You are here

The disappearing metallurgical traditions of India

Since ancient times, India has had a rich culture of metallurgy as evidenced in the archeological finds from Indian Iron age. The vessels and ornaments found from this period show skilled metallurgy and craftsmanship in smelting metal. Now, Prof. Sharada Srinivasan, a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, has been studying these ancient traditions and skills in working with metal. Since many of the metallurgical traditions have been orally translated over generations and never written down, not much is understood about these ancient metal workers. Studying metal that was used during the Indian Iron Age, the author finds use of specialized metals and alloys like beta high tin bronze and zinc implying skilled workers having knowledge of the different metals and their properties. The author also traced down metallurgists who, to this day, follow traditional forms of metallurgy, which could teach us a lot about the way our ancestors worked with metals. Kammalar tribe of Kerala was still found using traditional practices of high tin bronze vessel making. Kurumba tribe in Nilgiris are still found skillfully extracting gold, following their traditional methods. The author also found evidence for early use of zinc from the Zawar region of Rajasthan. The paper looks at these exceptional skills that our ancestors possessed, something that has been lost over the generations.