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The iron pillar
CHAPTER 10
BUILDINGS, PAINTINGS AND BOOKS
Metallurgy
Ancient Indian metallurgists made major 
contributions to the metallurgical history of the 
world. Archaeological excavations have shown 
that the Harappans were master craftsmen and 
had knowledge of copper metallurgy. They even 
manufactured bronze by mixing copper and tin. 
While the Harappans belonged to the Bronze Age, 
their successors belonged to the Iron Age. India 
produced highly advanced types of iron-forged 
iron, wrought iron and cast iron.
The iron pillar
The iron pillar at 
Mehrauli, Delhi, is a 
remarkable example 
of the skill of Indian 
craftspersons. It is 
made of iron, 7.2m 
high, and weighs over 
3 tonnes. It was made 
about 1500 years 
ago. We know the 
date because there is an inscription on the pillar 
mentioning a ruler named Chandra, who probably 
belonged to the Gupta dynasty (Chapter 9). What 
is amazing is the fact that the pillar has not rusted 
through the centuries.
Buildings in brick and stone
The skills of our crafts persons are also apparent in 
the buildings that have survived, such as stupas. 
The word stupa means a mound. While there 
are several kinds of stupas, round and tall, big 
and small, these have certain common features. 
Generally, there is a small box placed at the centre 
or heart of the stupa. This may contain bodily 
remains (such as teeth, bone or ashes) of the 
Marutasami and the iron pillar
Marutasami was so excited. His brother had propelled 
his wheelchair all along the dusty, stony path, past the 
Qutb Minar, and up the metal ramp. It had been tough, 
but now he was here, in front of the famous iron pillar. 
It was an unforgettable experience.
Chapter 9-10.indd   96 22 April 2022   02:53:33
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


The iron pillar
CHAPTER 10
BUILDINGS, PAINTINGS AND BOOKS
Metallurgy
Ancient Indian metallurgists made major 
contributions to the metallurgical history of the 
world. Archaeological excavations have shown 
that the Harappans were master craftsmen and 
had knowledge of copper metallurgy. They even 
manufactured bronze by mixing copper and tin. 
While the Harappans belonged to the Bronze Age, 
their successors belonged to the Iron Age. India 
produced highly advanced types of iron-forged 
iron, wrought iron and cast iron.
The iron pillar
The iron pillar at 
Mehrauli, Delhi, is a 
remarkable example 
of the skill of Indian 
craftspersons. It is 
made of iron, 7.2m 
high, and weighs over 
3 tonnes. It was made 
about 1500 years 
ago. We know the 
date because there is an inscription on the pillar 
mentioning a ruler named Chandra, who probably 
belonged to the Gupta dynasty (Chapter 9). What 
is amazing is the fact that the pillar has not rusted 
through the centuries.
Buildings in brick and stone
The skills of our crafts persons are also apparent in 
the buildings that have survived, such as stupas. 
The word stupa means a mound. While there 
are several kinds of stupas, round and tall, big 
and small, these have certain common features. 
Generally, there is a small box placed at the centre 
or heart of the stupa. This may contain bodily 
remains (such as teeth, bone or ashes) of the 
Marutasami and the iron pillar
Marutasami was so excited. His brother had propelled 
his wheelchair all along the dusty, stony path, past the 
Qutb Minar, and up the metal ramp. It had been tough, 
but now he was here, in front of the famous iron pillar. 
It was an unforgettable experience.
Chapter 9-10.indd   96 22 April 2022   02:53:33
Rationalised 2023-24
97 ?
buildings , paintings  
and books T op : The Great Stupa at 
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.
Stupas like this one 
were built over several 
centuries. While the brick 
mound probably dates 
to the time of Ashoka 
(Chapter 7), the railings 
and gateways were added 
during the time of later 
rulers.
Left : Sculpture from 
Amaravati. 
Look at the picture and 
describe what you see.
Buddha or his followers, or things 
they used, as well as precious 
stones, and coins. 
This box, known as a relic 
casket, was covered with earth. 
Later, a layer of mud brick or 
baked brick was added on top. 
And then, the dome like structure 
was sometimes covered with 
carved stone slabs. 
Often, a path, known as the 
pradakshina patha, was laid 
around the stupa. This was 
surrounded with railings. Entrance 
to the path was through gateways. 
Devotees walked around the 
stupa, in a clockwise direction, as 
a mark of devotion.  Both railings 
and gateways were often decorated 
with sculpture. 
Find Amaravati on Map 7 (page 87). This was 
a place where a magnificent stupa once existed. 
Many of the stone carvings for decorating the stupa 
were made about 2000 years ago. 
Other buildings were hollowed out of rock to 
make artificial caves. Some of these were very 
elaborately decorated 
with sculptures and 
painted walls.  
Some of the 
earliest Hindu 
temples were also 
built at this time. 
Deities such as 
Vishnu, Shiva, 
and Durga were 
worshipped in 
these shrines. The 
Chapter 9-10.indd   97 22 April 2022   02:53:35
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


The iron pillar
CHAPTER 10
BUILDINGS, PAINTINGS AND BOOKS
Metallurgy
Ancient Indian metallurgists made major 
contributions to the metallurgical history of the 
world. Archaeological excavations have shown 
that the Harappans were master craftsmen and 
had knowledge of copper metallurgy. They even 
manufactured bronze by mixing copper and tin. 
While the Harappans belonged to the Bronze Age, 
their successors belonged to the Iron Age. India 
produced highly advanced types of iron-forged 
iron, wrought iron and cast iron.
The iron pillar
The iron pillar at 
Mehrauli, Delhi, is a 
remarkable example 
of the skill of Indian 
craftspersons. It is 
made of iron, 7.2m 
high, and weighs over 
3 tonnes. It was made 
about 1500 years 
ago. We know the 
date because there is an inscription on the pillar 
mentioning a ruler named Chandra, who probably 
belonged to the Gupta dynasty (Chapter 9). What 
is amazing is the fact that the pillar has not rusted 
through the centuries.
Buildings in brick and stone
The skills of our crafts persons are also apparent in 
the buildings that have survived, such as stupas. 
The word stupa means a mound. While there 
are several kinds of stupas, round and tall, big 
and small, these have certain common features. 
Generally, there is a small box placed at the centre 
or heart of the stupa. This may contain bodily 
remains (such as teeth, bone or ashes) of the 
Marutasami and the iron pillar
Marutasami was so excited. His brother had propelled 
his wheelchair all along the dusty, stony path, past the 
Qutb Minar, and up the metal ramp. It had been tough, 
but now he was here, in front of the famous iron pillar. 
It was an unforgettable experience.
Chapter 9-10.indd   96 22 April 2022   02:53:33
Rationalised 2023-24
97 ?
buildings , paintings  
and books T op : The Great Stupa at 
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.
Stupas like this one 
were built over several 
centuries. While the brick 
mound probably dates 
to the time of Ashoka 
(Chapter 7), the railings 
and gateways were added 
during the time of later 
rulers.
Left : Sculpture from 
Amaravati. 
Look at the picture and 
describe what you see.
Buddha or his followers, or things 
they used, as well as precious 
stones, and coins. 
This box, known as a relic 
casket, was covered with earth. 
Later, a layer of mud brick or 
baked brick was added on top. 
And then, the dome like structure 
was sometimes covered with 
carved stone slabs. 
Often, a path, known as the 
pradakshina patha, was laid 
around the stupa. This was 
surrounded with railings. Entrance 
to the path was through gateways. 
Devotees walked around the 
stupa, in a clockwise direction, as 
a mark of devotion.  Both railings 
and gateways were often decorated 
with sculpture. 
Find Amaravati on Map 7 (page 87). This was 
a place where a magnificent stupa once existed. 
Many of the stone carvings for decorating the stupa 
were made about 2000 years ago. 
Other buildings were hollowed out of rock to 
make artificial caves. Some of these were very 
elaborately decorated 
with sculptures and 
painted walls.  
Some of the 
earliest Hindu 
temples were also 
built at this time. 
Deities such as 
Vishnu, Shiva, 
and Durga were 
worshipped in 
these shrines. The 
Chapter 9-10.indd   97 22 April 2022   02:53:35
Rationalised 2023-24
? 98
our pasts –i T op : An early temple at 
Bhitargaon, Uttar Pradesh.
This was built about 1 500 
years ago, and was made 
of baked brick 
and stone.  
T op Right : Monolithic 
temples at 
Mahabalipuram.
Each of these was carved 
out of a huge, single piece 
of stone (that is why they 
are known as monoliths). 
While brick structures are 
built up by adding layers 
of bricks from the bottom 
upwards, in this case the 
stone cutters had to work 
from top downwards.
List the problems that  
stone cutters may 
have faced. 
Right : The Durga temple 
at Aihole, built about 1 400 
years ago. 
most important part of the temple was the  room 
known as the garbhagriha, where the image of 
the chief deity was placed. It was  here that priests 
performed religious rituals, and devotees offered 
worship to the deity. 
Often, as at Bhitargaon, a tower, known as the 
shikhara, was built on top of the garbhagriha, to 
mark this out as a sacred place. Building shikharas 
required careful planning. Most temples also had a 
space known as the mandapa. It was a hall where 
people could assemble.    
Find Mahabalipuram and Aihole on Map 7  
(page 87). Some of the finest stone temples were 
built in these towns. Some of these are shown here.
Chapter 9-10.indd   98 22 April 2022   02:53:38
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


The iron pillar
CHAPTER 10
BUILDINGS, PAINTINGS AND BOOKS
Metallurgy
Ancient Indian metallurgists made major 
contributions to the metallurgical history of the 
world. Archaeological excavations have shown 
that the Harappans were master craftsmen and 
had knowledge of copper metallurgy. They even 
manufactured bronze by mixing copper and tin. 
While the Harappans belonged to the Bronze Age, 
their successors belonged to the Iron Age. India 
produced highly advanced types of iron-forged 
iron, wrought iron and cast iron.
The iron pillar
The iron pillar at 
Mehrauli, Delhi, is a 
remarkable example 
of the skill of Indian 
craftspersons. It is 
made of iron, 7.2m 
high, and weighs over 
3 tonnes. It was made 
about 1500 years 
ago. We know the 
date because there is an inscription on the pillar 
mentioning a ruler named Chandra, who probably 
belonged to the Gupta dynasty (Chapter 9). What 
is amazing is the fact that the pillar has not rusted 
through the centuries.
Buildings in brick and stone
The skills of our crafts persons are also apparent in 
the buildings that have survived, such as stupas. 
The word stupa means a mound. While there 
are several kinds of stupas, round and tall, big 
and small, these have certain common features. 
Generally, there is a small box placed at the centre 
or heart of the stupa. This may contain bodily 
remains (such as teeth, bone or ashes) of the 
Marutasami and the iron pillar
Marutasami was so excited. His brother had propelled 
his wheelchair all along the dusty, stony path, past the 
Qutb Minar, and up the metal ramp. It had been tough, 
but now he was here, in front of the famous iron pillar. 
It was an unforgettable experience.
Chapter 9-10.indd   96 22 April 2022   02:53:33
Rationalised 2023-24
97 ?
buildings , paintings  
and books T op : The Great Stupa at 
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.
Stupas like this one 
were built over several 
centuries. While the brick 
mound probably dates 
to the time of Ashoka 
(Chapter 7), the railings 
and gateways were added 
during the time of later 
rulers.
Left : Sculpture from 
Amaravati. 
Look at the picture and 
describe what you see.
Buddha or his followers, or things 
they used, as well as precious 
stones, and coins. 
This box, known as a relic 
casket, was covered with earth. 
Later, a layer of mud brick or 
baked brick was added on top. 
And then, the dome like structure 
was sometimes covered with 
carved stone slabs. 
Often, a path, known as the 
pradakshina patha, was laid 
around the stupa. This was 
surrounded with railings. Entrance 
to the path was through gateways. 
Devotees walked around the 
stupa, in a clockwise direction, as 
a mark of devotion.  Both railings 
and gateways were often decorated 
with sculpture. 
Find Amaravati on Map 7 (page 87). This was 
a place where a magnificent stupa once existed. 
Many of the stone carvings for decorating the stupa 
were made about 2000 years ago. 
Other buildings were hollowed out of rock to 
make artificial caves. Some of these were very 
elaborately decorated 
with sculptures and 
painted walls.  
Some of the 
earliest Hindu 
temples were also 
built at this time. 
Deities such as 
Vishnu, Shiva, 
and Durga were 
worshipped in 
these shrines. The 
Chapter 9-10.indd   97 22 April 2022   02:53:35
Rationalised 2023-24
? 98
our pasts –i T op : An early temple at 
Bhitargaon, Uttar Pradesh.
This was built about 1 500 
years ago, and was made 
of baked brick 
and stone.  
T op Right : Monolithic 
temples at 
Mahabalipuram.
Each of these was carved 
out of a huge, single piece 
of stone (that is why they 
are known as monoliths). 
While brick structures are 
built up by adding layers 
of bricks from the bottom 
upwards, in this case the 
stone cutters had to work 
from top downwards.
List the problems that  
stone cutters may 
have faced. 
Right : The Durga temple 
at Aihole, built about 1 400 
years ago. 
most important part of the temple was the  room 
known as the garbhagriha, where the image of 
the chief deity was placed. It was  here that priests 
performed religious rituals, and devotees offered 
worship to the deity. 
Often, as at Bhitargaon, a tower, known as the 
shikhara, was built on top of the garbhagriha, to 
mark this out as a sacred place. Building shikharas 
required careful planning. Most temples also had a 
space known as the mandapa. It was a hall where 
people could assemble.    
Find Mahabalipuram and Aihole on Map 7  
(page 87). Some of the finest stone temples were 
built in these towns. Some of these are shown here.
Chapter 9-10.indd   98 22 April 2022   02:53:38
Rationalised 2023-24
Left : A  Jaina monastery 
from Orissa. 
This two storey building 
was carved out of the 
rock surface. Notice the 
entrance to the rooms. 
Jaina monks lived and 
meditated in these rooms. 
In what ways is the cave 
shown here different from 
the illustration on p.13?
Below : A sculpture from 
the National Museum, 
New Delhi.
Can you see how some of 
the caves may have been 
hollowed out? 
How were stupas and temples built? 
There were several stages in building a stupa or 
a temple. Usually, kings or queens decided to 
build these as it was an expensive affair. First, 
good quality stone had to be found, quarried, and 
transported to the place that was often carefully 
chosen for the new building. Here, these rough 
blocks of stone had to be shaped and carved into 
pillars, and panels for walls, floors and ceilings. 
And then these had to be placed in precisely the 
right position. 
Kings and queens probably spent money from 
their treasury to pay the craftspersons who worked 
to build these splendid structures. Besides, when 
devotees came to visit the temple or the stupa, 
they often brought gifts, which were used 
to decorate the buildings. For example, 
an association of ivory workers paid 
for one of the beautiful gateways at 
Sanchi.  
Among the others who paid 
for decorations were merchants, 
farmers, garland makers, perfumers, 
smiths, and hundreds of men and 
women who are known only by their 
names which were inscribed on pillars, 
railings and walls. So when you get a 
Chapter 9-10.indd   99 22 April 2022   02:53:40
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


The iron pillar
CHAPTER 10
BUILDINGS, PAINTINGS AND BOOKS
Metallurgy
Ancient Indian metallurgists made major 
contributions to the metallurgical history of the 
world. Archaeological excavations have shown 
that the Harappans were master craftsmen and 
had knowledge of copper metallurgy. They even 
manufactured bronze by mixing copper and tin. 
While the Harappans belonged to the Bronze Age, 
their successors belonged to the Iron Age. India 
produced highly advanced types of iron-forged 
iron, wrought iron and cast iron.
The iron pillar
The iron pillar at 
Mehrauli, Delhi, is a 
remarkable example 
of the skill of Indian 
craftspersons. It is 
made of iron, 7.2m 
high, and weighs over 
3 tonnes. It was made 
about 1500 years 
ago. We know the 
date because there is an inscription on the pillar 
mentioning a ruler named Chandra, who probably 
belonged to the Gupta dynasty (Chapter 9). What 
is amazing is the fact that the pillar has not rusted 
through the centuries.
Buildings in brick and stone
The skills of our crafts persons are also apparent in 
the buildings that have survived, such as stupas. 
The word stupa means a mound. While there 
are several kinds of stupas, round and tall, big 
and small, these have certain common features. 
Generally, there is a small box placed at the centre 
or heart of the stupa. This may contain bodily 
remains (such as teeth, bone or ashes) of the 
Marutasami and the iron pillar
Marutasami was so excited. His brother had propelled 
his wheelchair all along the dusty, stony path, past the 
Qutb Minar, and up the metal ramp. It had been tough, 
but now he was here, in front of the famous iron pillar. 
It was an unforgettable experience.
Chapter 9-10.indd   96 22 April 2022   02:53:33
Rationalised 2023-24
97 ?
buildings , paintings  
and books T op : The Great Stupa at 
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.
Stupas like this one 
were built over several 
centuries. While the brick 
mound probably dates 
to the time of Ashoka 
(Chapter 7), the railings 
and gateways were added 
during the time of later 
rulers.
Left : Sculpture from 
Amaravati. 
Look at the picture and 
describe what you see.
Buddha or his followers, or things 
they used, as well as precious 
stones, and coins. 
This box, known as a relic 
casket, was covered with earth. 
Later, a layer of mud brick or 
baked brick was added on top. 
And then, the dome like structure 
was sometimes covered with 
carved stone slabs. 
Often, a path, known as the 
pradakshina patha, was laid 
around the stupa. This was 
surrounded with railings. Entrance 
to the path was through gateways. 
Devotees walked around the 
stupa, in a clockwise direction, as 
a mark of devotion.  Both railings 
and gateways were often decorated 
with sculpture. 
Find Amaravati on Map 7 (page 87). This was 
a place where a magnificent stupa once existed. 
Many of the stone carvings for decorating the stupa 
were made about 2000 years ago. 
Other buildings were hollowed out of rock to 
make artificial caves. Some of these were very 
elaborately decorated 
with sculptures and 
painted walls.  
Some of the 
earliest Hindu 
temples were also 
built at this time. 
Deities such as 
Vishnu, Shiva, 
and Durga were 
worshipped in 
these shrines. The 
Chapter 9-10.indd   97 22 April 2022   02:53:35
Rationalised 2023-24
? 98
our pasts –i T op : An early temple at 
Bhitargaon, Uttar Pradesh.
This was built about 1 500 
years ago, and was made 
of baked brick 
and stone.  
T op Right : Monolithic 
temples at 
Mahabalipuram.
Each of these was carved 
out of a huge, single piece 
of stone (that is why they 
are known as monoliths). 
While brick structures are 
built up by adding layers 
of bricks from the bottom 
upwards, in this case the 
stone cutters had to work 
from top downwards.
List the problems that  
stone cutters may 
have faced. 
Right : The Durga temple 
at Aihole, built about 1 400 
years ago. 
most important part of the temple was the  room 
known as the garbhagriha, where the image of 
the chief deity was placed. It was  here that priests 
performed religious rituals, and devotees offered 
worship to the deity. 
Often, as at Bhitargaon, a tower, known as the 
shikhara, was built on top of the garbhagriha, to 
mark this out as a sacred place. Building shikharas 
required careful planning. Most temples also had a 
space known as the mandapa. It was a hall where 
people could assemble.    
Find Mahabalipuram and Aihole on Map 7  
(page 87). Some of the finest stone temples were 
built in these towns. Some of these are shown here.
Chapter 9-10.indd   98 22 April 2022   02:53:38
Rationalised 2023-24
Left : A  Jaina monastery 
from Orissa. 
This two storey building 
was carved out of the 
rock surface. Notice the 
entrance to the rooms. 
Jaina monks lived and 
meditated in these rooms. 
In what ways is the cave 
shown here different from 
the illustration on p.13?
Below : A sculpture from 
the National Museum, 
New Delhi.
Can you see how some of 
the caves may have been 
hollowed out? 
How were stupas and temples built? 
There were several stages in building a stupa or 
a temple. Usually, kings or queens decided to 
build these as it was an expensive affair. First, 
good quality stone had to be found, quarried, and 
transported to the place that was often carefully 
chosen for the new building. Here, these rough 
blocks of stone had to be shaped and carved into 
pillars, and panels for walls, floors and ceilings. 
And then these had to be placed in precisely the 
right position. 
Kings and queens probably spent money from 
their treasury to pay the craftspersons who worked 
to build these splendid structures. Besides, when 
devotees came to visit the temple or the stupa, 
they often brought gifts, which were used 
to decorate the buildings. For example, 
an association of ivory workers paid 
for one of the beautiful gateways at 
Sanchi.  
Among the others who paid 
for decorations were merchants, 
farmers, garland makers, perfumers, 
smiths, and hundreds of men and 
women who are known only by their 
names which were inscribed on pillars, 
railings and walls. So when you get a 
Chapter 9-10.indd   99 22 April 2022   02:53:40
Rationalised 2023-24
? 100
our pasts –i Paintings from Ajanta.
Describe what you see in 
each of these paintings.
chance to visit any of these buildings, 
remember how several hundreds of 
people probably worked to construct 
and decorate them. 
Make a diagram like the one on 
page 79 (Chapter 8) to show the 
stages in the building of a temple or 
stupa. 
Painting
Find Ajanta on Map 7 (page 87). This 
is a place where several caves were 
hollowed out of the hills over centuries. 
Most of these were monasteries for 
Buddhist monks, and some of them 
were decorated with paintings. Here 
are some examples. As the caves are 
dark inside, most of these paintings 
were done in the light of torches. The 
colours, which are vivid even after 
1500 years, were made of plants and minerals. 
The artists who created these splendid works of 
art remain unknown. 
Chapter 9-10.indd   100 26 May 2022   10:30:04
Rationalised 2023-24
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FAQs on NCERT Textbook: Buildings, Paintings & Books - Old & New NCERTs for IAS Preparation (Must Read) - UPSC

1. What are some famous examples of Indian paintings and their significance?
Ans. Some of the famous examples of Indian paintings are the Ajanta and Ellora cave paintings, Mughal paintings, Rajasthani paintings, and Tanjore paintings. These paintings depict various aspects of Indian culture, religion, and history. For example, the Ajanta cave paintings showcase the Buddhist culture in India, while the Mughal paintings depict the Mughal emperors and their courtly life.
2. How have books evolved over time in India?
Ans. Books in India have evolved over time from palm leaf manuscripts to modern-day e-books. In ancient times, palm leaf manuscripts were used to write religious texts and other important documents. Later, paper was introduced, and books were handwritten and illustrated. With the advent of printing technology, books were printed, and the availability of books increased. Today, e-books have become popular, which can be read on electronic devices.
3. What is the significance of the Taj Mahal in Indian architecture?
Ans. The Taj Mahal is a significant example of Indian architecture as it is a perfect blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic architectural styles. It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal's architecture is renowned for its symmetry, intricate details, and the use of white marble. It is considered one of the seven wonders of the world and attracts millions of visitors every year.
4. What are some famous libraries in India?
Ans. Some of the famous libraries in India are the National Library of India in Kolkata, the Indian Institute of Science Library in Bangalore, and the David Sassoon Library and Reading Room in Mumbai. These libraries have vast collections of books, manuscripts, and other reading materials. The National Library of India is the largest library in India and has over 2.2 million books.
5. How have paintings in India evolved over time?
Ans. Paintings in India have evolved over time from cave paintings to modern-day art forms. The cave paintings depict the life and culture of ancient people, while the Mughal paintings showcase the Mughal emperors and their courtly life. Later, the Rajasthani paintings and Tanjore paintings emerged, which were popular for their intricate details and vibrant colors. Today, modern art forms such as abstract art, contemporary art, and folk art are gaining popularity in India.
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