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The Sword of Tipu Sultan and Wootz Stee


Tipu Sultan

Tipu Sultan ruled Mysore till 1799. He fought four wars with the British and died fighting with his sword in his hand. Tipu’s swords are now part of valuable collections in museums in England.

The Sword that was found next to Tipu Sultan's Body after his Death

Tipu Sultan’s Swords

  • The swords were special as they were incredibly hard and the sharp edge could easily rip through the opponent’s armour.

  • This quality of the sword came from a special type of high carbon steel called Wootz. Wootz was produced all over south India. Wootz steel when made into swords produced a very sharp edge with a flowing water pattern.

  • This pattern came from very small carbon crystals embedded in the iron.

Making of Tipu Sultan’s Swords

Francis Buchanan toured through Mysore in 1800, a year after Tipu Sultan’s death. He has written about the technique used to prepare the swords.

  • Wootz steel was produced in many hundreds of smelting furnaces in Mysore.

  • In these furnaces, iron was mixed with charcoal and put inside small clay pots.

  • Through an intricate control of temperatures the smelters produced steel ingots that were used for sword making.

  • Wootz is an anglicised version of the Kannada word ukku, Telugu hukku and Tamil and Malayalam urukku – meaning steel.

  • Indian Wootz steel fascinated European scientists.

  • Michael Faraday, who discovered electricity and electromagnetism, spent four years studying the properties of Indian Wootz.

  • However, the Wootz steel making process, which was so widely known in south India, was completely lost by the mid-nineteenth century as the swords and armour making industry died with the conquest of India by the British.

  • Imports of iron and steel from England replaced the iron and steel produced by craftspeople in India.

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