Page 9 - Science India August 2022
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Agonising Death-blow to India’s Prowess in Metallurgy by British Raj
The country’s indigenous knowledge in creating exclusive metal products, renowned all over the world, was decimated by colonial policies with the aid of science, a first in the world
n Prof BN Jagatap
India had developed a great mastery over metal production very early in the history. She was centuries ahead of the rest of the world in iron, copper and zinc technologies. Colonisation of
India annihilated the traditional met- allurgy in a manner that the country became dependent on the metals which she was exporting for over about two thousand years or so.
The British rule adopted a multi- pronged strategy that included unfair policies and legislations as well as use of science as the basis for the discrimina- tory economic policies. It was perhaps for the first time that science was used to decimate indigenous knowledge devel- oped over centuries. The result was to
Image Courtesy: IRCTC 2017/Wikimedia Commmons
  The marvellous entrance to the Sun Temple in Konark, carved in granite. Its non-rusting iron beams have withstood the test of time since the 13th century
turn India into a huge market for goods manufactured in Britain.
India boasted of production of several metals — gold, silver, copper, lead, tin, iron, zinc, mercury, antimony, etc. and their alloys and compounds.
Archeological evidences point to early iron making around 1800 BCE in the Lahuradeva site in Uttar Pradesh. Recent discoveries of iron artifacts dat- ed 1800−2400 BCE in Telangana and Tamil Nadu may push back the start of the iron age by hundreds of years. Iron technology became mature by ~800 BCE. Iron surgical instruments were developed around 600 BCE. The tech-
nology for forge welding to obtain huge pieces of iron was developed during 100−500 CE. Indian steel, also known as wootz, was an advanced material of the ancient world. The process origi- nated in south India around 4th to 5th century BCE.
Several monuments in India speak gloriously of her non-rusting wrought iron technology, e.g., the iron pillar of Delhi (4th century) and iron beams at Konark temple (13th century). Non- rusting property is due to high phospho- rous (~0.114%), low sulphur (0,006%) and absence of manganese.
Wootz found its way to countries in the known world for centuries. It is said that the ancient Egyptians used tools

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