Did the ancients really use various metals in order to deliver a unique hidden meaning? Dr. Sharada Srinivasan, an archaeometallurgist and a Professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru; enforces this facet of ancient knowledge. “One has to understand the history of technology and the progression of metals in civilisation; the other is that for the conservation of artefacts, one need to understand their corrosion behaviour, composition and so on. Thirdly, it helps us to get better insight in archaeology and in art history,” She says. She’s the only Indian among 240 individuals worldwide who got selected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in the category of Social and Behavioural Sciences: Anthropology and Archaeology.         

There were different period of dynasties which intentionally used various metals for the same deity. When we take the iconography of Ram, the Cholas depicted Ram as an ideal man rather than a deity and the form of Ashtatala, whereas the Vijayanagara empire depicted Ram as Dashatala and their centre of focus is chiefly on him. This different metallurgical shift in the depictions leads one to ponder a thought deeply, as to why did they do that! The Libraries of Oriental Gaikavad at Baroda and Oriental at Mysore; and Saraswati Mahal Library at Tanjavur has wonderful knowledge about how to sculpt an image with embedded knowledge that one has to ponder deeply and possess ample understanding of Dance and Music in order to sculpt, either in Ashtatala or Dashatala forms.  

Being the daughter of India’s leading Nuclear Physicist, The archaeometallurgist who’s also into Quantum Physics, is an ardent Bharathanatyam Dancer who understood the importance of the properties of Ancient Metallurgy. The Cosmic Dancer – Nataraja intrigued her a lot along with the Delhi Iron Pillar that never rusts. Dr. Sharada Srinivasan emphasises that when she would perform the sloka of the Ashtamurti of Shiva, the Panchabhuta, she would delve into the metaphorical realm of the ‘five elements’, but then she got interested in exploring what the actual scientific analysis of the elemental composition can tell us about the metallurgical characterisation of objects.“       

-Viswanath Venkat Dasari.