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Indian artisans knew the art of metalworking since 3000 B.C. The beautiful figurine of the dancing girl belonging to the Indus valley civilization indicates the high level of workmanship attained by ancient craftsmen.

The other high points reached by the craftsmen in the field of metalworking are bronze sculptures belonging to the Chola rulers and the iron pillar at Mehrauli, in Delhi, which was made during the time of King Ashok.

Metal Types

In India craftsmen use different metals like iron, copper, silver and alloys like bronze, bell metal, white metal etc to make a variety of items such as pots, pans, utensils, photo frames, sculptures of deities, mythological figures and animals etc. Items like doorknobs, taps, key chains, boxes etc are also made, using different metals.

Sculptures are generally made with the lost wax process. This process begins with creation of a wax model of the sculpture or any item.

This model is then covered with clay and holes are made into the clay. Finally molten metal is poured through the hole at the top, which causes the wax to melt. The cavity created within is automatically replaced by the hot metal. The metal is allowed to cool and the final product is freed from clay and polished.

Pouring molten metal in moulds of desired shapes also creates metal items. Parts of molded metal are also joined together with soldering. Various processes like enameling, etching and damascening are done to beautify metal objects.

Metal Art

A variety of metalwork can be seen from different parts of the country:

The Ladakh region of Kashmir is known for traditional vessels made out of iron and brass. The craftsmen of Kashmir are also known for richly engraved traditional household items like bowls, samovars, plates and trays. Intricate floral and calligraphic patterns are embossed on copper and silver items. These items are then oxidized, which makes the design to stand out from the background. This work is known as 'naquashi'.

Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh is world famous for its range of brass items. A wide range of household items like pots, trays, bowls and decorative pieces are made here and are decorated with intricate etching. Electroplated brass and copper items and items made of white metal are also created in Moradabad. Banaras is known for cast sculptures of deities and household utensils made of brass and copper.

Making of bronze sculptures is common in Palitana in Gujarat. The sculptures made here depict themes from Jain religion.

In Rajasthan Jaipur is the main center for brass engraving and lacquering. Items such as photo frames, bowls, plates, boxes etc. Ethnic designs and floral patterns, hunting scenes etc are hammered or embossed on the surface. Lacquered designs either cover the entire body or a part of the item. Jaipur also known for its bronze sculptures. The art of Koftagari or damascening work, is mainly practiced in Alwar and Jaipur, one metal is encrusted into another in the form of wire. Popular articles are swords, daggers and shields.

Madhya Pradesh has its own traditional metal ware tradition. Ornate metal boxes of Bundelkhand, lamps of Sarguja, rice measure bowls and animal figurines of Raigarh, sculptures of Bastar are a few examples of the creativity of crafts persons of Madhya Pradesh.

Andhra Pradesh has a rich tradition of metal craft. Sheet metal work using brass is done in Pembarti, on plaques, containers, vases etc. From the small village of Budhiti in Srikakulam, comes elegant utensils and items made of brass and other alloys.

Andhra Pradesh is famous for Bidri ware. Pouring molten zinc and copper solution into moulds creates Bidri items. The surface of the object is then engraved in interesting designs, to created grooves. These grooves are then inlaid with silver and polished. Finally the objects are oxidized, which makes the surface black and the silver inlay, thus stands out, creating a stunning contrast. Pots, hookahs, trays, bowls etc are created using this technique.

The Dokra metal craft is popular in the tribal belts of Andhra, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. The uniqueness of this craft form is that no two pieces are alike. Small figurines of horses, drummers, tribal deities and plaques are made here. These items are mainly made from brass scrap. Unlike any other metal craft the core of the objects is filled with clay.

Brassware from Tamil Nadu comprises of decorated traditional lamps, used in religious functions, while Kerala is famous for its polished bronze mirrors.

Silver filigree work from Andhra and Orissa is famous for its intricate designs made out thin silver wires. Objects are created with strips of silver, looped and in zigzag pattern. These strips are deftly soldered together. The delicate jali or trellis like design is achieved by using thin twisted silver wires. Animals and birds, dominated creative filigree work, which is also carried out to create trays, cigarette case, key chains and other decorative pieces.


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