The author has gone through and summarized all important studies and researches done on the pillar during the last century and a half. He shows how scholarly and scientific studies have shorn the Iron Pillar of Practically all elements of Bafflement mystery and incredulity that have surrounded this ancient monument all along. He has also pointed out few gaps to be filled like the Pillar’s original location and whereabouts for some six centuries before it was installed at Mehrauli. This study can undoubtedly by termed as the most comprehensive thus far on the famous pillar.
To what extent had science and technology (S&T) flourished in ancient India? Generally there are tow extreme views on this. One is that even today modern science has not surpassed what was known or practiced in ancient India. The other is that there is hardly anything worthwhile which could be claimed as ancient India’s achievement in S&T. Such Contrasting views persist because a majority of scientific ideas and technological descriptions found scatted in the old texts do not always lend themselves to unambiguous interpretation. Of course, mere references to mentions and/or pronouncements in ancient texts like the Vedas the Puranas and the epics would not be sufficient to establish unequivocally India’s scientific heritage in today’s context. These references/mentions and also the interpretations based on them need to be examined for their scientific basis and content using rigorous criteria and established methodologies of modern science. This is precisely the aim of Vigyan prasar Series of Monographs on India’s Scientific Heritage. Each publication under this series will deal with specific Indian achievements in a particular field of S&T as studied and examined critically by eminent scientists/technologists working in the field.
The present monograph is second under this series. The first one was on the Iron Pillar in Delhi. The Bronze Icons of South India particularly those form the Chola dynasty cast by the cire perdue process are known worldwide for their antiquarian value, aesthetic beauty iconography and perfection in casting. However to the discerning observes of these bronzes the most striking feature is the methodology the ancient artisans developed probably over a period of several centuries to arrive at the right combination of the metals to form the requisite alloy the procedure for casting and the repair and finishing technology.
The monograph looks at these celebrated bronze icons form both scientific and technological standpoint also laying special emphasis on the artistic accomplishments. The major challenge before scientists is to preserve this unique Indian heritage for future generations. The authors have discussed in detail about characteristics and conservation. The authors have also discussed their own investigation on some icons cast in 11th and 16th centuries in an attempt to establish procedures for fingerprinting these icons necessary for conservation. The monograph would be useful to historians artists art lovers scientists who study and analyze ancient objects and lay-persons.
Dr. Baldev Raj (Born in 1947), BE (Ravishankar University –Gold Medalist) Ph.D. (IISC) is director of materials chemical and reprocessing groups in Indira Gandhi center for atomic research Kalpakkam. He is world renowned in the field of nondestructive testing and evolution (NDT & NDE) and has achieved the highest distinction of Honorary Member and President of the International Committee on Nondestructive Testing. He has made outstanding contributors in the area of NDT for basic and applied research. Combining his sound knowledge in metallurgy and expertise in NDE he is steering many programmes related to fingerprinting conservation and restoration of Indian cultural heritage, Dr. Baldev Raj is fellow of INAE, NASc, IASc, IIM, IE(I), USI and ASI. He is Hon fellow British Institute of NDT. He has won many awards and honours notable among them are national metallurgist award 1986 AEWG (I) Gold Medal 1994, Vasvik Award 1994 and G.D. Birla Gold Medal 1996. He has to his credit 10 books more than 400 publications in journals 150 plenary and keynote lectures and 5 standards and patents.
C. Rajagopalan graduated from the Indian institute of Technology Madras (Now Chennai) and joined the Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC) Bombay (Training School) in 1986. From 1987 he is with the Division for post Irradiation Examination and Nondestructive testing Development Indira Gandhi Center for atomic Research Kalpakkam. His Current interests include software developments towards knowledge based systems and knowledge management and Decision Support System. He has a number of publications in his chosen area and was a visiting scientist to the fraunhofer institute for Nondestructive testing Sarrbrueeken Germany from September 1997 to March 1999.
C.V. Sundaram is a metallurgist who has had a career long association with the Indian Atomic Energy Programme Since 1952. He is well known for his contribution to the extractive metallurgy of rare and reactive metals. He was head Metallurgy Division BARC During 1975-82 and Director Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research Kalpakkam during 1982-89. He was President Indian Institute of Metals during 1981-82 and president Indian Nuclear Society during 1991-93. He has been a recipient of many awards and distinctions including the Kamani Gold Medal 1966 National Metallurgist Award 1970 Vasvik Award 1980 Sanjay Gandhi Award 1986, the Zaheer Medal 1986 and Since 1991 he has been a visiting professor at the national Institute of Advanced Studies Bangalore.
It has taken us long to come out with this second volume in our series on India's Scientific Heritage: "Where Gods Come Alive-A Monograph on Bronze Icons of South India". But, I believe, the outcome is worth all the time it has taken to materialise. It appears that other series titles, to follow, would similarly take time to appear in print.
One of the major difficulties in our work with this series is to clearly identify specific science & technology areas and topics in our heritage where Indian contributions have been unique, substantial and lasting, backed by enough physical and material evidence. Having identified an area thus, the next major step of locating well qualified, knowledgeable and credible author(s), to write on the same, is no less arduous. What makes it even more difficult is that we require persons who also have a scientific background or a good grounding in scientific methodology, are willing to take on the task and do it in a way which is in line with the spirit and philosophy underlying the series. Thereafter it is waiting, persuasion and more waiting to get the manuscript completed along with all the associated materials, before it is processed and readied for printing. Once it goes to the printing press, one has to deal with an entirely different set of issues/problems.
In this particular volume, we are in the general area of materials, mixing of materials to get alloys for specific applications-of icon-casting, as also of finishing and polishing of the icon-surfaces, including repair if necessary. Something that is quite unique about this volume is that while it deals with techniques and technologies employed in India four to nine centuries ago, in making these bronze icons, it also links all this to the modern-day scientific techniques developed and being used for conservation and preservation of our icon- heritage.
Apart from historians, art-lovers, and material scientists and technologists, we do hope that others too would find the book informative and absorbing.
Suggestions and comments for its improvement are most welcome.
It gives me great pleasure to pen these few lines by way of introduction to this second Monograph in Vigyan Prasar’s series of Monographs on India’s Scientific Heritage. Alluringly entitle as where gods come Alive this handy volume is based on a thorough scientific and technological study of the Bronze icons of South India particularly from the period of Chola Kings which are rightly admired the world over today for their aesthetic beauty sophisticated iconography and unbelievable perfection in casting as well as finishing. This study was undertaken over a period of years finishing. This study was undertaken over a period of years by a few dedicated metallurgists and materials scientist associated appropriately enough with one of India’s most prestigious and best equipped Research and Development Laboratories Viz the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research (IGCAR for Short) at Kalpakam South India.
Despite their long association with the same institution viz, IGCAR the three authors of this highly informative and extremely attractive Monograph belong to three successive generations of Indian scientists and technologies. Prof. Dr. C.V. Sundaram who retired some years ago as Director IGCAR was earlier Head Metallurgy Division Bhabha Atomic Research Center (Famous nationally and internationally as BARC) Bombay and adorned until very recently the Homi Bhabha Chair at the National Institute of advanced studies, Bangalore. A Chemical Metallurgist renowned for his outstanding contributors in Nuclear Metallurgy Prof. Sundaram could encourage and motivate his younger colleagues to undertake finger printings of these precious icons mostly form the temples of Tamil Nadu utilizing the best of non-destructive testing facilities developed at IGCAR over two decades Dr. Baldev Raj now Director Metallurgy and Materials Group IGCAR was the Dynamic and inspiring leader behind these prolonged investigation on the centuries old bronze images of gods and Goddesses cast by the so called Lost wax process. Among the younger scientists Shri C. Rajagopalan of the Non Destructive testing division of IGCAR has been an enthusiastic participant in the numerous related experiments at Kalpakkam and else where. Thus it was Vigyan Prasar’s good fortune that a fine blend of experience expertise and youth could be harnessed to fashion this impressive literary edifice.
A special feature of this volume is the report on the author’s trip to the village of Swamimalai not far from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu and on their direct observation of the age old art and science of casting bronze icons still very much alive as a traditional village vocation. The concerned families lay claim to their descent from the artisans who cast bronze icons for the famous brithadeeshwara Temple built by King Rajaraja Chola nearly a thousand years ago.
Vigyan Prasar’s grateful thanks are due not only to the three authors but also to Dr. Jawahar Dhar, CSIR Emeritus Scientist associated with the Indian national Science Academy for going through the final manuscript meticulously and giving many valuable suggestions for improving it before the actual printing.
The undersigned is beholden to Dr. Narender K. Sehgal Director, Dr. Subodh Mahanti, Editor Cum-Chief (publication) and their many colleagues at Vigyan Prasar for their continued interest and constructive involvement in bringing out this second volume of the project namely the Monograph Series on Indian’s Scientific heritage.
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