- Khandavalli Satyadeva Prasad
(Source: Telugu Talli, her unknown side (Bharat Gyan series), Facets of Telugu culture and Prosperity, by D.K.Hari and D.K.Hema Hari, Sri Sri Publications Trust, Bengaluru, 2012.)
Part II- Prosperity, the basis of culture- Page 73 Fall of Indian Steel Industry:
This high quality, high carbon, ‘Teling Steel’1 was made on a daily basis in over 800 villages in Karimnagar, Adilabad, Nizamabad and Warangal districts of the current state of Andhra Pradesh (now Telangana State).
It was only in the year 1774 that a Swedish chemist by name Tobern Bergman learnt to replicate this high quality Ukku steel in Europe. However industrial scale production of good quality steel was possible in Europe only from the year 1821.2
Until then, it was this region along with other parts of India that fulfilled most of the needs of high quality steel of Persia, Arabia and Europe.
Once Europe started producing steel, seeing the demand being generated by the Industrial Revolution, the British wanted control over the production and trade of steel along with other major produce. Hence, once their administration gained a firm foothold in India, they crushed all the trades of India, including the kammari trade of making ukku steel.
With this, the kammari artisans, from being a prosperous community which gave the strong high quality steel to the world, became a daridra, poverty ridden community. Even today, there are many villages and towns with names like kammaripeta, kammarisala meaning “villages of backsmiths”, which recount the glory of their past.
Notes: 1. Teling steel- the word teling in all probability points to Telugu. The basis for this conjecture is that the ancient name for the Telugu land is Trilinga/tiling/teling. This usage survives to this day in the word Telingana. There used to be an old ruling dynasty in Burma/Myanmar by name Telings or trailings (vide Bhavaraju Krishna Rao’s Andhrula Naukayana Charitra). Further, the equation teling=telugu gets further support from the fact that the very word Wootz which stands for Indian steel is said to have been derived from the Telugu word for steel, namely, vukku/wukku/ukku. Thus the Indian steel that was known to the outside world was the one made in the Telugu land and its Telugu name.
- Dharampal in one of his lectures (and possibly also in his book ‘Science and Technology in 18th century India’) quotes british officials saying that Indian steel in 19th century was superior in quality and cheaper in price to that of Swedish steel which England was importing at that time.
- Kammari means a metal smith, more specifically an iron smith. Kammaram indicates the name of the profession of metal/iron working, or iron-smithy.
- For details about indigenous steel production through indigenous tiny furnaces all over India see Dharampal’s Science and Technology in 18th century India.