Iron Age in India: Meaning and History

Meaning of Iron Age Cultures

After the use of painted gray pottery, copper, and bronze, man acquired the knowledge of iron metal and used it in the manufacture of weapons and agricultural implements. As a result, a revolutionary change took place in human life.

As a result of the excavation, evidence of the use of iron tools has come to light from more than seven hundred sites in the northern, eastern, central, and southern parts of India. The main places of North India are Atranjikheda, Alamgirpur, Ahichhatra, Allahpur (Meerut), Khalua, Noh, Ropar, Bateshwar, Hastinapur, Shravasti, Kampil, Jakheda etc.

In these, only the excavation material of Hastinapur has been duly published. The main character tradition of these sites is Painted, Gray Ware. Along with this, various iron tools such as spears, axes, axes, spades, daggers, knives, blades, nails, pins, tongs, chisels, etc. have been found.

Iron slag is found from Hastinapur and Atranjikheda, which indicates that the metal was smelted and cast. The date of the painted gray pot tradition has been determined on the basis of the radiocarbon method in the eighth-ninth BC. Iron with black and red ware has been obtained from Noh and its doab region, whose possible date is around 1400 BC.

The gray Ware depicted in Bhagwanpura, Manda, Dagheri, Alamgirpur, Ropar, etc., which is believed to be related to iron, is found immediately (about 1700 BC) after the decline of the Indus civilization. The major Iron Age sites of Eastern India are Pandurazar, Dhivi, Mahidal, Sonpur, Chirand etc.

Here iron tools have been found with black and red pottery. These include arrows, chisels, nails, etc. From Mahishdal, slag and furnaces are found, which indicate that the metal was locally smelted to make tools.

On the basis of radiocarbon dates, the beginning of iron here has been determined to be 750-700 BC. The antiquity of iron goes back to 1500 BC on the basis of antiquities obtained from various sites of south-eastern Uttar Pradesh- Jhunsi (Allahabad), Raja Nal Ka Tila (Sonbhadra), Malhar (Chandauli), etc.

Iron tools have come to light from the excavations of many archaeological sites in Central India (Malwa) and Rajasthan. The main sites of central India are Eran and Nagda. From here, iron-made double-edged skewers, axes, arrowheads, sickles, knives, etc. are found.

The early culture of Eran and Nagda is Chalcolithic, in which iron was added later. Initially, it was believed that the historical era started immediately after the Chalcolithic culture in Eran and Nagda (about 700-600 BCE) and iron was used in this. But now it is clear that there was some disturbance between the two. The use of iron started during this intervening period. N. R. Banerjee has fixed its date as 800 BC.

Three radiocarbon dates of the Iron Age levels at Eran have been determined:

1. BC 140+110 (TF-326)

2. BC 1270+110 (TF-324)

3. BC 1239+79 (TF-525)

D. K. Chakraborty fixes its date as 1100 BC. It is worth mentioning that near this site called Ahad of Rajasthan, iron, and slag are found from five deposits of the second level of the first period, whose possible date has been fixed around 1500 BC. Evidence of megalithic (megalithic) cultures is found in various sites in Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu in South India.

Important places are Brahmagiri, Maski, Pudukottai, Chingalputta, Shapoor, Hallur, etc. A large number of iron tools such as swords, daggers, tridents, chipped axes, shovels, chisels, chisels, sickles, knives, spears, etc. have been found in the megalithic tombs found from these sites, along with black and red colored pottery.

Hallur refers to a transitional period between the Neolithic and the Megalithic. The tools found from different sites have been kept in different chronological order. Dealers determine the earliest date of this culture as 3rd-2nd century AD, but on the basis of the evidence available from modern research, the antiquity of the use of instruments in the south goes back a long way.

Thus it can be said that the use of iron in the south started in the millennium BC. The radiocarbon date of Hallur instruments has been fixed at around 1000 BCE. There is controversy regarding the antiquity of iron in India. Earlier it was believed that the Hittite race of Central Asia (1800–1200 BC) had a monopoly on it and was the first to use it.

But now after getting new evidence in this regard, this opinion is not valid. Iron is found in Noh (Rajasthan) and its Doav region along with Black and Red Wares, the likely date of which is 1400 BC.

 In some places like Bhagwanpura, Manda, Dasari, Alamgipur, Ropar, etc., the gray deposits are found with the decline of the Indus civilization (about 1700 BC), which is believed to be related to iron. There is mention of armor (varma) in Rigveda which must have been of iron. Most scholars have come to believe that the Rigvedic Aayi also had knowledge of this.

It is clear from the fine quality copper and bronze tools obtained from the Harappan civilization and from the copper deposits and garric wares from the Ganges valley that the technical knowledge of the Indians was very developed at that time. It is possible that the copper metallurgists of Ganga valley may have been the inventors of the iron because two large deposits of the cast iron are found only in Mandi (Himachal) and Narol (Punjab) in North India.

Evidence of iron user cultures is found from the excavations at various sites in India. These are very rich and developed rural cultures, in whose background the second urbanization became possible in the historical period. The typical types of pottery used by the people of these cultures are mainly gray or gray in color and have been painted black on them.

These are called painted gray pots. Seven iron tools of early vessels are not found but later they are found from all the sites. For this reason, the painted gray wares culture is called Iron Age culture.

Although most of the sites of Iron Age culture are located in Madhyadesh or Upper Ganga Valley region which extended from the Sutlej to the Ganges River, its expansion is also found in other areas. The main sites that have been excavated are Ahichatra, Hastinapur, Atranjikheda, Alamgirpur, Allahpur (Meerut), Mathura, Ropar, Shravasti, Noh, Kampilya, etc. (North India), Nagda and Eran (Central India).

Iron tools are also found in eastern India from the sites from which evidence of Chalcolithic cultures have been found (like Pandu Rajar, Dhibi, Mahishal, Sonpur, Chirand, etc.) In the south, iron tools are found at the sites of megalithic tombs.

Thus it appears that B.C. By 1000-600, iron weapons and tools were used in abundance in almost all parts of India. Iron slag and furnaces have been found in the excavations of Hastinapur and Atranjikheda, which show that the residents here were also skilled in smelting iron and making tools of various sizes.

Earlier, war weapons were made from iron, but later agricultural implements like a sickle, khurpi, phal, etc. were also being manufactured. With the use of iron tools in agricultural work, more and more land was made cultivable and production also began to dominate.


Antiquity of Iron in India (Historical Background Iron in India):

The Indus Valley Civilization is of Bronze Age. After this, the Iron Age begins in India. To prove the antiquity of iron in India, we get help from both literary and archaeological evidence. Some scholars are of the opinion that the first race in the world named Hittite, originated in Asia Minor (Turkey) in BC. She ruled around 1800-1200 and only used iron.

He had a mighty empire. E. P. Around 1200, this empire disintegrated, and only after this metal became prevalent in other countries of the world. Therefore, we cannot imagine the existence of iron in India before 1200 BC. But the talk of a Hittite monopoly on iron no longer seems to be justified.

It is noteworthy that in Thailand, cast iron is found in concrete references from a key named Banaichi, whose date has been fixed between 1600-1200 BC. This evidence proves the Hittite monopoly on iron to be false. PS: Iron from Noh (Bharatpur, Rajasthan) and its doab area is found with Black and Red Ware, whose possible date is around 1400 BC.

Even from the tenth level of the pariyar, the spearhead of an iron spear is found along with the wrought-iron pottery. The same is the situation in Ujjain, Vidisha, etc. It is found in Bhagwanpura (Haryana) with painted gray pottery, which is a post-Harappan level. The situation is similar in Alamgirpur and Ropar also.

In Atharvaveda, the word “Nil-Lohit” is found. A. Ghosak has clearly stated that this means only from the Krishna-Lohit pot. Therefore, iron appeared in India with the Krishna Lohit ware and not the painted gray ware. On the basis of the evidence of Bhagwanpura, it can be said that iron was known even in the Rigvedic period.

Well-known archaeologist Wheeler believes that iron was first introduced in India by the Hakhamani rulers of Iran. Similarly, some other scholars give credit to the Greeks for bringing it. But these views do not seem expedient. It is mentioned in the Greek literature itself that the Indians already had knowledge of iron before Alexander and the craftsmen here were skilled in making iron tools.The Rigveda also mentions the tips and skins (armor) of arrows and spears. Soma is called upon to build an iron fort in one place, protected from armor and enemies. There is a mention of a famous sage named ‘Galava’, who helped the Panchala king Divodas by giving iron swords in the battle of Dasaragya.

There is a mention of King Ashtak of Kannauj who named his Son ‘Lauhi’. How unfortunate it is that we take pride in citing the Mitanites and Hittites to prove the inventors of the iron, but neglect the hundreds of citations available in our literature.

The fine quality of copper and bronze tools obtained from the Harappan civilization and copper and Garric pottery from the Ganges valley make it clear that the technical knowledge of the Indians of that time was highly developed. It is possible that the copper metallurgists of the Ganges valley were the inventors of the iron as two large iron deposits Mandi (Himachal) and Narnil (Punjab) are located only in North India.

Like Africa, India was also inhabited by primitive tribes (such as the Agarias of Madhya Pradesh) who prepared iron with indigenous techniques and traded the utensils made by them. These communities had knowledge of iron thousands of years before the regular Iron Age. Given the abundance of iron in central and southern India, it is concluded that iron was an independent early center of technology.

Therefore, it is no longer logical to say that the arrival of iron in India coincided with the Aryans when they destroyed the Hittite monopoly on iron technology. This is also confirmed by the fact that iron co-exists in the north-western and interior parts of the country. There is continuous evidence of the availability of iron from the early Vedic period to AD. The literature of the later Vedic period clearly indicates the widespread use of iron metal.

For the first time, we find clear indications of this metal in the texts of the later Vedic period (1000-600 BCE). The words ‘Lohay’ and ‘Shyamaiya’ are found in the Atharvaveda. The words ‘Loha’ and ‘Shyam’ are found in the Vajasanei Samhita. Scholars have taken the word ‘Loh’ in the sense of copper and ‘Shyam’ in the sense of the iron. Thus ‘Shyamay’ mentioned in the Atharvaveda refers to the metal of iron itself.

In memory of this, the word ‘Ayes’ became synonymous with iron. The Kathak Samhita mentions a heavy plow pulled by twenty-four oxen. They must have been made of iron. Atharvaveda also mentions a Phall made of iron. Thus, on the basis of literary evidence, it is concluded that the knowledge of iron was acquired by Indians in the eighth century BC.

Literary references regarding the antiquity of iron are also confirmed by archaeological evidence. Remains of Iron Age culture have been found from the excavation of places like Ahichchhatra, Atranjikheda, Alamgirpur, Mathura, Ropar, Shravasti, Kampilya, etc. The people of this period used a special type of utensil called painted grey-ware.

Iron tools and weapons like spears, arrows, recovery, scabbards, knives, daggers, etc. are found in these places. The remains of metal refining furnaces have been found in the excavation of Atranjikheda. It is known from this evidence that the users of painted gray utensils not only had knowledge of iron but also made various tools from it.

Archaeologists have dated this culture to about 1000 BC. has been fixed. Fine iron, chisels, nails, etc. have been found in the excavations of places like Sonpur, Chirand, etc. in eastern India, whose time is considered to be the 8th century BC. Similarly, iron tools have also been found in the excavations of places like Eran, Nagda, Ujjain, Kayatha, etc. of Central India.

Their time is also fixed in the seventh-sixth century BC. Megaliths are found at various places in South India. The people of this culture used black and red-colored utensils. Scholars have determined the period of this culture from 1000 BC to 1st century AD.

Thus we can say that the people of South India got the knowledge of iron in one thousand BC. On the basis of the above description, it is concluded that iron was used in different parts of India in about one thousand BC.

Some scholars believe that it was first spread in South India and that iron culture started there after the Stone Age. In contrast, the Stone Age in North India was first followed by the Chalcolithic Age, then the Bronze Age. The iron was invented several hundred years later. The life of iron brought revolutionary changes in the material life of the people.

By the time of the Buddha period, it was widely used in eastern Uttar Pradesh and western viharas. Due to iron technology, agricultural production increased tremendously. At this time there was an urban revolution in the Ganges valley and big cities were established. Scholars have attributed this to iron technology. It also played an important role in the rise of the Magadha Empire.

Thus, after considering various evidence, the theory of the Indian origin of iron seems more logical and its antiquity can be traced back to the Rigvedic period. But the real Iron Age began when humans started using this metal to cut down forests to make the land arable and for settlements.

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