Chemistry and Metallurgy

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Sir Mountstuart Elphinstone has written: "Their (Indians) chemical skill is a fact more striking and more unexpected." "They knew how to prepare sulphuric acid, nitric acid and muratic acid; the oxide of copper, iron, lead (of which they had both the red oxide and litharge), tin and zinc: the suphuret of iron, copper, mercury, and antimony, and arsenic; the sulphate of copper, zinc and iron; and carbonates of lead and iron. Their modes of preparing these substances were sometimes peculiar."

(source: History of Hindu Chemistry - By Mountstuart Elphinstone Volume I, Introduction, p. xii and 54).

Chemistry developed from two source - medicine and industry. Something has been said about the chemical excellence of cast iron in ancient India, and about the high industrial development of Gupta Period, when India was looked to, even by Imperial Rome, as the most skilled of the nations in such chemical industries as dyeing, tanning, soap-making, glass and cement. As early as the second century B.C. Nagarjuna devoted an entire volume to mercury. By the sixth century Indians were far ahead of Europe in industrial chemistry; they were masters of calcination, distillation, sublimation, steaming, fixation, the production of light without heat, the mixing of anesthetic and soporific powders, and the preparation of metallic salts, compounds and alloy.

Abundant evidence available suggests that the ancient Indians were highly skilled in manufacturing and working with iron and in making and tempering steel. The analysis of zinc alloys like brass, from archaeological excavations, testify that the zinc distillation process was known in India as early as 150 B.C. Indian steel, famous worldwide, is mentioned in history books which tell us that when Alexander invaded India, Porus, otherwise known as Purushottam, presented him with thirty pounds of steel, thus indicating its high value.

South India was a region that was renowned for metallurgy and metalwork in the old days. In Karnataka, fine steel wires were being produced for use as strings in musical instruments, at a time when the western world was using animal gut for the same purpose. Kerala, besides its large iron smelting furnaces, boasted of special processes such as the metal mirror of Aranmula. High quality steel from Tamil Nadu was exported all over the world since Roman times. The Konasamudram region in Andhra Pradesh was famous for producing the world renowned Wootz steel - the raw material for King Saladin's fabled Damascus Sword. The tempering of steel was brought in ancient India to a perfection unknown in Europe till our own times. King Porus is said to have selected, as special valuable gift for Alexander, not gold or silver, but thirty pounds of steel. The Muslims took much of this Indian chemical science and industry to the Near East and Europe; the secret of manufacturing "Damascus" blades, for example, was taken by Arabs from the Persians, and by the Persians from India.

Persians considered Indian swords to be the best, and the phrase, " Jawabi hind, literally meaning " Indian answer," meant "a cut with the sword made of Indian steel." That the art of metarllurgy was highly developed in ancient India is further reaffirmed by the fact that the Gypsies, who originated in India, are highly skilled craftsmen, and it has been suggested that the art of the forge may have been transmitted to Europe through Gypsies. Steel was manufactured in ancient India, and it was being exported to China at least by the fifth century A.D. That the Arabs also imported steel from India is testified to by Al Kindi, who wrote in the ninth century.

Coinage dating from the 8th Century B.C. to the17th Century A.D. Numismatic evidence of the advances made by Smelting technology in ancient India. The image of Nataraja the God of Dance is made of five metals (Pancha-Dhatu). This technology of mixing two or more metals and deriving superior alloys has been observed and noted by the Greek Historian Philostratus. The Makara (Spire) over Hindu temples were always adorned with brass or gold toppings (Kamandals). The earliest reference to the advances made in Smelting technology in India are by Greek historians viz, Philostratus and Ktesias in the 4th century B.C.

Great progress was made in India in mineralogy and metallurgy. The mining and extensive use of gold, silver, and copper was undertaken in the Indus Valley in the third century B.C. In the vedic period extensive use was made of copper, bronze, and brass for household utensils, weapons, and images for worship. Patanjali, writing in the second century B.C. in his Lohasastra, gives elaborate directions for many metallurgic and chemical processes, especially the preparation of metallic salts, alloys, and amalgams, and the extraction, purification, and assaying of metals. The discovery of aqua regia ( a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acid to dissolve gold and platinum) is ascribed to him. Numerous specimens of weapons made of iron have been excavated, probably belonging to the fourth century B.C. Iron clamps and the iron stag found at the Bodhgaya temple point to the knowledge of the process of manufacturing iron as early as the third century B.C.

Horace Hyman Wilson (1786-1860) says: "The Hindus have the art of smelting iron, of welding it, and of making steel, and have had these arts from times immemorial."

(source: History of British India - By James Mill volume II p. 47).

Saladin's sword

The finest Damascus steel was made by a process known only to Indians. The original Damascus steel-the world's first high-carbon steel-was a product of India known as wootz. Wootz is the English for ukku in Kannada and Telugu, meaning steel. Indian steel was used for making swords and armour in Persia and Arabia in ancient times. Ktesias at the court of Persia (5th c BC) mentions two swords made of Indian steel which the Persian king presented him. The pre-Islamic Arab word for sword is 'muhannad' meaning from Hind.

Wootz was produced by carburising chips of wrought iron in a closed crucible process. "Wrought iron, wood and carbonaceous matter was placed in a crucible and heated in a current of hot air till the iron became red hot and plastic. It was then allowed to cool very slowly (about 24 hours) until it absorbed a fixed amount of carbon, generally 1.2 to 1.8 per cent," said eminent metallurgist Prof. T.R. Anantharaman, who taught at Banares Hindu University, Varanasi. "When forged into a blade, the carbides in the steel formed a visible pattern on the surface." To the sixth century Arab poet Aus b. Hajr the pattern appeared described 'as if it were the trail of small black ants that had trekked over the steel while it was still soft'.

The carbon-bearing material packed in the crucible was a clever way to lower the melting-point of iron (1535 degrees centigrade). The lower the melting-point the more carbon got absorbed and high-carbon steel was formed. In the early 1800s, Europeans tried their hand at reproducing wootz on an industrial scale. Michael Faraday, the great experimenter and son of a blacksmith, tried to duplicate the steel by alloying iron with a variety of metals but failed. Some scientists were successful in forging wootz but they still were not able to reproduce its characteristics, like the watery mark. "Scientists believe that some other micro-addition went into it," said Anantharaman. "That is why the separation of carbide takes place so beautifully and geometrically."

(source: Lost knowledge - The Week June 2001).

Hindus made the best swords in the ancient world, they discovered the process of making Ukku steel, called Damascus steel by the rest of the world (Damas meaning water to the Arabs, because of the watery designs on the blade). These were the best swords in the ancient world, the strongest and the sharpest, sharper even than Japanese katanas. Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Chinese imported it. The original Damascus steel-the world's first high-carbon steel-was a product of India known as wootz. Wootz is the English for ukku in Kannada and Telugu, meaning steel. Indian steel was used for making swords and armor in Persia and Arabia in ancient times. Ktesias at the court of Persia (5th c BC) mentions two swords made of Indian steel which the Persian king presented him. The pre-Islamic Arab word for sword is 'muhannad' meaning from Hind. So famous were they that the Arabic word for sword was Hindvi - from Hind.

The crucible process could have originated in south India and the finest steel was from the land of Cheras, said K. Rajan, associate professor of archaeology at Tamil University, Thanjavur, who explored a 1st century AD trade centre at Kodumanal near Coimbatore. Rajan's excavations revealed an industrial economy at Kodumanal. Pillar of strength The rustless wonder called the Iron Pillar near the Qutb Minar at Mehrauli in Delhi did not attract the attention of scientists till the second quarter of the 19th century. The inscription refers to a ruler named Chandra, who had conquered the Vangas and Vahlikas, and the breeze of whose valour still perfumed the southern ocean. "The king who answers the description is none but Samudragupta, the real founder of the Gupta empire," said Prof. T.R. Anantharaman, who has authored The Rustless Wonder. Zinc metallurgy travelled from India to China and from there to Europe. As late as 1735, professional chemists in Europe believed that zinc could not be reduced to metal except in the presence of copper. The alchemical texts of the mediaeval period show that the tradition was live in India. In 1738, William Champion established the Bristol process to produce metallic zinc in commercial quantities and got a patent for it. Interestingly, the mediaeval alchemical text Rasaratnasamucchaya describes the same process, down to adding 1.5 per cent common salt to the ore.

(source: Saladin's sword - The Week - June 24, 2001 -

Nanotechnology might be of raging interest to scientists world-over now. But Indians had used nano materials in the 16th century "unwittingly" and enabled Arab blacksmiths in making "Damascus steel sword" which was stronger and sharper.

Delivering a talk on 'The contributions of elemental carbon to the development of nano science and technology' at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) Nobel laureate Robert F. Curl said that carbon nanotechnology was much older than carbon nano science. For the Damascus sword, Indians produced the raw material -- mined iron ore and exported it. He said that up to the middle of 18th century, the steel swords depended on this particular material and when the mines in India stopped, "they lost the technology." The Damascus sword when subjected to scrutiny by an electron microscope in 2006 had shown to contain large amounts of nanotubes.

(source: Nanotechnology not new to India , says Nobel laureate - the

Iron Pillar - The Rustless Wonder and a Unique Scientific Phenomenon from Ancient India. A product of great metallurgical ingenuity

Traditional Indian iron and steel are known to have some very special properties such as resistance to corrosion. This is substantiated by the 1600-year-old, twenty-five feet high iron pillar next to the Qutub Minar in New Delhi, believed to have been installed during Chandragupta Maurya's reign. The famous iron pillar in Delhi belonging to the fourth-fifth century A.D. is a metallurgical wonder. This huge wrought iron pillar, 24 feet in height 16.4 inches in diameter at the bottom, and 6 1/2 tons in weight has stood exposed to tropical sun and rain for fifteen hundred years, but does not show the least sign of rusting or corrosion. Evidence shows that the pillar was once a Garuda Stambha from a Vishnu temple. This pillar was plundered by Islamic hoards from a temple dedicated to Vishnu and added as a trophy in the Quwwat al-Islam mosque in Delhi. Made of pure iron, which even today can be produced only in small quantities by electrolysis. Such a pillar would be most difficult to make even today. Thus, the pillar defies explanation.

The pillar is believed to have been made by forging together a series of disc-shaped iron blooms. Apart from the dimensions another remarkable aspect of the iron pillar is the absence of corrosion which has been linked to the composition, the high purity of the wrought iron and the phosphorus content and the distribution of slag.

Even with today's advances, only four foundries in the world could make this piece and none are able to keep it rust free. The earliest known metal expert (2,200 years ago ) was Rishi Patanjali.

The pillar is a solid shaft of iron sixteen inches in diameter and 23 feet high. What is most astounding about it is that it has never rusted even though it has been exposed to wind and rain for centuries! The pillar defies explanation, not only for not having rusted, but because it is apparently made of pure iron, which can only be produced today in tiny quantities by electrolysis! The technique used to cast such a gigantic, solid pillar is also a mystery, as it would be difficult to construct another of this size even today. The pillar stands as mute testimony to the highly advanced scientific knowledge that was known in antiquity, and not duplicated until recent times. Yet still, there is no satisfactory explanation as to why the pillar has never rusted!

(source: Technology of the Gods: The Incredible Sciences of the Ancients - By David Hatcher Childress p. 80).

The Delhi Iron Pillar is a testimony to the high level of skill achieved by the ancient Indian ironsmiths in the extraction and processing of iron.

Refer to Delhi Iron Pillar - By Prof. R. Balasubramaniam - Professor Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engg Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur 208016.

Contributed to this site by Prof. R. Balasubramaniam. URL:

The pillar is a classical example of massive production of high class iron and is the biggest hand-forged block of iron from antiquity. It is a demonstration of the high degree of accomplishment in the art of iron making by ancient Indian iron and steel makers. It has been said that the Indians were the only non-European people who manufactured heavy forged pieces of iron and the pieces were of the size that the European smiths did not learn to make more than one thousand years later.

The iron pillar near New Delhi is an outstanding example of Gupta craftmanship. Its total height inclusive of the capital is 23 feet 8 inches. Its entire weight is 6 tons. The pillar consists of a square abacus, the melon shaped member and a capital. According to Percy Brown, this pillar is a remarkable tribute to the genius and manipulative dexterity of the Indian worker. Dr. Vincent Smith says: "It is not many years since the production of such a pillar would have been an impossibility in the largest foundries of the world and even now there are comparatively few where a similar mass of metal could be turned out."

(source: Ancient India - By V. D. Mahajan p. 543).

The iron pillar has an inscription in Samskritam written in Brahmi script. It is a Vishnu Dhvaja on a hill called Vishnupaada. Installed by King 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 V‚hlikas 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."

(source: yahoogroups - Indian Civilization).

The excellent state of preservation of the Iron Pillar, near the Qutb Minar at Mehrauli in Delhi, despite exposure for 15 centuries to the elements has amazed corrosion technologists.

In 1961, the pillar (23 feet and 8 inches, and 6 tonnes) was dug out for chemical treatment and preservation and reinstalled by embedding the underground part in a masonry pedestal. Chemical analyses have indicated that the pillar was astonishingly pure or low in carbon compared with modern commercial iron.

Traditional Indian iron and steel are known to have some very special properties such as resistance to corrosion. This is substantiated by the 1600-year-old, twenty-five feet high iron pillar next to the Qutub Minar in New Delhi, believed to have been installed during Chandragupta Maurya's reign. Reports of an international seminar conducted by the National Metallurgical Laboratory at Jamshedupur in 1963 on the Delhi Iron Pillar, showed that the pillar's corrosion resistance was not merely the result of some fortuitous circumstances or Delhi's low humidity, but the product of great metallurgical ingenuity. In fact, rust-proof iron has been found in very humid areas as well. A temple, dedicated to the Goddess Mookambika, is located in Kolur in Kodachadri Hills in Karnataka - a region which receives a heavy annual monsoon. A slender iron pillar near the Mookambika temple stands unrusted despite the severe climatic conditions that it is subjected to.

(source: Center for Indian Knowledge Systems -

The iron pillar near Qutub Minar at New Delhi is in the news, thanks to the research by Prof. R. Balasubramaniam of IIT, Kanpur and his team of metallurgists. The pillar is said to be 1,600 years old. A protective layer of `misawite' — a compound made up of iron, oxygen and hydrogen on the steel pillar, which is said to contain phosphorus - is claimed as the reason for the non-corrosive existence.

(source: Iron pillar and nano powder -

All this historical evidence points to the fact that there existed a body of knowledge in the fields of metallurgy and metalworking which, if rediscovered and re-implemented, could revolutionize the country's iron and steel industry.

The Periplus mentions that in the first century A.D. Indian iron and steel were being exported to Africa and Ethiopia. Indian metallurgists were well known for their ability to extract metal from ore and their cast products were highly valued by the Romans, Egyptians, and Arabs.

Even in technology Indian contribution to world civilization were significant. The spinning wheel is an Indian invention, and apart from its economic significance in reducing the cost of textiles, is one of the first examples of the belt-transmission of power. The stirrup, certainly the big-toe stirrup, is of second century B.C. Indian origin. The ancient blow-gun (nalika), which shot small arrows or iron pellets, may well have been a forerunner of the air-gun which is supposed to have been invented by the Europeans in the sixteenth century.

More important is the fact that India supplied the concept of perpetual motion to European thinking about mechanical power. The origin of this concept has been traced to Bhaskara, and it was taken to Europe by the Arabs where it not only helped European engineers to generalize their concept of mechanical power, but also provoked a process of thinking by analogy that profoundly influenced Western scientific views. The Indian idea of perpetual motion is in accordance with the Hindu belief in the cyclical and self-renewing nature of all things.

In fact, rust-proof iron has been found in very humid areas as well. A temple, dedicated to the Goddess Mookambika, is located in Kolur in Kodachadri Hills in Karnataka - a region which receives a heavy annual monsoon. A slender iron pillar near the Mookambika temple stands unrusted despite the severe climatic conditions that it is subjected to.

Galvanising feat

The oldest among the triad of metallurgical marvels of ancient India is the extraction of zinc. Zinc is better known as a constituent of brass than a metal in its own right. Brass with 10 per cent zinc glitters like gold.

The earliest brass objects in India have been unearthed from Taxila (circa 44 BC). They had more than 35 per cent zinc. "This high content of zinc could be put in only by direct fusion of metallic zinc and copper," said Prof. T.R. Anantharaman. The other process, which is no more in use, is by heating zinc ore and copper metal at high temperatures, but the zinc content in brass then cannot be more than 28 per cent.

Zinc smelting is very complicated as it is a very volatile material. Under normal pressure it boils at 913 degrees centigrade. To extract zinc from its oxide, the oxide must be heated to about 1200 degrees in clay retorts. In an ordinary furnace the zinc gets vapourised, so there has to be a reducing atmosphere. By an ingenious method of reverse distillation ancient metallurgists saw to it that there was enough carbon to reduce the heat.

Proof of the process came from excavations at Zawar in Rajasthan. The Zawar process consisted of heating zinc in an atmosphere of carbon monoxide in clay retorts arranged upside down, and collecting zinc vapour in a cooler chamber placed vertically beneath the retort.

Zinc metallurgy traveled from India to China and from there to Europe. As late as 1735, professional chemists in Europe believed that zinc could not be reduced to metal except in the presence of copper. The alchemical texts of the mediaeval period show that the tradition was live in India.

(source: Lost knowledge - The Week June 2001).


Manufacture of Iron and Steel in India

The substance which seems to have evoked the most scientific and technical interest in the Britain of the 1790s was the sample of wootz steel by Dr. Scott to Sir J. Banks, the President of the British Royal Society. The sample went through thorough examination and analysis by several experts. It was found in general to match the best steel then available in Britain, and according to one user, "purpose of fine cutlery, and particularly for all edge instruments used for surgical purposes."

After its being sent as a sample in 1794 and its examination and analysis in late 1794 and early 1795, it began to be much in demand, and some 18 years later the afore-quoted user of steel stated, "I have to use it for many purposes. If a better steel is offered to me, I will gladly attend to it; but the steel of India is decidedly the best I have yet met with."

Till well into the 19th Britain produced very little of the steel it required and imported it from Sweden, Russia, etc. Partly, Britain lag in steel production was due to the inferior quality of its iron ore, and the fuel, i.e. coal, it used. Possibly such lag also resulted from Britain's backwardness in the comprehensive of processes and theories on which the production of good steel depended.

Whatever may have been the understanding in the other European countries regarding the details of the processes employed in the manufacture of Indian steel, the British, at the time wootz was examined and analysed by them, concluded, "that it is made directly from the ore and consequently it has never been in the state of wrought iron." Its qualities were thus ascribed to the quality of the ore from which it came and these qualities were considered to have little to do with the techniques and processes employed by the Indian manufacturers. In fact it was felt that the various cakes of wootz were of uneven texture and the cause of such imperfection and defects was thought to lie in the crudeness of the techniques employed.

It was only some three decades later that this view was revised. An earlier revision in fact, even when confronted with contrary evidence as was made available by other observers of the Indian techniques and processes, was intellectual impossibility. "That iron could be converted into cast steel by fusing it in a close vessel in contact with carbon" was yet to be discovered, and it was only in 1825 that a British manufacturer "took out a patent for converting iron into steel by exposing it to the action of caruretted hydrogen gas in a close vessel, at a very high temperature, by which means the process of conversion is completed in a few hours, while by the old method, it was the work of from 14 to 20 days."

According to J. M. Heath, founder of the Indian Iron and Steel Company, and later prominently connected with the development of steel making in Sheffield, the Indian process appeared to combine both of the above early 19th century British discoveries. He observed: "Now it appears to me that the Indian process combines the principles of both the above described methods. On elevating the temperature of the crucible containing pure iron, and dry wood, and green leaves, an abundant evolution of carburetted hydrogen gas would take place from the vegetable matter, and as its escape would be prevented by the luting at the mouth of the crucible, it would be retained in contact with the iron, which, at a high temperature, appears from (the above mentioned patent process) to have a much greater affinity for gaseous than for conrete carbon; this would greatly shorten the operation, and probably at a much lower temperature than were the iron in contact with charcoal powder."

And he added: "In no other way can I account for the fact that iron is converted into cast steel by the natives of India, in two hours and half, with an application of heat, that, in this country, would be considered quite inadequate to produce such an effect; while at Sheffield it requires at least four hours to melt blistered steel in wind-furnaces of the best construction, although the crucibles in which the steel is melted, are at a white heat when the metal is put into them, and in the Indian process, the crucibles are put into the furnace quite cold."

(source: Indian Science and Technology in the 18th Century - By Dharampal).

Dr. Ray says: “Coming to comparatively later times, we find that the Indians were noted for their skill in tempering of steel. The blades of Damascus were held in high esteem, but it was from India that the Persians, and, through them, the Arabs learnt the secret of the operation. The wrought iron pillar close to the Kutub Minar, near Delhi, which weighs ten tons and is some 1,500 years old, the huge iron girders at Puri, the ornamental gates of Somnath, and the 24 feet wrought iron gun at Nurvar, are monuments of a bygone art, and bear silent but eloquent testimony to the marvelous metallurgical skill attained by the Hindus.”

Regarding the iron pillar, James Fergusson (1808-1886) says: “It has not, however, been yet correctly ascertained what its age really is. There is an inscription upon it, but without a date. From the form of its alphabet, James Prinsep ascribed it to the third or fourth century.” Fergusson continues, “Taking A.D 400 as a mean date – and it certainly is not far from the truth – it opens our eyes to an unsuspected state of affairs, to find the Hindus at that age capable of forging a bar of iron larger than any that have been forged even in Europe up to a very late date, and not frequently even now. As we find them, however, a few centuries afterwards using bars as long as this lat in roofing the porch of the temple at Kanaruc, we must now believe that they were much more familiar with the use of this metal than they afterwards became. It is almost equally startling to find that after an exposure to wind and rain for fourteen centuries it is unrusted, and the capital and inscription are as clear and as sharp now as when put up fourteen centuries ago. There is no mistake about the pillar being of pure iron. General Alexander Cunningham had a bit of it analyzed in the School of Mines here by Dr. Percy. Both found it to be pure malleable iron without any alloy.”

Mrs. Charlotte Manning says: “The superior quality of Hindu steel has long been known, and it is worthy of record that the celebrated Damascus blades, have been traced to the workshops of Western India.” She adds: “Steel manufactured in Kutch enjoys at the present day a reputation not inferior to that of the steel made in Glasgow and Sheffield.” “It is probable that ancient India possessed iron more than sufficient for her wants, and that the Phoenicians fetched iron with other merchandise from India.”

(source: Hindu Superiority - By Har Bilas Sarda p. 400-404).

Iron suspension bridges came from Kashmir in India. Papermaking was commonplace in India and China. European explorers depended heavily on Indian ship builders.

(source: Lost Discoveries: The Ancient Roots of Modern Science - By Dick Teresi p. 326).


Predicting earthquakes - was dealt with in detail in the 32nd chapter of Varahamihira's Brihat Samhita.

The greatness of philosopher, mathematician and astronomer Varahamihira (505-587 AD) is widely acknowledged. The Ujjain-born scholar was one of the Navaratnas in the court of King Vikramaditya Chandragupta II. His works, Pancha-Siddhantika (The Five Astronomical Canons) and Brihat Samhita (The Great Compilation), are considered seminal texts on ancient Indian astronomy and astrology.

What has astonished scientists and Vedic scholars and has renewed interest in the Brihat Samhita, are references to unusual "earthquake clouds" as precursor to earthquakes.

The 32nd chapter of the manuscript is devoted to signs of earthquakes and correlates earthquakes with cosmic and planetary influences, underground water and undersea activities, unusual cloud formations, and the abnormal behaviour of animals.

Varahamihira categorises earthquakes into different kinds and says that the indications of one particular kind will appear in the form of unusual cloud formations a week before its occurrence: "Its indications appearing a week before are the following: Huge clouds resembling blue lily, bees and collyrium in colour, rumbling pleasantly, and shining with flashes of lightning, will pour down slender lines of water resembling sharp clouds. An earthquake of this circle will kill those that are dependent on the seas and rivers; and it will lead to excessive rains." 1500 years ago a celebrated astronomer-astrologer-mathematician sought to study earthquakes on the Indian subcontinent. He drew correlations between terrestrial earth, the atmosphere and planetary influences. He described earth as a mass floating on water and spoke of unusual cloud formations and abnormal animal behaviour as precursors to earthquakes."

"All in all, this should be accepted as nothing but astounding."

(source: A temblor from ancient Indian treasure trove? - Times of India 4/28/01).


Diamomds were first mined in India

Knowledge of diamond and the origin of its many connations starts in India, where it was first mined. The word most generally used for diamond in Sanskrit is translitereated as vajra, "thunderbolt," and indrayudha, "Indra's weapon." Because Indra is the warrior god from Vedic scriptures, the foundation of Hinduism, the thunderbolt symbol indicates much about the Indian conception of diamond. The flash of lightning is a suitable comparison for the light thrown off by a fine diamond octahedron and a diamond's indomitable hardness. Early descriptions of vajra date to the 4th century BCE which is supported by archaeological evidence. By that date diamond was a valued material.

Writings: The earliest known reference to diamond is a Sanskrit manuscript, the Arthasastra ("The Lesson of Profit") by Kautiliya, a minister to Chandragupta of the Mauryan dynasty in northern India. The work is dated from 320-296 before the Common Era (BCE). Kautiliya states "(a diamond that is) big, heavy, capable of bearing blows, with symmetrical points, capable of scratching (from the inside) a (glass) vessel (filled with water), revolving like a spindle and brilliantly shining is excellent. That (diamond) with points lost, without edges and defective on one side is bad." Indians recognized the qualities of a fine diamond octahedron and valued it.

(source: American Museum of Natural History).

The Ratnapradeepika deals with diamonds, precious stones and pearls. The word Vajrah suggests diamonds in general, and the properties in general. The Maharshis such as Shounaka have divided diamonds into 4 classes - Khanija, Kulaja, Shilaja and Kritaka. It also deals with the manufacturing of artificial diamonds. The salts of alum, borax and ooshara are regarded as the best ones for this purpose.

(source: Diamonds, Mechanisms, Weapons of War and Yoga Sutras - By G. R. Joyser International Academy of Sanskrit Research. p. 1-14).

Pliny, the Roman writer (AD 23-79) calls India "the sole mother of precious stones," and the "great producer of the most costly gems."

(source: Sanskrit Civilization - By G. R. Josyer International Academy of Sanskrit Researches p. 192).

Arthur George Parkin, the well known expert in natural coloring, writes in his work that the process of coloring thread perfectly with blue and bright red (Manjista) was known to India from times immemorial and they earned immense money out of the export trade of colored thread.

(source: Ancient Indian Culture At A Glance - By Swami Tattwananda Calcutta, Oxford Book Co. 1962 p. 131).


Military science - Gunpowder

In regard to military science, the Ramayana and the Puranas make frequent mention of Shataghnis, or canons, being placed on forts and used in times of emergency. A canon was called "Shataghni" because it meant the fire weapon that kills one hundred men at once. They ascribe these agniyastras, or weapons of fire, to Visvakarma, the architect of the Vedic epics. Rockets were also Indian inventions and were used in native armies when Europeans first came into contact with them. As per Dante's Inferno, Alexander mentioned in a letter to Aristotle, that terrific flashes of flame showered on his army in India. The Shukra Neeti is an ancient text that deals with the manufacture of arms such as rifles and guns. In The Celtic Druids (pp-115-116), Godfrey Higgins provides evidence that Hindus knew of gun powder from the remotest antiquity.

(source: Proof of Vedic Culture's Global Existence - By Stephen Knapp p. 27-28).

According to Sir A. M. Eliot and Heinrich Brunnhofer (a German Indologist) and Gustav Oppert, all of whom have stated that ancient Hindus knew the use of gunpowder. Eliot tells us that the Arabs learnt the manufacture of gunpowder from India, and that before their Indian connection they had used arrows of naptha. It is also argued that though Persia possessed saltpetre in abundance, the original home of gunpowder was India. In the light of the above remarks we can trace the evolution of fire-arms in the ancient India.

(source: German Indologists: Biographies of Scholars in Indian Studies writing in German - By Valentine Stache-Rosen. p.92). (For more information on Military science please refer to chapter on War in Ancient India).



“The ancient Hindus could navigate the air, and not only navigate it, but fight battles in it like so many war-eagles combating for the domination of the clouds. To be so perfect in aeronautics, they must have known all the arts and sciences related to the science, including the strata and currents of the atmosphere, the relative temperature, humidity, density and specific gravity of the various gases...”

~ Col. Henry S Olcott (1832 – 1907) American author, attorney, philosopher, and cofounder of the Theosophical Society in a lecture in Allahabad, in 1881.

For more information refer to chapter on Vimanas.


The Process of Making Ice in the East Indies - By Sir Robert Barker published in 1775

Following is the method that was used to make ice in India as it was performed at Allahabad and Calcutta. On a large open plain, 3 or 4 excavations were made, each about 30 feet square and two deep; the bottoms of which were strewed about eight inches or a foot thick with sugar-cane, or the stems of the large Indian corn dried. Upon this bed were placed in rows, near to each other, a number of small shallow, earthen pans for containing the water intended to be frozen. These are unglazed, scarce a quarter of an inch thick, about an inch and a quarter in depth, and made of an earth so porous, that it was visible, from the exterior part of the pans, the water had penetrated the whole substance. Towards the dusk of the evening, they were filled with soft water, which had been boiled, and then left in the afore-related situation. The ice-makers attended the pits usually before the sun was above the horizon, and collected in baskets what was frozen, by pouring the whole contents of the pans into them, and thereby retaining the ice, which was daily conveyed to the grand receptacle or place of preservation, prepared generally on some high dry situation, by sinking a pit of fourteen or fifteen feet deep, lined first with straw, and then with a coarse king of blanketing, where it is beat down with rammers, till at length its own accumulated cold again freezes and forms one solid mass. The mouth of the pit is well secured from the exterior air with straw and blankets, in the manner of the lining, and a thatched roof is thrown over the whole.

Ice making in India. It was made in open pans.



The spongy nature of the sugar-canes, or stems of the Indian corn, appears well calculated to give a passage under the pans to the cold air; which, acting on the exterior parts of the vessels, may carry off by evaporating a proportion of the heat. The porous substance of the vessels seems equally well qualified for the admission of the cold air internally; and their situation being full of a foot beneath the plane of the ground, prevents the surface of the water from being ruffled by any small current of air, and thereby preserves the congealed particles from disunion. Boiling the water is esteemed a necessary preparative to this method of congelation.

In effecting which there is also an established mode of proceeding; the sherbets, creams, or whatever other fluids are intended to be frozen, are confined in thin silver cups of a conical form, containing about a pint, with their covers well luted on with paste, and placed in a large vessel filled with ice, salt-petre, and common salt, of the two the last an equal quantity, and a little water to dissolve the ice and combine the whole. This composition presently freezes the contents of the cups to the same consistency of our ice creams, etc. in Europe; but plain water will become so hard as to require a mallet and knife to break it. The promising advantages of such a discovery could alone induce the Asiatic to make an attempt of profiting by so a very short a duration of cold during the night in these months, and by a well-timed and critical contrivance of securing this momentary degree of cold, they have procured to themselves a comfortable refreshment as a recompence, to alleviate, in some degree, the intense heats of the summer season, which, in some parts of India, would be scarce supportable, but by the assistance of this and many other inventions.

(source: Indian Science and Technology in the 18th Century - By Dharampal p. 169-173).












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