Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Iron Pillar of Delhi, Plus [M]WW & Links

For [Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, I've got the Indigo sky of Colorado (taken at the Will Rogers Shrine on Cheyenne Mountain).


is for Iron Pillar of Delhi.

The Delhi iron pillar stands at Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid, in Delhi, directly next to the Qutab Minar. It is about seven meters tall, and dates to the 4th century A.D. It is known to be from the Gupta Dynasty, and has writing carved into it.

This is what is known about the pillar.

What is not know is which Gupta this pillar represents, how it was made, how it came to this mosque, the first in Delhi, what the words actually say, and how in the world this iron pillar has hardly rusted at all after more than 1600 years of standing in a harsh environment.

Pillar of Delhi.
By Aiwok (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There were several Guptas this pillar might represent, but they lived in Madhya Pradesh, quite a distance away. It is most widely felt that it's representative of Chandragupta II, leader of the Golden Age, a time of great prosperity and art. However, it has also been claimed to have been created under his son Kumaragupta, and to have been part of a Hindu temple built by him. Its placement in the mosque seems to have been as a trophy of some sort, so it is likely there was an attack, and that this pillar was kept and brought across the land as a memory of a victory. This would have been no easy feat, as the pillar weighs more than six tons.

This pillar is the largest piece of forged iron work that exists from this time period. It is ornate, with a tapered and designed top, and a bulb-shaped bottom firmly implanted in the ground. How did they put together such a large piece of iron?

There are several inscriptions in different languages, which for some reason have not been widely studied. It is felt that the oldest inscription is in sanskrit, and the translation is what led to the understanding that the pillar was part of a Hindu temple honoring Vishnu, and that it was built under the reign of a Gupta. The rest vary widely, and have not been fully documented, or so it would seem.

Top of Pillar of Delhi.
By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada (India-0349  Uploaded by Ekabhishek) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The biggest mystery, and the most debated (other than, possibly, which Gupta is being referred to), is why there is very little rust on a 98% iron pillar. The area it stands now is relatively dry, but there is plenty of rain, and humidity does get above 70% and 80% for short periods of the year. Yet after 1600 years, it still stands. There are other works of iron around India which have not fared as well, but are the same age or even younger. How is this?

Metallurgists have discovered a thin compound that appears to coat the pillar. They have theorized that it formed over the years due to high amounts of phosphorous in the iron. This is because the iron was treated with charcoal, rather than limestone used in modern times, which instantly turned it to steel instead of delaying the process. The longer it stands, the thicker this compound becomes, protecting it that much more. Scientists hope to use this method to create safer storage for nuclear waste. But does this explain it entirely?

Perhaps Vishnu, preserver of the universe, took a special liking to this pillar, erected in Vishnu's honor. What better proof of existence than this seemingly miraculous preservation?

What do you think? Does Vishnu protect the pillar or is it simply a different way of forging iron that fell by the wayside in modern times? Who was the original owner of the pillar, Chandra or his son Kumara? How did they transport such a heavy piece of iron so far in those long ago days? And why?



Accepting Submissions:

Fireside Magazine is taking submissions of flash fiction. 1000 words or less. Paying market. Deadline May 1. Any genre, as long as storytelling ability is strong.

Whortleberry Press has a series of anthologies they're taking submissions for. A Tribute to Ray Bradbury deadline is May 1. Strange Halloween deadline is July 31. Strange Christmas deadline is October 1. All genres sci-fi, fantasy, horror. $10 payment. 4000 word maximum for all.

Meadowbrook Press is open for submissions at any time. They specialize in pregnancy, child care, baby care, humorous poetry, party planning, children's activities, and baby name books.

Romance Flash is open for submissions at any time. Pays $3 per story. Under 1000 words.


Kazka Press holds a monthly flash fiction contest, entitled 713 Flash. This month's theme is The Missing Piece. Deadline is April 20. Genre: Sci-fi, fantasy, horror or related. 713-1000 words. $10 payment.


The Short Story Imposium blog introduces readers to fiction in short form by putting up a new short story and author in each post, along with an excerpt. Great resource to find a short story or to have your short story found.

Anything to add?

May you find your Muse.

Letter I courtesy of OCAL,


  1. WOW...very intersting, hardly no rust after all this time, heck we have a few yard pieces purchased a year ago that are totally rusted. Guess new is not better.


  2. It certainly seems to be a model for a different way of forging iron to avoid rusting.
    Katie atBankerchick Scratchings

  3. I think many great discoveries were people trying new things, making "mistakes" and learning from them.

  4. Your post stands for I = impressive. I've never been to India, and Delhi would certainly be high on the list of places to visit.

  5. How interesting that it hasn't rusted and that it is coated with that thin protective residue. Is it possible it was coated on purpose when it was first built? Very curious!

  6. Great mystery! My new asthma doctor is named Dr. Gupta...
    I think they knew what they were doing back then in making stuff out of iron...but as to how they moved it, no clue...

    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
    @TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

  7. Really enjoying your posts of locations and monuments from around the world, and places I'm not likely to visit, but find very interesting and educational. So is the case with the Iron Pillar and Gupta. Who knew there would be a 21st Century Gupta in the worlds of medicine and TV.

    You are INVITED to a Quilt INVITATION on CITexasGal Link.
    Sue CollectInTexasGal
    AtoZ LoneStar Quilting Bee

  8. This one is interesting indeed. I had never heard of this one. While the science behind the lack of rust is quite incredible, the part that amazes me the most is that no one knows what it says. I would think that there would be some records of whatever language is used somewhere else. Apparently not. Great mystery for today.
    We Are Adventure

  9. I'd never heard of this pillar, but it's definitely interesting. I think the idea of using charcoal must have been from someone who understood the chemical interaction. Sometimes the knowledge dies with a craftsman who has no apprentices.

  10. I would tend to believe that it's the way they forged the iron that has protected it for so long..great post Shannon! Thanks for sharing, very interesting indeed!
    Shannon at I Survived and Now I Run

  11. i love historical mysteries like this one!

  12. Whoa. That pillar is pretty impressive.

  13. Okay, I've never heard of this thing, either. You got me twice.

  14. I suppose we can only guess these answers, but we can certainly enjoy the beauty of the creations. I'm always so taken with these romantic arches and sculpted pillars.

  15. Nice! I had a hard time with I today : )
    Kids Math Teacher

  16. Fascinating post - intriguing that there was once such an effective anti rust coating, knowledge lost... Thank you also for sharing the submissions/competition opportunities...

  17. Interesting mystery...will it ever have an answer.

  18. Interesting. I wonder if they'll try to use that compound to make some sort of new rustproof material?


  19. I love mysteries, but they also drive me crazy - I want to know!!! This sounds like a great setting for a story or novel.

  20. This is the most interesting post I've read so far today! I think it was built a special way, and that the people of the time got resourceful in moving it. People are very smart when they want to be, and when they really want to do something, they will figure it out, no matter how difficult.

    #atozchallenge, Kristen's blog:

  21. I love the Will Rogers Shrine!!! I recognized it as soon as I saw the picture!

    Angela's Anxious Life

  22. I love the post. Thanks so much.

  23. I would love to visit all of these places and maybe learn more from people that live there.
    Dani @ Entertaining Interests

  24. I am thoroughly enjoying your posts about mysterious places and monuments. What strikes me about this one is the possibility it was a trophy of war. Given its heft and distance, the winners must have been quite fierce.

  25. Quite a mystery. There are several odd things like this, stonehenge comes to mind.


  26. Wow! Basically nothing is known about it. I think that makes me even more curious as to why its even there.

  27. I like the coating evidence, but I dig the mystical take that it has been protected by a smitten spirit. Stratoz goes AtoZ

  28. Wow! My being in India, I was not aware of the remarkableness of this Iron pillar. Thanks for pointing out that

    - Dishit from Only the Crazy Survive!!!

  29. Hmm This is one post I missed as I was able to follow along even >.< and another mystery I never knew about.

    It is a shame if the process of creation is what holds the monument in its excellent condition. We could use that process now lol

    I am unfamiliar with Vishnu :(

    Jak at The Cryton Chronicles & Dreams in the Shade of Ink

  30. Sandy, I think that's true a lot of the time. Look how long appliances last now, when they used to last for ages.

    Katie, you'd think with all this technology we would be able to figure it out!

    Mary, I completely agree.

    Myrite, I'd love to visit there.

    Marcy, I'm sure it's possible. This is one mystery it would be worth solving.

    Tina, I had a customer by the last name of Gupta. It's not uncommon. He was super nice.

    Sue, thank you, I enjoyed researching them!

    Elliot, that is interesting, isn't it? Here I thought there wasn't much we couldn't translate. Wrong!

    D.G., that's a good point. I'm sure many such skills have been lost through time. Some have probably been lost and rediscovered.

    Shannon, I agree. It would be good if we could discover the secret.

  31. Schell, me, too!

    Matt, I would love to see that AND the ruins.

    Andrew, yes!

    C. Lee, me, too. I love ruins, any ruins. They have so much to say.

    Lucy, "I" is HARD to find something for! Every year.

    Bridget, it would be worthwhile to figure it out again.

    Susan, for this one, I hope so. At least as far as developing iron in that way.

    Mark, they should!

    Li, that's exactly it. I want to know, but I don't want to know! But I do!

    Kristen, I agree. Look at the structure world-wide that we can't figure out how to build. Not only that, but I've heard lately that our rocket scientists can't actually figure out how to do the things that the original ones did.

  32. Angie, yay! That's great! Isn't it neat?

    Wicked, thank YOU!

    Dani, me, too. I bet they know a heckuva' lot more than the interwebs do about it.

    Jagoda, I like how you said that. Yes, they must have been fierce. And determined.

    Jo, yes! And many other monoliths and such.

    Rachel, it's sad how much is lost to history, isn't it? You'd think someone would know something.

    Stratoz, I like that, too.

    Dishit, have you visited it?

    Jak, we could definitely use it. It would solve a lot of problems.