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Crafting Metals: Art and Culture NCERT Notes for UPSC
Jan 19, 2023
Various metals such as brass, copper, silver, etc are used in our country for craftwork. For instance, in Himachal Pradesh, mohras(metal plaques of Durga) are made from gold and silver and curved trumpet (narasingha) are made from copper.
Know more about Crafting Metals in detail in this blogpost and elevate your UPSC preparation.
The Role of the Blacksmiths
The lohar (blacksmith) makes and mends the agricultural iron implements and fashions utensils of different metals.
They also make tools for other artisans, creates icons, and ornaments, and repairs damaged metal objects.
Metal craft is one of the most vital traditions of Himachal Pradesh. Here blacksmiths, carpenters and stone workers consider themselves a single group.
Carpenters and metalsmiths call themselves Dhimans and trace their origins back to Vishwakarma.
Patrons of Metal Craft
Temple and Royal court: They gave rise to highly accomplished craftsperson.
Nobility and wealthy landowners: Objects made of precious metal were symbols power.
Much of their income from taxes was converted into treasure (khazana) in the form of jewellery.
It was in workshops (karkhanas), that goldsmiths and silversmiths practiced their skills.
Some objects were presented as gifts on special occasions such as the public assemblies (durbars) while others were brought out for specific religious rituals.
Less well-off zamindars and rural population: They copied the customs of their superiors. Their invested their surplus earnings in silver ornaments worn by women.
Human cultures around the world have a long history of experimentation and expression using alloys like brass and bronze, and precious metals like gold and silver, and in more recent human history using iron and steel.
Countless objects from tiny coins to buildings, pots, and pans to timeless images of Gods and Goddesses have been created.
The Shilpa Shastra’s elaborate treatise is followed for this activity.
From the Rig Vedic times, there have been references to two casting processes, solid and hollow, termed ‘ghana’ and ‘sushira’ respectively.
Each image is very individualistic, and the craftsman must learn not only the physical measurements of the right proportions but also familiarize themselves with the verses describing each deity, its characteristics, symbolism and above all the aesthetics.
These verses are known as ‘dhyana’, which means meditation.
Each of the important body part is likened to some object from nature:
Eyebrows: Neem leaf or a fish
Nose: Sesame flower
Chin: Mango stone
Neck: Conch shell
Thigh: Banana tree-trunk
Kneecap: Crab, ear, lily
According to Hindu traditions, a ritually polluted object made of gold or silver can be restored to purity by washing it in water.
It is now scientifically validated that water is automatically purified when placed in a silver container, as ionic reaction of silver with water kills its bacterial content.
Even though silver occurs rarely in its pure and natural state in India, it has always been widely available through 2000 years of trade. Main import has always been of precious metals.
Silver is 15-23 times cheaper than gold and is within the reach of a many section of our society.
Himachal Pradesh: In Kinnaur District, the metal objects used for religious purposes are a unique synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist designs.
The thunderbolt or vajra motif is commonly seen on kettles and jars.
Fruit bowls with a silver or brass stand designed like a lotus, prayer wheels inscribed with the ‘om mani padme hum’ mantra, conch trumpets, miniature shrines and flasks are also made.
Many of these forms come from Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu temples.
Uttar Pradesh: Teamwork is essential in the craft of metalwork. For example, in Lucknow, the production of an enamelled hookah base involves several different specialized skills, each practiced by a different craftsman such as:
Sunar makes the object.
Chitrakar or nakashiwalla marks out the surface design.
Chatera chisels away the depression in the design needed to hold the enamel.
Minakar carries out the actual enamelling.
Jilasaz polishes the object.
Mulamasaz might gild it.
Kundanaz sets the stones required in the design.
Rajasthan, Hyderabad, and Punjab: Koftgari is the term for a type of silver and gold damascene work produced in these areas. It is also found in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
The koftgari process is simpler and less time consuming.
The entire surface of the object is first chiselled in at least two different directions to roughen it.
Then the wire (either silver or gold or both) is hammered onto it in intricate patterns.
Once the manufacture of arms and armour had ceased, craftsmen began to apply this decorative technique to trays, boxes, and other objects.
Andra Pradesh: Bidri is an inlay technique named after its place of origin, Bidar, Andhra Pradesh.
Inlay (mainly silver) is done to objects casted in a relatively soft alloy of zinc, copper, and lead.
After the inlay work is completed, the ground is stained black using chemicals, thus creating a splendid contrast to the silver decoration.
Gujarat: Among the numerous ritualistic articles made of metal are large temple-bells.
The famous temple-bell on the Girnar Hill weighs 240 kg.
Another popular item is the typical low square stool and low armchairs.
Kerala: Lost wax process is used to make Uruli (wide-mouthed cooking vessel, with flat or curved rims).
A giant cauldron called varpu, which is magnificent in form, is used in temples for making prasad to feed thousands of devotees.
Metal tumblers for drinking is also a part of metal craft.
Tamil Nadu: Nachiarkoil in Thanjavar District is an important bell-metal centre.
This is due to the presence of light brown sand called vandal on the banks of the Cauvery river, ideally suited for making moulds.
Articles made by casting are vases, tumblers, water -containers, plain and decorated ornamental spittoons, food cases, bells, candle-stands, kerosene lamps, picnic carriers, and a large variety of oil lamps.
No other country has such imagery and symbolism built around lamps as India.
By 5000 BCE, copper was used to make beads and pins.
By 3000 BCE, tin was added to copper to produce bronze.
By 3000 BCE, most of the gold extracting techniques used today were already known in Egypt.
Mohras are fashioned out of ashtadhatu, an alloy of eight metals - gold, silver, brass, iron, tin, mercury, copper, and zinc.
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc. Bell-metal is a mixture of copper and tin.
Through 2000 years of trade, India exported spices, dyes, textiles, diamonds and other goods to the Mediterranean, East Africa, the Arabian seaboard, the Red-Sea and the Persian Gulf, the islands of the Indonesian archipelago and even China and Japan.