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Aranmula Kannadi

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The Region The metal mirror makers in Aranmula belongs to 14 families. These families are located near the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple. The research journey is from Aranmula, a small village in kerala.



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Aranmula Kannadi Craft Documentation on Aranmula Metal Mirrors

Author Aneetta A Simon Guide P T Girish Kerala State Institute of Design

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Contents The Region Acknowledgement Kerala Aranmula Kannadi Specialities of Aranmula Kannadi Geographical Indication (GI) Tag Aranmula Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple Aranmula Vallamkali Aranmula Vallasadya Aranmula Kottaram Murals of Gurukulam History Vaal Kannadi Development of Design Manikanda Handi Crafts Craftsmen Products Quality Checking

2 5 7 9 9 11 13 13 15 15 17 17 19 21 21 23 23 23 25

Mirror Caring 25 Mirror Cleaning 25 Basic Raw Materials Used 27 Making of Alloy 29 Casting The Mirror 31 Mounding Mirror And Polishing 43 Demounting The Mirror From Wooden Frame 43 Making of Brass Frame 49 Making of Mould for Brass Frame 49 Finishing The Brass Frame 51 Moulding of Brass Frame 55 Packaging 57 Pricing 57 Tools 59 Role of Promotional Agencies 63 Future craftsmen and craft Revival 63 Glossary 65 Bibliography 65

Acknowledgement I would like to thank Kerala State Institute of Design, Kollam for giving me such an opportunity to document a craft on Aranmula Kannadi. It helped me in understanding people and society of Aranmula on a border view. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my course coordinator Sree Girish P T, Executive Director, KSID, Kollam. I am also thankful to Mr. Rajeev, owner of Manikanda handicrafts and his brother Mr. Rengith for giving me a chance to visit their organization and study about the traditional craft of metal mirror making. I am obliged to the craftsmen of Manikanda Handicraft for giving me valuable information in their respective fields. I take this opportunity to express my deep sense of gratitude to the people of Aranmula for providing me information about the craft and for all the help they offered. Lastly I thank almighty, my family and friends for all their constant encouragements and helps in the completion of this document.

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Kerala Kerala a state in Southern India, is known as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide, sandy beaches. Kerala is also known by Gods own Country. It is a narrow strip of coastal territory that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush, green vegetation and reaches the Arabian Sea. Kerala borders the states of Tamil Nadu to the east and Karnataka to the north. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohiniattam. It’s the land of diverse religions, where you can find hindu temples, mosques, churches, and even synagogues. The people of Kerala speak Malayalam. Most well-educated people are able to speak Tamil, Hindi and English. Kerala has a wide range of topography from high altitude mountains to golden beaches, and is criss-crossed by 44 rivers. The wild lands are covered with dense forests, while other regions lie under tea and coffee plantations or other forms of cultivation. Most of the state is engulfed in rich greenery. Kerala has a pleasant and equable climate throughout the year. The Monsoons ( June-September and October-November) and summer (February-May) are the seasons markedly experienced here. Flora and fauna of Kerala are hugely supported by the rich soil, heavy rainfall and damp climate. All these factors have given rise to a diverse variety of flora in the region. Kerala is one of India’s most progressive states in terms of social welfare and quality of life. The State boasts of one of India’s highest literacy rates, highest life expectancy and lowest child mortality rates. Enjoying a unique cosmopolitan viewpoint, the people here, at all levels of society, have greater access to services and opportunities - as well as a greater say in their governance. Traditional clothing of Kerala reflects the simplicity and

inherent lifestyle of Malayalis. Most of the people of both genders commonly wear white attires. The main dresses which individuals wear are highly traditional. The form of costume worn by the people like Neriyathu and Mundu has a white cloth piece having golden zari borders representing royalty for men and women. Now a days men prefer wearing mundus and shirt, while women prefer wearing Kerala sari. Kerala is known as the “Land of Spices”. The cuisine is rather spicy and offers a large platter of opportunities for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians. Generally, meat based dishes are all very spicy while vegetarian food is comparatively milder on the tongue. The food is traditionally served on a clean green banana leaf and eaten with one’s fingers. Boiled rice is a staple dish and is eaten with all sorts of gravies and curried accompaniments. Kerala has been through a period of strong growth with one of the highest per-capita income and poverty levels are extremely low compared to elsewhere in India. Agriculture is highly focused on high value cash-crop cultivation such as rubber, tea, coffee, spices and coconut plantations. Tourism is now a booming industry in Kerala, and accounts for a significant part of the state’s economy. In addition, Kerala has a very powerful service sector such as banking & financial services, education, medicine & healthcare, entertainment, real estate, retail, logistics and trade, which drives the economy in a very big way.

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Aranmula Kannadi

Aranmula Kannadi Aranmula Kannadi or Aranmula Metal Mirror is a very special type of metal mirror produced only in Aranmula, a village in kerala, south India. Aranmula metal mirror is a precious inherited gift. The mystery of its metal combination and production is still a secret too, which handed over through generations of a single family. A special alloy is used to manufacture the Aranmula Kannadi. The metal mirror manufactured in Aranmula is a front surface reflection mirror, which eliminates secondary reflections and aberrations typical of back surface mirrors. The exact metals that form the alloy are said to be a combination of copper and tin. Besides making the right combination of the alloy, the craftsmen get involved in intensive polishing sessions, which would go on for several days to obtain the desired reflective surface. Even today, craftsmen use traditional, indigenous methods and materials to produce the reflecting wonder called Aranmula Kannadi. It takes great practice and tremendous amount of focus and patience to produce a perfect mirror piece.

Specialities Of Aranmula Kannadi Aranmula Metal Mirror is the only mirror which reflects from the front plane. Aranmula Kannadi is unique in the make which is patent protected.The mirrors received a geographical indication (GI) tag in 2004-05. The British Museum in London has a 45 centimeter tall Aranmula metal mirror in its collection. The Aranmula Kannadi is not created from glass but from a combination of special metal alloy.Many people believe that owning an Aranmula Metal Mirror brings good luck, wealth and prosperity to one’s lives. Aranmula Kannadi is

one among the eight auspicious items included in the “Astamangalya Set�, which is used for very auspicious occasions like marriage.

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Geographical Indication (GI) Tag A geographical indication indicates that particular goods originate from a country, region or locality and has some special characteristics, qualities or reputation, which is attributable to its place of origin. Geographical indications are part and parcel of the cultures and traditions of a country. They are of considerable importance for countries, both developed and developing. Therefore, geographical indications the goods being produced there are human efforts, resources, and environment of particular regions. GI have features that respond to the needs of indigenous and local communities. These are based on collective traditions and collective decision-making process. Reward traditions while allowing for continued evolution and emphasize the relationship between human efforts, culture, land resources and environment. They are not freely transferable from one owner to another. The name ‘Aranmula Kannadi’ has been accepted for registration as a geographical indication under the (Indian) Geographical Indication of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act 1999 and published in the Geographical Indication Journal No.3 dated 1 November 2004. According to the description forming part of the published extract, the origin of the Aranmula mirror is as follows, this peculiar mirror is made out of copper and tin in a precise ration of casting. This traditional craft of making mirror technique is known only to the traditional and skilled master craftsmen of a few families. The craftsmen are confident that even if the secret of the combination is revealed, nobody could make the mirror with this perfection since a lot of know how, skill and experience is needed for the manufacture. This is the reason for the reputation of the product and the control of the business exclusively within specific family groups for a long

time. Each and every stage of production is done manually, without the use of machines. Substantial time is required using skill and craftsmanship for the production and polishing of the mirror. Aranmula is famous for these mysterious metal mirrors. Truly speaking, Aranmula mirrors are a master piece in metallurgy and are quite expensive to own. There are many duplicates of Aranmula Kannadi in the market. It is very difficult to trace out the duplicates and the manufacturers could identify it only when it comes to them to be polished in their hands. The duplicates cannot attain the reflection of their own mirrors on polishing. Similarly it is very difficult to properly cut the edges of the casted combination like the original mirrors. The facts that the duplicates did not affect their market share seems to be the reason for not initiating any legal action to prevent this. The producers formed an association, Aranmula Metal Mirror Nirman Society. The society in the name of Maniknda Handicraft Centre has registered ‘Aranmula Kannadi’ as a GI under the new Act. This society was formed under the initiative of Mr.Gopakumar and Mr.Selvam. Aranmula Kannadi thus got GI registration in the year 2005. This registration affords better legal protection to facilitate an action for infringement actions and they can exercise the exclusive right to use the GI on their products.

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Aranmula Parthasarathy temple

Aranmula Aranmula, a village in the district of Pathanamthitta is well known for its ancient temple dedicated to Lord Krishna also known as Parthasarathy. Here, among its many attractions like the holy river Pamba, the annual regatta of snake boats during the festival of Onam and the fine metallurgical art of making metal mirrors or the Aranmula Kannadi, a traditional know-how continues to amaze the rest of the world. Aranmula is today one of the model tourism villages declared by Kerala Tourism. It has now become popular as a major centre for cultural tourism in Kerala and attracts visitors, especially those from outside India. Boat race is part of the temple festival here, fertile wetlands, locally called Puncha, rich biodiversity and a soothing climate make Aranmula an apex model of the ecofriendly culture of Kerala. The nearest railway station is at Chengannur and airport is in Kochi, India.The annual snake boat race on the Pampa river, called Uthrittathi Vallamkali, attracts devotees and also national and international tourists.

Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple Parthasarathy is the name of Krishna on account of his role as Arjunas Charioteer in the Mahabharata war. It is one of the most important Krishna temples in Kerala, the sacred jewels, called Thiruvabharanam of Ayyappan are taken in procession to Sabarimala each year from Pandalam, and Aranmula Temple is one of the stops on the way. Also, the Thanka Anki, golden attire of Ayyappa, donated by the king of Travancore, is stored here. The temple has four towers over its entrances on its outer wall, the Eastern tower is accessed through a flight of 18

steps and the Northern tower entrance flight through 57 steps leads to the Pampa River. The temples have paintings on its walls dating back to early 18 century, the temple is open from 4 am to 11.00 am and 5 pm to 8 pm and is administered by Travancore Devaswom Board of the Government of Kerala. The temple is built in Kerala style architecture, which is common in all temples in the South Indian state of Kerala in Eastern axis, the temple has an elevated structure reached by a flight of 20 steps. The temple has a two storeyed gopuram or a tower, with the upper storey having wooden trails covering the Kottupura. A rectangular wall around the temple, called Kshetra-Madilluka pierced by the gateways, the metal plated flag post or Dwajasthambam is located axial to the temple tower leading to the central sanctum and there is a Deepastamba, which is the light post. Chuttuambalam is the outer pavilion within the temple walls, the central shrine and the associated hall is located in a rectangular structure called Nallambalam, which has pillared halls and corridors.

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Aranmula Vallamkali

Aranmula Vallamkali The Aranmula Uthrittathi Vallamkali or Aranmula Boat Race is the most ancient and revered boat races of Kerala. Held on the day of the Uthrittathi asterism in the Malayalam month of Chingam (corresponding to 15 August and 20 September), it is well known for its grandeur and unique history.The snake boats that participate in this colorful carnival are called Palliyodams. The credit for the design is given to Lord Krishna himself, the chief deity at the Aranmula Sree Parthasarathy Temple. He is said to have appeared on these shores on a raft made of six bamboos, giving the village its name – ‘Aranmula’ or six bamboos. The structure of these boats resemble snakes and are about 100 feet in length, with its front tapering, hood raised and the rear portion towering to a height of about 20 ft. During the races, about 39 to 41 of such boats participate in the event each accommodating about 120 people including oarsmen, singers and helmsmen. Colorful flags are fixed at the head of the boat and the colorful parasols at the center make it a spectacular show. The snake boats move in pairs to the rhythm of full-throated singing and shouting watched by an exciting crowd. Thousands of people gather on the banks of the river Pampa to watch the snake boat races. The oarsmen sing traditional ‘vanchipattu’ or boat songs and wear white mundu and turbans. The golden lace at the head of the boat, the flag and the ornamental umbrella at the center make it a show of pageantry too.

Aranmula in Pathanamthitta during August-September. Vallasadya is a ritualistic feast, done as a ‘vazhipad’ or offering by the devotees to Lord Krishna, the presiding deity at the Sree Parthasarathy temple. The devotee who offers the vazhipadu invites the crew of the snake-boat or Palliyodam of his choice to partake in the Vallasadya. Each snake-boat represents a region close to the village of Aranmula. The feast is held in the outer quadrangle of the Sree Parthasarathy temple, inside traditional dining halls or ‘Oottupura’. As part of the Vallasadya the crew of the selected snakeboat will be accorded a customary reception on their arrival to the temple ghat. They circumambulate the temple, singing Vanchippattu, songs of the boatmen in praise of Lord Parthasarathy, before being led to the temple Oottupura for the feast. As the feast progresses, the guests demand more rice and dishes by singing in the same style as that of ‘Vanchippattu’ or boat song. This generates an ambience filled with fun, hurried activities and a flow of energy that is unique to Vallasadya. As many as 50 to 64 items are usually served during the course of this sumptuous feast.

Aranmula Vallasadya The popular Vallasadya, the longest mass ritual feast in the world is held at Parthasarathy temple in the village of

Aranmula Vallasadhya

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Mural paintings

Aranmula Kottaram Aranmula Kottaram or Aranmula Palace is an old palace at Aranmula. Aranmula Palace was built more than 200 years ago and this palace is known as Aranmula Vadakke Kottaram. Aranmula palace is the place of holy journey Thiruvabharana khosa yatra at Aranmula. It is mentioned that this palace is a major halting place for the annual holy procession from Pandalam known as “Thiruvabharana ghosa yatra” It was right here that the ‘Thiru Abharanam’(ornaments) of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, were originally kept. Aranmula Kottaram is situated in front of Aranmula Sree Partha Sarathi Temple and this palace is one of the best and rare example of architectural form Nalukettu which is made based on Thachu Sastra, or the Science of Carpentry and Traditional Vasthu. It is a simple palace building without any embellishment. It is entirely made of fine wood and is amazing to look at its interior parts. At present this is a traditional homestay with a ‘Nalukettu’ construction, beautifully renovated with many of the modern amenities. This Palace cum homestay is located near to the Parthasarathy temple.

Murals of Gurukulam Vasthuvidya Gurukulam is a unique Institution under the Department of Culture, Govt. of Kerala, intended to promote and preserve the Traditional Architecture, Mural Painting, and other related subjects. This institution is being located at Pathanamthitta District on the banks of the Holy river Pampa, west of the famous Parthasarathy Temple. This is the pioneer institution in its kind in India under Government sector. In the absence of a statutory council for Vasthu sasthra, Government of India, Human Resource Development Ministry declared Vasthuvidya Gurukulam as National Nodal Agency for Vasthu and other related objects. Some of the high cost Aranmula metal mirrors have mural paintings.

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Astamangalyam set

History The local Royal chief of Aranmula brought eight families of experts from Sankarankoil stuitated in the present day Thirunelveili, District of Tamil Nadu, to build the Parthasarathy temple in Aranmula and also to consecrate bronze idols in them.These groups of artisans were specialized in various crafts; some were goldsmiths (thattans), stonesmiths (kallu assari), blacksmiths (kollan), carpenters (thadi assari) and bronze smiths (moosari). The Tamil Vishwakarmas are basically Vishwabrahmins and consider themselves a step higher than the rest of Vishwakarma. The Vishwakarma community claims to have decended from the celestial architect. The Vishwakarmas were given land to settle down near the temple. The artisans settled at Aranmula even after the completion of the temple. Their descendants became lazy and a public nuisance, this made the king angry and asked his administration to expel them. The king was miffed and the craftsman had to do something worthwhile to please him. Hence they decided to make a crown using an alloy of copper and tin. The crown when being polished led to an accidental discovery, the crown showed extraordinary mirror like reflection and this pleased the king. The crown was the first form taken by the metal mirror and was known as the ‘Kannadi Bhimbam’. The craftsman used the same techniques to design mirrors. As time went by alterations in design happened and the hugely popular ‘Vaal Kannadi’ took its shape. Another legend goes that the high priest of Aranmula Parthasarathy temple found that the crown made for the diety was craked. The local king then summoned the head of the bronze smith clan and ordered him to make a new crown within three days. The chief got worried, as he did not have sufficient materials. Further there was not sufficient time

to get the material from other places. He came home and told his wife about his worries. It is claimed that while they were sleeping, the Goddess appeared in the dreams and told her the proportions for a bronze alloy that shone like a mirror and asked her to tell all the ladies of the community to surrender their gold ornaments. All the gold were collected and sold to buy sufficient tin and copper. That night she went and told all the ladies, to do as per the orders of the Devi. The crown made out of the combination of copper and tin turned out to be a marvel of art and craft. It was a silver like color, brittle like glass, shone with rare brilliance and when cleaned acquired the quality of reflection. The ‘Makudam’ or crown known as ‘Kannadi Bhimbom’ (mirror image) was preserved in the Aranmula temple till 1946. The casters soon worked out the ratios of different metal used. Although both the stories have been orally told from generation to generation, the legend of the accidental discovery is more widely accepted. The king of Aranmula has said to have liberally patronized the craft persons and even laid down an order that the mirror should form one of the eight auspicious articles used in all Hindu religious rites including marriages. They started introducing the metal mirror in their various other products like small ‘kumkuma cheppu’ or vermillion container, which was made in bronze and metal mirror was placed on the cover. This became very popular amoung the elite of Malayali society. Under the patronage of a few aristocratic ladies the Valkannadi (hand held mirror) flourished.

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Vaal Kannadi

Vaal Kannadi There has been the mentioning of metal mirror in many Puranas including the Rig-Veda. Even in the carvings of Khajuraho there has been depection of hand held mirrors. The mirror is oval in shape or as per the ancient belief it is shaped as the ‘Koni Mukh’ or vaginal face.It depics feminity. There are many temples in which the Vaalkannadi is used to symbolize Godesses, i.e. Goddesses without form. If it is a temple dedicated to Goddess Saraswathi. Veena is placed next to the mirror.The miror has a lot of ritualistic importance. The ‘Vaal Kannadi’ has been used by the ladies of wealthy families to apply make up and to admire themselves. It is also an item of social symbol. This had its popularity until the advent of the commercially manufactured glass mirrors which proved much cheaper and also served the purpose more efficiency.

Development Of Design The basic design of the craft appeared in the form of a small mirror in the lid of a ‘Kumkuma Cheppu’ (vermillion box). This was used by married ladies to put kumkum on their forehead. Later it developed into ‘Vaal kannadi’ (handheld mirror), which was preferred by upper class ladies of that time. This had its popularity until the advent of the commercially manufactured glass mirrors. During the British rule, the kannadi became more of a souvenir from the Indian subcontinent. It took the present form of a mirror with a small stand. The motifs on the brass frames are usually of animals, flowers, Gods and other religious patterns. The shape of the mirror has always been oval or circular. The only change in the design has been in the form of the

frame and the various motifs punched on to the frame. Now a days they make 3d frames according to order. They are also bringing up policical party symbols in frames.

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Master craftsman

Craftsmens of Manikanda Handicrafts

Manikanda Handi Crafts Manikanda Handi Crafts is situated on the banks of river Pamba, Aranmula in Pathanamthitta dist, kerala. The world famous Aranmula Kannadi is a peculiar mirror as it is made of metal alloy and not glass. From generation to generation only 14 families in Aranmula are engaged in the manufacture of Aranmula Kannadi. And the combination of metal alloys is kept secret among those 14 families. Rajeev of Manikanda Handicrafts belong to one among those families.Manikanda Handicrafts was started by Rajeev’s father, M.V Manikanda. His grandfather, M.V Velayudhan Achari and now Rajeev himself is in this field. The demand of Aranmula Kannadi paved the way to flourish their business and now they have started exporting Aranmula Kannadi to various parts of the world like America, Europe and gulf countries. Manikanda handicrafts is blessed with a team of fully dedicated, energetic staff who are expert in their work. Manikanda Handicraft provides the most affordable price possible.They care for their customers, consider them as valuable treasure and their satisfaction is of prior concern to them. They make Aranmula metal mirrors of different varities and designs.

Craftsmen The making of the mirror is a painstaking and labourious process which needs great perseverance, creativity and dedication.Rajeev’s father, M.V Velayudhan Achari was a master craftsman who passed on the tradition of making mirrors to Rajeev and his brother Renjith. With modernization, jewellery making and the making of artifacts from brass has come to a standstill. Now, goldsmiths are taking up the labor work in mirror making. More than work, it is a fine art,

so it needs days of dedicated service. Currently there are 7 craftsmen in Manikanda Handi Crafts. Mr. Sundareshan works has the master craftsman, he has 20 years of experience in this field.

Products The different models of Aranmula Kannadi are: • Mayil Val Kannadi • Dolphin Model With Base • Kingini Sankh With Base Model • Sankh Kingini With Lotus As Base • Lotus Model • Sun Model With Back Stand • Thiruvonathoni- Snake Boat Shaped • Kathakali Model • Elephant Face Mirror • Sankh Model • Arayannam Model • Alila Leaf Model • Small Valkannadi • Table Mirror • Giant Table Mirror They also make mirrors according to customer’s wishes and requirements. Customized designs need more time to make, as the mould of the frame has to be made.

Mr. Rajeev M

Mr. Renjith M

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Quality checking Aranmula Kannadi

Quality Checking To know the quality of reflection on an Aranmula metal mirror, the following test would be sufficient. When you touch your finger on the surface of an ordinary mirror, a gap remains between the finger and the image produced. But, in the case of the Aranmula metal mirror, there will be no gap between the image and the finger. This indicates the fact that only a real, distortion-free image is produced on an Aranmula Kannadi.

Mirror Caring The mirror should be kept under room temperature and away from heat and dust. Do not touch by fingers on the reflective surface. Finger prints with moisture should be cleaned off immediately preventing corrosion.

Mirror Cleaning Sprinkle red oxide powder, blue or talcum powder on the mirror and hold it in a slanting position allowing the dust and other particles to roll off from the reflective surface. Use cotton wool and rub the surface very softly and smoothly in vertical direction. In case of any fungus formation just use few drops of edible oil on the affected portion with the fingers and rub it for one or two minutes and then clean it as mentioned above. The red oxide process of cleaning can be repeated continuously five times or until you get the original reflection. Avoid useing any other metal polish on the mirror.

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Wax used for making glue

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Basic Raw Materials Used The main materials used are ‘chembu’ (copper),’eeyam’ (tin), ’nagam’(zinc) and lead. The metals (copper and tin) are brought from the metal market in Mannar. The proportions of these metals are as per the discretion of the Assari (craftsman).This proportion is the closely guarded secret of the community. Ayurvedic techniques was traditionally used for purifing the metals. The materials used for the purification process were paddy husks, cow dung, cow urine or ‘gomuthra’ and tamarind leaves. For a few days the metal is immersed in ‘gomuthra’. It is then immersed in boiling water filled with tamarind leaves. Then a vessel about 2 ½ feet high is filled with paddy husks. The metal is then melted and poured into this vessel. The metal obtained after its flow through this paddy husks is claimed to be pure. Also the scales formed on the surface of copper are removed by applying a solution of brine and tamarind juice and then it is heated. The scales then easily peel off. Presently the purity of the metals is high and the traditional process is no longer followed. The metals are inspected for any defects at the time of purchase from the markets. The copper chosen are of the purest quality (98%) and are brought as copper wires. These are then cut into small pieces before melting. Tin is bought in chunks and is also broken into small pieces. Other metals are not added directly, but during the process of melting. The clay used to make the mould is taken from the paddy fields which is rich in nickel, phosphorus, zinc and iron. The other raw materials used are clay, gum from the pine -trees, baked clay powder (tile powder), cow dung, wax, chanchanliyam (frankisense), edible oil (ginger oil), coconut husks, navasaram or ammonium chloride and charcoal. Zinc is used in mixture with copper and tin to make the frame.

Clay from fields

Grinted clay

Chana sack sliced

Chana mixed clay

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Heating alloy in crucible

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Making Of Alloy The first step is making the alloy. The process begins with the melting of the copper and tin in the crucible - a furnace fired with charcoal and coconut husks. The molten metal is cast into an open, preheated mould that is prepared on the ground. Once it cools, a sample is broken using a hammer, and the surface is inspected visually to check the alloys quality and composition. This inspection helps in maintining the adequate amount of copper or tin needed to make the metal mirror. Thus necessary amount of copper and tin is added to the molten metal. Then this alloy is cast into an open, preheated mould that is prepared on the ground. Once it is cast, the disk is broken into pieces and these bronze pieces will be re- melted and cast as the mirror.

Broken mirror pieces

Hammered alloy pieces

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Casting The Mirror

Casting The Mirror Fine clay dug from fields nearby is used to make the mould for the mirrors. Before beginning the mould making and casting, the tile clay is ground to fine powder and later mixed with clay. The mould is made from two baked clay disks. The disk size varies with the size of the mirrors and the size of the disc is slightly bigger than the mirror which is to be cast. One side of the disk is coated with coal or ‘kari’ which is first mixed with water and applied on the surface on which the mirror will be cast. A gap is maintained between the two disks using small scrap alloy pieces as per the thickness of the mirror required which is formed by the metal flowing through the gap. A wax plug is placed between the gaps, for the molten metal to enter into the mould from the crucible. The sides of the disks are sealed using a layer of clay. As this layer, doesn’t adhere to the mould very efficiently, it is applied first. Then second layer of ground tile clay and raw earth clay is applied to the mould. It is let to dry for a while and then the crucible is found to the mould by applying clay to it, just above the wax plug. A small orifice is provided in the crucible in order to provide a vent. The wax plug is removed by heating. Metal clamps are attached to the circular discs to ensure that the discs don’t separate during the casting process. The clamps are covered with clay. The orifice is then filled with the alloy pieces which is then covered using a piece of cloth and with the clay. The mould is then left to dry. After the moulds are thoroughly dried they are arranged in an array and are covered with coconut husks, shells and coal. Charcoal pieces are placed in between moulds to avoid slanding collition and to provide heat from all sides. They are placed orifice facing down into the own. The coconut husks are lit and it acts as an open oven. When

the required temperature is reached, they are tilted so that the mould is facing down. Then the numbers of moulds are placed in an open pit furnace. The furnace is fitted with a manual blower. This orientation allows the charge to melt quickly. The artisan from prior experience knows when the charge has melted. When the alloy has completely melted and is ready for casting, the mould- crucible is removed from the furnace. The cracks formed while heating is cleared by making big clay balls and rubbing on the cracked areas. This avoids the breakage of the mould. It is left to cool with the crucible orifice facing upwards. Once the mould is filled, the orifice is separated. The orifice is removed using a ‘chutikka’ or hammer. During solidification, the mould is gently tapped. After the casting solidifies outer layer and the clamps are removed. The cast disk is then placed against the brass frame and the outline of the shape of the frame is drawn on it using a pencil. The cast metal plank is then cut in that shape using the ‘arram’ or file. Since the cast metal is very hard and brittle, slight pressure is sufficent to break it. It is filed to get a perfect fit on the brass frame. It is then placed in the frame and checked for correctness. Then using a piece of charcoal a line is drawn on the surface of the cast along the vertical axis of the frame. It is along this line that the polishing is done. Now the cast is removed from the frame and it is ready for polishing.

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Smoothening the surface of the clay disk in granite

Metal frame to make clay disk

Clay disk moulded in metal frame

Clay disk kept for drying in sunlight

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Dryed clay disks

Kari applied on clay disk

Small alloy pieses used as spacer

Sealed clay disks with wax plug

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Sealed crucible with wax plug pointed towards front

Sealing the disks with clay

Smoothening the clay sealing with hand

Placing the crucible on rock

Smoothening second layer of clay

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Clay ball attached to the crucible Making orifice by gluing clay

Hole is made by pressing finger

Orifice attached to crucible

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Metal clamps are attached to crucible

Orifice is filled with alloy pieces

Orifice and clamps is covered with clay

Moulds are let to dry

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Burning coconut husks in small open furnace

Cleaned open pit furnace

Placing charcoal pieces in between moulds in open pit furnace

Charcoal filled in open pit furnace

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Moulds placed in array in an open pit furnace filled with charcoal

Heating moulds in an open pit furnace

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Bricks are placed from sides to suppoert the moulds

Moulds are covered with coconut husks to heat at high temperature

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Heated moulds are taken out with a holder

Clay balls are rubbed on the craked areas

Moulds are left to cool with the crucible orifice facing upwards

Orifice is removed using a hammer

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Sides of mould is removed using a hammer

Mould is let to solidify the alloy

Metal mirror taken from clay mould

Hot metal mirrors taken with holder

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Mounding Mirror And Polishing The cast disc after cutting and filing is mounted on a wooden plank using gluing wax. This is done to facilitate easy handling of brittle disk while polishing. The square wooden plank comes in various sizes depending on the size of the mirror cast. Heating a mixture of pine gum, ground soil, wax, chanchaliyam and edible oil makes the ‘arake’ (gluing wax). The wax mixture is heated and evenly spread on the wooden plank which has a circular raised surface. It is then allowed to cool. The cast metal disc is then heated slightly and then placed on the wax. The excess gluing wax is removed using a ’pichhathi’ or a small knife. The polishing of the mirror is a slow process and takes time to get the required reflection. Firstly mirror is polised on water paper-180 and 150. Then with 400, 1000, 2000 water paper to make it more fine surface. Usually the master craftsman prepares four to five mirrors and polishes them at a stretch. When one mirror gets heated he does polishing for the next one while the other cools. Secondly when the required polishing surface is achieved it is then further

polished using a piece of jute cloth. The burnt mould powder or ‘moosha podi’ is applied onto the ‘chak’ or jute using the ’kizhi’. The ‘kizhi’ acts as a powder puff. Initially ‘punnakka’ seed oil and ‘chaulmoogra’or ‘marouti’ oil was used. These oils are used with tile powder to give a better finish. Then final polishing is done using a velvet cloth, as velvet trends to absorb the oil that was applied eairlier on the mirror. Further polishing is continued using another dry piece of velvet. The velvet cloth is placed on the ground and then the mirror along with wooden plank is moved in the desired direction. This is done till the fogginess of the mirror is gone and the reflection is perfect.

Demounting The Polished Mirror From Wooden Frame Once the disk is perfectly polised to the desired level, the mirror is demounted by slightly heating it. The wax melts and mirror slides down from the wooden plank into boxes where it waits to be mounted on the brass frame.

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First stage of mirror polishing

Second stage of mirror polishing

Third stage of mirror polishing

Red oxide powder applied for mirror polishing

Final polished mirror

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polishing mirror on water paper

polishing mirror on velvet cloth

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Mirror kept for final polishing

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Heating mirror before demounding

Different stages of demounding mirror

Mirror seperated from wooden frame

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Making Of Brass Frame

Making Of Brass Frame For making brass frame, old brass utensils and other brass materials brought from Mannar local market is used. A ‘kovva’ or crucible made of wrought Iron is cleaned. These brass pieces are added in proportion into the crucible. The kovva is then placed in an open pit furnace charged with burning charcoal.It is then surrounded with pieces of ‘thoundu’ or coconut husk, as ‘thond’ retains the heat. It is heated to about 4000C (approximate melting point of brass). The molten metal is poured onto flat surface usually the ground itself or a metal box filled with soil. The flat surface will be having impression of the mirror frame design which is finised with clay. The molten metal is then poured into the moulds. It is then left for cooling. Once cooled, the clay mould is broken and the casting is removed. The casting is checked for any deformalities. The frame in its crude state is filed and a brass sheet is cut and soldered on to the back side of the frame. Normally mirror frames are flat in shape. Now a days customized designs are also made, incluing 3d frames. And the design is first made by using mseal. Designs are punched on the frame. It is then buffed to give a final polish. The mirror is stuck to the frame with gluing wax. A brass ring is used to secure the mirror to the frame.

Making Of Mould For Brass Frame Traditionally the mould for the master model for the brass frame was casted using the lost wax process. The wax used was composed of chanchaliyam, ordinary wax and edible oil. The wax is heated and is then rolled to uniform thickness using a roller. The required pattern of the frame is first drawn on a piece of paper and is then cut. This paper is

then placed on the rolled wax. The wax is cut along the contour of the pattern. Now they use cardboard instead of wax. To get different contours on the surface of the mirror that many layers of wax is placed or spread on the base layer. A plug made of wax is vertically placed on top of wax pattern. Once this is done, finely ground soft clay is prepared by grinding it on ‘ ara kallu’. This soft clay is first applied on the wax pattern and is compacted to get the exact contour of the pattern. It is left to dry. Then coaser clay is applied on the surface of this clay. A ‘thaalu’ (or pouring hole) is made on the mould just above the wax plug. It is again letf to dry for a day. The mould is then placed inclined near a pit, with the plug facing downwards. Pieces of ‘thondu’ are placed on top of the mould and are then set to fire. Once heated to the suitable temperature, the wax pattern along with the plug melts and flows down into the pit. The hollow cavity formed inside is the exact replica of the pattern. The mould is now ready for casting. After the master mould has been made and it is used to cast more frames using the sand casting process as it is much easier and the chances of the design to retain its form is more in this process. Unlike the lost wax process where the wax has to be remoulded here the master model can be used many times to make the patterns of the frame. In the sand casting process the master metal model which has been cast is used to make the pattern in two aluminium boxes. The lower box is filled with the sand (mixed with clay which acts as the binder) and compacted by ramming manually. The master metal pattern is centrally placed inside the lower box and compacted the extra sand is removed. The path for the metal to flow is made. Parting material which is tile powder is spread over the drag using kizi, two plugs are placed so as the guide the molten metal in the core.The upper box is placed over the lower box and again sand mixed with clay is compacted manually. The two plugs which are

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Making of alloy

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later removed act as the gate and the vent. Finally the two boxes are opened and the master metal model which is used to make the core is removed, finishing touches to the core are done manually as there are chances for small breakages during the compaction. The moulds are proheated using coal which helps the sand to harden and also in retaining the pattern. Now the moulds are ready for casting. After the molten material is poured and the casting is done the upper box and lower box are seperated and the brass frame of the mirror in the crude form is taking out and once it has cooled the frame is ready for filling and polishing.

Finishing The Brass Frame The brass frame which is in its crude state is filled using an ‘arram’ or file. Then a ‘cheek uly’ is used to clean and flaten the surface. Once cleaned, the brass frame is furthur finished using emery papers. Now a days they use sander to polish and buffer for better finish.The decorative patterns on the frame are punched using ‘achu uly’ and ‘uly’.The hollow profile of the frame is drawn on to a ‘pichela thakudu’ (brass sheet metal), which is then cut using a ‘Kathriga’ or scissors. It is then formed into a concave by hammering it on an ‘ada kallu’(anvil). The black plate is then clamped on to the frame. ‘Navasaram’ (ammonium chloride) and ‘eeyam’ (tin) is used to solder the black plate to the brass frame by heating. It is then buffed to give a final polish. Depending on the design a brass back support or a stand for the frame is also cast. It is also cleaned and polished. A ‘vyapiri’(hinge) is made from a rectangular piece of ‘pichela thakudu’ (brass sheet metal). A slit is made behind the frame (large enough for the metal strip to pass through) by hammering. The brass strip is then hammered from inside to lock the stand in position. The stand and the hinge are then filed using an ‘ arram’ to make a perfect fit. Making mould for brass frame

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Brass frame before sanding

Brass frame after sanding

Sanding the brass frame

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Buffing the brass frame

Design punched brass frame

Buffed brass frame

Punching designs using uly

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Applying wax inside the brass frame

Leveling the wax

wax uniformly spread inside

Mirror is mounted on to the frame

Adjusting the mirror with knife

Slightly heating the mirror

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Moulding Of Brass Frame The wax mixture (wax and chanchaliyam) is heated and is applied on to the brass frame in the area where the mirror is to be placed. It is applied uniformly as thick layer. The brass frame is then heated slightly. And the wax is then leveled uniformly using a ‘kathi’ or knife. It is then allowed to cool and solidify. The polished mirror which is now ready for mounting and the frame are heated slightly. The mirror is affixed on to the frame and is heated again. Then using a piece of cloth, pressure is applied on to the mirror manually. This ensures a strong fixture. Once the mirror and frame is cool, the gap between the mirror and the frame is filled with plain wax. It is heated again. The excess wax is removed using the ‘kathi’. The wax is then allowed to cool and solidify. Now a days they use copper ring for better finish. The mirror is then given a final polish either red oxide powder or talcum powder which is wiped using a piece of cloth.

Checking wether copper ring is of required size

Fixing the copper ring

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Plywood box used for packaging

Packaging ‘Aranmula kannadi’ comes in red velvet box, the kind used for gold ornaments. It includes ‘kavi powder’ (red oxide powder) and a small velvet cloth for cleaning the mirror. Literature regarding the product and its usage is also included in the box. There is an abundance of wood craftsmen in the area. Wood could thus be an alternative used in packaging. The packaging which now consist of plywood boxes covered with velvet which is brought from Allapuzha.

Pricing Pricing of the mirror is usually according to size of the mirror, intricacy of design, shape of the mirror and also it varies from craftsmen to craftsmen. Pricing of mirror should be standardized by the society. If there are variations in the price for the same mirror, one craftsmen will suffer while the other sells at a lower price.

Mirror placed in plywood box

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Traditional tools used by craftsman


small ones. These are used to make the patterns on the frame and also to cut brass rods.

Traditional tools used by craftsman: Achu (Punch) The punch is made from mild steel. A head and a hollow conical end is formed by hot working. Then punch is hardened and tempered. The punch is used to punch holes or form impressions on the brass frame.

Cheek Uly (Scrape chisel) The cheek uly is a special uly used to clean and straighten the surface of the frame. It consists of a bent end, which acts as a scraper.

Ada Kallu (Anvil) It consist of a small steel anvil embedded in a block of wood. Most of the hammering is done on the ada kallu. Arram (File) This file is made of square cross section mild steel bar. This bar is forged to the required shape and size by the local black smith. Teeth are formed using a chisel and a hammer. Then it is hardened and tempered. The Arram is used to file and finish the mirror, frame and other parts. Ara Kallu (Grinding stone) The grinding stone consists of a ‘kozhavi’ or roller and an Ara kallu or grinding stone. Both are made from stone. They are chipped using a chisel and hammer. The material to be ground is placed on the Ara kallu and pressure is applied on to by moving the kozhavi to and fro. Chuttika (Hammer) The chuttika or hammer is used mainly for shaping the sheet metal, for punching to break the cast etc. Depending on the purpose the shape and size of the chuttika varies. Uly (Chisel) The uly or the chisel is a board term used for all types of chisel and punches. The uly mostly used in this craft are

Kovva (Crucible) The Kovva or the crucible is usually made of wrought iron. It is used to melt the metals to form the alloys. Vettu Kathi (Cut knife) The vettu kathi or cut knife is a large knife that is used to cut thick layers of wax, to break coconut hucks etc. Pichhathi (small knife) The pichhathi is a small knife that is used to make te wax patterns. It is used to remove excess wax. Kathriga (Pincers) There is variety of sizes and is used according to the requrements. The pincers are used to cut the brass sheet metal (pichela thakudu) Hand blower The blower is used to supply a steady air flow to the pit furnace.

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Ara Kallu (Grinding stone)

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Achu (punch) with floral designs

Kovva (Crucible)

Achu (punch) with alphabets

Hand blower

Chuttika (Hammer)

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Role Of Promotional Agencies

Future Craftsmen And Craft Revival

Kerala handicraft Development Corporation is one of the promoting agencies, which place orders for these mirrors to be gifted to dignitaries. Apart from this, Apex Society a semi government organization is also actively involved in promoting this craft. An article in Malayala Manorama in 1982 helped greatly in promoting this craft. A lot of other newspapers and journals followed the same. I.R.D.P held an exhibition in Ernakulum in 1983 exhibiting a variety of crafts in which ‘Aranmula Kannadi’ became the main attraction for the visitors. The following year the Handicraft Handloom Development Authority of India invited the craftsmen to Delhi to demonstrate the craft in Pragati Maidan. The major breakthrough came in 1985 in Surajkund mela near Delhi. This exhibition made it popular in north India and subsequently increased its sales. Later Video vision, Surabhi, turning point and other national programs promoted it across the country. An article in Pennsylvania University, U.S.A gave it a lot of international publicity. In effect many foreigners and NRI’s enquired and placed their orders. In 14 th oct 2017,there was a vedio about Aranmula Kannadi in ‘Uden Panam’ program.There was article about it in Malayala Manorama news paper. They used to be the part of Khadi exhibitions, which is held in Trivandrum. Asianet had a documentary about the metal mirrors in ‘Endea Keralam’ program. As Aranmula has been selected among thirty two villages for the two year Endogenous Tourism Project (ETP), jointly sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of India, tourism has brought the arts and crafts of Aranmula to great heights.

The master craftsmen are invovled in the making of these mirrors for years. These craftsmen are not respected properly by the local governemnt or by the cental government. None of the craftsmen have ever won a National Award For Master Craftsperson. This shows the lack of support and recogonition from government. The problem alo lies in continuation of the craft. As most of the younger generation are educated and move to bigger cities, they lack the motivation in carry on this age old craft. They prefer to work in other professions like government services, private companies,etc. For popularising the crafts amoung all sections of the society, proper propaganda measures should be initiated through media net works. The government should take initiatives in promoting the craft in schools and collages so that the future generation is aware of the rich heritage. This will bring in more young enderpreneurs. If promoted in the right direction and with all the exposure the craft could really pick up. As many companies are investing in the revival of indian crafts, the craft sector is bound to boom. Newer technologies might have all tered perceptions and lifestyles as times have changed for sure, but the appeal of the metal mirrors from picturesque Aranmula still remains the same.

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• • • • •

Mr. Rajeev - owner of Manikanda handicrafts Mr. Rengith -Manikanda handicrafts Mr. Sundareshan - Master craftsman of Manikanda handicrafts

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Achu - punch Ada kallu - anvil Arram- file Ara Kallu - grinding stone Astamangalya set - a group of eight auspicious materials which is important component of hindhu marriage or other holy rituals. Circumambulate - walk all the way round. Chunks - a thick, solid piece of something. Chanchanliyam - frankisense Chembu - copper Chuttika - hammer Cheek uly - scape chisel Discretion - the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offence or revealing confidential information. Eeyam - tin Gomuthra - cow urine Kumkuma cheppu - vermillion box Kovva - crucible Kathriga - pincers Nagam - zinc Oarsmen - a rawer, especially as a member of racing team. Pichhathi - small knife Pierced - a sharp pointed object go into or through something. Regatta - a sporting event consisting of a series of boat or yacht races. Uly - chisel Vaal kannadi - hand held mirror Vettu Kathi - cut knife

Kerala calling february 2008 - P.N. Suresh Aaranmula Kannadi - Rajesh Nair GI application no3, govt of india GI journal - 1 Nov 2004 Aranmula mirrors - The Hindu. Kollam, India -13 July 2012. arnmulaknnadiwikipedia manikandahandicrafts.docx

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Aranmula Kanndi 66

Metal Mirrors of Aranmula  

Craft Documentation

Metal Mirrors of Aranmula  

Craft Documentation