Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Ashoka Pillar of Delhi

The Ashoka Pillar of Delhi

the asoka pillar or the iron pillar of delhi

The iron pillar of Delhi

Delhi’s Iron Pillar

Thy riddle is hard to read!

One thousand and six hundred years old, made of pure wrought iron, weighs six tons, 7.375 meters high, standing bare for all these years in the scorching climate of Delhi, no fungus, no rust, no corrosion, nothing could scar even the inscriptions made on it; this pillar literally stands tall as a wonder for the modern man to witness the greatness of his ancestors; who could do what the space-age scientists not. The Iron Pillar of Delhi (also known as Ashoka Iron Pillar) belongs to the ‘Chandragupta 11 –Vikramaditya’ (between 3rd and 4the century AD) period remains as a riddle even to the modern metallurgists who rack their brains to find out the secret behind the eternal youth of this wrought iron pillar.

In Great Company,

the asoka pillar or the iron pillar of delhi Inscriptions on the iron pillar

The Ashoka Pillar is a plain vertical cylinder like structure up to its 90% of the height, then an inverted bell with flattened pot-like engravings on its top, to crown it all is a platform with Ashoka Chakra Emblem, only that much and no over doings. This pillar is at present placed on a recently built cement platform with iron fencing. The location of the pillar is among the famous Qutub Minar Complex in Mehruli in Delhi. This complex a UNESCO accredited World Heritage Site that houses an array of monuments and buildings built by Qutub din Ayback (the first ruler of the Slave Dynasty) and his following rulers including the British. Along with Qutub Minar and the Ashoka Pillar, there are the Alai Minar, Quwwat ul Islam Mosque, Ala I Darwaza and other numerous archeologically prominent structures. The Ashoka Iron Pillar is not as big as Qutub Minar in size but perhaps more wonderful for its inborn chemistry and history.

Smaller only in size,

The soaring tower of Qutub Minar built in the 12th century is 72.5 meters tall; it is the tallest brick Minaret in the world. Qutub Minar is 14.3 meters wide in the base and 2.7 meters at the top. Its enormous sand stone walls, projecting balconies and inscriptions have made it India’s pride and it remains as a hot tourist destination. The Ashoka Pillar was brought to Delhi from its original destination in the 13th century and installed literally in the shades of Qutub Minar. This in no sense makes this pillar in any way ‘smaller’ than the giant Qutub Minar. The Ashoka Pillar is senior to the Minar by ten centuries and bears inscriptions far more valuable to history about the emperors existed thousand years before the makers of the wonderful creations of the Qutub Complex. These inscriptions hail the greatness and valor of one ‘Chandra’ of the Gupta Empire (believed to be Chandagupta Vikramaditya -2; who ruled India between 3rd and 4th centuries AD.

The Chemistry,

Why this wrought iron pillar is not affected by rust; when in the extreme climate of Delhi even painted and well sheltered iron materials rust quick? For centuries this question has haunted scientists and metallurgists of the whole world. Chemical analyses of its parts have revealed that the iron that makes it; is of very pure quality with less quantity of carbon. It is high in phosphorus and low in sulfur and manganese. They say that the phosphate form a film that is inert to chemicals and protects the pillar from rusting. If so why all other iron structures need painting and preservation; why they do not form a phosphate film? The iron lost by rusting costs several billions to the world and no scientist has any solution other than galvanizing (zinc coating) and painting that needs periodical doings and not 100% effective at all.

One more riddle,

the asoka pillar or the iron pillar of delhi Translation of the inscription in English.

This Pillar was originally located at the Udayagiri (original name Vishnu pada giri) Cave Complex in Saanchi about 50 km from Bhopal (the city where the great gas leak occurred in December 3, 1984 from the Union Carbide plant that killed about five thousand people). Its original location (Udayagiri) was exactly at the tropic of cancer and some astrological reasons are attributed to be there regarding its installation. In the summer solstice day (when the sun reaches its peak) alone the shadow of the pillar fell directly at the feet of the idol of the temple that existed there. It is yet another riddle like the secret of its non-rusting quality one for astronomers and the other for metallurgists!

Ahoka Chakra –a place in the sun,

The pillar bears the Ashoka Chakra Emblem at its top; which has been adopted by the Government of India when its Tricolor National flag was shaped. The ‘Tricolor’ National flag which bears horizontally placed Orange, White and Green, and Chakra Emblem is in the middle of the white band the Chakra (a blue wheel with 24 spokes) represents movement and vitality; Orange; dedication, White; peace and Green prosperity). A nation with Ashoka Chakra on its national flag means a nation on the rolls and by the great fortune of Indians this biggest democracy has always been on the move ever since.

An old Romeo haunted by lovers!

Somehow centuries back; a rumor spread that hugging and spreading hands around the pillar was auspicious and that would fulfill the wish of the hugger. As the news spread; tourists from around the world who visited the site began to hug this pillar, there were scramble to hug this old pillar! The frenzy reached in such a level that people even began to visit this site to hug this pillar alone and such a violent love affair with the pillar grew to create law and order problems forcing the Archaeological Department to ban hugging the pillar (even this iron pillar began to wear and tear due to persistent hugging; now a steel fence guards this pillar from violent huggers!

Statutory Warning ‘Hugging is injurious to health’!

Fortunately the authorities have not still placed a board nearby stating ‘hugging is injurious to health’ as smoking and drinking are! Bureaucrats if have any ideas of placing such a board beware; they should show the model as stopping hugging altogether not just the Romeo-pillar! This pillar is very old and if its gets some comfort by hugging of beautiful Juliets why ban it? The author rightly think the secret of longevity of this pillar is not phosphate and magnesium but the hugging it got from enchanting womenfolk (serotonin produced during love is help for longevity –a fact even scientists agree!) A request to the visitors if authorities prevent you from hugging; do it each other and make the pillar a happy witness and you a more refreshed tourist as well! Wishing a longer and happier life to the pillar!

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