Delhi’s Ashoka Pillars

May 16th, 2009  |  Published in History  |  2 Comments

Qutub Minar

There are three Ashoka Pillars in Delhi interestingly neither of them was constructed here but brought from another city. And each has a fascinating story behind it.

The Ashoka Pillors at the Firoz Shah Kotla and North Delhi Ridge are made of sandstone and even predate the Pillar at Qutub (which is made of iron) by some five centuries.

qutub1ashokapillar3The iron pillar at Qutub Minar was apparently erected at the time of Chandragupta II(375-413 AD) and so it is not an Ashokan pillar, as is popularly understood. The pillar is 98 per cent wrought iron of pure quality, and is a testament to the high level of skill achieved by ancient Indian ironsmiths. It has attracted the attention of both archaeologists and metallurgists as it has withstood corrosion for 1,600 years, despite harsh weather conditions. Though the pillar is presumed to have been orginally installed at Udaygiri in Maharasthra(according to historical studies), it was later brought to Delhi.

The two standstone Ashokan pillars, brought to the city Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1354 AD, date back to the age of Ashoka (around third century BC), after the Sultan developed a liking for them.

Feroz Shah Kotla

ferozshahkotla2The pillar installed at Firoz Shah Kotla has a more imressive surrounding. The Sultan built a three storied pyramidal structure especially to install the pillar. The pillar was brought from Ambala on a 42 wheel carriage. The inscriptions on the pillar are easily visible.This Ashokan pillar is located behind a green cover just 100 meters south of Hindu Rao Hospital along the ridge. Firoz shah carefully transported it to his hunting lodge, located in the Northen Ridge in Delhi, from Meerut in 1356 AD.

Northern Ridge

Very similar to the one in Feroz Shah Kotla, near ITO, this pillar too has seven main inscriptions or edicts of Emperor Ashoka apart from some figures and many minor inscriptions written in the Brahmi scrit and prakrit language.

However, the pillar was damaged by a gunpowder explosion in 1713 and broke into five pieces. In 1838, Hindu Rao, a Maratha noble man and brother-in-law of Maharaja Daulat Rao scindia of Gwalior, took possession of these pieces and donated them to the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Calcutta. Those pieces was re-installed at its previous location in Delhi,in 1957.

Though this pillar is not in a very good shape, it is now a monument protected by the Archaelogical Survey of India. It stands within and enclosed yard and is surrounded by greenary.


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