(Last Updated on : 13/05/2011)
The history of Indian metal craft in India is rich as it was introduced around 3000 B.C. The metal craft has its ramifications from mythological figurines, sculptures of deities to pots, pans, utensils, photo frames, doorknobs, taps, key chains, boxes and so on. The metal craft involves the tradition of enamelling, etching and damascening for the beautification of the metal objects. Metal craft is admired for its durability and chicness.
The exquisite beauty of metal craft made its presence felt in the artistry of Gold jewellery art and silver jewellery art, gold and silverware, brass and copperware, metal ornamentation, bidri and enamelling. The princely states of India, the royal heads were fascinated by the idea of enamelled utensils. Wine-cups, finger-bowls, pill boxes in both gold and silver, often studded with jewels were introduced. During the epoch of the Raja Serfoji II (1797-1832), the Maratha ruler of Tanjore, Tanjore metal plate was introduced. This was manufactured by the royal artisans of his court. The metal plate was decorated with the besetment of silver, brass, and copper. The base metal was mainly brass. That was just the beginning of a new idea.
In the modern day metal craft in Ladakh
region of Kashmir is admired for traditional vessels made out of iron and brass. Intricate floral and calligraphic patterns are embellished on copper and silver items that make the metal item look gorgeous. The "naquasi" style that is the oxidization of the metal item is done to make the design stand out from the background. Brass metal is used to make a variety of brass items including household items like pots, trays, bowls, and sculptures of deities, household utensils and decorative pieces.
Brass engraving and lacquer art, another form of metal craft produces items like photo frames, bowls, plates, boxes etc with the embellishments of ethnic designs and floral patterns, hunting scenes etc., on the surface. Lacquered designs varies either by varnishing the entire body or a part of the item. The art of `Koftagari,` which is a craft of encrusting one metal into another, is a speciality of India. Brass is also used in the production of vases, tumblers, water containers, ornamented spittoons, food cases, bells, candle stands, kerosene lamps, picnic carriers and a large variety of lamps. The most adored items are swords, daggers and shields.
"Bidri" or the inlay craft of metal is derived from Persia and developed and flourished in Mughal Empire. The craft is named after the place "Bidar" in Karnataka
. The making of "Bidri" items requires pouring molten zinc and copper solution into moulds. The intricate process of "Bidri" involves the art of casting, engraving, inlaying and polishing. Cigarette cases, huqqa bases, bowls, boxes, candle stands, trays, ashtrays, vases, jewellery, buttons and other utensils are quintessential of this exclusive craft.
The tribal belts of India are famed for the "Dhokra" metal craft. Small figurines of horses, drummers, tribal deities and plaques are made with extreme uniqueness of artisanship from brass scrap. The polished bronze mirrors are a distinct craft of Kerala
Silver filigree work is another form of metal craft of India. It engages employing intricate designs made out thin silver wires and produces items made of strips of silver, looped and in zigzag pattern mainly using thin twisted silver wires. Items such as trays, cigarette case, key chains and other decorative pieces animals and birds are manufactured from this dominated creative filigree work. The metal craft of silver work has given rise of products like spice boxes, rose-water sprinklers, caskets, hukkas and highly-carved silver furniture.
Another craft of more or less of identical category is "Marori" work which leaves the engraved floral designs glitter against a black background. Another craft of metal is practiced in India is `chrakwan` which is a black pattern on copper or brass background.
`Charakku`, one of the largely used cooking vessels is made of bell-metal and is an important contribution of metal craft. The surface of `Charakku` is made up of old gold tint and it maintains its original colour and lustre. To prepare `payasam`(sweet dish made out coconut milk) in large quantities in ceremonial and religious occasions `Charakku` is used .
The `deepak` or large lamps, made of iron is another example of the use and success of metal craft in India. Deepak includes a number of small, shallow crucibles, like `diyas` or little lamps, sometimes decorated with bird and animal figures that are made separately and later joined together to give shape to the lamps. The lamps are different in type, use and sizes like `laman diya`, `supali diya`, `gadli diya`, `khut diya` and `viman diya`. Standing lamps, called `kuthu-vilakku` is a type of lamp that is used to worship the deity at temple.
Though the metal craft has been spread in a numerous divisions and flourished in different sects of culture, the metal art of jewellery remains a tradition. The art of jewellery involves the enamelling, gem setting and engraving.