Metallurgy

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The Yuddhakanda of the Valmiki Ramayana, describes the use of gold everywhere in Sri Lanka. While the Vanaras largely used fists, stones, trees and mountain peaks in the battle, the Rakshasas of Sri Lanka used javelins, spears, maces, iron (Kalayasam) arrows with golden plumes and such weapons. Sri Rama and Lakshmana also had metallic arrows, the metals being gold, silver and iron.

Valmiki also refers to the Tripura Gopuram of Gold, Silver and Iron built by Maya Danava and destroyed by Siva.

So I started pondering about Ancient Indian Metallurgy. Gold is found naturally, melts easily and does not corrode. To make iron though, you need high temperatures and special furnaces.

When I checked, I found special furnaces that had been excavated at Samanalawewa, Sri Lanka and the technological cum astronomical wonder of the Iron Pillar of Vishnupada, that was moved to Delhi. It is inscribed with Brahmi script and does not corrode.

I also learnt that the Iron Age of Africa started in 2000 BC, much before Europe, because of the Hardwoods of Africa, which give a higher temperature when burnt.

I have provided the links (below the photographs) to all this information, but you may need a teacher’s help to understand it. See also:  Ancient Indian Engineers.

The Iron Pillar and the Inscription on it:

 

This pillar does not rust.

This pillar does not rust.

 

 

See the Brahmi script used?

See the Brahmi script used?

 

(below image GFDL License)

ironpillarinscription

More Information:

Quoted From: http://www.ias.ac.in/currsci/jun252007/1709.pdf : “A detailed technical analysis of the characters of the oldest Delhi Iron Pillar inscription has been conducted. It reveals that the characters were put on the surface by die-striking operation using dies of different characteristic shapes. The dies were struck more than once to provide each imprint on the surface. Both the die and material surfaces were in cold condition during the operation. Evidences have been provided to conclude that the inscription was die-struck on the pillar when it was in the vertical erect condition.”

Quoted From: http://hitxp.wordpress.com/2007/03/15/iron-pillar-great-ancient-indian-metallurgy/ : “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… 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…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…  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 Delhi pillar identify the king as ‘Chandra’…

‘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 Vâhlikas 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.’

Quoted From: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v379/n6560/pdf/379060a0.pdf : “BEFORE the development of the blast furnace, iron smelting was achieved by ore reduction at temperatures below the melting point of the metal, forming an agglomerated ‘bloom’ of low-carbon iron and slag. The forced-draught (bellows-operated) shaft furnace known from archaeological studies is usually regarded as the pinnacle of this early smelting technology1–3. Examples of natural-draught furnaces, in which gas buoyancy in a shaft of sufficient height induces a draught adequate to drive the smelting process4, are also known, but are generally regarded as disappointingly inefficient by comparison5. Here I report the discovery and excavation at Samanalawewa, Sri Lanka, of a previously unknown furnace type. The furnaces are all situated on the western margins of hills and ridges, where they are exposed to the strong monsoon winds. Field trials using replica furnaces confirm that this furnace type uses a wind-based air-supply principle that is distinct from either forced or natural draught, and show also that it is capable of producing high-carbon steel. This technology sustained a major industry in this area during the first millennium AD, and may have contributed to South Asia’s early pre-eminence in steel production”

Quoted From: http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/holnus/001200801061523.htm : “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.  ”

Quoted from: Minerals and Metals in Kautilya’s Arthasastra: By Manikant Shah: “Of great commercial importance were metallic ores from which useful metals were extracted. The Arthasastra did not provide the names of the constituent minerals beyond referring to them as dhatu of iron (Tiksnadhatu), copper, lead, etc…. Similarly, the silver ore described in the Arthasastra seems to be a complex sulphide ore containing silver (colour of a conch-shell), camphor, vimalaka (pyrite?). The Arthasastra describes the sources and the qualities of good grade gold and silver ores. Copper ores were stated to be ‘heavy, greasy, tawny (chalcopyrite left exposed to air tarnishes), green (color of malachite), dark blue with yellowish tint (azurite), pale red or red (native copper). Lead ores were stated to be grayish black, like kakamecaka (this is the color of galena), yellow like pigeon bile, marked with white lines (quartz or calcite gangue minerals) and smelling like raw flesh (odour of sulphur). Iron ore was known to be greasy stone of pale red colour, or of the colour of the sinduvara flower (hematite). After describing the above metallic ores or dhatus of specific metals, the Arthasastra writes: In that case vaikrntaka metal must be iron itself which used to be produced by the South Indians starting from the magnetite ore…  Gold smelting was known as suvarnapaka. Various ornamental alloys could be prepared by mixing variable proportions of iron and copper with gold, silver and sveta tara or white silver which contained gold, silver and some coloring matter. Two parts of silver and one part of copper constituted triputaka. An alloy of equal parts of silver and iron was known as vellaka….Gold plating (tvastrkarma) could be done on silver or copper. Lead, copper or silver objects were coated with a gold-leaf (acitakapatra) on one side or with a twin-leaf fixed with lac etc. Gold, silver or gems were embedded (pinka) in solid or hollow articles by pasting a thick pulp of gold, silver or gem particles and the cementing agents such as lac, vermilion, red lead on the object and then heating….The Arthasastra also describes a system of coinage based on silver and copper. The masaka, half masaka, quarter masaka known as the kakani, and half kakani, copper coins (progressively lower weights) had the same composition, viz., one-quarter hardening alloy and the rest copper….The Arthasastra specifies that the Director of Metals (lohadhyakasa) should establish factories for metals (other than gold and silver) viz., copper, lead, tin, vaikrntaka, arakuta or brass, vratta (steel), kamsa (bronze), tala (bell-metal) and loha (iron or simply metal), and the corresponding metal-wares. In the Vedic era, copper was known as lohayasa or red metal. Copper used to be alloyed with arsenic to produce tala or bell metal and with trapu or tin to produce bronze. Zinc in India must have started around 400 BC in Taxila. Zawar mines in Rajasthan also give similar evidence. Vaikrntaka has been referred to some times with vrata, which is identified by many scholars including Kangle, as steel. On the top of it, tiksna mentioned as iron, had its ore or dhatu, and the metal was used as an alloying component. Iron prepared from South Indian magnetite or vaikrantakadhatu was wrongly believed to be a different metal….  A bar and a broken sword of steel were found at the bottom of the Khan Baba stone Pillar of Heliodorus (dated before 125 BC). The sword assayed 0.7 % carbon and was certified by Sir Robert Hadfield as having been ‘deliberately manufactured as steel‘ (Archaeological Survey Report, 1913-14, pp. 203-4). This discovery lends credence to the Arthasastra mentioning vratta (steel) and various war equipments such as khadga (sword). Arrows were iron-tipped. Indian army equipped with iron-tipped arrow and iron swords assisted Xerexes and other Achaemenid emperors in fighting Greece.”

http://weber.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/arch/metallurgy.html

http://www.sinhalanet.com/data/samanalawewa%20steel.pdf

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