Research Projects

Research Projects – Indian Engineering Heritage

India has a long tradition of outstanding engineering achievements in diverse fields such as Monuments, Bridges, Irrigation Systems, Metallurgy, Textiles etc. The documentation on these achievements is available in the libraries of Archeological Survey of India, State Museums, Professional Societies and with individuals. It is fragmented and not easily accessible.

In this direction, Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE) constituted Experts Study Groups on Metallurgy, Railways and Civil Engineering to compile information and documentation on the outstanding engineering achievements and create an Archives of Indian Engineering Heritage in the Library of the Academy.


Iron and Steel Heritage of India” was organized on Nov 16, 1997 at Jamshedpur in association with the Indian Institute of Metals and Tata Steel. A heritage session on “Non-ferrous Metals Heritage of India” was organized on Nov 16, 1998 at Bangalore in association with the Indian Institute of Metals.

Dr. Baldev Raj, Director, IGCAR, Kalpakkam took over as Chairman of the Study Group during 2003. A Discussion meeting on “Delhi Iron Pillar” was organized on March 11, 2005 at New Delhi. The Delhi Iron Pillar has long attracted the admiration of historians and curiosity of metallurgists mainly for its large size and its excellent state of preservation. Several theories have been proposed in the past to explain the manufacturing technology and superior corrosion resistance of the Delhi Iron Pillar which has withstood corrosion for the last 1600 years. However, there has been no unified theory or mechanism to explain the origin, manufacturing technology and long lasting corrosion resistance of the pillar. The meeting was attended by specialists and eminent personalities in the field of history; metallurgy and corrosion sciences to review the results of the investigations carried out so far and chalk out the roadmap for further work. The meeting had comprehensive presentations by eminent scientists. The presentations included the following: Prof TR Anantharaman on “the Wonder that is the Delhi Iron Pillar”; Shri RK Sharma, Archaeological Society of India on “Issues Related to Conservation of the Iron Pillar”; Prof R Balasubramaniam, IIT Kanpur on “A Perspective on Delhi Iron Pillar”; Shri B Venkatraman, IGCAR, Kalpakkam on “NDE Investigations on Delhi iron pillar”; Dr T Jayakumar, IGCAR, Kalpakkam on “Microstructures and Manufacturing Technology of Delhi Iron Pillar” and Dr U Kamachi Mudali, IGCAR Kalpakkam on “In-situ Corrosion Investigations on Delhi Iron Pillar.

The history and information on various metals and alloys, information on the Study Group and its activities, conferences, photo gallery, web resources and publications by members are elaborated in this website. It contains authentic and valuable information on the metallurgical heritage of India.

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The history of the Railways though less than 150 years old, is complex and not systematically documented. It was felt that there is a need to examine and collate the data available, and present a comprehensive historical Report on the Indian Railways. In this direction, the Expert Group which consists of eminent railway engineers and three Fellows of INAE was constituted to compile information and documentation on the outstanding engineering achievements and to create an Archive of Indian Engineering Heritage in the field of Railways. Shri VK Agarwal is the Chairman of the Study Group.

The first Report on Indian Engineering Heritage (Railways) was prepared by the Study Group which broadly covers History, Railway Gauge, Permanent Way, Railway Bridges, Railway Construction Projects, Railway Locomotives and other Railway Stocks, Mechanical Workshops, Production units and Signaling and Telecommunication. The first three chapters in this document deal with Growth, Management Structure and the history of track gauge of Indian Railways. Subsequent chapters were arranged according to engineering disciplines viz. Civil, mechanical, Electrical, Signalling etc.

Thereafter a number of new areas were taken up for further study. Additional details with regard to Steam Locomotives and Diesel Locomotives, Coaching Stock and Wagon Stocks Signaling and Telecommunication were also collected. The Second Report was published during the year 2007 which includes use of Geotextiles; Mechanised Maintenance of Track including Track Machines; Railway Locomotives and other Rolling Stock; Electric Multiple Units (EMU); Coaches and Wagons (Freight Stock) etc and D.C. and A.C. Electrification. The chapter on railway bridges includes details of some more bridges than those covered earlier. The details about modern Diesel and Electric locomotives have been highlighted in the chapter on “Railway locomotives and other Rolling Stock”. While the chapters on D.C. and A.C. Electrification were updated it was found necessary to cover aspects of “Train Lighting and Air Conditioning”.

The work for the Chapter on “Urban Railway Transport” is underway. The Group envisages taking up additional areas for further work and analysis on the topics viz. Heritage Railway Buildings and Train Control & Operation-Technological Evolution The gaps in the areas already covered in the first two Reports will be given due weightage. This will give additional information about the heritage data in the field of Railways and create the necessary interest in the public mind to appreciate the sustained efforts by the Indian Railway engineers.


The Indian Engineering Heritage (Civil) Group was formed with a view to study and archive the Civil Engineering Heritage of India in its most important aspects. Prof. CVR Murty is the Chairman of the Study Group. The “Monograph on Heritage Buildings in Thiruvananthapuram” prepared by Dr. Ashalatha Thampuran, Principal, Mohandas College of Engineering & Technology is in the advanced stage of finalization.

Prof. RN Iyengar has also carried out a systematic study of the eclipses and planetary observations mentioned in the Mahabharata and a paper based on the above study titled “Internal Consistency of Eclipses and Planetary Positions in Mahabharata” by him has been published in the Indian Journal of History of Science. The Study Group has proposed to take up Structural and Architectural Study of Vaults and Dooms in South India and Bridges built upto 19th Century.

Prof. RN Iyengar has carried out investigations on “Studies of Natural Phenomena in Ancient India”. This includes earthquakes, rainfall, floods, droughts, eclipses and comets. He has published the following four papers.

Kashmir earthquake: history repeats itself, Oped Article, The Hindu, 28th Oct, 2005.
Celestial observations associated with Krishna-lore, Ind. J. Hist. Science, 41.1, 1-13. 2006
On Some Comet observations of ancient India, J. Geo. Soc. India, 67, 2006, 289-294.
Description of rainfall variability in Brihat-samhita of Varaha-mihira, (Current Science, 2004) reprinted in J. Geo.Soc. Ind. 68, 2006, 545-548

Prof. K.S. Jagadish, Indian Institute of Sciences, Bangalore has completed a project on “Structural and Architectural Study of Domes and Vaults of South India.” This deals with the structural roof forms before and after 1370 A.D. in the States of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Twenty nine sites in Karnataka, sixteen in Tamil Nadu and three sites in Andhra have been so far covered in the study. He has visited the above sites. It is interesting to note that in ancient times the roofs were either of the post and lintel type or corbelled. However, Hoysala period artisans had developed arcuate construction of domes, which is different from corbelled construction. After 1370 AD the influence of Islamic architecture can be traced in the roofs. The Bahamani and Vijayanagar kingdoms contributed to the development of very impressive buildings. After the fall of Vijayanagar the above roof systems could be seen in Tamil Nadu, even in residential buildings. Local masons shifted to making brick vaults even in villages. The village of Tiruvaiyaru had many vaulted houses, including the one where the famous saint composer Tyagaraja lived. The forts in Gingi, the Virabhadra temple in Darashuram and the Tirumala Nayak palace in Madurai are fine examples of later day domes and vaults. The style seems to have reentered Mysore region during the time of Tipu Sultan. He built vaults of various spans in Srirangapatna, Bellary, Chitradurga and other places. The one with a large span was in Bangalore. A monograph on the study so far carried out is under preparation.