Minerals and Metals in Pre-Modern India
A Sequel to his widely acclaimed Minerals and Metals in Ancient India, in two volumes, (1996), Professor Biswas here continues with the fascinating story of indigenous gems, non-gem minerals, metals and metallic art : from 1200 ad onwards to almost the threshold of modern times. Like its predecessor, this volume too is sponsored by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), New Delhi.
Beginning with a view of medieval India's enchanting gems, its highly dexterous diamond mining, and an array of non-gem minerals including, among others, metallic ores of copper, lead, zinc, ferrocobaltite, aluminium, and even building stones, the book offers a focussed study of iron and steel, brass and zinc in pre-modern India -- with coherent descriptions of the diversities of ores processed, smelting techniques, wootz-making and other products in different parts of the subcontinent.
A painstakingly researched work based on foreigners' travelouges and many other sources, the book re-explores the achievements of indigenous industries of the day, highlighting how, for about two millennia since the Lothal and Atranjikhera eras, India commanded primacy in zinc and brass; how its zinc smelting and distillation technology were transferred to the West, like the Chinese technologies of paper and gunpowder; and how its artisans could work marvels in metal. The author examines, in retrospect, Indian traditions of metallic works, which are vividly exemplified in its arts of enamelling, encrustation, jewel-setting, brass and high zinc Bidriware, and much else.
Concludingly, Professor Biswas also goes into the causes that spelt decline of the Indian industries and the superb vitality of its artisans' tradition.