Mysterious Iron Pillar at Delhi

31 Oct

Standing at the center of the Quwwatul Mosque the Iron Pillar is one of Delhi’s most curious structures. Dating back to 4th century A.D., 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). How the pillar moved to its present location remains a mystery. The pillar also highlights ancient India’s achievements in metallurgy. The pillar is made of 98 per cent wrought iron and has stood 1,600 years without rusting or decomposing.

The pillar—over seven metres high and weighing more than six tonnes—was erected by Kumara Gupta of Gupta dynasty that ruled northern India in AD 320-540.

Some physical facts about the pillar are reasonably well-established: it is 7.3 metres tall, with one metre below the ground; the diameter is 48 centimetres at the foot, tapering to 29 cm at the top, just below the base of the wonderfully crafted capital; it weighs approximately 6.5 tonnes, and was manufactured by forged welding. But, this said, nearly everything else about the pillar is surrounded by acute controversy: For whom was it made? Exactly when? Where did it originally stand before it was moved to Delhi? What is the true import of the long inscription in Brahmi characters engraved upon it? Who placed the later inscriptions on it, and when? Who had the pillar moved to its present location, and why? What exact processes were followed in forging it into shape at that early a point of time, the 4th/5th century AD? Above all, from the scientists’ point of view, what is the secret, the great mystery, behind the fact of its being virtually non-rusting? There seems to be no end to the questions.


3 Responses to “Mysterious Iron Pillar at Delhi”

  1. ehimsi November 18, 2008 at 2:22 am #

    ANSWER FROM IIT kharagpur Deptt of metallurgy-

    The ideas proposed in this regard are the relatively pure composition of the iron used, presence of Phosphorus (P) and absence of Sulphur/Magnesium in the iron, its slag-enveloped metal grain structure, and passivity enhancement in the presence of slag particles.

    Other theories to explain the corrosion resistance are also to be found in the literature like the mass metal effect, initial exposure to an alkaline and ammoniacal environment, residual stresses resulting from the surface finishing operation, freedom from sulphur contamination both in the metal and in the air, and surface coatings provided to the pillar after manufacture (barffing and slag coating) and during use (coating with clarified butter).

    That the material of construction may be the important factor in determining the corrosion resistance of ancient Indian iron is attested by the presence of ancient massive iron objects located in areas where the relative humidity is high for significant periods in the year (for example, the iron beams in the Surya temple at Konarak in coastal Orissa and the iron pillar at Mookambika temple at Kollur situated in the Kodachadri Hills on the western coast). It is, therefore, obvious that the ancient Indians, especially from the time of the Guptas (300-500 AD), produced iron that was capable of withstanding corrosion. This is primarily due to the high P content of the iron produced during these times. The addition of P was intentional as iron produced during earlier times does not show the presence of P.

    not exctly miracle …..intelligence indeed.

  2. coatings January 12, 2010 at 1:08 pm #

    I have previous coatings in my garage floor. How can I remove it to install a new one?

  3. deepanshi June 9, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    hey this was a foolish answer n not that i exactly wanted

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