The rich cultural heritage of India is still alive in the country only because of the persistent efforts of Indian artisans. One such example is Bidriware, an age old metal handicraft art form in India. The luxurious tradition of Bidri has been carried forward by the artisans till today.
Bidri originated in Persia around seven centuries ago. The art form was introduced to India by the migrants. In India, the art majorly flourished in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The craft is concentrated in the Bidar area of Karnataka after which it is named. It flourished and attained perfection under the patronage of Bahamani and Baridi dynasties. The art is known for its awesome craftsmanship. The craftsmen made this foreign art form an identity of India through their hard work and skill.
What is Bidri art?
Bidri is a traditional excellence. It is essentially silver inlay on a metal alloy. The alloy is formed using Zinc, Copper, Lead, Tin and traces of Iron. The Persian version of the art form used metals like steel and copper. The sheen is an outstanding feature of the art form. The end products of this art has a distinctive shine to them because of the lustrous metals used. Generally, gold and silver inlay is done on metal alloys. Other forms of Bidri include, silver designs on black metal. The black metal version of Bidri brings out proper ethnicity of the culture.
The craft is not restricted to designing of metal alloys alone. The same designs are also made on cloth using embroidery techniques. A silver embroidery is made on black cloth using stitches and other elements. This work uses the same material as that of the zardozi work.
The material used in this art form is an alloy of zinc with small portions of other non-ferrous metals. The colour of the alloy thus formed is grey. It is then painted with a special chemical which turns the alloy into jet black. The dark background highlights the intricate silver design. The designs are laid out with pure silver. The use of silver against an extremely dark background is uniqueness of this art. The designs used in the art are extracted from the relics of historical Bidar fort and fresco paintings of Ajanta caves. Other new designs are also added over time.
Steps involved in making Bidri articles
The process of making Bidri articles is same throughout India.
- Red clay is molded into desired shape.
- Molten solution of Zinc, copper and other metals is poured over the mold.
- The surface of the cast article is smoothened very finely with the help of sandpaper.
- Copper Sulphate solution is applied to the smoothened surface. Application of copper Sulphate solution makes the article turn jet black.
- After the article turns black, designing and engraving is done.
- Engraving of intricate and delicate designs is meticulously done with help of tools.
- Inlaying comes next to engraving. This step is the most sensational work of Bidri art. In inlaying, sheets or wires of pure silver are hammered into the engraved design. A buffing machine is used to smoothen the surface after inlaying.
- The surface is then turned black by applying a paste of ammonium chloride, potassium nitrate, sodium chloride, copper Sulphate and mud.
- This paste provides a characteristic black patina to the article without damaging the shine of silver inlay.
- The final product is rubbed with coconut oil. Coconut oil deepens the black matte coating.
Bidri art is encouraged by the Government owing to its popularity among the tourists. Several new policies are put in place to boost the artistic production of traditional industries. Bidri products have demand not only in the domestic market but also in the international market.
Currently, the art form is focused in the areas of Bidar in Karnataka, Hyderabad in Telangana, Purnia in Bihar, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and Mushirabad in West Bengal. The craftsmen of Bidri art form mainly take inspiration from the nature and human life. Flowers, creepers and even human figures are found in the designs of Bidri. In Bellori, a village near Purnia the local craftsmen are called the ‘Kansaris’. Kansaris mold and turn Bidri vessels. Engraving and polishing is done by the ‘sonars’. Sonars are essentially goldsmiths.
Other forms of Bidri
Purnia village along with the traditional kind also produces another variant of the art called ‘Gharki’ style. This style is a less sophisticated variation of the Bidri art.
This variant of Bidri is prevalent in Lucknow of Uttar Pradesh. In this variant, the ornamental designs are raised above the surface.
The concept and creativity with the combination of workmanship of the artisans made this art form one of the best arts in India. The articles produced through this art can be used for home décor as well. The silver inlay against a dark background with a distinctive sheen make the products of this art eye pleasers. They enhance the beauty of the houses.