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Bidri Works

Maharashtra is a rich state when it comes to the variety of handicrafts that are made here. One of the many but one of the most popular and unique are the Bidri works. Though the name of the handicraft “Bidri” comes from Bidar in Karnataka, it spread to different parts of the country particularly in Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The art form consists of metal ware of various shapes and sizes. It is mainly made from an alloy of zinc (94%) and copper (6%) with carving done in silver.

History of the Bidri Works

The origin of these works dates back to 14th century under the Bahmani kingdom which ruled the present Deccan area. The art form developed in the kingdom was a mix of Turkey, Persia and Arabic countries which were intermingled with the local styles and thus a unique style of its own was born. Bidri work, in particular, came from Iran with an artisan called Abdulla-bin-Kaiser, who was an expert in metal work. Along with local artisans, the art ware spread far and wide and was handed over to generations as time passed. Fortunately, the art did not die with the kings, it was later on patronized by subsequent kingdoms and today, we can enjoy its exclusivity. It is a family business and in some artisans’ families, even women take part in the making of the metal ware. In Aurangabad, the Bidri art was introduced by the Nizam of Hyderabad as it was a part of Nizam’s empire then. As Aurangabad has its own rich legacy of art and craft, The Bidri work mingled into the local arts soon.

Intricacies of Bidri Works

The alloy of zinc and copper is used for making the basic structure of the metal ware. Earlier, they were used for making hookahs, paan-holders and vases but now keepsakes, bowls, earrings, trays, ornament boxes, other jewelry and showpiece items are made from it. Because it is made from zinc, the items get a black color. After molding, they are filed and smoothened. The decided design is then engraved on it and then pure silver wires or sheets are then placed into the thin spaces with the help of hammers and other instruments. After this inlaying of silver is done, the item is then polished and oxidized. This oxidation process involves use of earth from the fort of Bidar (the then capital of Bahamani Kingdom) and therefore, it got its name. When the item is put into a boiling solution containing the Bidri mud, it becomes jet black but nothing happens to silver. The article is then lubricated with coconut or other oil so that it shines to attract our eyes.  The designs used on the items are also very popular. It is their delicacy and tenderness which magnetize our attention. Various flowers (known as Asharfi-ki-booti), leaves (vine creepers), geometric designs, human figures, etc are commonly fund on the items. Demand for the design of Persian roses and passages from the Holy Quran are also in great demand in the West. In Aurangabad, artisans also make designs of motifs from Ajanta Caves especially Ajanta Padmapani which have become very popular among foreign tourists.

The Soil Speciality

 It is said that the soil of Bidar is very special. No one knows exactly what is special about it. Some artisans feel that the soil is away from the sunlight and rain for years and therefore it has great oxidizing properties. Others believe that the part of the fort from where soil is brought was a mint and therefore metal extracts in the soil make it unique. The artisans say that the quality of the Bidri earth is very important and the real art lies in testing the mud which is necessary for making the articles. It is tasted by the artisans by their tongues and then decided whether to use it or not. This knack comes from experience and is passed on to next generation. Another important thing is that all the process of making the Bidri ware starting from casting to oxidation is done by hand and therefore it is time consuming and hence costlier too.

History says that all the travelers who visited Bidar or the Bahamani kingdom were presented with the precious items and the travelers took them back to their own country. Soon, the demand of these beautiful items grew and trading grew worldwide.

One can see the items for display in many museums of India. One cannot miss this art whenever one visits Maharashtra.

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