Saturday, August 16, 2008

Ashoka Pillar, a metallurgical wonder


Ashoka Pillar, an iron pillar at the Qutab Minar complex, Delhi

Ashoka Pillar, an iron pillar located in the Qutb Minar Complex, Delhi, is an indicator of the superior skills of metallurgy Indians had in ancient times. The pillar is made up of 98% wrought iron of pure quality. Indian iron smiths and metallurgists had highly advanced technologies in the extraction and processing of iron. It has attracted the attention of archaeologists and metallurgists from all over the world as it has withstood corrosion for the last thousands of years. Scientists claim that the pillar was manufactured by forge welding for which the temperatures required to form such a pillar can only be achieved by the combustion of coal.

It is claimed the iron manufactured at a place called Mirjati near Jamshedpur (India) in the 1920’s was found to be of the same quality as the iron used for the Ashoka Pillar.

The pillar is about 22 feet (6.7 m) tall weighing more than six tons. Historical facts show that it was erected at the times of the emperor, Chandragupta II (Vikramaditya). It is believed that the Iron Pillar was initially erected at Vishnupadagiri, in Central India and it served as a sundial. It was later brought to Delhi and erected at its present site. Jain and Hindu Temples were present in the area and they were demolished by Qutb-ud-din Aybak who was the first Sultan of Delhi and founder of the Slave dynasty. He initiated the construction of the Qutab Minar (also spelled Qutub Minar and Qutb Minar) at the site of the temples demolished by him.

The pillar bears an inscription in Sanskrit which states that it was erected as a standard in honor of Lord Vishnu.

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