iron, as a material, is most susceptible to rust. By that logic, the Iron Pillar of Delhi should have fallen to dust and blown away with the breeze hundreds of years ago.

Metallurgists at IIT, Kanpur, have discovered that a thin layer of “misawite”, a compound of iron, oxygen and hydrogen, has protected the iron pillar from rust. The protective film took form within three years after the erection of the pillar and has been growing ever so slowly since then. After 1600 years, the film has grown just one-twentieth of a millimetre thick. The protective film was formed catalytically by the presence of high amounts of phosphorous in the iron — as much as one per cent against less than 0.05 per cent in today’s iron.

However, what man can make, man can also destroy. In 1997, a fence was erected around the pillar as a response to the damage caused by visitors. According to popular belief, it was considered good luck if one stood with one’s back to the pillar and made one’s hands meet behind it. Consequently, the protective passive layer of rust on the surface of the iron must have been inadvertently removed by visitors over time, leading to significant wear and visible discolouration on the lower portion of the pillar.

Mystery or not, the Delhi Iron Pillar serves as a guidepost for metallurgists in the 21st century. It is a classic example of massive production of high-class iron and is the biggest hand-forged block of iron. It is a demonstration of the high degree of accomplishment in the art of steel making by ancient Indian steelmakers.

It has been claimed that Indians manufactured large and heavy pieces of forged steel which European smiths learnt to make more than 1000 years later.


Recent excavations in Middle Ganga Valley done by archaeologist Rakesh Tewari show iron working in India may have begun as early as 1800 BCE. [5] Archaeological sites in India, such as Malhar, Dadupur, Raja Nala Ka Tila and Lahuradewa in the state of Uttar Pradesh show iron implements in the period between 1800 BCE - 1200 BCE. Sahi (1979: 366) concluded that by the early 13th century BCE, iron smelting was definitely practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date the technology's inception may well be placed as early as the 16th century BCE. [6]

The Black and Red Ware culture was another early Iron Age archaeological culture of the northern Indian subcontinent. It is dated to roughly the 12th – 9th centuries BCE, and associated with the post-Rigvedic Vedic civilization. It extended from the upper Gangetic plain in Uttar Pradesh to the eastern Vindhya range and West Bengal.

Perhaps as early as 300 BCE, although certainly by 200 CE, high quality steel was being produced in southern India by what Europeans would later call the crucible technique. In this system, high-purity wrought iron, charcoal, and glass were mixed in crucibles and heated until the iron melted and absorbed the carbon. The resulting high-carbon steel, called fūlāḏ فولاذ in Arabic and wootz by later Europeans, was exported throughout much of Asia and Europe.

Will Durant wrote in The Story of Civilization I: Our Oriental Heritage:

"Something has been said about the chemical excellence of cast iron in ancient India, and about the high industrial development of the Gupta times, when India was looked to, even by Imperial Rome, as the most skilled of the nations in such chemical industries as dyeing, tanning, soap-making, glass and cement. By the sixth century the Hindus were far ahead of Europe in industrial chemistry they were masters of calcinations, distillation, sublimation, steaming, fixation, the production of light without heat, the mixing of anesthetic and soporific powders, and the preparation of metallic salts, compounds and alloys. The tempering of steel was brought in ancient India to a perfection unknown in Europe till our own times King Porus is said to have selected, as a specially valuable gift for Alexander, not gold or silver, but thirty pounds of steel. The Moslems took much of this Hindu chemical science and industry to the Near East and Europe the secret of manufacturing "Damascus" blades, for example, was taken by the Arabs from the Persians, and by the Persians from India."

The Sanskrit term Ayas means metal and can refer to bronze, copper or iron.

Rigveda Edit

The Rig Veda refers to ayas, and also states that the Dasyus had Ayas (RV 2.20.8). In RV 4.2.17, "the gods [are] smelting like copper/metal ore the human generations".

The references to Ayas in the Rig Veda probably refer to bronze or copper rather than to iron. [7] Scholars like Bhargava [8] maintain that Rigved was written in the Vedic state of Brahmavarta and Khetri Copper mines formed an important location in Brahmavarta. Vedic people had used Copper extensively in agriculture, Water purification, tools, utensils etc., D. K. Chakrabarti (1992) argued: "It should be clear that any controversy regarding the meaning of ayas in the Rgveda or the problem of the Rgvedic familiarity or unfamiliarity with iron is pointless. There is no positive evidence either way. It can mean both copper-bronze and iron and, strictly on the basis of the contexts, there is no reason to choose between the two."

Arthashastra Edit

The Arthashastra lays down the role of the Director of Metals, the Director of Forest Produce and the Director of Mining. [9] It is the duty of the Director of Metals to establish factories for different metals. The Director of Mines is responsible for the inspection of mines. The Arthashastra also refers to counterfeit coins. [9]

Other texts Edit

There are many references to Ayas in the early Indian texts. [10]

The Atharva Veda and the Satapatha Brahmana refer to krsna ayas ("black metal"), which could be iron (but possibly also iron ore and iron items not made of smelted iron). There is also some controversy if the term syamayas ("black metal) refers to iron or not. In later texts the term refers to iron. In earlier texts, it could possibly also refer to darker-than-copper bronze, an alloy of copper and tin. [11] [12] Copper can also become black by heating it. [13] Oxidation with the use of sulphides can produce the same effect. [13] [14]

The Yajurveda seems to know iron. [9] In the Taittiriya Samhita are references to ayas and at least one reference to smiths. [9] The Satapatha Brahmana refers to the smelting of metallic ore. [15] In the Manu Smriti (6.71), the following analogy is found: "For as the impurities of metallic ores, melted in the blast (of a furnace), are consumed, even so the taints of the organs are destroyed through the suppression of the breath." Metal was also used in agriculture, and the Buddhist text Suttanipata has the following analogy: "for as a ploughshare that has got hot during the day when thrown into the water splashes, hisses and smokes in volumes. " [9]

In the Charaka Samhita an analogy occurs that probably refers to the lost wax technique. [15] The Silpasastras (the Manasara, the Manasollasa (Abhilashitartha Chintamani) and the Uttarabhaga of Silparatna) describe the lost wax technique in detail. [15]

The Silappadikaram says that copper-smiths were in Puhar and in Madura. [15] According to the History of the Han Dynasty by Ban Gu, Kashmir and "Tien-chu" were rich in metals. [15]

An influential Indian metallurgist and alchemist was Nagarjuna (born 931). He wrote the treatise Rasaratnakara that deals with preparations of rasa (mercury) compounds. It gives a survey of the status of metallurgy and alchemy in the land. Extraction of metals such as silver, gold, tin and copper from their ores and their purification were also mentioned in the treatise. The Rasa Ratnasamuccaya describes the extraction and use of copper. [16]

Chakrabarti (1976) has identified six early iron-using centres in India: Baluchistan, the Northwest, the Indo-Gangetic divide and the upper Gangetic valley, eastern India, Malwa and Berar in central India and the megalithic south India. [9] The central Indian region seems to be the earliest iron-using centre. [17]

According to Tewari, iron using and iron "was prevalent in the Central Ganga Plain and the Eastern Vindhyas from the early 2nd millennium BC." [18]

The earliest evidence for smelted iron in India dates to 1300 to 1000 BCE. [19] These early findings also occur in places like the Deccan and the earliest evidence for smelted iron occurs in Central India, not in north-western India. [20] Moreover, the dates for iron in India are not later than in those of Central Asia, and according to some scholars (e.g. Koshelenko 1986) the dates for smelted iron may actually be earlier in India than in Central Asia and Iran. [21] The Iron Age did however not necessary imply a major social transformation, and Gregory Possehl wrote that "the Iron Age is more of a continuation of the past then a break with it". [22]

Archaeological data suggests that India was "an independent and early centre of iron technology." [23] According to Shaffer, the "nature and context of the iron objects involved [of the BRW culture] are very different from early iron objects found in Southwest Asia." [24] In Central Asia, the development of iron technology was not necessarily connected with Indo-Iranian migrations either. [25]

J.M. Kenoyer (1995) also remarks that there is a "long break in tin acquisition" necessary for the production of "tin bronzes" in the Indus Valley region, suggesting a lack of contact with Baluchistan and northern Afghanistan, or the lack of migrants from the north-west who could have procured tin.

Indus Valley Civilization Edit

The copper-bronze metallurgy in the Harappan civilization was widespread and had a high variety and quality. [26] The early use of iron may have developed from the practice of copper-smelting. [27] While there is to date no proven evidence for smelted iron in the Indus Valley Civilization, iron ore and iron items have been unearthed in eight Indus Valley sites, some of them dating to before 2600 BCE. [28] There remains the possibility that some of these items were made of smelted iron, and the term "krsna ayas" might possibly also refer to these iron items, even if they are not made of smelted iron.

Lothali copper is unusually pure, lacking the arsenic typically used by coppersmiths across the rest of the Indus valley. Workers mixed tin with copper for the manufacture of celts, arrowheads, fishhooks, chisels, bangles, rings, drills and spearheads, although weapon manufacturing was minor. They also employed advanced metallurgy in following the cire perdue technique of casting, and used more than one-piece moulds for casting birds and animals. [29] They also invented new tools such as curved saws and twisted drills unknown to other civilizations at the time. [30]

Brass Edit

Brass was used in Lothal and Atranjikhera in the 3rd and 2nd millennium BCE. [31] Brass and probably zinc was also found at Taxila in 4th to 3rd century BCE contexts. [32]

Copper Edit

Copper technology may date back to the 4th millennium BCE in the Himalaya region. [16] It is the first element to be discovered in metallurgy, Copper and its alloys were also used to create copper-bronze images such as Buddhas or Hindu/Mahayana Buddhist deities. [15] Xuanzang also noted that there were copper-bronze Buddha images in Magadha. [15] In Varanasi, each stage of the image manufacturing process is handled by a specialist. [33]

Other metal objects made by Indian artisans include lamps. [34] Copper was also a component in the razors for the tonsure ceremony. [15]

One of the most important sources of history in the Indian subcontinent are the royal records of grants engraved on copper-plate grants (tamra-shasan or tamra-patra). Because copper does not rust or decay, they can survive indefinitely. Collections of archaeological texts from the copper-plates and rock-inscriptions have been compiled and published by the Archaeological Survey of India during the past century. The earliest known copper-plate known as the Sohgaura copper-plate is a Maurya record that mentions famine relief efforts. It is one of the very few pre-Ashoka Brahmi inscriptions in India.

Gold and silver Edit

The deepest gold mines of the Ancient world were found in the Maski region in Karnataka. [35] There were ancient silver mines in northwest India. Dated to the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. gold and silver were also used for making utensils for the royal family and nobilities.the royal family wore costly fabrics so it may be assumed that gold and silver were beaten into thin fibres and embroidered or woven into fabrics or dress.

Iron Edit

Recent excavations in Middle Ganges Valley show iron working in India may have begun as early as 1800 BCE. [36] In the 5th century BCE, the Greek historian Herodotus observed that "Indian and the Persian army used arrows tipped with iron." [37] Ancient Romans used armour and cutlery made of Indian iron. Pliny the Elder also mentioned Indian iron. [37] Muhammad al-Idrisi wrote the Hindus excelled in the manufacture of iron, and that it would be impossible to find anything to surpass the edge from Hindwani steel. [38] Quintus Curtius wrote about an Indian present of steel to Alexander. [39] Ferrum indicum appeared in the list of articles subject to duty under Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. [9] Indian Wootz steel was held in high regard in Europe, and Indian iron was often considered to be the best. [40]

Wootz and steel Edit

The first form of crucible steel was wootz, developed in India some time around 300 BCE. In its production the iron was mixed with glass and then slowly heated and then cooled. As the mixture cooled the glass would bond to impurities in the steel and then float to the surface, leaving the steel considerably more pure. Carbon could enter the iron by diffusing in through the porous walls of the crucibles. Carbon dioxide would not react with the iron, but the small amounts of carbon monoxide could, adding carbon to the mix with some level of control. Wootz was widely exported throughout the Middle East, where it was combined with a local production technique around 1000 CE to produce Damascus steel, famed throughout the world. [41] Wootz derives from the Tamil term for steel urukku. [42] Indian wootz steel was the first high quality steel that was produced.

Henry Yule quoted the 12th-century Arab Edrizi who wrote: "The South Indians excel in the manufacture of iron, and in the preparations of those ingredients along with which it is fused to obtain that kind of soft iron which is usually styled Indian steel. They also have workshops wherein are forged the most famous sabres in the world. . It is not possible to find anything to surpass the edge that you get from Indian steel (al-hadid al-Hindi). [37]

As early as the 17th century, Europeans knew of India's ability to make crucible steel from reports brought back by travelers who had observed the process at several places in southern India. Several attempts were made to import the process, but failed because the exact technique remained a mystery. Studies of wootz were made in an attempt to understand its secrets, including a major effort by the famous scientist, Michael Faraday, son of a blacksmith. Working with a local cutlery manufacturer he wrongly concluded that it was the addition of aluminium oxide and silica from the glass that gave wootz its unique properties.

After the Indian rebellion of 1857, many Indian wootz steel swords were destroyed by order of the British authorities. [37] Metal working suffered a decline during the British Empire, but steel production was revived in India by Jamsetji Tata.

Zinc Edit

Zinc was extracted in India as early as in the 4th to 3rd century BCE. Zinc production may have begun in India, and ancient northwestern India is the earliest known civilization that produced zinc on an industrial scale. [43] The distillation technique was developed around 1200 CE at Zawar in Rajasthan. [31]

In the 17th century, China exported Zinc to Europe under the name of totamu or tutenag. The term tutenag may derive from the South Indian term Tutthanagaa (zinc). [44] In 1597, Libavius, a metallurgist in England received some quantity of Zinc metal and named it as Indian/Malabar lead. [45] In 1738, William Champion is credited with patenting in Britain a process to extract zinc from calamine in a smelter, a technology that bore a strong resemblance to and was probably inspired by the process used in the Zawar zinc mines in Rajasthan. [37] His first patent was rejected by the patent court on grounds of plagiarising the technology common in India. However, he was granted the patent on his second submission of patent approval. Postlewayt's Universal Dictionary of 1751 still wasn't aware of how Zinc was produced. [32]

The Arthashastra describes the production of zinc. [46] The Rasaratnakara by Nagarjuna describes the production of brass and zinc. [47] There are references of medicinal uses of zinc in the Charaka Samhita (300 BCE). The Rasaratna Samuchaya (800 CE) explains the existence of two types of ores for zinc metal, one of which is ideal for metal extraction while the other is used for medicinal purpose. [48] It also describes two methods of zinc distillation. [32]

Recent excavations in Middle Ganges Valley conducted by archaeologist Rakesh Tewari show iron working in India may have begun as early as 1800 BCE. [36] Archaeological sites in India, such as Malhar, Dadupur, Raja Nala Ka Tila and Lahuradewa in the state of Uttar Pradesh show iron implements in the period between 1800 BCE-1200 BCE. [36] Sahi (1979: 366) concluded that by the early 13th century BCE, iron smelting was definitely practiced on a bigger scale in India, suggesting that the date the technology's early period may well be placed as early as the 16th century BCE. [36]

Some of the early iron objects found in India are dated to 1400 BCE by employing the method of radio carbon dating. [49] Spikes, knives, daggers, arrow-heads, bowls, spoons, saucepans, axes, chisels, tongs, door fittings etc. ranging from 600 BCE—200 BCE have been discovered from several archaeological sites. [49] In Southern India (present day Mysore) iron appeared as early as the 12th or 11th century BCE. [50] These developments were too early for any significant close contact with the northwest of the country. [50]

The earliest available Bronze age swords of copper discovered from the Harappan sites in Pakistan date back to 2300 BCE. [51] Swords have been recovered in archaeological findings throughout the Ganges-Jamuna Doab region of India, consisting of bronze but more commonly copper. [51] Diverse specimens have been discovered in Fatehgarh, where there are several varieties of hilt. [51] These swords have been variously dated to periods between 1700 and 1400 BCE, but were probably used more extensively during the opening centuries of the 1st millennium BCE. [51]

The beginning of the 1st millennium BCE saw extensive developments in iron metallurgy in India. [50] Technological advancement and mastery of iron metallurgy was achieved during this period of peaceful settlements. [50] The years between 322 and 185 BCE saw several advancements being made to the technology involved in metallurgy during the politically stable Maurya period (322—185 BCE). [52] Greek historian Herodotus (431—425 BCE) wrote the first western account of the use of iron in India. [49]

Perhaps as early as 300 BCE—although certainly by 200 CE—high quality steel was being produced in southern India by what Europeans would later call the crucible technique. [53] In this system, high-purity wrought iron, charcoal, and glass were mixed in a crucible and heated until the iron melted and absorbed the carbon. [53] The first crucible steel was the wootz steel that originated in India before the beginning of the common era. [54] Wootz steel was widely exported and traded throughout ancient Europe, China, the Arab world, and became particularly famous in the Middle East, where it became known as Damascus steel. Archaeological evidence suggests that this manufacturing process was already in existence in South India well before the common era. [55] [56]

Zinc mines of Zawar, near Udaipur, Rajasthan, were active during 400 BCE. [57] There are references of medicinal uses of zinc in the Charaka Samhita (300 BCE). [57] The Rasaratna Samuccaya (800 CE) explains the existence of two types of ores for zinc metal, one of which is ideal for metal extraction while the other is used for medicinal purpose. [57] The Periplus Maris Erythraei mentions weapons of Indian iron and steel being exported from India to Greece. [58]

The world's first iron pillar was the Iron pillar of Delhi—erected at the times of Chandragupta II Vikramaditya (375–413). [59] The swords manufactured in Indian workshops find written mention in the works of Muhammad al-Idrisi (flourished 1154). [60] Indian Blades made of Damascus steel found their way into Persia. [58] European scholars—during the 14th century—studied Indian casting and metallurgy technology. [61]

Indian metallurgy under the Mughal emperor Akbar (reign: 1556-1605) produced excellent small firearms. [62] Gommans (2002) holds that Mughal handguns were stronger and more accurate than their European counterparts. [63]

Srivastava & Alam (2008) comment on Indian coinage of the Mughal Empire (established: April 21, 1526 - ended: September 21, 1857) during Akbar's regime: [64]

Akbar reformed Mughal currency to make it one of the best known of its time. The new regime possessed a fully functioning trimetallic (silver, copper, and gold) currency, with an open minting system in which anyone willing to pay the minting charges could bring metal or old or foreign coin to the mint and have it struck. All monetary exchanges were, however, expressed in copper coins in Akbar's time. In the 17th century, following the silver influx from the New World, silver rupee with new fractional denominations replaced the copper coin as a common medium of circulation. Akbar's aim was to establish a uniform coinage throughout his empire some coins of the old regime and regional kingdoms also continued.

Statues of Nataraja and Vishnu were cast during the reign of the imperial Chola dynasty (200-1279) in the 9th century. [61] The casting could involve a mixture of five metals: copper, zinc, tin, gold, and silver. [61]

Considered one of the most remarkable feats in metallurgy, the Seamless celestial globe was invented in Kashmir by Ali Kashmiri ibn Luqman in 998 AH (1589-90 CE), and twenty other such globes were later produced in Lahore and Kashmir during the Mughal Empire. [65] Before they were rediscovered in the 1980s, it was believed by modern metallurgists to be technically impossible to produce metal globes without any seams, even with modern technology. [65] These Mughal metallurgists pioneered the method of lost-wax casting in order to produce these globes. [65]

Modern steel making in India began with the setting of first blast furnace of India at Kulti in 1870 and production began in 1874, which was set up by Bengal Iron Works. The Ordnance Factory Board established Metal & Steel Factory (MSF) at Calcutta, in 1872 [66] [67] The Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) was established by Dorabji Tata in 1907, as part of his father's conglomerate. By 1939 Tata operated the largest steel plant in the British Empire, and accounted for a significant proportion of the 2 million tons pig iron and 1.13 of steel produced in British India annually. [68] [69]

Native arms production Edit

The first iron-cased and metal-cylinder rockets (Mysorean rockets) were developed by the Mysorean army of the South Indian Kingdom of Mysore in the 1780s. [70] The Mysoreans successfully used these iron-cased rockets against the larger forces of the British East India Company during the Anglo-Mysore Wars. [70]

A painting showing the Mysorean army fighting the British forces with Mysorean rockets, which used metal cylinders to contain the combustion powder. [71]

A Mysorean soldier using his Mysorean rocket as a flagstaff (Robert Home, 1793/4).

History of the Iron pillar of Delhi

When and how it was built, no historian or scientist has full knowledge to date, according to historians, this pillar belongs to Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty. According to some others, it was built by Emperor Ashoka in memory of his grandfather Chandragupta Maurya.

But experts believe that it was built long ago. It was previously a part of Hindu and Jain temples. This iron pillar of Delhi says something in Sanskrit that it was erected as a flag pillar in front of the world temple built by King Chandra in Mathura. And then Garuda settled in it, hence its name Garuda Pillar

First of all, the 11th-century ruler of Tomar, Anangpal, showed curiosity about this pillar, Anangpal ordered his astrologers and scholars to obtain information about the pillar, But they got failure. Anangpal ordered this Dislocate in the last.

But it is said that after digging a bit, a stream of blood started flowing from it, the astrologer said that this iron pillar rests on the funnel of Sheshnag, so it is unwavering it will remain as long as your rule.

Anangpal dug the pits, even after which he kept moving, which people started calling him a deli and later on he became familiar with the name of Delhi.

There are two articles written on this column, one Prithviraj Chauhan, who ruled till the end of the 12th century, and the other inscription is written in the Brahmi script of the Gupta period of the fourth century. Which states that it was built in memory of which king

The Mysterious Iron Pillar of Dhar

The Iron Pillar of Delhi is a metallurgical wonder and a historical marvel situated in the Qutb Minar complex in Mehrauli, 28 km from the city of Delhi. But did you know that this famous pillar has an equally fascinating, even if a far less glamorous, cousin in the town of Dhar in Madhya Pradesh? The Iron Pillar of Dhar, originally almost twice as tall as its counterpart in Delhi, is preserved in the compound of the Lat Masjid (‘lat’ means ‘pillar’).

The Dhar pillar is in three pieces, placed horizontally on a platform in the mosque compound. When standing vertically, the pillar would have soared 43 feet, 4 inches high. It would have tapered from top to bottom, changing shape at different points. While the bottom fragment has a square cross-section, the middle fragment has square and octagonal cross-sections, and the top fragment has an octagonal cross-section with a small circular portion at the top. It is believed that this circular part was the base of a fourth, missing piece, which was probably a trishul (trident) or a garuda (a mythical bird) that crowned the pillar. Today the 3 existing fragments of the pillar are approximately 24, 11 and 7 ft in length respectively.

It doesn’t seem like much today but the Iron Pillar of Dhar must have been an arresting sight in medieval times. Adding to its aura is its fascinating tale and an air of mystery that has left vital portions of its story unanswered.

Dhar is a small town near Indore in Madhya Pradesh and was the capital of the Malwa region, which comprised what is west-central Madhya Pradesh and south-eastern Rajasthan today. The city is believed to have been founded by Raja Bhoja, the most prominent ruler of the Paramara Dynasty who lorded over the Malwa region in the first half of the 11th century CE.

Dhar later fell to the Delhi Sultans, starting with Alaudin Khilji, around 1300 CE. In 1390 CE, Dilawar Khan was appointed Governor of Dhar during the last years of the Tuglaq dynasty but with the decline of the Delhi Sultanate, he declared himself independent and founded the Malwa Sultanate in 1401 CE. Dilawar Khan was succeeded by his son, Hoshang Shah (r. 1405- 1435), who shifted the capital of the Malwa Sultanate from Dhar to Mandu. But Dhar remained strategically important and was visited by Mughal Emperor Akbar (r. 1556-1605) himself during his campaigns.

Very little is known about the Iron Pillar of Dhar, including who built it. The pillar has no inscription or other markings to suggest its purpose or who its donor was. According to local lore, it was a victory pillar erected to commemorate a conquest by Raja Bhoja (r. 1010-55 CE). Vincent Smith, an Irish Indologist and art historian of the late 19th and early 20th century, disagrees. He believes the pillar dates to the Gupta period (mid-3rd to 6th CE), like the Iron Pillar of Delhi.

On the other hand, Henry Cousens, an archaeologist with the Archaeological Survey of India in the early 20th century and who studied the pillar in 1902-03, says the pillar was erected in 1210 CE by Paramara ruler Raja Arjunavarma Deva (r. 1210-18), with the molten implements of war left by his enemies during his attack on Gujarat. Even as experts differ on who built it, no one really knows where the pillar originally stood.

Although in three pieces today, most scholars believe the Iron Pillar of Dhar initially broke into two, during attacks by the Islamic Sultanates of the north. The smaller of the two pieces around 7 ft in length was erected in front of Dilawar Khan’s mosque in Mandu, just like the Iron Pillar of Delhi stands in the courtyard of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in the Qutb Complex in Delhi. The longer piece stayed where it was and ended up in front of the Lat Masjid built by Dilawar Khan in Dhar, when it allegedly replaced a temple at the site.

The Dhar segment of the pillar broke for the second time in 1531 CE, when Bahadur Shah of the Gujarat Sultanate decided to carry it with him to Gujarat after defeating Mahmud Shah II, the last ruler of the Malwa Sultanate, and capturing the fort of Mandu. Bahadur Shah had intended to take the pillar back with him to Gujarat but it broke while it was being uprooted. So he abandoned his plan.

Later, in his autobiography, Mughal Emperor Jahangir (r. 1605-27 CE) says he had ordered that the larger pillar be taken to Agra, to be erected in his father Emperor Akbar’s tomb complex, as a lamppost. However, this too never happened.

Stand next to the pillar, even in its present state, and you are struck by how sturdy it was. Its surface is uneven as it has been marked by people who have visited it over the centuries. Although there are no inscriptions that shed light on the pillar’s donor or purpose, Cousens mentions a number of letters and names in Devanagari on it. He believes they must have been made by visitors to the town. A large number of these belong to individuals from the goldsmith class, with names like ‘Soni’ and ‘Sonar’. Given the height and direction of the inscriptions, Cousens believes they were made before the pillar fell for the first time.

In 1598 CE, Emperor Akbar himself left an inscription on the pillar. He was camped in Dhar while directing his Deccan campaign, and left an inscription on the pillar, in which he records his presence in Dhar for 7 days. The position of the inscription suggests that the pillar was no longer upright at this time.

Cousens also notes that the pillar has small, irregular holes at intervals on all sides. These holes range from 1.75 inches to 3 inches in depth, and 1.25 inches in diameter, and Cousens feels they may have been created by welders to help them manipulate and manoeuvre it.

Astonishingly, the Iron Pillar of Dhar, just like the one in Delhi, is rust-resistant, which means the craftsmen had used advanced metallurgical techniques. Dr R. Balasubramaniam, Professor of Metallurgy Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur who studied the composition of the pillar in great detail in 2002, believes it was made by ‘forge welding’, a technique in which pieces of metal are joined by heating them to very high temperatures and hammering them together. If this was indeed true, the Iron Pillar of Dhar would have been the largest ancient forge-welded pillar in the world.

He also states that the Pillar shows superior resistance to corrosion due to its chemical composition.

While the largest piece stayed in the premises of the Lat Masjid the two smaller pieces were kept in different places over the centuries. The second largest piece was in the Ananda High School in Dhar when Cousens visited the town in 1902 and moved to the Lat Masjid between the 1920s and 1940s. The third piece was in Mandu and was shifted back to Dhar in the second half of the 19th century. In Dhar it moved from the Dhar Maharajas’ Guest House to the Lal Bagh gardens to the Ananda Public School before being finally placed in the Lat Masjid by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Thus the three fragments of the iron pillar were in different places for centuries before the ASI brought the third piece to the mosque complex in 1980, and then placed all three of them alongside each other, as they are today. Before the ASI reunited all three fragments and repositioned them, the longest piece had been resting diagonally against the Lat Masjid and was being used as a slide by local children. Dr Balasubramaniam notes that the surface of the pillar at the top is rather polished because of this.

Lack of records or any other kind of evidence leaves us with precious little information about this marvellous monument, which deserves much more attention than it gets from the public and even from scientists and archaeometallurgists. In the words of historian Vincent Smith, “While we marvel at the skill shown by the ancient artificers in forging a great mass of the Delhi pillar, we must give a still greater measure of admiration to the forgotten craftsmen who dealt so successfully in producing the still more ponderous iron mass of the Dhar pillar monument with its total length of 42 feet.’’

Scientific Assumptions About Iron Pillar

The iron pillar is a mystery because it has an intense resistance against corrosion because of which it has been surviving through all odd weather conditions for many years. There are two broad classifications among the reasons presented by scientists to justify the pillar’s excellent resistance towards natural rusting.

The scientists come up with either environmental aspect or a material aspect to explain the matter. Environmental theorists believe that Delhi is blessed to have a mild weather that’s why the pillar is not rusting so speedily. While believers of a material aspect present an argument that there is some key material product used in the construction of the pillar that is preventing the normal rate of corrosion.

The archaeologist believes that the pillar must be made of the pure iron type having low or literally no presence of sulfur. This happened to contribute to the solid metal grain structure of the pillar.

Some other assumptions that try to explain this pillar mystery include certain scientific theories of mass metal effect. Most of the experts think that lack of sulfur contaminants in the environment plus the preservation coating of sulfur on the pillar, is helping pillar survive for such long time period.

Apart from all these reasoning, we can’t rule out the fact that construction strategy always affects the performance of a project. There are several other structures in India that reveal that there may be some common technique used by ironsmiths of India at that time in order to avoid the corrosion.

The scientists tried really hard to find the main reason behind corrosion resistance they found out that the thin rust film formed over pillar actually helps the pillar from further deterioration. Various other facts revealed during this study later helped experts to devise successful ways to prevent the corrosion of steel.

Physical structure of Iron pillar

The height of the pillar, from the highest of its capital to the highest of its base, is 7.21 m (23 ft 8 in), 1.12 m (3 ft 8 in) of which is below ground. Its bell pattern capital on top is 306 mm (12 in). it’s estimated to weigh quite six Tones. (13,228 lb).

The eye of many archaeologists and scientists are attracted by pillar due to its high resistance to corrosion. Iron Pillar has been called a “high level of skill achieved by the traditional Indian iron smiths within the extraction and processing of iron”. The corrosion resistance results from a good layer of crystalline iron(III) hydrogen phosphate hydrate forming on the high-phosphorus-content iron. Which serves to guard it from the consequences of the Delhi climate.

The pillar carries a number of inscriptions and graffiti of different dates which have not been studied systematically despite the pillar’s prominent location and easy access. The oldest inscription on the pillar is in Sanskrit, written in Gupta-period Brahmi script. This states that the pillar was erected as a standard in honor of Viṣṇu. The dating of the inscription is supported by the nature of the script and the Sanskrit poetics, both of which reflect the conventions of Gupta times.

The pillar was manufactured by forge welding and is composed of 98% pure wrought iron. In a report published in the journal Current Science, R. Balasubramaniam of the IIT Kanpur explains how the pillar’s resistance to corrosion is due to a passive protective film at the iron-rust interface.

The presence of second-phase particles (slag and unreduced iron oxides) in the microstructure of the iron, that of high amounts of phosphorus in the metal, and the alternate wetting and drying existing under atmospheric conditions are the three main factors in the three-stage formation of that protective passive film. Mr.Balasubramaniam states that the pillar is “a living testimony to the skill of metallurgists of ancient India”.

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Author: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)

Tutor and Freelance Writer. Science Teacher and Lover of Essays. Article last reviewed: 2020 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2021 | Creative Commons 4.0

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