Linking the Past to Present Through Indigenous Techniques of Iron Smelting: A Study Among the Lohras of Purulia, West Bengal, Eastern India

Independent Researcher, India

The invention of iron in the Gangetic regions of India during the 6th and 7th centuries BCE coincided with urbanization. There are many opinions regarding the advent of iron smelting technology in India, but there were certainly groups that extracted iron from iron ore. Some of these communities included members of the indigenous subgroups of Munda such as the Asur, Bijia, and Lohra. Folklore has established that these groups were iron-smelters. The traditional methods of iron smelting require expertise at different stages of the process from selection of ore, smelting, and making of implements. Though rather marginalised, the Lohra still practice traditional iron smelting in Purulia district of West Bengal. Instead of smelting iron ore, they generally use industrial iron these days. However, a few families in a village on top of the Ajodhya hill in Purulia district of West Bengal still practice traditional smelting of iron ore. This presentation focuses on continuity and change in the traditional technique of iron smelting. This might provide a glimpse of the traditional iron smelting techniques of our ancestors.