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It is of great importance to discuss the subject of ancient Indian metallurgical science.

Important and relevant evidences are available on this subject from the Sanskrit based
scientific literature and also from the archeological research works. As mentioned in the
introduction of this thesis, every artifacts obtained during the archeological excavation,
has been evaluated for their periods through the modern carbon dating techniques.
Similarly the period of active exploitation of the mines for the minerals and ores was also
evaluated through the same technique. Using that data, the date of the mines and metal
samples was mentioned in the discussion part of the thesis.

A variety of Sanskrit literature both spiritual and scientific are available for screening the
ancient metallurgical knowledge. The information on the literature can be proved correct
by the evidences available from thousands of ancient metallic samples of many millennia
old collected from various sites.

Vedas give preliminary information on the names of certain metals. Susrutha

samhitha, the celebrated Ayurvedic book also contain large amount of data on the
metals which are used for the surgical instruments. They also contain information
regarding carburisation type of techniques adopted for the metals used for the
surgical instruments. Kautilya s Arthasasthra gives great details on a variety of ores
for each of the metals known during his period (300 BC). A Buddhist monk
Nagarjuna has written Rasaratnakara in 200 AD. It appears from the available
literature source that another Buddhist monk with the same name , Nagarjuna has
rewritten the book in the 6th century AD. This book contains variety of information
on the metals and alloys, including their production and purification. Rasahrudaya
and Rasarnava of Govindabhatta, Rasarnavakalpa and Rasendra choodamani of
Somadeva,,etc belong to the period 9th to 11th century AD. In fact the study of
metals , their alloys and compounds was a part of the rasachikilsa. Hence all the
chemical books deal with the subjects of metals and alloys. Bruhath samhitha of
Varhamihira is a general book which also describe the metal processing. Even
though there exist a few books specifically discussing the metal science like
Lohathanthra, they are not available at present in print. However some books and
connected research papers appearing on Bharadhavaja s Vymanika thanthra and

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other instruments give details of a number of artificial metals known as kruthaka
loha. Thus in this thesis work, I have gone through these Sanskrit based literature,
including the most authoritative Rasaratna samucchaya for collecting data on the
metal science.

The literature based knowledge appears to begin from the Vedas. In Rig Veda
(1.122.14) a golden ear ring is mentioned as hiranyakarnam manigreevam. A golden
necklace is again mentioned in the stanza 1.33.8 as hirnyayena manina
srumbamaana. This gives the knowledge of the metal gold as an ornaments. In
Sukla yajurveda the following lines give us the knowledge on the metals like gold,
iron, lead, tin, silver and carbon steel respectively in the following lines (18.13)

Interestingly each of these metal has different physical and chemical characteristics
and need different types of extraction and purification process. The names of these
metals give enough proof that their production technology was known.
Archeological evidences (given in the later part) support with the period, the above
statement on the knowledge of these metals. The ores and metals mentioned in the
Vedic texts are also obtained during the excavation from Lothal, Mohan jodaro,
Kalibangan, Bhagavanpura, etc. An interesting quotation from Atharva Veda gives a
comparison of the colour of the Universal person with that of various metals

His flesh has the colour of iron, blood has the colour of copper, bones
have the colour of tin ( or tin oxide - thrapu bhasma) and his odour is
that of pushakara (lead)

This comparison indirectly gives the knowledge of the metals and some
of their physico chemical characteristics like colour and odour,
During a period almost near to that of Vedas. Chandogya Upanishad
is one of the earliest Upanishads chronologically coming at par with
the Vedas.

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An interesting philosophical approach of the metallurgical knowledge
is given in Chandogya Upanishad (6.1.6) through one sentence and it
conveys a lot about the metals and their processing.

By knowing the nail cutter, all that is related with iron metal can be
known...... i.e. Iron is the essence of the tool.

This statement gives us a direct information that when a metal is

discussed by its name it is understood that the metal production
technology, including the knowledge of ores, metallurgical extraction,
purification, temperature connected with all these processing and also
the unit operations required to convert the ore into pure metal , was
well known

Ancient Indian mines and minerals

Even though proofs have been submitted by Mukherjee 76 on a series

of mines utilised for the production of various types of metals during
Vedic period, it appears that the earliest description of the mines is
given in the Arthasastra written by Koutilya. He has clearly given the
duties and privileges of the Director of mines.

The Director of mines is responsible for the handling and proper

utilisation of the ores, minerals, chemicals, etc. He should have the
knowledge of these materials and their availability. He is responsible
for the examination and utilisation of three types of ores classified
under bhoomi - prasthara - rasa dhatus. He should know the quality
of the ores by means of colour, smell , taste and using the acidic -
alkaline textural flavours.

Koutilya focussed mainly the gold, silver lead, tin , coper and zinc
ores and metals in his explanations (Arthasasthra 2.6.4) . He has
given the correct picture of the utilisation of the resources from the
mines as the treasury has its source of income from the mines, from
the treasury, the army comes into being, with the treasury and the

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army, land is obtained. With the treasury is its ornaments, the mines.
( Arthasasthra 2.12.37).

In Arthasasthra the melting process (dravana or vipalana) ,

solidification process (mruthi)etc., are explained very systematically.
Proper heating is required for making the metal alloys says

As a scientific proof on the metal processing, the carbon dating

technique has shown that extraction and purification of the metals
like silver, tin, copper, lead, iron and zinc, were undertaken during
Koutilyas period (300 BC) and far before that.

Also the best evidences are available for the Sanskrit explanation given
by Koutilya on the mines, which can be substantiated by the above
techniques. Based on the study reports it could be proved that the
Rajpura, Dariba, Udaipur mines in Rajasthan were very active from
1300 BC . The Hatti mines in Karnataka was active from 1000 BC,
Ramapura and Agucha mines were exploited for the metals from 700
BC and Zawarmala, Ambamata mines of Rajasthan were actively
utilised for the metals from 500 BC. One of the most important
observation is that the Kormaranahalli and Tadanhalli mines in
Karnataka were yielding iron ores from 1300 BC. The description of
iron in Vedas was also due to the fact that mines from Atranjikhera,
Pandu - Rajar - Dhibi in Bengal ; Alamghir in Rajasthan and
Varanasi in Uttarpradesh were all subjected to a very high level of
iron ore production during this period i.e. Also before and during
1200 BC, which is crucial period as far as iron production is

It is important to search the Sanskrit based information mentioned

about the physico chemical characteristics of the ores and minerals of
the metals. In Arthasasthra ( 2.12.30) the ores are thus described:

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The colour of different ores can be yellow, mixed yellowish red, when
disintegrated it can have bluish colour, and the colour of green gram,
black gram, curd, turmeric, terminelia seeds, liver of animal, spleen,
sand, jasmine bud, seed of neem, etc. Some of the ores when heated
remain the same and some ejects out smoke and surf.

These descriptions of the ores are perfectly in agreement with the

characteristics of the ores of copper, gold, silver, lead and tin .

A series of outstanding descriptions are also given on a variety of

minerals and ores of specific metals. The scientific content of these
descriptions can be obviously available when those facts are compared
with the actual modern knowledge on the subject. The description of
the silver ores is given in Artha sasthra:

Native silver ores are of eighteen types. They are classified on the basis
of their colour:. the ores having the colour of conch shell, camphor,
pearl, jewel, lotus flower, etc., some times the silver ore get mixed with
lead and some are white outside and black inside. When heated some
of the ores produce smoke. In these ores, the density is directly
proportional to the metal content in it.

The copper ores are thus described in the part of Artha sasthra :

The copper ores may have different colours and appearance as:
heavy, tawny, green (Chalcopyrite ore) ; dark blue (malachite ore);
yellowish tint (azurite ore and pale red (native ore of copper)

This explanation in Arthasasthra agree literally all the qualifications of

various types of copper ores given in the parenthesis.

Lead ores are described thus in the book:

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It is greyish black like kaka mechaka (galena ore of lead), yellow like
pigeon bile (gossam ore). (Here too the characteristics agree fully with
the descriptions given.)

The tin ores are described in these words by Koutilya:

The tin ores are grey saline or like brown burnt earth (cassiterite ore
of tin)

Iron ores are thus described and their modern equivalents are also

Iron ores are greasy stone, pale red and having the colour of limonite
or of the Sindudrava flower ( haematite ore of iron). The iron ore
which has the colour of crow egg or birch leaf is vaikruthaka dhatu (
magnetite ore).

After describing the physico chemical type of characteristics, Koutilya

has further mentioned the duties of the Lohadhyaksha. The
Lohadhyaksha should establish factories for the production of metals
like copper, lead, tin, copper and alloys like vaikruntaka, arakuta,
brass , bronze and bell metal . All the business related with the
metals should be undertaken by him. Says Artha sasthra:

The subject of metallurgical science inevitably deals with the subject of

furnaces, kilns and crucibles used for the production and purification
of the metals and alloys. Thus mentioned in Rasaratna samucchaya
on the kilns used for the production and purification of the metals:

The equipment used for removing the impurities is known as the

Musha/ kiln.

Different types clay is used for the preparation of the kilns. This
gives a good information on the ancient Indian background knowledge
on the ceramics science.

Yellowish white and heavy sand or reddish white sand that can
withstand high temperature for a long time, is the best for the
manufacture of the kilns .

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Different types of kilns / mushas used for processing a variety of ores
and metals are thus described in Rasaratna samucchaya:

gostani-malla-pakva-gola-maha-manduka-musala are the names of
the common mushas used.

Detailed descriptions are given in the Rasaratna samucchaya on the

preparation method and clay composition for the production of the
above type of kilns. Different furnaces mentioned are named here
based on their sizes, shapes and the purpose they serve.

The temperature for the extraction and purification of a metal is

attained according to the nature of the metals and ores. The process
by which metals are extracted is sometimes called Kupeepaka vidya.
Different types of putas are used for getting specific temperature. All
these putas when subjected to the modern tests, are found to provide
the temperature between 750 - 900 C. The duration of
maintaining the temperature and the dimensions of these putas are
given below

Name of the putas dimensions Duration

of heat

Mahagajaputa furnace 36" width x depth 150 min

Gajaputa 22 " " 100 min

Varahaputa 16" " " 50 min

Kukkutaputa 9" " " 5 min

Kapota puta On the surface of the earth low


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The above time duration was experimentally proved using the modern
instruments after making the putas by following the details given in
the above mentioned book on the dimensions 77

The above types of putas were made using cubical arrangement of

cow dung cakes. For example in mahagajauta, 2000 cow dung cakes
were used and in other putas 1000, 800, 40 and 8 cakes ,
respectively were used.

From this it is clear that there existed a standard set up for the
furnaces. Metallurgical process were not adopted as a crude heating
procedure. Every puta has a definite specification to follow.

Qualification of pure metals are described in Rasarnava ( 52 -55). The

purity of the metal flowing out of the furnace can be judged using
these physical parameters.

Pure metal is the one which when melted in crucibles, does not give
sparks, bubbles, spurts, lines or scum on the surface. The molten
metal which does not produce any sound and is tranquil like gem
flows out from the furnace.

The above explanation given agree well with the qualifications on the
purity of the samples obtained during archeological studies. The
purity of the metal was assayed using modern instruments and found
to have the following composition

Name of metal and alloys Place from where obtained

% Purity

Copper Nalanda 97.9

Copper Mohenjodaro

Copper Atanjikhere 97.3

Copper Harappa 98.8

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Copper (ii) Harappa 99.0

Silver Mohan jodaro


Lead Mohan jodaro


Bronze Takshasila 85.0 % Cu + 9.8 %


Brass Takshasila 55.4% Cu + 34.3%


These metal and alloy samples were produced during a period

ranging between 3000 BC - 200 BC

Thus archeological evidences submit absolute proofs for the

metallurgical capabilities explained in the Sanskrit literature.

Corrosion of metals: Degradation of metals by way of the reaction with

oxygen, moisture, acidic and alkaline materials present in the
atmospheric air is a natural phenomena. This is termed as corrosion
in modern science. The concept connected with the corrosion and the
degradation of metals is clearly mentioned in Rasarnava (7. 89, 90)

Gold, silver, copper, iron, lead and tin are the six types of metals
which undergo self degradation at a slower rate in the reverse order of
this arrangement. ( the statement means in the reverse order of the
arrangement the metals are more and more stable)

I.e. Gold is the least (slowest) corroding and the tin is the fastest
corroding metal and the rate of corrosion increases in the order

Yajnavalkhya smruthi refers to the cleaning of the metals in the

Acharadhyaya 78

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Tin, lead and copper may be cleaned with alkali and acids. Iron ,
bronze and copper alloys are cleaned with ash and water.

The rationale being this is that the use of acids and alkalies rapidly
decompose and dissolve the corroded impurities accumulated on the
surface of the metals and cleanse the surface.

Alloy making: The ancient Indian authoritative knowledge on the

production of the alloys has been well appreciated from time
immemorial. A number of examples are available from different parts
of India for demonstrating the authority on the metallic alloy
production. Arthasasthra says that the coins are manufactured
using different metals, by alloying. The Director of coins
Lakshanadhyaksha has the responsibility of making coins with
different denomination as given below:

The Director of coins should know how to make four types of coins: i.e.
Coins of one pana, half a pana, one fourth of a pana and one eighth of
a pana using copper, silver , lead, iron and if required other metals.

This descriptions gives the scientific way of alloying the metals known
during the period of Koutilya. The following statement if further
explained with the help of commentaries:

The above statement means; padajeevana type of coins contains 4

parts of silver and 11 parts of copper and 1 part of any other metals
like iron, tin, lead, or antimony. This coin is known as Mashakam.
Half of this composition known as ardha mashakam, one fourth of
this, gives a coin known as kakani, one eight of one pana is ardha

This gives an upto date type of knowledge of alloy making process for
the production of coins, which is one of the sophisticated techniques
adopted for getting uniform size, shape, weight and quality for coins

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Bronze: Bronze was one of the most commonly used alloy in ancient
India. Archeological information available on the bronze is plenty.
Bronze and brass are the two alloys obtained from almost all the
excavated sites, in India. This shows that, the processes of
preparation of bronze was familiar through out this continent.
Temples in south India have many bronze and brass statues , idols,
big vessels and other items.

Panini s Ashtadhyayee ( gives the information on brass and

bronze vessels.

Brass and bronze vessels can be used for storing ghee, milk, etc.

Panini was a contemporary scholar of the ruler Pushyamitra Sunga

(187 BC). Rasaratna samucchaya (5.205) gives the composition of one
type of bronze as:

Eight part by weight of copper and two parts by weight of tin give the

Archeological studies support this description , as many bronze

samples contained 10 -20 % tin alloyed with copper.

Brass: The Indian technology of brass production is as old as that of

bronze. The metal, zinc was called suvarnakara because it converts
copper into gold like alloy. Two methods were followed in India for the
production of brass. First method, by directly alloying the copper and
zinc and the second is by alloying copper with zinc minerals, like
calamine. Rasaratnakara (3) gives this explanation:

What wonder is that calamine ( zinc ore) roasted thrice with copper
convert the latter into gold ( gold coloured alloy - brass)

The procedure explained here is the direct alloying of copper with zinc
ore. Zinc metal from the calamine ore alloys with copper to give
brass. Modern metallurgical studies have shown that the maximum
content of zinc which can alloy to form the brass, from zinc ore is 29%.
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Majority of the brass samples obtained during archeological
excavation contained less that 28% zinc. This proves the common
procedure adopted in ancient India was as given in the above Sanskrit
lines, alloying by hating copper with calamine (zinc) ore.

Rasarnva (7.34 -38) gives thus on the brass alloy formation:

Zinc, a metal like tin converts copper into gold.

This line is partly repetition of that from Rasaratnakara . Hence the

word gold is to be interpreted as gold like

Panini in Ashtadhyayi (5.1.30) has mentioned the word Suvarnakara

for tin/zinc while discussing the coins made of copper by alloying with
tin / zinc.

Brass samples obtained from Lothal contained 6.04% zinc and 70 %

copper. This belongs to the period of 2200 BC. Earliest brass sample
obtained, containing more than 28% zinc, was from Takshasila (4th
century BC). Obviously, here the zinc metal was alloyed directly with
copper, since the zinc content in the alloy was above 29%. Rasaratna
samucchaya ( 5.191 -193) gives the description of brass as follows

Brass is of two kinds which are known as reetika and kakatundi.

The former when heated and plunged into sour rice gruel turns into
copper colour and the latter turns black by the above treatment. The
former is heavy, soft, yellow, resistant to hammering, brilliant and

This explanation stands scientific as far as the qualifications of

alpha and beta types of brass are concerned. The brass which
contains less than 28% zinc has all the above said property and it is
known as alpha brass, where as the second one is beta brass that
contains above 28% zinc in it.

Bell metal: The qualification required for the bell metal alloy is
different from those of other types of alloys. It should give a perfect,
melodious and attractive sound. The bell metal alloy is mentioned in

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Arthasasthra. Method for separating copper from bell metal is
described in Rasaratna samucchaya (8.37)

Molten bell metal is heated with a little tala or orpiment, blown with a
bent tube and freed from Ranga of tin and what we get is the copper
separated from bell metal . (Ghoshakrushtam thaamram means the
copper extracted from bell metal). This copper may contain traces of
other metal components also, hence may have special grade and

Panchaloha: Panchaloha is the most common alloy used in making

idols in temples for the last few thousand years. Sanskrit and
regional language literature give detailed description on the
panchaloha vigrahas. Charka samhitha gives this explanation (1.70)

In pancha loha , gold and separately copper, silver, tin, lead and iron
are alloyed.

In Rasaratna samucchaya (5.212) panchaloha alloy is separately

described as follows:

An alloy of five metals of tin, copper , brass , iron and lead is called

Metal seal:

Bruhath samhitha of Varahamihira (57 -1.7) gives the explanation of

a metal seal known as Vajrasanghatha.

An alloy of eight parts lead, two parts bell metal and one part brass
has been described by Maya as the vajra sanghatha metal seal.

Pure metals:

Copper: Yajurveda mentions about copper, in the name thamra.

Copper metallurgy has got a long tradition in India. Mehargarh
excavation has shown that the copper samples obtained from there
belonged to 8000 BC. One of the many samples obtained from this site
recorded the production period which can be around 7786 +/- 120

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BC. More than 2500 copper samples could be excavated from different
archeological sites.

As far as the Sanskrit literature is concerned, it appears that

Arthasasthra comes first in the description of copper, other than
Vedas. The earlier mentioned are the descriptions of copper ore and
various alloys made of copper. The purity of copper metal obtained
from Harappa was 99% and that obtained from Mohen jodaro was 97
%. Ancient copper technology should have been good to get this level
of purity for the copper metal.

Iron: There are evidences available from Mesopotamia, Egypt and

Afghanistan on the efforts taken in the production of iron during 3000
- 2000 BC. Similar trials were also conducted in Cyprus during 1600
BC 80 . Historical data proves that upto 1600 BC, none including
Greeks and the Mediterranean people could produce iron. After
putting all the evidences together, it can be concluded that till 1200
BC, iron production was not conducted succesfully anywhere in the
world, other than in India. Yajurveda mentions about iron as
syamam and also loham. In Susrutha samhitha and Charka
samhitha, the use of iron based drugs for treating the anemia as an
asavam is mentioned. This asavam is known as Loha asavam:

For years together, the iron nails are treated/stored in ghee and that
ghee is used for the preparation of iron asavam.

Archeological evidences show that iron was commonly produced in five

regions in North India during or prior to 1200 BC. An iron sample
obtained from Ahar was dated during 1300 BC. Rasaratna
samucchaya gives defintion and explanation for the three types of iron
( Rasaratna samucchaya 69)

Three important classes of iron are Munda loha ( cast iron),

Teekshana loha (carbon steel) and Kanta loha (soft iron).

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Further classification can be seen in the explanation of each of the
above type of iron

The Munda loha is of three kinds; mrudu, kunda and kadra.

Theekshna loha is of six types. Khara, sara, hrunnala, trivrutta, vajra

and kala

Kanta loha is of five classes which are bhramaka, chumpaka,

karshaka, dravaka and romaka.

It is an interesting information to note that the above classes and

subclasses are well defined in modern science, with physico chemical
characteristics of the product.

In Rasaratna samucchaya, the qualities of roasted iron (which is iron

oxide) and the rust of iron ( it is also the iron oxide) are compared

The qualities of the air roasted iron and the rust of iron are the same.
Therefore the latter was also acceptable for medicinal purposes.

Carburisation is a process of hardening the iron which is achieved by

inducing more carbon in the metal by heating. This method is of
special use in hardening and sharpening the iron tools like swords.
Bruhath samhitha (50.26) explains the method of carburisation of iron.

The iron weapons treated with a day old solution made of the burnt
powder of bananas, mixed with butter milk and then sharpened
properly, will not break in stones, nor become blunt on other

Carburised iron weapons were spotted in many places by the

archeological study groups. The process of carburisation has been
discussed in detail by Bhatia 80 b . The quality of Indian steel has
been referred to by Ktesias who was in the court of Persia in the 5th
century BC. Swords made in India were purchased by Persian kings.
Alexander the Great was said to have received 30 pounds of Indian
steel in 326 BC, from King Porus for making Damascus swords.
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The above information are important historical evidences on the
capability of iron metallurgy in India and also the quality of the metal
produced here. They also support the scientific explanation given in
the Sanskrit literature.

Silver: Silver metallurgy was known to Indians at least from the period
of Mohanjo daro civilisation. A variety of silver articles was obtained
from there. Arthasasthra describes silver as follows (2.13.31)

Silver has the colour of jasmine bud. It contains a lot of lead, it may
have the colour of sky, it is white, soft and also precious. When mixed
with 4 parts of lead, the alloy will have the colour of fresh curd.

Artha sastra describes the purification method of silver as a

continuation of the above lines:

The impure silver is mixed with bone powder, 4 parts lead, 4 parts
sand, 4 times cow dung, 3 parts kopal together 17 parts. This
mixture is taken in a kiln, mixed with salt and sand and melted. The
pure silver gets separated in the pure form. If mixed with some gold, it
adds to the lustre of silver.

The above two explanations fully agree with the scientific

observations on silver metallurgy and charecteristics. In fact this is
the actual process adopted for the removal of impurities such as lead,
iron,etc from the silver during its extraction process.

Qualifications of silver are further explained in Artha sasthra (


If silver is mixed with lead, it gives an alloy with a bad smell. The
alloy will be rough, less coloured and less shining in appearance.
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This silver has to be purified with the bone powder in a furnace ( if lead
is to be removed)

This concept explained is practised in the modern cupellation process

also, for the purification of silver. Instead of the calcium and
phosphorous present in the bones, calcium phosphate lining is
directly given in the crucibles, known as cupels , in the modern
process. Detailed description of other silver alloys is given in Artha
sasthra ( 1.13.31)

An alloy of 3 parts of copper and 28 parts of silver has the colour

swetha lohita. The alloy with 3 parts of gold and 28 parts of silver
has a colour peetha raga.; two parts of silver and one part of gold give
an alloy with green gram colour . Two parts of silver, one part of gold
and 1/6 iron give black coloured alloy which when mixed with
mercury gives silver with a colour of golden bird s feather.

These descriptions give us full information on the technology adopted

for making different types of silver alloys and also their physical
characteristics. The description continues and some more varieties of
silver alloys are mentioned:

The alloy of two parts of silver and one part of copper is known
triputakam; one part of iron and one part of silver is known as
vellakam; one part each of iron, silver and gold is known as
vellakapasaritham. One part each of copper and gold is known as

Almost all these types of alloys could be located from various

archeological centres during excavation studies. One sample of the
silver alloy obtained from Mohan jodaro had a silver content 94.5%.
Rasarnava (12.42.2) gives the colour of silver- gold alloy

Twenty five percent gold with silver will have the colour of pure gold.

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Rasarnava (12.49.2) says that for sales purposes the above alloy can
be further mixed with silver..

Thus the literature descriptions and the practical observations on silver

are scientifically agree to the highest level of accuracy.

Mercury: Mercury is a liquid metal which is described in all the

Rasachikitsa books written in Sanskrit. Charaka samhitha and
Susrutha samhitha give detailed description on mercury and many of
its physico chemical characteristics including some of the compounds
like oxide, sulphide, sulphate, etc.

Rasaratnakara (37) gives this explanation on the distillation process of

mercury extraction

The mercury ore (known as darada ) when distilled in a distillation set

up gives drops ( of mercury ) with the help of water (when condensed
the vapour with water)

This is also the modern procedure adopted for the separation of

mercury from its ores like calamine. In Rasaratna samucchaya (8.64)
the following description is given

When the refined ore of mercury is heated in a distillation set up, the
vapours move up, down and sides. When condensed with water, it
gives drops of mercury which can be collected . This mercury when
reacted with tin, a solid amalgam is formed.

Rasaratna samucchaya ( 3.141,144) describes the mercury distillation


When the mercury ore is distilled and the vapours are condensed, it
gives the mercury known as suta. ( this explanation is also
application for zinc)
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Lead: Rasaratna samucchaya (5.171) gives this definition for the metal

Readily fusible, very heavy, having a black and white appearance on

fracture having off foetida odour and black on the outside surface is
the lead.

This gives an absolute characteristics of the metal lead. The purity of

lead obtained from ancient sites of Mohan jodaro was 99.7%. This is a
proof on the quality of the lead production technology existed here .
As mentioned earlier, the lead was used for making the metal seal
known as vajra sanghath an alloy containing lead as an important
component. (Bruhath samhitha 57.1.7). Rasaratna samucchaya gives
one of the applications of lead ore as a hair dye (3.146)

Hingularda or cinnabar was known to occur in two varieties; inferior

and superior grades, The ore coming from Gurjar province near the
Abida mountains, coloured yellow with lamella, can be used for
preparing hair tonics or dyes.

Zinc: Zinc is an ash coloured low melting metal. It has been described
in this thesis under the alloy brass. The detailed description of the
production of zinc metal is given in Rasaratna samucchaya.

Brinjal shaped crucible is attached with a 12 angula long tube over it

like an inverted flower of dhatura. A hole of 8 angula diameter is made
in the tube. This crucible is used for the

zinc distillation (Rasaratna samucchaya 10.22,23)

A series of brinjal shaped crucibles, set up in series as rows, were

found during the excavation of zinc producing sites in Rajasthan.
Dozens of crucibles thus arranged in 6 x 6 sets, used during 1500
BC or before, could be located from these sites.

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In Rasaratnakara (31,32) the flow of zinc metal from the distillation set
up is thus described:

There is no doubt that this process yields an essence of metal (zinc) of

the appearance of tin, from the crucible known as mooka musha.

Crude tin resembles the zinc metal. Biswas 82 has given a detailed
description on the metallurgical process of ancient Indian technology
on zinc production. He has concluded here that the brass containing
36% zinc, was produced in India directly by alloying zinc and copper.
The brass samples containing 46% zinc is brittle and those
containing 36 - 46% zinc were of medium texture. This type of
products were also obtained during the excavation. Some of the brass
samples of the Vedic period belonged to alpha and beta types.

A zinc sheet was excavated from Agora, a town in Athens, Greece. It

has been proved that this sheet was produced in Takshasila in the
3rd century BC.

A number of historical and archeological evidences support that the

zinc production in India started many millennia ago. This technology
was smuggled to the West , first in 1597 AD, by a metal smith
Libavius 83 . In 1616 AD, the name Zinc was given to this metal by
Parcelius. ( till then this metal was known in West as Malabar lead).
Later on, William Champion, a metal smith from Warmeley, UK. who
collected the details of the metallurgical process from Rajasthan,
applied for the patent in UK. It is said that a person by name Dr.Lane
visited Rajasthan for collecting the details of the zinc extraction
process84 and the technology was spread from there. Thus Indian
technology on the production of zinc metal got directly and indirectly
transferred to the West, during the 16th and 17th century AD

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Tin: The metal tin has been discussed in detail in almost all the
Sanskrit Rasathanthra books. Rasaratna samucchaya ( 5. 153, 154)
describes, in detail the qualifications of alpha and beta type of tin.

There are two types of tin known as khuraka and misraka. Khurakam
is the superior quality tin and the misraka is the subordinate one.
Khurakam type of tin is white , soft, flexible, tooth coloured, dense,
without making the metallic sound which is beta tin and the mixed
black and white coloured one is the misraka, the alpha tin.

Rasopanishad gives a detailed description on production, purification

and alloy making with tin metal. The full chapter description on tin
can be seen in Vangasthambhana sodhana adhyaya of the
Rasopanishad. Rasarnava (7.112) gives the process for the purification
of tin metal

By putting powdered bones of buffalo in the crude molten tin metal

and sprinkling its urine, the tin can be produced and purified from its

The bone powder acts as the source of calcium for the tin purification
by acting as the flux in the removal of the impurities. The phosphorus
present in the bone reacts with atmospheric oxygen to form
phosphorous oxide and in presence of water, the phosphoric acid is
formed, which purifies the tin.

The modern technology for the production of tin came to be known in

Europe only in the 16th century AD through a metallurgist Agricola 85
where as in India the metallurgy of tin has a history of thousands of
years. The metal is also mentioned in Yajurveda as thrapu.

Vijay Deshpande 86 has conducted detailed studies on the ancient

Indian technologies on tin. Particularly the details given in the
Rasopanishad and proved that all the descriptions are scientifically
true. He prepared a variety of tin alloys by following the descriptions

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given in Rasopanishads. One alloy of tin giving a marvellous
appearance is described in Rasaratna samucchaya (20 -2)

Tin with mica and equal quantity of gold are placed in a closed
crucible along with a plant product known as vimala and roasted. It is
accomplished in a koorpathootha to get an alloy of metal resembling
emerald in colour and lustre.

Dr. Pandy has proved the quality of the alloy by producing the same.
Many similar explanations are available in the Sanskrit literature on
tin based alloys . A variety of tin alloys were also excavated from the
archeological sites. A few examples are given with bronze alloys.

Gold: Gold is a metal well known to Indians for many millennia. It is

mentioned as a synonym for the wealth and property in Vedas. Gold
purification has been explained in Arthassthra (2.13.31)

Different types of gold having various colours mixed with lead and
converted into metal sheets, mixed with cow dung cakes, sand of
Sourashtra and salt. This is then heated strongly to get the best
coloured gold, in bluish white, greenish, dove coloured, etc

Many alloys of gold for coin making are described earlier in this
chapter. One such alloy referred to is given in Bharadhvaja s
Amsubhodini 87 .that alloy is prepared as follows:

Eight part of potassium iodide, 16 parts of copper of chuleethamra

grade (one out of 16 grades available) , 8 parts of gold namely
hiranyaka grade, ( one out of 12 grades of gold known). 6 parts of
arsenic sulphide, 5 parts of mercury, 6 parts of quarts are heated in a
crucible of tortoise shape and melted at 432 temperature and then
poured the molten alloy into the mould.

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This alloy was prepared by prof. Dongre 87 and proved the
descriptions are well in agreement with the facts mentioned.

Thus Sanskrit literature carry a lot of information on the subject of

metals and alloys. Many of these alloys and some of these methods
might not even have come to the notice of the modern scientists.
Hence it is worth while to peruse into the subject by which one can
fetch better or more useful information on metals and their alloys



There were hundreds of books written in Sanskrit discussing the subjects of

mathematics, astronomy and metallurgy, which are the original contributions
of ancient Indian scientists

Hundreds of commentaries were written in Sanskrit and in other languages

which also contained original contributions other than detailed explanations of
the methods, process and data of the original book.

Many books, data and technology were transported/smuggled/taken/donated

to foreign countries during or before or after the renaissance period, in the

Many of these books were translated in foreign languages by scholars. Original

books and their translated versions have also spread to different countries.

During the renaissance period many European scholars studied these books
and brought into light the original scientific content in them. Some of these
knowledge have been utilised by the Europeans and others. Some of them
were claimed by the foreigners .

In these books information on almost all the aspects of the modern

mathematics are given. These contributions start from the number system to
the most complex geometrical parameters and theorems.

Many of these discoveries are original contribution of Indians which are at

present known in the names of the Europeans or Western scholars. Many
more theorems are still unknown to the world of mathematics even now.

The Indian concept of astronomy and geography is perfect modern knowledge,

which are at par with the latest observations.


Many details available in the modern astronomical books are also available in
the ancient Indian astronomical books, some which may need more refinement.

Some of the latest views on modern astronomy perfectly agree with the
knowledge that is thousands of years old, which originated in India.

Much of this knowledge has been obtained as a result of the original

experiments and studies conducted by ancient Indian scientists.

A variety of instruments have been explained for the determination of the

astronomical data. They were all arrived at based on the scientific
observations. In many cases only the conclusions are given in the Sanskrit

Detailed observations and scientific data are presented against the

superstitions mentioned as the stories in the Puranic texts.

As far as the metallurgical part of the thesis is concerned , data available

shows that mines, minerals, metals, ores, etc, are described in detail , in
Sanskrit literature. These descriptions are substantiated by the archeological

The solid proof of the metallurgical capability available are from the
archeological sources of these metals and alloys from various sites spread over
this nation

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