Tambat Craft of Pune
The Tambat Craftspeople have a rich legacy dating back to the 17th century when they were invited to Pune by the Peshwas, establishing themselves in Kasba Peth. Their traditional craft of handcrafting copper products has been passed down through generations. The craft relies on manual shaping and beating of copper, using tools like hammers and chisels. Each piece is unique, showcasing the artisan’s skill and creativity. While the craft has faced challenges due to changing traditions and rising copper prices, some families continue to persevere and create traditional and contemporary copper products.
Coppre, an organization working with Tambat craftsmen, collaborates to introduce modern designs in copper products. These include lampshades, trays, coasters, candle holders, and more. Copper products have both aesthetic appeal and functionality, with the added benefit of water purification and health benefits. Water carafes made of copper blend the age-old practice of drinking from copperware with contemporary design. Additionally, handcrafted copper wares are considered auspicious and are often used as wedding gifts, adding elegance and exclusivity to ceremonial occasions.
Bidriware of Karnataka
Bidri craft, named after the place Bidar in Karnataka, originated in India and involves the art of inlaying silver or gold on black metal. Skilled Persian artisans were invited to Bidar in the 14th century by the Bahamani Sultans to train local craftsmen in metal inlay work. The technique involves casting the article using a special alloy, etching designs on a temporary black coating, and then inlaying silver or gold wires into the grooves. Bidri craftsmen use various tools such as chisels, hammers, and filers for engraving and inlaying.
The raw materials used in Bidri craft include zinc, copper, silver wire, and brass metal wire. After the engraving and inlaying process, the article undergoes oxidizing using a special solution made with soil found in Bidar. This solution darkens the body of the article while leaving the inlayed silver wires shining against the black surface. Coconut oil is then applied to deepen the black matt coating, and the product is dipped in a mitti (clay) solution for a permanent black color.
Bidri ware products are known for their deep black color and sophisticated design motifs in glittering silver or gold. Traditional Bidri items include hookahs, flower vases, boxes, and containers with dome-shaped lids, adorned with Mughal and local motifs. Animal motifs like elephants, horses, and peacocks are also commonly used. The craft incorporates techniques such as tarkashi (fine wire inlaying), taihnishan (silver sheet work), munnavat kari (embossed design), and mehatabi kaam (reversal of surfaces). Bidri products add an aesthetic touch to living spaces and are regarded as symbols of royal artistry.
Chola Bronze Sculptures of Tamil Nadu
Thanjavur, along with Kumbakonam and Swamimalai, is renowned for its flourishing art center specializing in bronze sculpture, stonework, and paintings. Skilled artisans in this region have perfected the art of the lost wax method of bronze casting over generations. Each Hindu God sculpture is a unique masterpiece, created with intricate details and classic poses, evoking a sense of serenity. The tradition of bronze sculpture dates back to the Chola Dynasty, reaching its artistic peak during the 9th to 13th centuries AD. The imperial Cholas’ patronage and wealth fueled the growth of philosophy, poetry, temple architecture, and fine art.
The process of creating bronze idols follows an age-old technique that has remained unchanged since the Chola Empire. Sculptors mold hard beeswax mixed with dammar resin to form separate parts of the sculpture, which are then joined together with tubular struts. The assembled wax model is encased in layers of clay and heated, causing the wax to melt and leave a hollow clay mold. The mold is then filled with an alloy of copper, lead, tin, and sometimes gold or silver. After cooling and breaking open the mold, the artisans meticulously chip away the clay, polish the bronze, and add finishing touches through cold chiseling.
Bronze sculptures from Thanjavur are highly valued for their classic grace, grandeur, and perfect taste. One of the most iconic examples is the Nataraja, the Divine Dancer. These sculptures not only adorn temples but also find a place in meditation rooms, home altars, and art collections. The enduring appeal of bronze sculptures lies in their timeless beauty, reflecting the rich cultural heritage of ancient Indian traditions and religions, including Buddhism, Jainism, and Hinduism.
Dhokra Metal Casting: Tribal Art of Odisha
Dhokra metal casting, synonymous with the traditional craft of bell metal or brass, is a tribal art form practiced by tribal families in the districts of Orissa, including Puri, Dhenkanal, Nayagarh, and Keonjhar. This craft involves the use of the lost wax technique to create intricate designs of lamps, boxes, tribal figures, animal figures, and gods and goddesses. The motifs in Dhokra metal casting are often inspired by folk culture, reflecting the rich tribal heritage.
The process of making Dhokra metal artifacts involves creating a clay model using a mixture of mud, cow dung, and water. Wax threads are then wrapped around the clay model to form a layer with the desired pattern. A layer of clay mixed with sand is applied, and after drying, the model is baked in a furnace. The wax melts away, leaving a hollow space between the layers of clay. Molten metal is poured into this space, taking the shape and pattern of the model. The artifact is cooled, cleaned, polished, and sold in the market.
In addition to traditional items, contemporary artisans also produce utility items such as door knobs, door handles, ashtrays, pen holders, and photo frames using the Dhokra metal casting technique. The alloy used in Dhokra metal casting consists of nickel, brass, and zinc, which, when mixed in the right proportion, gives the artifacts an antique look that complements various interiors.
Dhokra metal casting products vary in size, design, and workmanship, with costs reflecting the intricacy of the craftsmanship. These artifacts, with their antique appearance, are used as showpieces in corporate offices and for decorating homes. Gods and goddesses are among the popular items created using this special technique, showcasing the rich cultural and artistic traditions of the tribal communities in Orissa.
Moradabad Brass from Uttar Pradesh
Moradabad, known as ‘Brass City’ or ‘Peetal Nagri,’ is a renowned hub for brass work in Uttar Pradesh. With a history dating back to 1600, the city has carved a niche for itself in the global handicraft industry. It houses around 850 export units and 25,000 metal craft industrial units, where skilled artisans work tirelessly to create exquisite brass products. The industry bloomed in the early 19th century, with the British playing a significant role in introducing Moradabad’s brass art to foreign markets.
The artisans of Moradabad specialize in crafting a wide range of products, including candle holders, vases, tableware, utensils, figurines, and decorative accents. Their designs draw inspiration from nature, Mughal motifs, and traditional Indian aesthetics. The metal crafts of Moradabad are known for their intricate detailing, fine craftsmanship, and stunning finishes achieved through engraving, embossing, and filigree work. Brass, copper, and aluminum are the primary metals used, chosen for their malleability, durability, and aesthetic appeal.
Moradabad’s brassware is highly sought-after globally, with exports to countries like the USA, UK, Canada, Germany, Middle East, and Asia. The industry not only contributes to the region’s foreign exchange earnings but also provides substantial employment and income to the local population. The brass products showcase the rich cultural heritage and history of the region, with designs ranging from Hindu gods and goddesses to Mughal-inspired patterns. Moradabad’s brass work industry continues to thrive, attracting attention for its craftsmanship and unique artistic expressions.