The Rustless Wonder – The Great Indian Iron Pillar of Gupta Dynasty

What would you call a 1600 year old metallic structure which weighs more than six tonnes made of pure iron exposed to the harsh weather and shows no signs of rusting? This remarkable monument is the famous “Iron Pillar of the Gupta Dynasty”.

The Iron pillar stands tall as an evidence to the skill and expertise of the metallurgists of ancient India showcasing the advancement in science and technology of India in 4th Century AD – during the Golden Age of India i.e the Gupta Dynasty.

Rusting is a common phenomenon with Iron objects. Any Iron object exposed to the atmosphere for a period of time would be expected to rust. For the same reason, things made from Iron are protected from rusting by a variety of methods including painting, galvanization, passivation, plastic coating and bluing.

For over 1600 years, this Pillar has not been under a shelter and has been continuously facing harsh summers, the rainy monsoons, and the humidity from the Gangetic plain. Though made 99.27% of Iron, it has not rusted making it a Scientific Wonder and showcasing the advancement of metallurgical prowess of the Indians in the Golden Age of India.

It took many years for the modern day corrosion scientists and metallurgical experts to unravel the secret of the amazing corrosion resistance quality of the 1600 year old Iron Pillar.

It stands as a symbol of the Indian expertise in the field of metallurgy during the Golden Age of Indian Civilization. The Gupta Iron pillar has long attracted the admiration of historians and curiosity of metallurgists mainly for its large size, manufacturing, and its excellent ability of self-preservation despite little maintenance.

Features of the Great Indian Iron Pillar:

The Great Indian Iron Pillar is estimated to weigh more than 6 tonnes, and stands 23.8 feet tall from the ground. It has a diameter of 41cm at the bottom. Its composition has revealed 99.27% of pure Iron. The Iron pillar is believed to have been manufactured in a single forge operation. Initially erected at Udayagiri close to Sanchi (near Bhopal in 4 Century AD) and later shifted to Delhi in 10th Century AD.

History of the Iron Pillar:

The Iron pillar was manufactured during the reign of Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya (375-414 A.D) of the Gupta empire. It is said that, the Iron pillar was erected on the top of Vishnupada hills. The original location of the pillar, Vishnupadagiri (meaning ‘Hill with footprint of Vishnu’), has been identified as modern Udayagiri, in the vicinity of Sanchi outside the city of Bhopal, MP (based on literary, archaeological, numismatic and geographic evidences).

Recent research has shown that the Iron Pillar was positioned at Vishnupadagiri in such a way that the early morning shadow of the Iron Pillar fell on the foot of Anantasayana Vishnu in cave. Therefore, the Great Indian Iron Pillar also highlighted the knowledge the ancient Indians had about astronomy, apart from providing solid proof of the metallurgical brilliance in ancient India. The Iron pillar was inscribed with Sanskrit inscriptions in brahmi script on its body, which spoke about the greatness of Lord Vishnu and the Gupta ruler Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya.

Later the Rajput ruler of Delhi, Rajput Tomar King Anangapala (predecessor of Prithiviraj Chauhan) brought it to Delhi and installed it in 1052 CE in a group of temples.

After the defeat of Prithiviraj Chauhan by Shahabuddin Ghori, his adopted slave son Qutb-ud-din Aibak used the materials from the destroyed temples to build the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in New Delhi where this Pillar is currently located (in Qutb Minar Complex).

The fact that it is still rustless and standing despite the vandalization and destruction of 800 years of Foreign rulers stands testimony of the Indian’s abilities to build great, inspiring and indestructible wonders.

Lessons to Current Generation Indians from the Glorious Past:

The ability to conceive and manufacture the Iron pillar, goes to prove that our ancestors were far more advanced, knowledgeable and skillful than people in other civilizations during that period of time.

Unlike many Indians from current generation who only talk big and think great about themselves because of their inherited connection to the Great Indian Civilizations of the past. The Indians from the golden ages of Indian Civilizations let their work speak for themselves.

Many of the current day Indians think they are great without possessing any of the virtues that were characteristic of the people who lived during the time of the Great Indian Civilizations of the past.

For example, even for as small things as pens and shoes, many Indian companies advertise their foreign technology to sell their goods. People from the times of the Great Indian Civilizations, made sure the home grown technology was the most advanced in the world and used that skills to make lives better for other Indians living at that time. Sadly, today domestic technology signifies inferior technology.

They in fact, exported advanced technology and superior methods. For example the Indian numeric system (vastly superior to the Roman and other numeric system) was exported to other civilizations and this superior advancement reached the west through the Persians and Arabs and hence was called the Hindu Arabic numeric system.

The key takeaway from this living testimony of scientific advancement by Ancient Indians Civilizations is that when the Indian Civilizations was at the top:

  • They did a lot of productive R&D in various fields, this article show cases this fact in metallurgy
  • Indian domestic technology meant the best in the World.
  • They could build imposing structures, that were wonders of the World.
  • They used methods that were so unique and unheard by even 20th century scientists it took them decades to figure out the technology and the manufacturing know-how.
  • There were thousands of competent and highly knowledgeable craftsmen who knew how to work together.
  • They were skilled at their work and picked up big challenges and overcame the obstacles successfully.
  • There was a can-do attitude at that time in people of that generation.

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