Iron Pillar of New Delhi
By Shri Sudheer Birodkar
The Iron Pillar at Delhi located near the Kutab Minar, is estimated to have been cast in the Gupta period i.e. about 1500 years ago. The Pillar is 7.32 meters in length, tapering from a diameter of 40 cm at the base to 30 cm, at the top and it weights about 6 tonnes. It has been standing in open for more than a millennium in the heat, dust and rain, but except for the natural erosion it has not caught rust. This kind of a rust-proof iron had not been smelted anywhere else in the world, until the invention of stainless steel.
Another instance of metallurgy is the copper statue of Gautama Buddha found at Sultan Ganj in Bihar. The statue is 2.13 meters high and weighs nearly a tonne. There are many such examples that bear testimony to the excellence in smelting metals achieved in India in ancient times.
The ironsmiths who had cast the iron pillar and the statue of Buddha must not only have been experts at their job but they must have inherited the technique that had been perfected over many generations. The Iron Pillar itself testifies to the fact that metallurgy and chemistry had reached a high stage of perfection more than 1,500 years ago.