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Lead In Ancient India – Use Of Lead Metal By Hindus

Lead is the oldest of man made metals and the earliest archeological evidence of the use of lead is found in the Harappan period in ancient India. Ancient Hindus discovered lead metal from havan kund used for yajna or sacrifice. This is mentioned in the Yajur Veda.
Ancient Hindus used lead metal mostly for the manufacture of toiletry items, pencils, and lead pipes for water supply to houses as well as for drainage.

Historians have mentioned the use of lead as coinage metal in South India during the 2nd or 3rd century BC. It was the chief coinage metal during the Sangam period.

Some of the other used of lead in ancient India were as a base material for embossing and engraving art motifs on gold and silver ornaments.

It was also used as a joint-filling material to fix iron clamps that bind stone slabs together in dams and stone structures.

Lead oxide was also used for glazing pottery.

Zawar deposits in Udaipur in Rajasthan have been extensively mined, and furnaces as well as slag deposits in the Dariba and Agucha area near Zawar have proved that lead was being extracted as early as 500 BC.

The high affinity of lead for silver was known to ancient craftsmen, and they used this property to separate silver from zinc and then obtain pure silver by the process of cupellation.

Lead could be easily shaped into sheets and pipes, which were extensively used for the supply of water and for sanitary fittings ever since the Harappan period.

One of the unexplained uses of lead is the placement of a thick lead plate below the bottom end of Delhi’s famous iron pillar, which was discovered during the exposition o the iron pillars (in 1963) to study the method of holding the pillar in the upright position. Pb-Sn alloy have also been used for joining other metal pieces by soldering.

Lead and lead alloys were also used as catapult projectiles, cannon balls, and rifle bullets. Scholars have described the ingenious use of a lead bath for heating iron pieces to a red hot condition to forge weld the pieces together in the process of manufacturing the iron beams of the Konark Sun Temple in Odisha.

  • Chemistry of the Elements (1997) A Earnshaw and N. N.  Greenwood published by Butterworth-Heinemann Oxford
  • Inorganic Chemistry (2000) Gary Wulfsberg published by University Science Books Sausalito, CA.
  • Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume VI page 271 – 272 - IHRF