Bidriware: Brilliance beyond the Silver

We can’t deny that India is a hub for handicrafts, every state has its specialty of handicrafts, and it’s sad to see how these magnificent crafts are dying so rapidly. So, let’s do our part in saving these precious gems by spreading awareness and knowing more about them, one at a time.
Let’s talk about Bidri handiwork today, also known as metal inlay work from Karnataka. You must have seen these pieces somewhere but maybe failed to recognize it or didn’t pay attention to it, or you’re curious to know how they make it.

The origin

Bidri was introduced in India in the 14th or 15th centuries under the ruler of Bidar, brahman sultan (hence the name Bidri) in Karnataka. This form of art originated in Persia and was brought to India by the followers of Moinuddin Chisti (known as Gharb Nawz), an Islamic follower and philosopher.

With a mix of Turkish, Persian, and Arabi styles, this art form took a homage in India under the second sultan Alauddin Bahmani. Later, this art style passed on through generations to the local artisans. It is still practiced today not only in Karnataka but also in Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, Purnia in Bihar, and Murshidabad in West Bengal even though the main centers are still in Bidar and Hyderabad. Royalties like the kings and zamindars invested in these pieces as a display of wealth more than just practical use.

Wait, wouldn’t this make us the royalty too?

How it’s made

Bidriware is made of an alloy of copper and zinc (ratio of 1:16). The zinc is responsible for the deep black color that we are so enchanted by.
Mould from the soil is made in which castor oil and resin are added to make it malleable in which the metal is poured. The cast is then coated with a strong solution of copper sulfate for a temporary black coating, which makes it easier to etch the designs on.

Skilled artisans then etch the designs on the surface, and thin strips of pure silver are hammered in the grooves. After that, the article is filed and buffed to a smooth texture and remove the temporary blackened surface. This process gives us a shiny silver metal surface in which the etching is hardly visible.

Then the article is rubbed with the soil only found in some units of the Bidar fort mixed with ammonium chloride and water after its heated, which blackens the body, but the silver inlay remains unaffected. For finishing, oil is rubbed on the surface, which deepens the matte finish or the product.

And voila! You have your beautiful product with a shiny silver inlay.

The special soil

After reading that, you must be wondering what is so particular about the soil used?
This soil mentioned above was used to make the fort, which contains metal extracts, and also it has been away from the rain and sunlight for many years because it has developed enhanced oxidizing qualities. Also, believe it or not, the artisans taste this soil to determine the suitability of this soil!

Products and designs

Bidriware is used in the making hookahs, paan-holders, vases, bowls, earrings, trays, ornament boxes, jewelry urai-type of a vase in different shape and motif, ugaldaan, boxes, zalabchi, muqaba or round containers with dome-shaped lids, flower vases, and so much more.
The traditional design consists of flowers, leaves, human figures, poppy plants, and geometric designs. Verses from the Quran in Arabic script are also included.

I hope the next time you see a Bidriware, you won’t be able to resist its beauty.

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