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The Beauty Of Bidri Art

For vintage and antique enthusiasts, this column is for you to dive deep again into the world of handmade artwork.


 

In times like these where technology and machine-laden products are easily available at the click of a button, there still lies a corner of that heart that is bound to be old school. The importance of finely made artifacts shining up that house or workplace is well-known to those who are accustomed to feeling this finery.


 

Bidriware is one such artifact introduced in India whose products can still be found in modern households. This exquisite Indian art has bewildered many through the beauty it possesses. An almost 500-year-old handmade art, Bidri handwork enchants and attracts many tourists from across the globe making it difficult for them to let go of this eye-catcher.

The Bidri History

It all dates back to the 14th or 15th century when Bidriware was introduced in India under the reign of the Bahmani Sultans who ruled over the city of Bidar in the state of Karnataka. It is believed that Bidri art first originated in Persia and was brought to India by the followers of an Islamic scholar, Khwaja Moinuddin Christi.


 

Bidri art was blended by Persian, Turkish, and Arabic art which then was mingled with Indian craft which in turn gave birth to Bidriware – a symbol of wealth, luxury, and nobility. Found only in palaces, museums, among the royalties, and zamindars in the olden days, these Bidri products were a depiction of one’s wealth and aristocracy.


 

It is believed that a second Bahmani Sultan, Alauddin Bahmani invited the then prominent Iranian craftsman Abdullah bin Kaiser who was known for his fine art skills, to decorate the palaces and courts of the Bahmani Kingdom. This was how opulent the Bidriware was, back in those days.

BIDRIWARE PRODUCTS

AT NATIVE HANDS

The Creation of Bidriware

Fine proportions give birth to fine productions, this was the simple aim of creating a Bidri product. It is manufactured by an alloy of zinc and copper in proper proportions of the ratio 1:16 done by casting. Bidri is known for its deep black color, which is thus a result of zinc.


 

The making begins with a mold formed from the soil by adding castor oil and resin. The molten metal is then poured into the mold to obtain a cast piece which is then smoothed by the means of filing. This process then gives way to a coated casting with a solution of copper sulfate and a temporary black coating is obtained over which designs are inscribed with a freehand with help of a metal stylus.



 

Small chisels are then used by the craftsman to engrave designs on the freehand etching. Flattened strips of pure silver are hammered carefully into the product and the article is then ready to get rid of the temporary black coating after being filed, buffed, and smoothed.



 

The final blackening process includes special soil that can only be found in the unlit areas of the Bidar fort. The soil is mixed with ammonium chloride and water which converts into a paste that is next rubbed on a heated surface. The paste selectively darkens the body, without imposing any effect on the silver inlay. Oil is at last applied to the finished product, as a finishing touch. The finally finished product appears to be deep black with bright silver inlay.

Special Soul of Bidriware: its Soul 

It is said and believed by some artisans that the soil of Bidar fort is extremely special because it had been aloof from sunlight and rain for years which induced the soil to enthrall great oxidizing properties. Other artisans believe that a part of the fort from where the soil is brought was a mint which made the metal extracts unique.


 

As said by the artisans, the soil of Bidri earth is extremely important, and therefore, the real art lies in tasting the mud. The artisans have tasted the mud themselves then decided whether to use it or not. This talent for tasting the soil can only be gained through experience and is passed from one generation to the other.

Bidri Patterns

With many striking, eye-catching patterns, Bidriware traditionally inlays flower designs, geometric designs, leaves, animals, and even human figures inscribed on Bidriware products. Demand for designs of Persian roses and passages included within the Holy Quran is additionally inscribed with peculiarities in Bidriware products! Such minute designs are all handmade, with fine crafting talent and keen observation.

Other objects where Bidriware is employed are in making hookah pots, vases, paan-holders, bowls, earrings, key-holders, ornament boxes, trays, and so on. Objects which are required for daily use too are made from Bidriware designs, making it an appropriate option to choose Bidriware as a special and key decorative element.



Another interesting fact about Bidriware relates to the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad. ‘Laljungle’, an intricate pattern of leaves and flowers found within the background of frescoes in Ajanta caves is additionally popular among the designs of Bidri art.

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Bidriware Elsewhere

It is no unknown inconvertible fact that Karnataka and Hyderabad within the state of Telangana are the main two centers for Bidriware handmade work in India, as the local Muslims are known and believed to master this work of precious art. This art is additionally practiced in other parts of the country, like Purnia in Bihar, Lucknow city in Uttar Pradesh, Murshidabad in West Bengal, and Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra.



In a village near Purnia, local craftsmen called Kansaris are engaged in molding and turning Bidri vessels. The following steps of engraving designs and polishing the item are done by goldsmiths, traditionally called sonars. In the city of Aurangabad, Bidri art was introduced by the Nizam of Hyderabad, which later got adopted by the local artisans, as Aurangabad is well-known for its rich legacy of artistic approach and handicraft productions.

The Expensive Royalty 

A completely handmade production with fine polishing and designing, this metal art is a fashionable deal. It is believed that Bidriware products never hit middle-class households and were found only in the palaces and castles of the Sultanas.


 

The amount of labor and patience a creation of Bidriware product demands does justice to the costs it hits. It is said that the craftsmen in the olden days led a lavish life only by manufacturing Bidri products, this was the impact of the price return from this art. 


 

The current situation is slightly different from before, though. In the city of Hyderabad, the decline of Bidriware has begun. There are hardly any manufacturers left to steer this royalty anymore – the prime reasons being the high prices of silver and the non-availability of the soil needed to mold the Bidri art. Another reason to ponder upon is the change in people’s choices in terms of ancient aesthetics.



 

The fact that this art has begun to terminate is itself a reason why one should not refrain from collecting as many products as possible and cherish this art showcasing royalty and spreading vintage vibes. The extinction of Bidriware is a wake-up call to people who do not want to miss this product of ancient times!



 

Bidriware is a very fine work of art and handicraft widespread across the globe. Tourists from all over the places visit Indian cities prominent for Bidri art and collect as many antiques as possible – this itself is a reason enough to why one should not lose out on something worth holding on to.

By

Anchal Bhatia

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