Crafts of Andhra Pradesh

 

 

Buying pearls, however, is not that simple. To find out whether the gems are real, they should be rubbed gently against the edge of one's teeth. A grainy, rough sensation indicates the pearls are genuine while fakes would feel smooth and glassy. Pearls should also be checked for their color and luster in daylight or several pearls should be compared under the same available light. The sheen of the nacreous layers is the essence of the gem. The thicker the layers, the deeper and mellower will be the iridescence and the air of dignity.

Colored pearls are rare. They come in yellow, pink, silver, and blue tints. The so-called 'Black Pearls' are only dark gray in reality. They are too scarce and most expensive, being cultivated only in Okinawa, Japan, within the rare Black Butterfly oysters. Often inferior pearls are colored chemically to fetch better prices but the hues are not permanent. Other than its radiance, a pearl is priced according to its shape and size. Large, round, and shiny pearls are the costliest. For a necklace, it would be economical and attractive to select round, radiant pearls of gradually increasing size keeping the largest one in the center of the string. The half-sphere 'button' pearls and the 'tear drops' are suitable for pendants, earnings, brooches, and buttons. The tapered 'rice' pearls and the tiny 'flower' pearls of uneven shape look very appealing when strung in several strands or cluster.

Bidriware

Of the many high profile crafts of the Deccan, bidriware is perhaps one of the most popular. The very name suggests their origin at Bidar-a district of the Bahmani kingdom founded in the 14th century. Sultans of the Bahmani dynasty ruled over a large part of Central and South India for nearly 400 years. They were great patrons of art and were instrumental in synthesizing Mughal and Iranian culture. The technique of bidri came to India from Iran (Persia) in the 14th century. Captivated with the exquisite beauty of bidriware, Sultan Ahmad Shah Wali (1422-1436) brought from Iran the master artisan, Abdullah-bin-Kaiser along with several other craftsmen. They were entrusted with the delicate job of furnishing and decorating the royal palaces and havelis. Abdulah's superb mastery over his art highly impressed the Sultan and he established a training centre for bidriware under the supervision of this great artist. Thereafter several other talented craftsmen further developed the art, which soon permeated from the royal enclosures to other aristocratic homes.

The Nizam of Hyderabad also took keen interest in the craft. Under his patronage the art reached is zenith and the city of Hyderabad and its surroundings areas became an important center for bidriware. When the States under the Indian Union were reorganized in 1956, the district of Bidar was split with its major portion going to Karnataka. However, the art and craft of bidri making continued to prosper in and around Hyderabad.

The basic material of bidriware is an alloy of zinc and copper in the proportion 16:1. Upon this alloy, designs in pure silver are inlaid. Each bidri piece is cast separately. First a mould is formed from ordinary soil made malleable with castor oil and resin. The molten metal alloy is then poured into it. The newly cast piece is now smoothened with files and scrapers. The artist then rubs the piece with a strong solution of copper sulphate to obtain a temporary black coating on which to etch the design. The designs are drawn freehand with a sharp metal stylus. The article is then firmly fixed on a waxed stone or held in a vice while the craftsman, using small chisels, engraves the design. Into these chiseled groves he carefully hammers pure silver in the form of a fine wire or flattened chips. The article is then rigorously filed, buffed and smoothened again obliterating the temporary black coating so that the silver inlay work can hardly be distinguished in the gleaming metallic surface which now looks all silvery white. The bidriware is now ready for the final treatment, which makes the alloy surface permanently black. The silver inlay work stands out in bright contrast against the dark background. This is achieved in an unusual way-a particular type of soil is mixed with ammonium chloride and water. The paste thus produced is rubbed onto the heated bidri surface. The paste darkens the body of the article but has no effect on the silver inlay. As the paste is rinsed off, the design springs out dramatically. The shiny silver is resplendent against the black surface. Finally oil is rubbed on the finished product to deepen the matt coating.

With proper care and maintenance, bidri articles can be kept bright and beautiful indefinitely. Water does not harm bidriware but soap or acid must not be used for cleaning. Use silver polish to shine the inlay work and then rub vegetable oil to sparkle the entire surface.

Brassware of Pembarti

Scholars tell us of the age when iron was not known and copper and its alloys were used for making metal tools and objects of daily use. A small part of that age is still with us but mostly in objects of art.

Statues, carvings, and castings still continue to be made in the attractive copper alloys like bronze and brass. The methods used are still traditional ones although the raw material today comes from modern mines and furnaces.

Indian brass is renowned the world over and chances are the brass potted planter in the foyer of a Manhattan hotel or Tokyo corporate office has comes from Pembarti, a small village of Andhra Pradesh known for its brass work.

Most of the residents in Pembarti are involved in brass work and there are several workshops in the village dealing with brass. From behind the line of tall palm trees there comes the clink and tap-tap of mallets beating brass. Sheets of brass are transformed into marvelous objects of art-all by hand.

Apart from sheet work, the craftsmen of Pembarti are proficient in another skill-that of lost wax casting. This ancient art is found all over the world. India has an unbroken tradition since very early times as can be witnessed from the exquisite figurines found in excavations of the Indus Valley. Most of the figurines depicting characters from Hindu mythology are made from lost wax process. There is not much demand for these nowadays, but discerning buyers always prefer cast figurines to machine made ones.

Over the last few years some of the wares of craftsmen of Pembarti have become extremely popular. The pert peacock with its proud head and feathers held high is a great favorite. Its outspread feathers are depicted in flat brass pierced in myriad shapes. Then there are elegant flower vases in fascinating shapes. Every curve is painstakingly handcrafted, not turned on machines.


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