This question is about history of India.

I have heard that a gentleman of Indian origin living in London did research on Indian history for 16 years and then he wrote a book, in his book he mentions that there was a type of sword (don't remember the Indian name of the sword, but it started with "S"), to make the sword the iron ore is soaked in water for "some years" and then the sword is made, this sword was so powerful/sharp that with a single stroke of it one could behead an elephant!

Any reference about the book? Any clue about such sword? Any reference about the technology of sword making with water soaked iron ore?

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    Do you have any preliminary research? The phrase "I have heard...." generally introduces poor questions. Have you done any google searches? Checked ironwork/swordsmithing sites? Checked Indian History sites? – Mark C. Wallace Dec 27 '14 at 18:08
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    What is the title of this book? What is the author's name? – Semaphore Dec 27 '14 at 18:14
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    "this sword was so powerful/sharp that with a single stroke of it one could behead an elephant"..I'm extremely skeptical, to put it mildly. – Rajib Dec 27 '14 at 19:52
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    But do see this and also this. – Rajib Dec 27 '14 at 19:59
  • @Rajib unless it was meant not to be an history book, but a narrative book. – o0'. Dec 28 '14 at 21:01

Any clue about such sword?

There's apparently a Hindu sacred text that contains an account of a sword being used to behead an elephant

Then, O great king, having uttered a loud shout, Bhima, sword in hand impetuously jumping on (Bhanumat's) excellent elephant aided by the latter's tusks, gained, O sire, the back of that prince of tuskers, and with his huge sword cut Bhanumat, dividing him in the middle. That chastiser of foes, then, having (thus) slain in battle the prince of the Kalingas, next 1 made his sword which was capable of bearing a great strain, to descend upon the neck of that elephant. His head cut off, that prince of elephants fell down with a loud roar, like a crested mountain (whose base is) eaten away by the impetuous (surges of the) sea.

So perhaps the book referenced this text?

Any reference about the technology of sword making with water soaked iron ore?

Perhaps a confusion regarding the "water marks" found on the surface of some high-quality Damascene swords made from Wootz steel.

Wootz steel characteristic surface pattern

Soaking ingots in water for years has no role in the process but might perhaps be a garbled account or folkloric fabricated "explanation" for the pattern.

The methods of producing this type of sword have been lost but one study suggests that the presence of certain impurities, unknown to the sword-maker, may have been essential.

  • +1 Great answer, but I have enough comments to add to it that I just made another answer. – T.E.D. Dec 30 '14 at 13:42
  • nice explanation + myth busting – Vikram Dec 31 '14 at 7:21

There are oodles of myths around Damascus steel, particularly centering around how durable and sharp its swords were. Some of this steel still exists. Analysis shows carbon-nanofibers, which is quite an impressive accomplishment for the time. There are some superior modern steels, but nobody knows quite how to duplicate them with ancient methods. Or for that matter how to duplicate Damascus either (although people have had fun trying for centuries, continuing to this day).

Part of the reason for all the legends is that the swords were so valuable that smiths capable of producing it kept the process a closely-guarded secret, which of course has been lost. Presumably someone stumbled over a way to introduce the right impurities and heat things just right.

However, it is generally known that it was originally made from Wootz steel, which did indeed originate from India. It appears that the Alexander discovered Indian smiths making the swords, and brought back the method with his armies to Damascus.

  • good information, thanx – Vikram Dec 31 '14 at 7:21
  • A sinister/cruel procedure I heard was by metallurgical tempering hot steel swords by plunging it into stomachs of slaves and controlling loss of blood. – Narasimham Feb 4 '17 at 19:20

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