Iron Pillar of Delhi – The Rustless Wonder

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In the ancient town of Mehrauli

a suburb of Delhi

In the ancient town of Mehrauli, a suburb of Delhi, India, stands an Iron Pillar constructed in 5th Century AD by a King named “Chandra” who has been identified as the great Chandragupta II of the Imperial Gupta Dynasty who ruled over the northern India from 375-415 AD. The iron pillar is one of the world’s foremost metallurgical curiosities. It is famous for the rust-resistant composition of the metals used in its construction. The Pillar is about 1600 years old but has not shown any form of rust or corrosion till date.

According to the accepted theory, the Iron Pillar of King Chandragupta II was originally installed in front of a Vishnu Temple complex at the Udaigiri Hills, near Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh. It was during the period of the Delhi Sultanate in 13th Century that the Turkish muslim invaders sacked Vidisha and brought this Pillar to Delhi as a war trophy. It was then placed at its current location inside the Qutub Complex in Mehrauli, Delhi, just next to the Quwwat ul Islam mosque, which itself was built after destroying 27 older Hindu and Jain temples and using their remnants in the construction.

The height of the pillar, from the top of its capital to the top of its base, is 7.21 m (23 ft 8 in), 1.12 m (3 ft 8 in) of which is below ground. Its bell pattern capital is 306 mm (12 in). It is estimated to weigh more than six tonnes (13,228 lb). It bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script dating 4th century AD, which indicates that the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of Lord Vishnu), on the hill known as Vishnupada (“hill of the footprint of Vishnu”) in memory of a mighty king named Chandra, believed to be Chandragupta II. A deep socket on the top of this ornate capital suggests that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it, as common in such flagpoles.

The inscription is undated, and contains a eulogy of a king named Chandra. J. F. Fleet’s 1888 translation of the inscription is as follows:

(Verse 1) He, on whose arm fame was inscribed by the sword, when, in battle in the Vanga countries (Bengal), 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 Vahlikas were conquered; – he, by the breezes of whose prowess the southern ocean is even still perfumed;

(Verse 2) 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 quit this earth, and has gone to the other world, moving in (bodily) from to the land (of paradise) won by (the merit of his) actions, (but) remaining on (this) earth by (the memory of his) fame;

(Verse 3) By him, the king, 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.

Pillar’s resistance to corrosion is due to a passive protective film at the iron-rust interface. The most critical corrosion-resistance agent is iron hydrogen phosphate hydrate (FePO4-H3PO4-4H2O) under its crystalline form and building up as a thin layer next to the interface between metal and rust which results in an excellent corrosion resistance layer. In 1,600 years, the film has grown just one-twentieth of a millimetre thick!. Iron pillar of Delhi is “a living testimony to the skill of metallurgists of ancient India”.

Source : Facebook/The wonder that was India

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