Wootz Steel Was Exported Worldwide from Ancient India (South) since 16th Century BC!

wootz steel

Do you know steel (loham) was one of the primary export products in ancient India for thousands of years? Wootz, Ukku, Hindvi Steel, Hinduwani Steel, Teling Steel and Seric Iron – these were different names of the steel alloy that was exported from the southern parts of India. Major export markets of ancient India by 500 BC were Rome, Egypt, Arabia, China, Europe, and more kingdoms. This pioneering steel alloy matrix is called wootz steel. It was developed in Southern India in the 16th century BCE.


Wootz steel is a crucible steel characterized by a pattern of bands, which are formed by sheets of micro carbides within a tempered martensite or pearlite matrix in higher carbon steel, or by ferrite and pearlite banding in lower carbon steels. This steel alloy was exported globally as per known records but could be more than 6000 BCE. We talk about modern technological advancements today. Imagine how technology was so highly advanced in ancient India!


References about high carbon Indian steel are found in several ancient Tamil, Greek, Chinese and Roman literature. There is abundance of references from from the time of Alexander’s India campaign. The crucible steel production process started in the 6th century BCE at production sites of Kodumanal in Tamil Nadu, Golconda in Telangana, Karnataka and Sri Lanka and exported globally.


Do you know the Tamils of the Chera Dynasty produced the finest steel in the world? The wootz steel was exported as cakes of steely iron. The process involved heating of black magnetite ore in the presence of carbon in a sealed clay crucible inside a charcoal furnace. An alternative was to smelt the ore first to give wrought iron, then heated and hammered to be rid of slag. The carbon source was bamboo and leaves from plants such as Avarai. The oldest iron and steel Indian artifacts and production processes dating back to 200 BCE have been found in Sri Lanka.


The Arabs who introduced the South Indian wootz steel to Damascus, where an industry developed for making weapons of this steel. The 12th century Arab traveler Edrisi mentioned ‘Hinduwani’ or Indian steel as the best in the world. A Persian phrase finds mention about ‘a cut with an Indian sword’. Such was the quality of loham from India in the international market!


Visit Indian History Real Truth Facebook group to view related posts. This article is part of ‘JEWELS OF BHARATAM SERIES [TM]‘ by the author. Featured image source: Painting from SAIL Institute, Ranchi. The painting shows Purushottam presenting an Indian steel ukku (wootz) sword to Alexander in 327 BCE. Content references: Wikipedia and other sources.


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Rayvi Kumar

Rayvi Kumar

Ravikumar Pillay is a passionate scholar of Indian history, an avid traveller, photographer, writer, counsellor, and teaches meditation.


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