The Indian Pillar
Updated: Jun 14
In Delhi, India, specifically in the famous monument complex of Qutb, in the Mehrauli area, there is a metal pole which has been dominating the spot for at least 1600 years. It still has not rusted!
The pillar is 7,21 m in height and has a diameter of 41 cm. It weighs more than 6 tons! At the top, there is the emblem of Ashoka Chakra, a wheel with twenty-four spokes that many find in many ancient monuments, but also there is in the flag of India itself. The emblem symbolized the circular flow of time and the catalytic influence it exerts on the world.
The monument was erected during the Gupta dynasty (320-540 A.C.) and specifically by the emperor Chandragupta Vikramaditya II. According to archeologists, its original location was not in Qtub but in Udayagiri, a complex of caves in central India, which in the time of the Gupta was used to observe the movement of the celestial bodies. The relocation of the pillar in its current position took place in the 13th century so that the monument would be next to Qutub Minar, a 72 meters height minaret that is considered to be one of the most important samples of Indo-Islamic architecture.
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The pillar has a Sanskrit inscription, which is fully preserved up to this day. According to the text, the monument was erected in honor of god Vishnu, while it also includes laudatory comments about the honor and bravery of King Chandra, who is most probably Chandragupta, who was responsible for the construction of the monument.
The analysis made to the monument by the Indian Institute of Technology of Kanpur showers that the material of the pillar is no other than pure Iron (Fe) at a rate of 98%. Further research by the institute’s metallurgists clearly showed why the monument did not rest after all those years: there is a thin layer mixture of iron, oxygen, and hydrogen, which has the property of effectively protecting the pillar from rust. This compound was formed over the years, due to the presence of a significant amount of phosphorus, at a rate of 1%. The presence of phosphorus is due to the way in which Indian metallurgists processed the metal and which differs significantly from the corresponding method of the current metallurgists. The use of phosphorus to create a stainless steel alloy seems particularly interesting and efficient today. It may also form an alternative solution to rust in the future, instead of galvanized – coating the iron with a layer of zinc!