Ancient India’s Goldrush

India’s gold obsession is not a story of a few years or decades. It lasts for many centuries. In modern days when we think of gold, the first thing we remember is marriage. 50% of Indian demand for gold is for weddings. But in olden days, gold was not just a transaction at weddings. Apart from building temples out of gold and using golden coins and so on, gold was used in day to day household only as any other metal. Gold was used as decorative items, furniture, fabrics, paduka(kind of slippers), vessels, etc., you name it. But now we have turned from golden plate to gold plated. So, where did we lose all our gold? 

Muhammad-Bin-Qasim, Mahmud Ghazni invaded India seventeen times, Turkish rule, Tughlaq Dynasty, Timur, Mughals, and lastly, British. Half of the earth were in search of India because everyone knew that this is where they could find wealth. Much to our surprise, even to this day, places like Srirangam exists. But what we found was just a glimpse of what we had. So why do you think India was such a hotspot for Gold?

Most people undoubtedly believe that it’s because of trade relationships with Roman empire. Silk route helped Indian merchants to get gold coins in exchange for cotton, silk, spices etc. An Article in Hindu said – “Roman senators complained that their women used too many Indian spices and luxuries, which drained the Roman Empire of precious metal. Pliny the Elder, in 77 CE, called India “the sink of the world’s gold!” In the 16th century, Portugal protested that its hard-won silver from South America was being lost to India”.

So centuries of Gold inflow from Europe? F. R. Allchin in his article says- “Forbes notes that amalgamation was scarcely known before Roman times, as only then did large scale production of mercury begin, with development of Spanish mines”. So I assume Romans learned how to produce gold on a large scale only to lose it all to Indians? Gold and silver have been the mode of exchange but looking at the amount of gold in India, Europeans may not be the sole cause.

A staggering $22 billion (R 90,000 crore) worth of gold, jewels and statues have been unearthed from the 16th century Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala. This temple alone beats the Vatican by USD 7 billion. How is that India has so much of gold compared to other countries, even after being looted for thousands of centuries? The answer is simple. Because gold is believed to be manufactured in India.

I am not ruling out the option of mining. In fact, Kautilya, in his Arthasastra, mentions recipes and workshops on how to mine and refine gold. According to Nick Laird – “5,300 tonnes have been mined before 1500. And 4,700 tonnes from 1500 to 1850, the rest of 157,466 tonnes between 1850 to 2013”. India’s mines seem to have run out of gold when Europe was just being settled.[2]

There are proofs that mining was practiced in India, But not to a great extent compared to gold that is present with Indians. Just like any other civilization, when Indians came to know that a valuable resource is being exhausted, they took steps to adapt. Find other options to replace gold or different ways to produce it artificially. Similar to what we are doing with petrol – plastic to petrol, LPG, etc.

Manufactured? Impossible !!

Let’s think about it logically, Haven’t we learnt in school about the periodic table? Can we manufacture elements like gold? Is it possible? I would say ‘No,’ My high school chemistry teacher would say No.  According to people who have read old school Indian chemistry, they say gold was prepared using a process of Rasashastra. In south India, it was known as parasavedi. Here is a link for further details on this procedure. You may or may not succeed in preparing, as much of the details are lost in generations of invasions. I am not discussing parasavedi in this post, but about the possibility of gold being manufactured.

Cooking up chemicals to prepare gold? Hmm… 

Before you turn down this statement thinking its another hoax, I would like to mention these points. The main ingredient for the preparation of gold is Paras(Mercury). There is an old saying in India that paras can turn lead into gold, in English its Philosopher’s stone. Western world learnt about mercury from Indians and Chinese, Indians knew and used mercury to its fullest potential since 2000BC, Aristotle later wrote about it in 4th century BC.

Up until a few years, this concept of turning gold from mercury was deemed impossible. Many people in the scientific community still believe there is no way to accomplish this.  In 1924, at the Tokyo Imperial University, Professor Hantaro Nagaoka directed 150,000 volts of electricity at a mercury isotope under a dialectic layer of paraffin oil for four hours in an early experiment with nuclear energy. The purpose was to strike out a hydrogen proton from the nucleus of the mercury and produce a new element, gold. The experiment was a success. Gold !!

Professor Hantaro Nagaoka solved the mystery that eluded scientists for centuries, the mystery of the Philosopher’s Stone.  We can now produce controlled nuclear reactions, Dr. A.J. Shaka of the University of California successfully transmuted mercury to gold. Mercury 196, an isotope that can pick up a neutron, is placed in a nuclear reactor, and after 23 hours, it turns to gold. This experiment is very expensive, but it proves the fact.

Decoding science is a step by step process. First, we had a mindset that nuclear reactions cannot be controlled, but now we can. There was a thought that producing gold(Au) using another element is impossible, it’s proved wrong. Maybe soon, we will find a way to create a Philosopher’s stone and start manufacturing gold. For this, we need to keep an open mind and analyze all possibilities.

And secondly, if we had not read and had no idea or imagination of philosopher’s stone, we may not have taken this quest of inventing one. So it is important to revisit our history and unearth the secrets which our ancestors knew. 

Do you believe gold can ever be manufactured on an industrial scale? Let me know your thoughts below.

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