The Famous Wootz Swords of India (origin of Damascus Sword)

Discussion in 'India' started by Ignorant, Sep 16, 2015.

  1. Ignorant

    Ignorant New Member

    To tell this story one must start at Salaudin and Richard the Great facing-off during the crusades. It is said that Richard the Great cut through a tree trunk with one swipe of his sword to show his might and the capability of his sword. In response, Salaudin is purported to have just tossed a silk scarf into the air and let it slide off his blade’s edge, cleanly cutting it into two. Richard recognized that it was indeed a great sword that could cleave free falling soft material without the use of any force. Salaudin’s sword was known to be a Damascine sword.

    There is now a general agreement that the Damascus steel which made its way into the western world through the crusades was produced in India rather than in Damascus.

    Wootz steel is a steel characterized by a pattern of bands or sheets of micro carbides within a tempered martensite or pearlite matrix. It is stated to have developed in India around 300 BC.The word “Wootz” may have been a mistranscription of wook, an anglicised version of urukku (உருக்கு) (ഉരുക്കു), the word for melting in Tamil and Malayalam or urukke, the word for steel in Kannada (ಉರ್‍ಕು, ಉಕ್ಕು), Telugu (ఉక్కు) and many other Dravidian languages.

    According to traditional history wootz steel originated in India in the 3rd century BCE.There is archaeological evidence of the manufacturing process in South India from that time. Wootz steel was widely exported and traded throughout ancient Europe and the Arab world, and became particularly famous in the Middle East, where it was known as Damascus steel.
    In ancient times, thirty pounds of steel was a precious gift, deemed by King Porus worthy of presentation to Alexander the Great. Another sign that Ancient India was celebrated for its steel is seen in a Persian phrase — to give an “Indian answer,” meaning “a cut with an Indian sword.”

    Specimens of daggers and other weapons were sent by the Rajahs of India to the International Exhibition of 1851 and 1862. Though the arms of the swords were beautifully decorated and jeweled, they were most highly prized for the quality of their steel. The swords of the Sikhs were said to bear bending and crumpling, and yet be fine and sharp.

    Wootz is characterized by a pattern caused by bands of clustered Fe3C particles made of microsegregation of low levels of carbide-forming elements.There is a possibility of an abundance of ultrahard metallic carbides in the steel matrix precipitating out in bands. Wootz swords, especially Damascus blades, were renowned for their sharpness and toughness.
    Steel manufactured in Kutch particularly enjoyed a widespread reputation, similar to those manufactured at Glasgow and Sheffield.
    The techniques for its making died out around 1700. According to Sir Richard Burton the British prohibited the trade in 1866:

    According to Professor Oldham, ‘Wootz’ is also worked in the Damudah Valley, at Birbhum, Dyucha, Narayanpur, Damrah, and Goanpiir. In 1852 some thirty furnaces at Dyucha reduced the ore to kachhd or pig-iron, small blooms from Catalan forges; as many more converted it to steel), prepared in furnaces of different kind. The work was done by different castes ; the Moslems laboured at the rude metal, and the Hindu preferred the refining work. I have read that anciently a large quantity of Wootz found its way westward via Peshawar.When last visiting (April 19, 1876) the Mahabaleshwar Hills near Bombay, I had the pleasure to meet Mr. Joyner, C.E., and with his assistance made personal inquiries into the process. The whole of the Sahyadri range (Western Ghats), and especially the great-Might-of-Shiva mountains, had for many ages supplied Persia with the best steel. Our Government, since 1866, forbade the industry, as it threatened the highlands with deforesting. Only the brickwork of their many raised furnaces remained.

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