Iron Pillar – Great Ancient Indian Metallurgy

Around 350 AD – Gupta Empire, Ancient India

An iron pillar weighing over 6 tonnes, more than 7 metres tall is constructed in a single forge and is erected on top of the Vishnupada hill (somewhere in modern central India) with sanskrit inscriptions on it in the brahmi script about the great gupta ruler Chandragupta Vikramaditya.

Later the founder of delhi, Tomar king Anangapala brings it to delhi and installs it in its current place (See above pic)
The mughal emperor Akbar makes every effort to have the inscriptions read, but at that time nobody knows about the script in which the inscriptions have been written, so the effort fails.

Much later, in the modern days, historians discover Ashoka’s pillars (The great Mauryan ruler of ancient India) and learn about the Brahmi script in which Ashoka’s inscriptions have been written. The script on the delhi’s iron pillar is then identified to be written in the same Brahmi script.

What’s so wonderful about it? Well, one should ask what’s so mysterious about it?

More than 1600 years back, to build an iron pillar of this huge size in a single forge itself is an indication of the advanced metallurgy of the ancient Indians. Even in today’s modern technological world it is a great achievement to forge such a huge pillar in a single forge!!!

But there’s more, this pillar which contains more than 98% of pure iron, even after 1600 years has not caught rust!!! It is 100% corrosion resistant inspite of the fact that it is 98% iron!! This indicates one of the great technological achievements of the ancient Indians. Even today it is next to impossible to construct such a huge corrossion resistant iron pillar. Corrosion resistant technologists from all over the world have studied this pillar.

Modern day technology uses limestone in the blast furnaces which carries away most of the phosphrous content in the ore in the form of slag. Ancient Indians instead by solid state reduction (used charcoal as a reducing agent) to extract pure iron with low carbon content from the ore.

One of the research opinions about the iron pillar’s corrosion resistant nature is that the high amount of phosphorous (which is 1% of the pillar as opposed to modern day proportions which is 0.05%) has formed a thin protective layer on the surface of the pillar thereby making it corrosion proof. Since other ancient iron works of the same period do not contain such a high quantity of phosphorous, it indicates that the extra phosphorous was intentionally added to the iron pillar.

Another theory suggests that the relative low humidity of Delhi ensures that the Iron pillar does not corrode. But I strongly disagree with this theory and want to stress on the fact that it is not the climate of Delhi but the composition of the pillar which is responsible for the corrosion resistant nature of the pillar. This is because of a simple reason that I observed a similar ancient corrosion resistant Iron pillar when I had been on a trek to the Kodachadri hills in the west coast of South India. Also I have heard about a similar corrosion resistant Iron pillar in the konark temple of Orissa. Both the above mentioned places have a highly humid climate throughout the year and yet the iron pillars here are corrosion resistant! The spreadout of these pillars across the geographical landscape of India indicates that the Iron pillar of delhi was not a single isolated incident of an ancient genius but was a common technical knowledge of the ancient civilization in this country.

The inscriptions on the pillar identify the king as “Chandra” (which most historians have related to the great Gupta ruler Chandragupta Vikramaditya) reads as follows (Source Wikipedia)

He, on whose arm fame was inscribed by the sword, when, in battle in the Vanga countries, he kneaded (and turned) back with (his) breast the enemies who, uniting together, came against (him);-he, by whom, having crossed in warfare the seven mouths of the (river) Sindhu, the Vahlikas were conquered;-he, by the breezes of whose prowess the southern ocean is even still perfumed;-

(Line 3.)-He, the remnant of the great zeal of whose energy, which utterly destroyed (his) enemies, like (the remnant of the great glowing heat) of a burned-out fire in a great forest, even now leaves not the earth; though he, the king, as if wearied, has quitted this earth, and has gone to the other world, moving in (bodily) form to the land (of paradise) won by (the merit of has) actions, (but) remaining on (this) earth by (the memory of his) fame;-

(L. 5.)-By him, the king,-who attained sole supreme sovereignty in the world, acquired by his own arm and (enjoyed) for a very long time; (and) who, having the name of Chandra, carried a beauty of countenance like (the beauty of) the full-moon,-having in faith fixed his mind upon (the god) Vishnu, this lofty standard of the divine Vishnu was set up on the hill (called) Vishnupada.

This pillar was erected in the honour of the hindu god Vishnu who is one of the trimurthi (Three gods who represent the life cycle of the Universe: Brahma-The Creator, Vishnu-The Maintainer, Shiva-The Destroyer)

By the way it is interesting to note that more than 2300 years back, ancient Indians knew about the process of iron rusting! “Buddha” is cited in the ancient buddhist book Dharmapada saying As rust, sprung from iron, eats itself away when arisen, even so his own deeds lead the transgressor to states of woe.

  • Shweta

    Excited to know more about London being “Luvnandan” as mentioned by Priti. Gurudev, do you have any such insights?

  • Dennis Andrew Thachil

    The fact is that, the world largest sanskrit university is not in India, It is in germany. The have the true copies of ancient texts, even vedas. Most of the copies were not seen by any indians.

    • Yog Shoggoth

      They were interested in Indian history because they knew it had information they had yet to glean. Same as the Smithsonian institution steals native American things and hides or destroys them. They are rewriting history. Do not be a fool, go out and explore the real history of India, even if the findings say that it was not your direct ancestors that did such and such. The truth is what the other countries are after, even if they only wish to hide it and distort it. Israel only wants to make money and wage war … but they are looking to the Vedas for a weapon, or a way to make money for their own evil devises. Germany was doing the same and now you have to travel to Germany to see your own writings.

  • Dennis Andrew Thachil

    If you are really interested in our ancient knowledge/heritage/ wisdom, kindly visit http://www.iish.org

  • Priti

    I appreciate your efforts.please write something about Indians going to London (original name luvnandan) in ancient times.

  • Kumarpraveen655

    ancient knowledge had become myth and fantasy now . so sad . :(

    • Anonymous

      Just recently a research team from Israel came to Kodachadri to study the mystery behind the never rusting Iron Pillar. Sad that we never realize the true potential of our ancestors. Earlier in the last century it was Germans to took to the study of vedas and sanskrit with great seriousness.

  • Lupita_sahu

    Greate article gurudev (as always). However would like to mention that the corrosion resistant Iron pillar in Odisha is currently present in front of the Jagannath temple in Puri and not in the Sun temple in konark. It is being called as “Garuda stamha”

    • Anonymous

      Yes you are right. Thanks for correcting it :)

      From what I read now, the mentioned pillar was at Konark till 1779. Then a Maratha Sadhu took it away from Konark and put it in front of the Jagannath temple in Puri where it stands today.

  • http://www.metallurgydata.blogfa.com majid

    hi
    Thanks to the author
    if this was not a lot of questions I brought suffering.

    • http://www.hitxp.com Gurudev

      Thanks for the comments, I am happy that the article was useful to you.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the comments, I am happy that the article was useful to you.

  • Kriti

    Interesting but very long to read!!!
    lol!!

    • http://www.hitxp.com Gurudev

      Thank you :)

  • http://Gmail prashanth

    this is really great news. it shows how was our ancient peoples, so thank you for sharing a great news in this article.

    • http://www.hitxp.com Gurudev

      You are welcome Prashanth

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  • http://mairebhavnayen.blogspot.com/ seema gupta

    thanks for sharing this nice artical
    regards

    • http://www.hitxp.com Gurudev

      You are welcome Seema.

  • http://www.wikipedia.org uzma fatima

    its not there what i want. i want  the imformation of the script.by the way , i am  proud of being  indian

    • http://www.hitxp.com Gurudev

      Thanks for your comments.

  • AKANKHYA KABI

    This is a very beautiful place.May I get a oppertunity to go here.

  • Chandran, Avinjikkat

    Hari Om!
    A very informative article. I hear that Indian scientists had conducted tests to look into the mystery of this marvel but I have not heard about the out come.

    • http://www.hitxp.com Gurudev

      A lot of the ancient mysteries are considered to be technological marvels even today ie modern science has no answers or is learning from the ancient tech. For instance you will find numerous examples where western medicine has failed to cure certain ailments and when people as a last resort went for ancient Indian medicine like ayurveda, they finally got cured.

  • cindy mack

    Thanks for the article. It helped me to be able to help my son with his term paper here in spain.
    Many thanks
    cindy

  • Amit Sawant

    AMAZING INDIA!!!!!!!!!!!!! PROUD TO BE INDIAN !

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  • http://ancientindians.wordpress.com/ satyask

    I have quoted you and provided a link back to this site. Thank you so much for your work… and insights…
    http://ancientindians.wordpress.com/ancient-indian-metallurgy/

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  • Aaditya

    great article, very informative.

  • http://www.girls-franchise.blogspot.com Melody-Eve

    WOW! What an interesting fact? I am doing some researchs for my history project, and i found something, that is so incredible!

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  • Trond Ruud

    Regarding the “”Iranian Nanotechnology 3000 Years Ago”"-link, it may interest you to know researchers believe the Elamite civilization’s language was Dravidian.

  • Trond Ruud

    The Iron pillar, amazing as it is, may be overshadowed by ancient Indian nanotechnology, as describe here in:
    1. The Hindu
    Indian craftsmen, artisans used nanotech 2000 yrs ago’

    Visakhapatnam (PTI): Indian craftsmen and artisans used nanotechnology extensively about 2000 years ago to make weapons and long lasting cave paintings, a Nobel laureate of Chemistry said here.

    However, the craftsmen were completely unaware that they were practising carbon nano-techniques that are the most sought after in the current age.

    Citing examples of the famous Damascus blades used in the famous sword of Tipu Sultan and Ajanta Paintings, Nobel laureate Robert Curl Jr. said studies have found existence of carbon nano particles in both.

    On the sword scientists found carbon nanotubes, cylindrical arrangements of carbon atoms first discovered in 1991 and now made in laboratories all over the world.

    “”Our ancestors have been unwittingly using the technology for over 2,000 years and carbon nano for about 500 years. Carbon nanotechnology is much older than carbon nanoscience,”" Curl said at the ongoing 95th Indian Science Congress here.

    The 74-year-old scientist from the US shared the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Richard Smalley and Harold Kroto for the discovery of the carbon cage compounds, known as fullerenes.

    Indian craftsmen used unique smelting techniques to manufacture the Damascus blades which led to nanotisation giving them a unique long-lasting edge.

    They had the technology to make wootz steel, a ‘high-grade’ steel that was highly prized and much sought after across several regions of the world over nearly two millennia.

    Wootz also had a high percentage of carbon, which was introduced by incorporating wood and other organic matter during fabrication.

    India, for ages, was a leading exporter of this steel which was used to make Persian daggers which were quite popular in Europe centuries ago.

    The technique to manufacture wootz declined steadily and has not been in use since the 17th century, Curl said.
    Source: http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/holnus/001200801061523.htm
    and
    2: The Persian/Iranian Cultural Heritage News Agency (CHN):
    Iranians Enjoyed Nanotechnology 3000 Years Ago:
    Source: http://www.chnpress.com/news/?section=2&id=7096

  • http://none JAY JOLLY

    Thank you for your inspiring blog.I am reseaching Hindu numerals and i am told that the Ahoka pillars have numrals given in Brahmi.Any chance of helping in this project?Your contribution will be gratefully achnowledged.
    jay jolly
    535-buchanan road
    edmonton.CANADA

  • http://www.hitxp.com/ Gurudev

    Thanks Krishna!

  • Krishna Kumar

    Well… Thats a great stuff to know of……

  • Gururaj
  • Gururaj

    Hi,

    Read news article where an Indian scientist got inspiration from this Iron pillar and developed a form of iron which is corrosion resistant. They used phosphorous same as in iron pillar but developed a technique so it is not brittle and very suitable for construction.

  • http://www.hitxp.com/ Gurudev

    Thanks a lot Satish :)

  • satish

    Namaskar Gurudev ,
    that you are doing one of most important job.

  • http://www.hitxp.com/ Gurudev

    Thanks Balasubramaniam

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