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Image on the cover: Artisan’s son showing one of the bidri product, in Bidar Source: Lifestyle Accessory Design National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar This craft documentation “Chronicles or Bidri” is written, edited, illustrated and photographed by the student researchers Ankita Raj, Ayushi Johari, Paran Phukan and Rakhi Menon. Guide: Krishna Patel Dean, NID, Gandhinagar Campus All rights reserved under international copyright convention. No part of this documentation may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopy or any other information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the institute. Published in 2018 Processed at National Institute of Design Digitally printed at Chaap Digital, Ahmedabad

CHRONICLES OF BIDRI (Bidri craft, Bidar, Karnataka)

Guided By: Krishna Patel Documented By: Ankita Raj Ayushi Johari Paran Phukan Rakhi Menon Lifestyle Accesory Design 2016 National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar



his document has been diligently compiled to bring out the true essence of Bidri. The facts and figures compiled into this document is a collective effort of a lot of different people who helped selflessly in the preservation of a craft that is fast losing its originality. Firstly, we would like to thank National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar, for providing us the opportunity to venture into a project as enriching as this. We thank Ms Krishna Amin Patel for equipping us with the confidence and guiding us throughout the course of assembly of the document. This project wouldn’t be, if it weren’t for the words of encouragement and support from Mr Amresh Panigrahi, Discipline lead, and Ms Shimul Mehta Vyas, Faculty and the entire department of Lifestyle Accessory Design. We had the backing of few of the greatest craftsmen who specialise in Bidri, including Mr Mohammed Rauf and Mr Abdul Bari, who patiently guided us through the beautiful yet meticulous process of Bidri. Lastly, but most significantly, we would like to thank our family, friends and peers for their constant motivation throughout the span of this project.



ational Institute of Design (NID) has played an integral role in research and design education related to the craft sector. The resources available and methodologies followed by the institute has always been put to use for learning and documenting different crafts of India for many years.The department of Lifestyle Accessory Design (LAD) is closely involved with a variety of projects and workshops which are craft centric. Hence, a meticulous documentation which justifies the significance of these crafts has been considered to be an indispensable part of the course structure of LAD. Craft sector is economically the second largest industry in India.Thus,documentation of Indian crafts is very crucial for the development of a well structured source of information that aids in the process of education, their conservation and even in the promotion of art, craft and culture of India. It is our endeavor to sensitize everyone about the craft and the people associated to it.This document is an effort to capture the true essence of bidri craft along with the glimpses of geographic and demographic details of Bidar. A detailed description of its origin, manufacturing process, marketing and other factors which are vital for the existence of bidri have been put forward for a better understanding. We believe that the data and information documented here will be of great interest and value to the students, researchers, teachers, connoisseur of art and history, handicraft sector and all the individuals who would want to know about bidri and work with the artisans.


1. Introduction 1.1 Bidar and Bidri 1.2 Field work methodology 1.3 Unplanned elements 1.4 Intangible and tangible 2. A walk through Bidar 2.1 Foundation of Bidar 2.2 Historical and significant places 2.3 Topographic description 2.4 Flora and fauna 2.5 Climatic description 2.6 Demographic description

1-8 5 6 8 8 9-20 13 14 17 18 19 19

3. Folks of Bidar 3.1 Religion 3.2 Language 3.3 Food 3.4 Festivals

21-26 24 25 25 25

4. Origin of the craft


5. Raw materials 5.1 List of raw materials

39-48 42

6. Tools 6.1 List of tools

49-58 52

7. Inspiration and Pattern 7.1 Motifs 7.2 Forms and shapes 7.3 Techniques

59-70 62 66 68

8. In the making 8.1 Moulding 8.2 Buffing, filing and temporary blackening 8.3 Tracing and engraving 8.4 Inlaying 8.5 Blackening

71-82 73 76 77 78 79

9. In transit 9.1 Sales 9.2 Packaging and maintenance 9.3 Customers

83-88 86 87 87

10. Product range 10.1 Traditional products 10.2 Contemporary products

89-96 92 93

11. Present scenario


12. The craftsperson 12.1 Artisan’s setups 12.2 Artisan’s survey

103-118 106 109

13. Conclusion


Point of contact






3 1.1

01 Introduction

The metal craft of India, which attained the standard of fine art as early as from Harappan period, has a glorious past. Indian artisans knew the art of metal work since 3000 BC. In India, craftsmen have used different metals like iron, copper, silver, and alloys like bronze, bell metal, white metal etc. to make a variety of items such as pots, boxes, pans, utensils, photo frames, doorknobs sculptures of deities, mythological figures and animals.


The gamut of metal-smiths in India has had a diverse spectrum of workmanship. Metal craft evolved by catering to agriculture, military, household and personal needs. New techniques and designs flourished with the advent of different dynasties and patronage throughout these years. Casting (plaster mold casting, sand casting, lost wax casting), inlay (metal in metal inlay, metal in wood inlay), sheet metal embossing, sheet metal craft (utensils, bells), filigree (silver and gold) are some of the main techniques

(Fig 1.1) Signage at Bidar railway station (Fig 1.2) Bidar district located on Karnataka map along with all the other districts in Karnataka, India




that have been in practice for a long period of time.The Dancing Girl (bronze) of Indus Valley civilization, Nataraj (bronze) statue dating back to Chola dynasty period, Iron pillar (Qutub Minar) dating back to the reign of King Ashoka, bidri hookah vessels, handmade metal bells of Kutch reflect the exceptional quality of Indian metal craft. 1.1 BIDAR AND BIDRI Bidar is a city in the north-eastern part of Karnataka state in South India. It has remained a very important province of the Deccan region since the establishment of the Bahmani kingdom in 1347 AD. After India’s independence in 1956, Bidar became part of the Karnataka state. Currently it is the headquarter of the Bidar District, which borders the states

of Maharashtra and Telangana. It is also a rapidly urbanizing city in the wider Bidar metropolitan area. The city is well known for its many sites of architectural, historical and religious importance. The famous bidri metal craft of Bidar is unique for its versatility, originality of design and fine craftsmanship. It holds a significant status in terms of its heritage in the craft history of India. Bidri craftsmen make beautiful black metal objects with contrasting silver, gold and brass inlay work. The process is a combination of technical skills, chemical reactions and artistic creativity which involves the coordination of the designer, the moulder, the engraver and the inlayer. Each item is handmade with infinite patience, skill and precision and includes many attractive pieces like hookah bases, flower vases, dishes, spice and cosmetic boxes, candle stands, carpet and paperweights, hand wash basins,

Telangana Maharashtra


(Fig 1.3) Bidar district map showing all the 5




ewers, betel boxes, pen stands, chessboard, buttons, picture frames and many more. From the era of Nizams to the current age, bidri has maintained a unique identity in the metal craft sector and it has continued to uphold its richness in the sentiments of its patrons.

1.2 FIELD WORK METHODOLOGY Desire to learn more about Bidri fuelled a series of secondary research that began from the Knowledge Management Centre, NID which opened up further doors to various artisans who are currently practicing the craft. After an exhausting research that



(Fig 1.4) Marked locations of field study in Bidar, Karnataka CHRONICLES OF BIDRI INTRODUCTION |


included consulting with the Outreach Program of NID, approaching multiple documents on the craft and going through various websites promoting crafts, referring an Usttad project, Ministry of Minority Affairs, Govt of India, done on Bidri directed towards the small yet prominent cluster practicing in the very city of Bidar



1.6 (Fig 1.5) Marked locations of field study in Hyderabad, Telangana (Fig 1.6) Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad (Fig 1.7) City central library of Bidar 7



A keen interest in the history of Hyderabad, Bidar in particular, prompted a search for stories and facts. They mentioned about the various dynasties that ruled over this land, the lifestyle of people during these times. The places were defined and the various activities that originated as part of earning their livelihood began to be practiced as crafts. The journey started from various places of historic importance in Hyderabad, namely Charminar, Chowmahalla Palace and Salarjung Museum. This helped in gathering vital pieces of information that point towards Bidar and Bidri. An intensive field study that spread over a period of nine days was conducted with an aim to understand the various tangible and intangible aspects that affect the craft and craftsmen. The field work was scheduled into each day meticulously, wherein an unmediated approach was adopted, including interviews of artisans and their families, observing and visual documenting of the process through photographs, videos, sketches and line drawings. Visits to museums in Bidar and district library of Bidar also gave us very particular information on the place and craft. Also, visit to Bidar District Commissioner office was also very informative for us. From there where we got old maps and data of the town. The methodology adopted brings clarity to a labyrinth of processes that are on the verge of getting lost in the pursuit of contemporization.

1.3 UNPLANNED ELEMENTS We saw a lot of factors that influenced the approach positively and helped in gathering vital information that would otherwise have been overlooked. An opportunity to witness the Design and Technical Development Workshop enabled interaction with the artisans up-close and gave a glimpse into their personal lives. A trip to the restricted areas of Bidar Fort, such as Rangeen Mahal provided opportunity to document motifs and forms that are centuries old and inspired the evolution of bidri over the years. 1.4 INTANGIBLE AND TANGIBLE ASPECTS More than documenting the craft itself, a rich understanding of its ethos and emotions that are kept alive within the community was made able. Over the years, the craft has evolved, so has the craftsmen, but the soul of the craft has managed to live on, despite the hurdles that modernization has posed. The intent of this project is to enable the

students to understand the value of the craft and compile the entire field visit as a research document with a very rich archival value. It aims to act as a prelude to boundless possibilities in craft based research. Subsequently, the pages ahead contain innumerable vernacular terms, written in italics with English translations, explaining their meanings.


(Fig 1.8) Chowmahalla Palace in Hyderabad


(Fig 1.9) Inside museum in Bidar fort





2.1 11

02 A Walk Through Bidar

Bidar has had a very diverse history, dating back to the Vedic period (1500– 1100 BCE), being associated to the Vidarbha kingdom, but it has gained its prominence during the rise of the Bahmani Kingdom and the Deccan Sultanates 1347 AD onwards. Bidar has grown and flourished under the reign of these great dynasties that shaped the medieval era of India. Also it is said that, Bidar appears to be derived from ‘bidiru’

which means bamboo. The place seems to have been known for bamboo clusters in the past as it was ‘Bidaroor’, then ‘Bidare’ and finally came to be known as ‘Bidar’. The history of Bidar unfolds with the rise and fall of these dynasties that ruled the Deccan territory. The foundation of Bidar in the history of India has been narrated as relevant as it can be.

(Fig 2.1) Inside Bidar Fort



(Fig 2.2) Bidar depicted in the princely state of Hyderabad, Hyderabad state of British India map by the Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909


2.1 FOUNDATION OF BIDAR Kakatiya Dynasty [1163- 1323 AD] It was a South Indian dynasty whose capital was Warangal and was eventually captured by the Delhi Sultanate (Tughlaq Dynasty) in 1323 AD by Ulugh Khan; son of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. Bidar which was a former city of Kakatiya Dynasty came under the rule of Tughlaqs. Bahmani Kingdom [1347- 1527 AD] Bahmani Sultanate was the first independent Muslim kingdom in South India. It is one of the major medieval kingdoms of India. The empire was established by Turkic general Ala-ud-Din Bahman Shah after revolting against the Delhi Sultanate of Muhammad

bin Tughlaq. His revolt was successful, and he established an independent state in the Deccan, within the Delhi Sultanate’s southern provinces. The Bahmani capital was Hasanabad (Gulbarga) between 1347 AD and 1425 AD when it was moved to Mohammadabad (Bidar). The Bahmani contested the control of the Deccan with the Vijayanagara Empire to the south. The sultanate reached the peak of its power during the vizierate (1466 –1481 AD) of Mahmud Gawan.The south Indian Emperor Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire defeated the last remnant of Bahmani Sultanate power after which the Bahmani Sultanate collapsed. After 1518 AD the sultanate broke up into five states which formed the Deccan Sultanates: Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar, Qutub Shahi of Golconda (Hyderabad), Baridshahi of Bidar, Imadshahi of Berar, Adilshahi of Bijapur. Barid Shahi Dynasty [1492-1619 AD] In 1492 AD, Kasim Barid (1492-1504 AD) became the de facto ruler of the Bahmani Sultanate. Amir Barid Shah II (1609-1619 AD), the last ruler of Bidar was defeated and the sultanate was annexed to Bijapur in 1619.

2.3 (Fig 2.3) Old Indian map showing Deccan region and Bidar (Fig 2.4) Bidar fort



Adil Shahi Dynasty [1490-1686 AD] The Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur was established in 1490 AD by Yusuf Adil Shah (1490-1510 AD), the Governor of Bijapur. In this dynasty, Ibrahim Adil Shah (15801626 AD) was the most famous ruler. He was a poet, calligrapher and musician. He also wrote the book Kitab-e-Navras (Book of Nine Rasas) in Dakhani. He defeated and killed Ibrahim Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar in 1595 AD. Bidar was defeated and annexed to Bijapur by him. In 1619 AD, Ibrahim’s son Muhammad Adil Shah (1626-1656) succeeded him in 1626. During his reign the

Marathas revolted against Bijapur. Mughal campaigns continued in the Deccan under Shah Jahan. Muhammad was followed by Ali Adil Shah II (1656-1672 AD) and later Sikander Adil Shah (1672-1686 AD), who was the last ruler of the dynasty. Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur ended in 1686 when the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb annexed it to his empire after defeating Sikandar Shah. After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707 AD, Mughal control collapsed, and Mir Qamar-ud-Din Siddiqi also known as Asaf Jah declared himself independent in Hyderabad in 1724. Mir Qamar-ud-Din Siddiqi was a viceroy of the Deccan under the Mughal Empire from 1713 AD to 1721 AD. Following the decline of the Mughal power, the region of Deccan saw the rise of Maratha Empire. Consequently, Bidar province came under the rule of Nizams and it also was a part of the Maratha kingdom when Asaf Jah I dynasty was reduced to a tributary of the Marathas for all intent and purposes. In 1805 AD, after the British victory in the Second Anglo-Maratha War, Nizam of Hyderabad came under the protection of the British East India Company and Bidar remained a province of the princely state Hyderabad till 1956. Presently, Bidar is a city of Karnataka after the dissolution of the princely states of India.

over 30 monuments inside Bidar fort. Bidar fort was built by Ahmad Shah wali Bahman; the exact layout of the old fort, with its double lines of defensive fortifications, is no longer discernible. Gumbaz Darwaza: The citadel fort complex is protected with three moats which is very rare. The palace fort complex could be entered from the city through two main gates on the south eastern side by a zig-zag passage and well protected gateways. The Sharza Darwaza and Gumbaz Darwaza are the main entrance gates to palace. Sharza Darwaza: They are massively built and beautifully decorated with huge domes,


2.2 HISTORICAL AND OTHER SIGNIFICANT PLACES Bidar Fort: It is situated in Bidar city of the northern plateau of Karnataka, India. The fort, the city and the district are all affixed with the name Bidar. Sultan AllaUd Din Bahman of the Bahmani Dynasty shifted his capital from Gulbarga to Bidar in 1427 AD and built his fort along with a number of Islamic monuments. There are

(Fig 2.5) Gumbaz Darwaza (Fig 2.6) Sharza Darwaza, Bidar




arches and paintings.The Gumbaz Darwaza, is an enormous, awe inspiring structure.The thickness of its wall is 22 feet, the height is 45 feet besides the dome. A wide passage links it to Sharza Darwaza. Between these two gateways, about three thousand armymen could take up position for the defense of fort.



(Fig 2.7) Takht Mahal- Throne Palace, Bidar


Tarkash Mahal: This is said to have been built for a Turkish wife of the Sultan. From the remains of the decorative work found in the ornamentation of the walls, it is believed that the Mahal was built or extended by the Barid Shahi Sultans who kept large harems with ladies from different nationalities. The rooms were decorated with stucco work. Rangeen Mahal: Though small in size, this palace which is situated near the Gumbad Darwaza is unique because of its decoration with colored tiles and other art work.Wood carving done here is not only precious but also unique.The walls of Mahal are adorned with Mother-of-Pearl of the finest quality inlaid in jet black stone. Chaubara: Chaubara means a building facing in four directions. This is an old cylindrical tower of 2m of height, situated in the center of Bidar town. It was used as a watchtower, commanding a fine view of the entire plateau from the top. A winding staircase of eighty steps leads to the top of the tower.

(Fig 2.8) Tarkash Mahal, Bidar (Fig 2.9) Rangeen Mahal, Bidar (Fig 2.10) Chaubara, the clock tower, Bidar

Takht Mahal (Throne Palace): The royal Palace was built by Ahmed Shah. It was the royal residence. The Palace was fully decorated with colored tiles and stone carving part of which can be seen even today. It had two side royal pavilions with lofty arches, and a spacious hall, at the back of which was the Sultan’s room.



Madrasa of Mahmud Gawan: The

Madrasa at Bidar founded by Gawan functioned like a residential university. It was built and maintained on the lines of the Madrasa of Khurasan, a former province in north eastern Iran. The imposing and spacious building of this institution is considered as an architectural gem, and an important landmark of Bidar. The structure is rectangular in shape and is built in an area of 4624 sq.mtrs. The building is attractively decorated with blue colored tiles, the fragments of which can be seen even today. Of the two towers only one is intact. The height of the tower is 131 ft. On the front facade Quranic Verses are written. The library that existed on the other wing is now destroyed. The Madrasa was a three storey building housing a Mosque, a library, lecture halls, professors quarters and students cubicles facing open courtyard. Air Force Station: Bidar is one of the Premier Flying Training establishments of the Indian Air Force. It was established during World War II and has been a training centre for budding pilots of the IAF since 1963. The air base had trainer aircrafts like the HT2 and various variants of Kiran aircraft for nearly four decades. It is home to the second biggest training centre in the country. Graduates from the Air Force Academy come here to learn the skills and techniques to become a next generation fighter pilot before being assigned to one of the combat units of the world’s fourthlargest air force.Around 60-90 sorties per day are flown from the base, thereby generating the highest amount of single-engine flying hours in the country from this air base. Bahmani tombs: The tombs are located at Ashtoor, 4 kms east of Bidar. In all there are 12 tombs at a place in row which together give a very impressive look. They are huge structures with beautiful arches, niches and lofty domes. The tombs of Ahmad Shah-

al- Wali is known for its walls on which the verses are written in gold color with a dark background. The tombs consisted of tile panels and carvings on the black stone margins. The interior of the tombs are decorated with fine paintings in the Persian style by the painter Shukr Allah al-Qazwan. The arches in the tombs are elegantly decorated with stucco work. Nanak Jhira Sahib: The Nanak Jhira Sahib with water spring which nestles amidst serene and enchanting surroundings, is main attraction of Bidar town. It has become widely famous as Guru Nanak Jhira Sahib (named after the Sikh guru Nanak Dev)


(Fig 2.11) Bahmani Tomb, Ashtur (Fig 2.12) Nanak Jhira Sahib Gurudwara, Bidar



with its recently constructed sprawling and splendid Gurudwara complex. It attracts numerous pilgrims and visitors from all the parts. There is a sarovar /a tank or pool and Amrut-Kund in the compound. 2.3 TOPOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION Bidar soils are deep (>100 cm), well-drained, gravelly, red, clayey soils developed on plateaus of laterites. They are slightly acidic to neutral (pH 6.6) in reaction with low Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC).They are highly gravelly soils with gravel content (60 to 10%) that decrease with depth. The district is entirely covered by the Deccan trap flows of the tertiary period. The Deccan trap is composed of horizontal flows of basaltic lava. They generally form flat-topped hillocks and terrace-like features. The top layers of the Deccan trap in parts of Bidar and Humnabad taluk/ administrative district are altered to reddish vesicular laterite, forming an extensive undulating plateau. The minerals found in the area are Bauxite, Kaolin and Red ochre. A deposit of highly siliceous bauxite clay has been located about three kilometers south of Basavakalyan. Similar deposits are noticed near Alwal and Kamthana Villages of Bidar taluk. A large deposit of Kaolin is located near Kamthana village. Red ochre deposits are found near Sirsi and Aurad Village.

The entire district forms a part of the Deccan Plateau and is made up mostly of solidified lava. The northern part of the district is characterized by expanse of level and treeless surface punctuated here and there by flat and undulating hillocks, black soils and basaltic rocks. The southern half of the district is a high plateau about 715 m above mean sea level and is well drained.The average elevation of the district is between 580 to 610 m above mean sea level. Alluvial deposit is normally found along the banks of the Manjra river and its main tributaries. Almost 700 kilometers from Bangalore, Bidar lies at the farthest north-eastern corner of Karnataka. Bifurcated and truncated during the reorganisation of states in 1956, it is only a fraction of its vast expanse in the erstwhile state of Hyderabad. Present day Bidar covering an expanse of 5448 square kilometers of land lies between 17035’ and 18025’ North latitudes and 76042’ minutes and 77039’ east longitudes, with the districts of Nizamabad and Medak in Andhra Pradesh on the East and the districts of Nanded and Osmanabad in Maharashtra on the west. On the south lies the district of Gulbarga of Karnataka. This central position in the Deccan had for long imparted to Bidar, the pre-eminent position in the history of the Deccan, though today it presents a picture of centuries of neglect and ruin. Two types of soils found in the district are lateritic red soil and black cotton soil. Aurad and Bhalki taluk have mainly black cotton soil. Bidar and Humnabad taluks have mainly lateritic red soil. Basavakalyan taluk has both types of soils.

(Fig 2.13) Domestic scene from Bidri colony



The important rivers in the district are: • Manjra • Karanja (River)

• Chulki Nala • Mullamari • Gandrinala

The district has two river basins, the Godavari and the Krishna. Major parts of the district are covered by Godavari basin, drained by its two major tributaries the Manjra and the Karanja rivers. The Karez System is built along a geological fracture. It is a gently sloping underground channel to transport water from an aquifer or water well to surface for irrigation and drinking. This is an old system of water supply from a deep well with a series of vertical access shafts. This system still creates a reliable supply of water for human settlements and irrigation in the hot, arid, and semi-arid climates. Such fractures are formed at the intersection of laterite and basalt rocks and form lineaments or springs that yield water. 2.4 FLORA AND FAUNA Forest areas of Bidar division are classified as Reserve forests, Protected forests and Unclassified forests.

Pterocarpus. Indications are available to show the land of Bidar was very fertile centuries ago and there were good forests and big games. Ravages of wars and continuous trampling by men and animals, as also dumping of huge quantities of ammunition and other poisonous material on the ground depleted the flora and also the fauna. In the past forests were also gradually destroyed by the people in their persistent efforts to clear the land for cultivation of food grains and grazing of their cattle. Even today the tendency to encroach upon remains. Wherever cultivation is possible it is not uncommon that the remaining forests are still being hacked and destroyed. The southern and eastern parts of Bidar district support the growth of Red Sanders or Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus santalinus), which is highly valued and sought after owing to its dark red to almost black color and is largely used for carving

The Bidar Forest division has 43,592 ha. of Forest area including Reserve Forests, Protected forests and Unclassified forests. This area is about 8.5% of total geographical extent of the district. The majority of existing forests of Bidar are all man made forests. The forests are mainly dry deciduous and have scrub type vegetation. Over the years, almost all the forest areas have been worked on one or more times resulting in large expanses of man made forests consisting mostly of Eucalyptus, Acacia auriculiformis, Glyricidia, and miscellaneous species such as Hardwickia, Albizzia, Azadirachta, and

(Fig 2.14) Rustic scene in bidri colony (Fig 2.15) Old house near Chaubara, Bidar



and ornamental work. The wood is in much demand for carved house posts. It is even used in making musical instruments in Japan. The sap was formerly used as dye and water kept in wooden containers made of Red Sanders is believed to cure diabetes. Red Sanders timber is a very good foreign exchange earner. Teak is found mixed with dry deciduous species. Ground cover is scanty and seedling’s regeneration is practically absent. Thorny plants occur and tend to increase in proportion with heavy grazing, to which most of the area is subjected. There are no wildlife sanctuaries and national parks in the Bidar Forest Division. However, leopards may be seen occasionally far from human habitations. Langurs, wolves, spotted deer, wild boar, hares, porcupines, foxes,wild cats and jackals are also seen. In addition to commonly found birds, varied species like green bee eaters, robins, sunbirds, red vented bulbuls, egrets, herons, ducks, cormorants, kingfishers, kites, eagles, peafowls and partridges can be seen. Rare birds and endangered species such as Indian coursers and vultures are often sighted. 2.5 CLIMATIC DESCRIPTION Bidar is a charming district, one of its charms being a very bracing climate practically throughout the district and for the greater part of the year. April and May are the hot months, but even during this hot weather period, the heat is often broken by sharp and sudden thunder showers. By early June the south-west monsoon sets in with all its pleasant coolness and the weather is back to its bracing glory.The cold weather is never too cold and the rainfall is never excessive though its excessive variation is often the cause, symptom and malaise of severe droughts.The climate of this district is


characterized by general dryness throughout the year, except during the southwest monsoon. The summer season is from the middle of February to the first week of June. This is followed by southwest monsoon season, which continues till the end of September. The months of October and November constitute the post-monsoon or retreating monsoon season. The winter season is from December to middle of February and the temperature begins to decrease from the end of November. December is the coldest month with mean daily maximum temperature of 27.30 C and mean daily minimum of 16.40 C. From the middle of the February, both day and night temperatures begin to rise rapidly. May is the hottest month with the mean daily maximum temperature of 38.80 C and mean daily minimum of 25.90 C. 2.6 DEMOGRAPHIC DESCRIPTION Male Population- 870665 Female Population- 832635 District Population- 1703300 Geographical Area(Sq.Km) Sub Divisions Taluks Hobli’s Gram Panchayats/local self government Villages Lok Sabha members MLA’s Members MLC Zilla Panchayat Members Taluk Panchayat members Gram Panchayat members

5448.0 2 5 30 186 621 01 6 04 34 131 3314

2.15 20



23 3.1

03 Folks of Bidar

A typical Bidar morning is marked by the aroma of freshly prepared morning meals which consist of South Indian cuisines and delectable local snacks. As observed, most of the people make their way to the government offices or business set ups in different chowks.The city creates a moment of rush with buses, autos and bicycles passing along, as the adhzan reverbs in the city. The fruit and vegetable shops display their abundant harvest on the way through the new kamaan.The streets and the chowks remain busy with the trade cry of the shopkeepers, hawkers and the tinkering of the craftsmen in their workshops. With the people retiring to their houses as the sun sets, the hustle bustle of the city life begins to recede by late evening. People here lead a comparatively simpler life, but flamboyant in their own ways. One cannot miss the harmony of different communities co-existing in this tiny town, without attenuating each other.



Vegetable vendor with his cart in the road, Bidar (Fig 3.1) (Fig 3.2) Typical evening scene in bidri colony

3.1 RELIGION Hinduism is the major religion in Bidar city with 54.63% followers. Islam is the second most popular religion in the city of Bidar with approximately 34.53% people following it. In Bidar city, Christianity is followed by 6.68%, Jainism by 0.13%, Sikhism by 0.32% and Buddhism by 0.32%.

(Fig 3.3) Ladies walking in burqa/ enveloping garment in the lane, Bidar


(Fig 3.4) People sitting in front of a mosque in Bidar


3.2 LANGUAGE Since Bidar City is the headquarter of the Bidar district of Karnataka, Kannada makes the official language of Bidar. However, due to its proximity to Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, people in Bidar also speak Marathi and Telugu and as Bidar was once ruled by the Mughals a lot of Bidar locals are fluently conversant in Urdu.


(Fig 3.5) An evening scene of Bidar Colony (Fig 3.6) Kids playing with dog in bidri colony


(Fig 3.7) Kolam/ drawing with rice flour drawn in front of a house, Bidar (Fig 3.8) Naya/ new Kaman/ archway in Bidar



3.3 FOOD Main dishes of the region are rotis/flat round bread made of jowar/grain and wheat. The rotis are served with different curries, which are mostly spicy. Rice too, like in other regions, is consumed greatly with different side dishes like Saaru, Majjige and Huli. However, the local popular food of bidar is beef tahari/rice dish. Qubani ka meetha/ apricot sweet dish and Shahi tukda/dessert are the two main sweet dishes of Bidar. 3.4 FESTIVALS Veerabhadreshwara Jatra is an annual seven-day long festival, which is celebrated between January and February. A large number of pilgrims and tourists participate in this festival where they pull carts or take walks to the auspicious Veerbhadra temple of Lord Shiva in Humnabad.The citizens of Bidar also celebrate Bidar Utsav, at the Bidar Fort. This festival hosts many modern and traditional modes of celebration including physical and cultural activities such as film festival, kite festival and wrestling. Kara Hunnime, a festival in Bidar where farmers worship their cattle and begin sowing operations, is celebrated across the district on Monday. Farmers wash their cattle, oiled their horns and toes, and decorated them using balloons, ribbons, flowers and pieces of khopra/dried coconut. Farmers take their cattle in a procession before reaching their farms.

3.8 26



3.9 29

04 Origin of the craft

In 5000 years of the Indian Civilization, handicrafts have always played a dominant and colorful role, presenting a kaleidoscope vista where varieties reign supreme. The art of metal in India is as old as its history in which the laying of one metal upon another holds a distinguished position. Light paintings textiles and inlaid metal art present a fascinating variety, reminding of the history and custom of different regions of this vast country. It tells the story of conquest and bloodshed, devotion and refinement blended with sublime emotion wrought in the language of hammer and chisel.

calligraphy, wall paintings, stucco, mirror work, tile work and metal art became closely tied together in this new era. Islamic architecture and building decoration are among the most beautiful means of expression. It was very often found that wherever the Mohammedan conquistadors went they developed a fancy for traditional art and crafts of the locality. The tradition of Bidri craft had developed with the Bahmani dynasty of the Deccan, the story acquiring more detail with each

During the 500 years after Prophet Muhammad’s death in AD 632, Islam spread far beyond its place of origin in the Arabian Peninsula. As Islam spread, a distinctive style of Islamic art gradually developed. It was used mainly for religious architecture, book illustrations and the decoration of pottery metal-ware and other useful objects. Islamic art was influenced by the artistic styles such as the late Roman, Byzantine and Persian art. The Muslim conquests of major portions of northern India and the Deccan, led a direct impact of Islamic art and the autochthonous was affected, resulting in a marvelous amalgamation. A new chapter which was opened in Islamic period led to the creation of remarkable religious buildings. Iranian arts such as

(Fig 4.1) Hookah base inlaid with silver, Bidar; c, 1850


(Fig 4.2) Painting of Nawab Abdul Gaffar Khan, Deccan; 17th century, Spink and Son London


retelling. Bidri art derived its name from the place where it was made- Bidar in North Karnataka, a city which was a part of Bahmani kingdom under Sultan Ahmed Shah Al Wali Bahmani (1422-36 AD) became its capital. Also, it has been said that it was introduced to the Bahmani kingdom from Iran; in one version via Iraq, Ajmer and Bijapur, Ala’uddin Bahmani II (1436 – 57 AD) took craftsmen from Bijapur, where they were producing work of this sort, and established them at Bidar. Ahmed Shah Al Wali Bahmani (1422-36 AD) who was the 9th king of Bahmani dynasty brought a number of artists and architects to the Deccan. Abdulla-bin-Kaiser was one of the earliest ones among them, who came to be known as the father of bidriware. He worked with his students and local artists to develop this art of inlaying silver and gold on the alloy of zinc and copper. These works were heavily influenced by

(Fig 4.3) Painting of a nobleman smoking a hookha beneath pergola, Deccan; late 17th century



typical Islamic features of the time. Swirling silver floral motifs framed by geometric patterns and set against black background has since become the hallmark of the Muslim metal work in India. It is also said that metal art items similar to Bidri were brought to India first by a nobleman, Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishti (1192 AD), the first Sufi who came from Sijisthan (Iran) to teach Islam and landed in Ajmer in Rajasthan. “Another source says that a group of the damascene craftsmen moved from Syria or Damascus to India. In Northern Sultanate metal art had already entered but not like black Bidri. Some metal artist at Ajmer hit up on the idea that damascening could be done on the base of high zinc and low copper alloy”, as mentioned in the book Bidri Ware by Susan Stronge. Zawar in Rajasthan was a major zinc

production centre in the medieval world, where artists moved down south during 14 century AD and settled at Bidar. Later this art spread to Purnia, Murshidabad, Moradabad, Delhi, Jaipur, Faizabad, Banaras, Calcutta, Zawar, Surat, Bombay, Ahmednagar, Golconda, Bijapur, Hyderabad and Lucknow under Mughals and the nawabs in North Eastern parts of India during 1707 AD. Given the continuity of oral traditions in India over very long periods of time, the first documented reference to the craft is at Bidar.The date is also possible in view of the recent discoveries about zinc production in India, which proves the metal was available in the East much earlier than it was in the West. However, there is so far no evidence whatsoever for the production of metal objects by the technique we now know as bidri before the 17th century. The name does not, for instance, appear in the Persian language dictionaries such as the Borhane-Qate and the Farhang-e-Jahangari of the Mughal period. This does not necessarily mean the technique was not known before the 17th century, it may simply mean it was


known by another name.The Ain-e-Akbari, completed in 1596, lists metals known in Hindustan as well as giving the names of various alloys. There is as yet no history of metalwork from the subcontinent, when this has been written and analysis of different objects have been made. It may be possible to recognize which exactly these referred to. “The reference to jast/zinc is intriguing as this word in later periods specifically meant jast, which according to some is ruh-i-tutiya and resembles lead, is nowhere mentioned in the philosophical books, but there is a mine of it in Hindustan, in the territory of Jalor, which is a dependency of the Subah of Ajmir.’ Jalor has been unequivocally identified with Zawar by Irfan Habib in his Atlas of the Mughal Empire and it seems unlikely that any other site on which there has been significant zinc production could have been overlooked”, as stated in the book Bidri Ware by Susan Stronge. Bidri craftsmen made beautiful black objects with contrasting silver, gold and brass inlay work. Each item is handmade with infinite patience, skill and precision and includes even insignificant pieces like hookah base, flower vase, dishes, spice and cosmetic boxes, candle stand, carpet and paperweights, hand wash basins, ewer, betel box, pen stand, chessboard, buttons, picture frames and many more. The designs and patterns of these pieces took their inspiration from Persian patterns of the day. Allauddin Bahmani 2 (1436-57) who was a cultured prince took personal interest in Bidri art and it flourished greatly. His tomb’s outer surface has a special appearance of designs fully filled with tile work. Mahmud Gawan the chief minister of Bidar who came from Gilan was a great patron of bidri art. He was the founder of Madarsa who was familiar with the artisans and craftsmen of Persia. He acquired much influence during

(Fig 4.4) Huqqa base inlaid with silver, 18th century


the reign of Alauddin, being honoured by the rank of 1000 retainers (Hazari) and he may have arranged to bring out some clever designs and manufacturers from the country to embellish the buildings at Bidar. The highly skilled artists and craftsmen of the Sultanate produced exquisite paintings, manuscripts, metal-ware, textiles and arms. The long coastline of the peninsula fostered trade contacts with regions as far as Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe and goods from the Deccan were in high demand in many parts of the world. So far, the earliest unambiguous reference to bidriware is in the Chahar Gulshan, a history written in Persian language in 1759 AD. This includes a statistical account taken, on internal evidence, from earlier compilation of about 1720 AD. Book II of the Chahar Gulshan is ‘an account of five Subha (administrative divisions) of Deccan’, one of the five being Bidar, referred to by its Brahmani and Mughal names. As

(Fig 4.5) Map of subah of Bidar, from an atlas prepared for Col. Gentil at Faizabad, 1770



stated in the book Bidri Ware by Susan Stronge a manuscript in the British library has the following passage: ‘The subah of Mohammadabad, called Zafarabad (Bidar). In this subah the fine and rare Bidri vessels are made. The artisans of this place make them with such delicacy that even the painter could not imagine them.’ Bidar we know as Bidri centre from Chahar Gulshan- it is also known from an illustration to an Atlas produced in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh in 1770 AD ruled under the Nawab of Awadh (Oudh) ShujaUd-Daula (Jalal-Ud-din Hider) between 1754-75AD. His son, Nawab Asaf-Uddaula was a generous and sympathetic ruler, and inveterate builder of monuments and a discriminate patron of the arts. During this period, Bidar was under the control of Mohammad Ghauth Saifi-ud-Daula, but he died shortly after his appointment, and his brother Saif Jang Najm-Ud-daula Bahadur became the governor in his place.

One of the first of the famous British portrait painters to arrive in India was Tilley Kettle. His ability to produce excellent portraits led Shauja-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Awadh, to commission portraits on a grand scale of himself and his sons. Bidar atlas was commissioned by a French officer, Colonel Jean Baptiste Gentil, who served as military advisor to the Nawab from 176375. During this period he employed local artists to produce a series of illustrated works concerned with the political and social history of India.

The bespectacled artisan at the bottom left of the page is engraving a floral pattern on the side of a globular hookah, his wife and pet parrot looking on. The illustration is reinforced by having a caption: ‘Fabrique

The first was an Atlas, now in the India Office library, London, which includes a map of subah of Bidar. Drawings are included on either side of the map: these show, for the most part, representatives of the different Sufi orders, in centre of the map several animals like tiger, lion and deer etc., is drawn showing the forest nearby, but also include a Bidri craftsman and the wares produced in Bidar.



(Fig 4.6) Part detail from the map of Bidar showing a craftsman inlaying bidri (Fig 4.7) Different forms of vases and basins as shown in the ‘souba de beder’ map


(Fig 4.8) The great exhibition in Crystal palace, 1851 CHRONICLES OF BIDRI ORIGIN OF THE CRAFT | 34

de Beder ou on incruste en or et argent’. In the bottom right corner of the page is the drawing of the types of wares produced: ‘vases incrustes’, or ‘inlaid vessels’. These include a globular Hookah on a stand, a bell shaped Hookah, spittoons, boxes, a ewer and wash basin etc.

the impetus provided by the international exhibitions from the Great Exhibition of 1851 onwards, other bidri centres developed, though most were probably very short lived. Exhibition catalogues note the receipt of bidri made in Aurangabad, Patna, Kashmir, Jaipur, Bombay and Surat.

With the annexation of the fort of Ahmednagar in 1600. Akbar gained a toehold in the Deccan but it was not until Shah Jahan’s reign ( 1628-58) that significant victories were won. In 1636 Bijapur and Golconda were forced to accept Mughal suzerainty and Ahmadnagar was partitioned between Bijapur and the Mughals. North Indian officials now began to set up permanent establishments and with the permanence came patronage of the arts. During the 19th century the craft of bidri began to spread in different parts of India. The traditional centres of Bidar, Purnea, Lucknow and Murshidabad remained active to the end of the century, and with 4.9

(Fig 4.9) Piece of bidri which was displayed in the great exhibition in Crystal Palace Cup with lid, bidriware, about 1850 V&A Museum no. 151&A-1852 Techniques - Bidri Artist/designer Unknown Place - Bidar, India Dimensions - Height 13 cm Width 10 cm (Fig 4.10) Suetonius Heatley and his sister, Temperance Arthur William Devis, 1785 or 1786



Articles sent to the 1851 exhibition, however, judging from the high quality of the inlaying, do not indicate a declining industry. The origins of the Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London lay in the annual exhibitions of ‘select specimens of British Manufacturers and Decorative Art’ organized by the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce which began in 1847. These enjoyed such popularity that a much more ambitious project was formulated. The exhibition would cover the manufactured goods, the raw materials from which they were made and the machinery used to shape them, as well as the fine and decorative arts. For the first time India was to be included and necessitated the involvement of the East India Company. The Company nominated as organizer Dr. John Forbes Royle, the pioneer of the study

of a great use to the European Manufacturer, but also of essential benefit to our Eastern Possessions, which produce many articles little known in this country, yet possessed of valuable properties and procurable in large quantities, at a probably cheap rate, if a demand could be created for them.’ The reaction to the Indian artifacts shown at Crystal Palace was overwhelming and was to have far-reaching consequences. The mass of British manufacturers on show were striking for their decadence of shape and for the pointlessness of much of their decoration. They were the products of machine age - multiple repetitions of form and pattern where good design was scant consideration. This much had been obvious to people of discerning taste for some time, but in this context the objects sent from the Indian craftsman, producing his wares with the most elementary of tools in his own home, hand finishing each stage of the process, was in complete harmony with the ideas which were to come to fruition with the Arts and Crafts movement. Owen Jones in his Grammar of Ornament, written after the 1851 exhibition in London and the major Parts Exposition Universelle of 1855, commented: ‘Amid the general disorder everywhere apparent in the application of Art to manufacturers and the public.’ He singled out bidri exhibition in 1851 for special praise ad included a page of details of


of economic botany in India. Forbes Royle was ideally suited to organize the collection of raw products; as times was to tell, he was also an inspired choice when it came to the selection of ‘manufactures’. He was particularly concerned that India should benefit from the exhibition. He wanted her products to be seen in order to be ‘not only

(Fig 4.11) Dr John Forbes Royle


(Fig 4.12) Advertisement for bidri from Purnea and Bihar


decoration on hookah which, he thought, were ‘all remarkable for great elegance of outline, and for such judicious treatment of the surface decoration that every ornament tended to further develop the general form.

late Padma Bhushan Dr. Ghulam Yazdani, who founded the Archaeology department of Hyderabad (Deccan) state in 1914. He served as Director of Archaeology, for over 30

Thirty years later, bidri was still maintaining its aesthetic reputation by being among the ‘Art wares’ sold by Liberty and Co. in their Oriental Galleries on Regent Street. Items from Purnea and Bidar were illustrated in the catalogue of ‘Eastern Art Manufactures’ of 1881. One of the most respected names and archaeological circles of India is that of the

(Fig 4.13) Dr. Gulam Yazdani (Fig 4.14) Vocational training in progress in the early 1900s in Mahmud Gawan Madrasa in Bidar. Source: Liyakath Ali Khan, Bidar




years from 1904 to 1943. His work for the preservation and excavation of sites, earned him reputation not only in India but also in Europe and United States. Being busy in the project of excavation and renovation of monuments in Bidar, Ellora and Ajanta, he encouraged the Bidri artisans by having Training School in Bidar itself. His first visit to Bidar was in 1915, soon after which he wrote a book ‘Antiquities of Bidar’ and later ‘Bidar: Its History and Monuments.’

machine tools for shaping, buffing moulding and lathe work at nominal rates. Units are still based on families, the head of the family obtaining his raw materials from local dealers on a credit basis, paying when the wares have been sold, generally to a middle man. In 1975, there were 25 units employing 110 people, producing up to 175 types of articles marketed through the Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation of the major Indian cities.

Material evidence first appears in 16th century in limited quantity. The Victoria and Albert Museum, London and Jagdish and Kamla Mittal Museum of Indian art, Hyderabad have a few examples from the period which are of very fine quality and illustrate the high level of technical skill of the artists in producing complex inlaid patterns with great fluency.

In 1956, the states were recognized in such a way that Bidar was separated from Hyderabad, the city which produced most of the demand for Bidriware. As a result, many of the Bidar craftsmen moved to Hyderabad where there is now a considerable industry. The state government here too has extended a hand in aiding the craftsmen, whose wares are now marketed mainly through the All India Handicrafts Board. The Census gives a full account of the modern industry and notes that despite the high cost of transportation to Hyderabad, the clay of Bidar fort was still preferred by the craftsmen to make the paste which blackened their wares. On behalf of Karnataka Tableau Shah Rashid Ahmed Quadri represented a live demonstration of Bidri art in the year 2011 on the occasion of the Republic day at Rajpath in New Delhi. Producing more than 200 types of articles marketed through the Karnataka Handicrafts Development Corporation and many private organizations to the major Indian cities.

Since Mughal were patrons of arts for centuries, with the fall of Mughal Empire in the middle of 19th century, all the traditional arts in India witnessed lean days. The Bidri art also suffered. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Nizam of Hyderabad tried to revive the art and provided royal patronage to the artists and that is how instead of Bidar, Hyderabad is better known today for excellent Bidri work examples that are displayed in its own museums. In recent years, the industry has been confined to Bidar, now in Karnataka, and to Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. Until the last few decades, goods were produced at Bidar in a completely traditional way, the craftsmen working at home using a narrow range of simple tools, training their children to continue the family business. In 1950, special units were set up and the Government began to involve itself in training the bidri workers. The Government Artisan Training Institute provided two years training to hereditary bidri workers, giving them a monthly allowance.There is now also a Common Facility Centre providing

At present, however, the craft lingers only in Bidar and Hyderabad.The quality in Bidar at present is degrading in contrast to its former glory. It could have totally been extinguished from that region also, had it not been for, thanks to the custom of the Mohammedan gentry there, to make a presentation of a complete set of Bidriware in marriage ceremonies. It has been a sad tale of many traditional crafts of India which have traversed the path of oblivion after the fall of the royal houses and great landed aristocracies of the country.




5.1 41

05 Raw materials

Bidri is a very unique metal craft which demands the scrupulous use of materials sourced from different places and uttermost dedication to justify its flawless craftsmanship. The rudimentary elements combine art and science to create exquisite pieces that no other part of the world has pioneered. Despite advancements in science, fragments of secrets remain unknown such as the composition of the soil and what part of it blackens the metal. Listed below are the main raw materials, and others, that goes into the making of the craft products: 1) Zinc 2) Copper 3) Gold 4) Silver 5) Brass 6) Carrom Board Powder 7) Red Clay 8) Castor Oil 9) Copper Sulphate 10) Ammonium Chloride 11) Resin 12) Iron 13) Wood 14) M-seal 15) Plaster of Paris 16) Acrylic Sheet 17) Beeswax 18) Charcoal 19) Ash 20) Kerosene 21) Coconut Oil 22) Bidar Fort Soil

5.1 LIST OF RAW MATERIALS ZINC: The metal Zinc is bluish, white shiny and occurs in the solid phase at room temperature. It can conduct heat and electricity.When it is heated it becomes ductile and malleable and it can be rolled into sheets. Its melting point is 419.580C. Zinc is a fairly reactive metal that will readily combine with oxygen and other non-metals. Zinc tarnishes in moist air and burns in air to form the white zinc oxide. It burns with a bluish green flame and used for making the alloy of zinc and copper. Sourced from Hyderabad Form/State of matter: Ingot Price: Rs 300/kg, minimum 30kg packet COPPER: Copper is reddish brown in color and has a bright metallic luster. It is malleable, ductile, and a very good conductor of electricity and heat. Its melting point is 10830C. Copper

(Fig 5.1) Left out excess alloy pieces from the moulding process (Fig 5.2) Zinc ingot which is used in making alloy 5.2 CHRONICLES OF BIDRI RAW MATERIALS | 42

has a low chemical reactivity. In moist air it slowly forms a greenish surface film called patina, this coating protects the metal from further corrosion. It is also used for making the alloy. Sourced from Hyderabad Form/State of matter: Wire or sheet Price: Rs 450/kg



(Fig 5.3) Copper in the form of sheet and wire (Fig 5.4) Gold sheet used in inlaying (Fig 5.5) Silver sheet and sheet scraps which is used in inlaying



GOLD: It is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable, and ductile metal. Gold is resistant to most acids. The value of gold is rooted in its relative rarity, easy handling and minting, easy smelting and fabrication, resistance to corrosion and other chemical reactions (nobility) and its distinctive color. As a precious metal, gold has been used for coinage, jewelry, and other arts throughout recorded history. The melting point of gold is 1064.180C. It is used for inlay because of its lustre and for its preciousness. Also, gold does not turn black during the final blackening process. Sourced from local jewelers of Bidar Form/State of matter: Sheet or wire Price: Rs SILVER: A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, silver exhibits high electrical and thermal conductivity. It is one of the precious metals, along with gold. It is also an inactive metal and its unable to react with oxygen at normal temperatures. Its very malleable and ductile in nature. It is often used in making of electrical equipments, ornaments jewelry, mirrors, making alloys, in batteries and photography. Its melting point is 961.780C. It is used for inlay due to its lustre and for its preciousness. Also, silver like gold does not turn black during the final blackening process. But the aesthetic appeal of silver on the black metal is much more that with

gold. Sourced from Usmaan gunj, (local jewelry market of Bidar) Form/State of matter: Khaddi/small ingot, but used as wire or sheet Price: Rs 45000/kg BRASS: Brass is a binary alloy composed of copper and zinc. It is yellow or golden in color and is valued for its workability, hardness, corrosion resistance and attractive appearance. Brasses are considered malleable and ductile. The metal has both good heat and electrical conductivity. It has bacteriostatic properties. Its melting point is 940oC. Brass is considered a low friction and non-magnetic alloy, while its acoustic properties have resulted in its use in many ‘brass band’ musical instruments. Artists and architects value the metal’s aesthetic properties, as it can be produced in a range of colors, from deep red to golden yellow. It is used for the inlay purpose.


Sourced from Hyderabad Form/State of matter: Wire Price: Rs 450/kg BORIC ACID POWDER: The boric acid powder is white in color and very granular. It is used in the molding process in order to ease the removal of the two parts of a moulding cast. It makes the surface of the moulding soil less sticky.


(Fig 5.6) Brass in the form of sheet and wire used in inlay

Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Powder Price: Rs. 28/kg

(Fig 5.7) Boric acid power used in moulding

RED CLAY: It is a type of soil which is used to make the base mixture during the moulding process. Castor oil and resin is mixed with the red 5.8

(Fig 5.8) Red clay soil used as base in moulding


clay soil which makes it malleable to be used in the casting process. It is locally known as rangoli mitti/soil. Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: powder and granules Price: Rs.10/kg


CASTOR OIL: Castor oil is a vegetable oil obtained by pressing the seeds of the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis). It is sticky and thick. Castor oil is also humectant which means it attracts and retains moisture. It has a very pale yellow color with a distinct taste and odour. Its boiling point is 313 °C (595 °F) and its density is 961 kg/m3. It is used for creating an adhesiveness in the soil mixture so that the composition of the different materials do not disintegrate. Locally it is known as arendi/castor oil. Sourced from local grocery shop in Bidar Form/State of matter: liquid oil Price: Rs 120/kg


Sourced from market in Hyderabad Form/State of matter: Granules or crystals Price: Rs.200/kg

(Fig 5.9) Castor oil which is mixed in soil in moulding process (Fig 5.10) Copper sulphate crystals used for temporary blackening of the alloy (Fig 5.11) Artisans crushing ammonium chloride crystals

COPPER SULPHATE (CUSO4): It is a blue crystalline compound and is water soluble. It is used for temporary blackening of the pieces to provide a platform for making design layouts on the moulded alloy items. Locally it is called neela tota/copper sulphate.



AMMONIUM CHLORIDE: Ammonium chloride is an inorganic compound with the formula (NH4Cl). It is a white crystalline salt that is highly soluble in water. Solutions of ammonium chloride are mildly acidic. It is used in the viscous mixture of fort soil with water which is used in the final

blackening process. It aids in making the soil more reactive to allow the alloy to attain the black colour. Locally it is called nausadar/ ammonium chloride. Sourced from market in Hyderabad Form/State of matter: lump (crushed into powder when used) Price: Rs 120/kg NATURAL RESIN: Commonly it is called raul or raanjha/resin. It is a translucent material which has an amber like appearance and colour. It emits smoke with a fragrance and is usually used in the temples or mosques for prayer services. Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Crystal or granules Price: Rs 150-200/kg IRON: Iron is used for making the master moulds for casting. Due to its strength it is reused for making the same form or pieces in the casting process. Iron moulds are made by master artisans, with the help of the local metalsmith if needed. Sourced from Form/State of matter: Price:



WOOD: Mango tree wood, Sagwan wood, Rose wood and Babool wood is used for making moulds. Wooden moulds are used to make medium and large pieces of bidriware. Wooden moulds are prepared by master artisans or sometime by carpenter if a lathe is required. They are strong enough to resist the wear and tear from reuse.

(Fig 5.12) Resin block (Fig 5.13) Wooden master mould used for creating similar forms in casting

Sourced from local market of carpenters Form/State of matter: Blocks Price: Rs 200 for 1 sq.feet 5.14

(Fig 5.14) Master mould in wood and its casted piece in alloy


M-SEAL : In this process the black plumbing m-seal is used for its cheap cost and since it can be easily shaped into any form. Recently incorporated recently due to ease of use for small articles. It is used for making moulds but is discarded after use due to its low durability. Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Price: Rs.65/100gms


PLASTER OF PARIS (POP): It is used similarly to clay, as it is easily shaped when wet and yet sets into a resilient and lightweight structure. It is used afterwards for making moulds but discarded because it develops cracks after use. Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Powder Price: Rs.150/kg


ACRYLIC SHEET (2MM): It is one of the more widely used forms of acrylic due to its exceptional weatherability, strength, clarity and versatility. It can be bent and cut into many forms that is why it is used for making moulds. Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Sheet Price: Rs.38/square feet BEESWAX: It is used for creating a grip on the moulded piece which prevents displacement of the piece while setting the silver. The melted beeswax is spread in layers on a wooden or stone platform and the piece is set in the layer of wax. The beeswax solidifies after a certain period of time and the piece gets fixed firmly.

(Fig 5.15) Acrylic master mould used in casting the alloy (Fig 5.16) Beeswax used during silver setting (Fig 5.17) Charcoal used as fuel in moulding process



Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Lump Price: Rs.150/kg WOOD CHARCOAL: The charcoal is used as fuel for heat generation in the alloy making process when the zinc and copper is melted. Sourced from local market and kilns in Bidar Form/State of matter: Chunks ASH: The ash is collected from the burnt out wood charcoal used during heat generation for alloy making. Ash is used for absorbing the kerosene from the surface of the silver inlaid piece which was dipped in kerosene.

BIDAR FORT SOIL: The soil is brought from the old Bidar fort and used for the final blackening process of the pieces. It is brown in colour and granular in texture. It is brought from specific parts of the fort. The soil is sourced by experienced artisans and their apprentice by tasting the soil which has a unique taste. It is said that soil being away from sunlight and rain for many years possess an oxidizing property. Some also believe that oxidizing property of the soil is due to the presence of a coin mint in the area. Sourced from an undisclosed location of the Bidar fort. Form/State of matter: Fine grains Price: Nil

Sourced from local market in Bidar or collected from burnt firewood Form/State of matter: Powder KEROSENE: It is used for removing the soap layer from the surface of the final silver inlaid piece. The soap layer is formed during the buffing process of the newly casted alloy piece. Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Liquid Price: Rs.60/litre


COCONUT OIL: It is used for polishing and enhancing the dark luster of the bidriware. It is done immediately after the final piece has been made and also to condition against fading when the product requires maintenance.

(Fig 5.18) Firewood ash used to absorb kerosene from the final piece

Sourced from local market in Bidar Form/State of matter: Liquid Price: Rs.125/500 ml 5.19

(Fig 5.19) Bidar fort soil used in final blackening




51 6.1

06 Tools

Bidri is a craft that requires utmost precision and expertise in the making. While most of the tools used in the craft are commonly available or are sourced from other metal smiths and vendors, the Bidri craftsmen also up-cycle their old and damaged tools into new handy ones that are exclusive to this craft. Following are the list of tools: 1) Compass 2) Chisel 3) Rular 4) Vernier Caliper 5) Hammer 6) Palm Hammer 7) Pliers 8) Filer 9) Clamp 10) Sharpening Stone 11) Drilling Machine 12) Beeswax 13) Spirit Level 14) Gas Burner 15) Hacksaw 16) Draw Plate 17) Crucible 18) Tongs 19) Ladle 20) Metal Rod 21) Wide Bowl 22) Wooden Base

on the alloy piece. This tool has two arms with pointed heads and the arms that swivel at a point where they can be adjusted as per requirement. The arms of the compass are straight or curved in shape and are made of iron in different sizes. Material: Iron Sourced from local market in Bidar Dimensions: 3 inch to 6 inch length CHISEL: Among bidri artisans, the chisel is known as kalam/chisel locally. These are used for engraving and etching on the surface of the moulded alloy pieces. Usually it is in


(Fig 6.1) Toll box and set up in bidri artisan’s workshop (Fig 6.2) Different kinds and size of compasses used for marking

6.1 LIST OF TOOLS COMPASS: The compass is used for equidistant markings 6.3

(Fig 6.3) Sketch showing hand gesture when compass is used CHRONICLES OF BIDRI TOOLS | 52

the shape of an elongated pyramid with a pointed edge. The chisels are made from the worn out iron filer that are shaped into cuboidal bars and they are quite handy. Also there are chisels of different sizes and cutting edges according to specific requirements. The craftsman hammers on the chisel along the design sketched on surface of the moulded piece for creating the engravings. The chisel which is used to draw the design on the surface is also known as scriber.


Material: Iron Dimensions: 4 inch to 7 inch length Hand made by artisans

6.5 a) b) c) d) e) f) (Fig 6.4) Different sizes and types of chisels used in bidri (Fig 6.5) Tip of different chisels

g) 6.6

(Fig 6.6) Sketch of different chisels with their cross sectional view (Fig 6.7) Vernier caliper



There are different types of chisel used by the artisans in the craft according to the usage as shown in Fig 6.7. They are as follows: a) Drawing pin b) Carving tool c) Silver inlay tool d) Under cut tool e) Finishing tool f) Dot making tool g) Flat chiseling tool RULER: The rulers used by the craftsmen are usually made of steel. They are used for measuring the dimensions of different items, motifs, parts of a big moulded piece and for scribing straight lines on the surface of the alloy piece. Material: Stainless steel Dimension: 12 inch length Purchased from local market in Bidar VERNIER CALIPERS: It is used by the craftsmen to mark measurements more precisely which would not be possible by a straight or circular measurement scale. The vernier calipers are used for measuring the wire’s thickness,,

very small parts of the intricate pieces and maintaining the precision of the dimensions followed while replicating a particular piece. Material: Stainless steel Dimensions: 11 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar 6.8

HAMMER: The hathodi/hammers used by the craftsman is usually cross peen hammer or ball peen hammer. They are medium sized and have small iron heads with elongated wooden handle. They are used in combination with the chisel for engraving and also for the purpose of flattening the silver or gold sheets while doing the sheet work. The hammering takes place with utmost care, precision and control over the piece.


Material: Iron, wooden handle Dimensions: 8 inch to 11 inch Sourced from local market in Bidar PALM HAMMER: Made entirely from iron, this is like a vintage palm hammer which is used for hammering the chisel while etching the design and inlaying the silver into the moulded alloy piece. This is generally small in size. Locally it is known as mogri/palm hammer.


Material: Iron Dimensions: 6 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar PLIERS: Different pliers are used as per the function. The wire cutting pliers are used for cutting the wires and sheets into required dimensions and shapes where as normal pliers are used to draw the wire from draw plate to obtain the desired thickness of the wire. Locally it is called amboor/pliers. Material: Iron and steel

(Fig 6.8) Picture showing mogri (Fig 6.9) Picture showing hammer


(Fig 6.10) Sketch showing the hand gesture while using chisel with hammer while setting the silver in bidri craft (Fig 6.11) Cutting plier


(Fig 6.12) Different filers


Dimensions: 7-8 inch in length Sourced from local market in Bidar FILER: The randa/filer is made from iron. These are commonly used for smoothing out the rough edges and shaping the metal pieces. The regular cuts on its surface cause abrasion which removes the excessive material. Artisans use round, half round and flat filers as per their requirement.Worn out pieces of filers are utilized in making chisels.


Material: Iron Dimensions: 9 in to 14 in length as per use Sourced from local market in Bidar Single cut 6.14

Double cut


CLAMP: The mangan/clamp is used for holding the moulded piece to file, etch and engrave. It is placed on top of a wooden base for maintaining a workable height. The clamps are used for fixing the strong and sturdy pieces firmly while engraving and silver setting. In case of working with bangles a circular wooden block is also inserted in the hollow form of the bangle for support.


Material: Iron Dimensions: 14 inch x 8 inch x 5 inch Sourced from local market in Bidar

(Fig 6.13) Sketch showing hand gesture during filing the alloy (Fig 6.14) Sketch showing different type of hatch in the files artisans use (Fig 6.15) Metal clamp fixed on the wooden block


Dimensions: 8 inch x 2 inch x 1 inch Sourced from local market in Bidar

(Fig 6.16) Artisan sharpening kalam on sharpening stone (Fig 6.17) Hand drill

SHARPENING STONE: The saan/sharpening stone is composed of abrasive materials such as silicon carbide or aluminium oxide bonded in the form of a stone. It is used to sharpen the edges of the chisel through grinding and honing. It is in the form of a brick.



DRILLING MACHINE: It consists of various sizes of drill bits which can be attached and rotated while pressing

against the piece to drill holes as required e.g. swivel, pendants. Sometimes a non motorized hand drill is also used to make holes in smaller pieces like wrist watch dials. Material (drill bits): Steel Dimensions: 2 inch to 8 inch Sourced from local market in Bidar BEESWAX: It is used for maintaining a firm grip while etching and silver inlay on the pieces which cannot be fixed in the clamp. These pieces are generally cross sectional hollow pieces which are prone to cracks, are usually fixed using wax. The wax base which is about 1 cm in height is mounted on a stone slab or wooden slab.




It is sourced from local market in Bidar in the form of lumps and its crudely. SPIRIT LEVEL: It is an instrument designed to indicate whether a surface is horizontally or vertically straight. The level is placed on an approximately leveled surface and the reading on the bubble tube is noted.


Drilling machine used by artisans (Fig 6.18)

Material: Plastic and iron Dimensions: 14 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar GAS BURNER: A small size hand held gas burner is used to detach the moulded pieces fixed on the wax base.


Spirit level showing bubble (Fig 6.20) C-frame hack saw (Fig 6.21)

Material: Iron Dimensions: 10 inch length, cylindrical Sourced from local market in Bidar HACKSAW: It is a fine-toothed hand saw with a C-shaped frame that holds the blade under tension. It is used for cutting off excess alloy

Hand held gas burner (Fig 6.19)

Different types of draw plate to draw the wire into desired thickness (Fig 6.22)


Artisan drawing wire from draw plate using plier (Fig 6.23)


from the moulded piece before tracing the design on it. Material: Iron Dimensions: 16 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar


DRAW PLATE: A tarpatti/draw plate is a type of die consisting of a hardened steel plate with one or more holes through which wire is drawn to make it thinner. A typical plate will have holes of a wide range of diameters. Material: Steel Dimensions: 4.5 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar CRUCIBLE: It is a bowl like container used to melt zinc and copper for the alloy. The hot alloy is poured from the crucible into the moulded piece.


Material: Ceramic Dimensions: 5 in height, 4 in diameterW TONGS: The chimta/tongs is a type of tool used to grip and lift objects instead of holding them directly with hands. It is used to lift the crucible and pour the molten alloy during the moulding process.

(Fig 6.24) Crucible


(Fig 6.25) Sketch showing artisan holding crucible with tongs

LADLE: It is a spoon with a long handle and having a deep bowl in one corner. The extra molten alloy is poured out into the ladle.

(Fig 6.26) Excess removal of alloy from the frame into ladle (Fig 6.27) Wooden base with cavity of forms

Material: Iron Dimensions: 14 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar



Material: Iron Dimensions: 12 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar

METAL ROD: A cylindrical metal rod used to tap for removing the extra soil from the moulding frame. Material: Iron Dimensions: 12 inch length Sourced from local market in Bidar WIDE PAN: It is a wide pan kind of container which is used to mix the paste of fort soil and ammonium chloride for the final blackening. It is also known as tasla/wide pan locally.


Material: Aluminum or Iron Dimensions: 20 inch diameter Sourced from local market in Bidar WOODEN BASE WITH SHAPED CAVITY: For silver setting of some specific pieces like vase or animal figurines, specific cavity is prepared in the wooden base. In this cavity, the alloy is fixed and then silver is set into it. This helps to form a grip and the piece does not move while inlaying. Size will differ according to the form of the final piece. It is locally known as kunda/wooden base. Material: Wood Made by the artisans

(Fig 6.28) Vase fixed in the wooden base for silver setting


(Fig 6.29) Tasla/a type of pan on the furnace in which fort soil and ammonium chloride is boiled for final blackening




61 7.1

07 Inspiration and Pattern

The design language of bidri is governed by the interplay of contrasting black and silver colours on the surface of alluring forms that represent the rich heritage of the bidri craft. It is the coalescence of many design philosophies that flourished centering the engraving techniques of Deccan and the old Persian style since the inception of Bidri. As any other craft, factors like nature, architecture, religion and lifestyle has led to a significant contribution in the evolution of the craft of bidri and its design elements. So, it is very essential to know about the inspirations, forms, motifs and techniques associated with bidri in order to fully understand the formation of the craft. 7.1 MOTIFS As the rulers of the Deccan were independent of the kingdoms of the North, the arts which flourished under them derived inspiration not only from Persia and Arabia’s local traditions, but also displayed great originality in design and technique. In the patterns of bidriware, highly stylized art motifs of the Near East countries can also be found along with motifs and designs of other parts of the Middle East. Feather design border, akin to those on Egyptian mummy cases, are also very common. Persian craftsmen were patronized by the independent rulers of the Deccan from 15th century onwards. As in other forms

of art and crafts in India, the technique was usually handed down from generations, and many present craftsmen trace their descent from Persian stock. The others who took over from the Persian artisans, were local Muslims and Hindus of the Lingayat Sect. Hindu forms like ‘swastika’ and ‘lotus’ were much in use. Rows of decorative swastika interwoven by lines and squares, perhaps reflect the mind of a Hindu artisan. Stylized creeper with flowers and leaves in borders, are Muslim in character. The motifs that have been used in bidri craft are also seen in the monuments and paintings that belonged to the period of the reigning dynasties of Deccan. These visual references aid both the artisans and the viewers to understand the lineage of this craft. The motifs that have been used in the past and

(Fig 7.1) Motifs on the tile mounted on the door arch of Rangeen Mahal in Bidar fort. Many inspirations of the craft in taken from these tiles.


(Fig 7.2) Huqqa base inlaid in silver, depicting verses of quran, Deccan, 1818-19 A.D.


the present in this craft are elaborated in this document in a comprehensible manner. Calligraphy designs: Traditional designs include the Persian Rose and passages from the Quran/Islamic sacred book in Arabic script. Sometimes calligraphy is seen when a verse from the Quran is used to embellish an article.

(Fig 7.3) Picture showing motifs used on huqqa, Owen Jones; Grammar of Ornaments, London, 1856

Floral designs: These motifs have been inspired from flowers, creepers and trees. The inclusion of floral motifs increased under the influence of the Mughals. Highly conventionalized patterns, ashrafi-ki-booti/flowers or teenpattiki-botti, stars, vine, creepers, and stylized poppy plant with flower; single bloom or whole plant in various shapes, mostly in medallion form or mango shape; are amongst those which can be traced back to the Persian influence. They are mostly found in the craft-wares of 14th century. Border of parallel lines with cross-lines, like railway track crossed by sleepers, are also other popular designs.


Geometric designs: The geometric designs that are prevalent in bidri consists of triangles, squares and circular lines. The motifs are created by the repetition of the shapes and change in the orientation of the geometric figures. Of geometrical decoration there is a great variety much of which can be traced back via Perisa to Egyptian designs. Lines, spots, spirals, figures of various angles, such as rhombic frets, also with rounded corners, borders originating in the exigencies of weaving, chequer and other patterns, are



(Fig 7.4) Floral motifs and vine creepers on huqqa base, Deccan, second half of the 17th century (Fig 7.5) Decorated stone arch piece found in Bidar fort museum, 15-16 century, Bidar



all employed, but, as in Egyptian ornament, the perfect circle is rare. Geometric designs using an inverted ‘V’ combined with wavy lines are very effective. .

animals & birds were peacock, fish, lion head, turtle and peacock. Mahi-pusht/fish scale pattern is another very interesting design in bidriware. Fish shaped boxes are also common to Lucknow and Bidar, but articles ornamented with fish designs are special to Lucknow. T. N. Mukherjee traces the fish emblem to the late king of Oudh, occupying the foremost rank among the nobility of the Delhi Empire.They delighted in parading their dignity of fish (Mahi Maratib) which consisted of the privilege of carrying before them in all state processions which represents the fish, made of metal and borne upon a pole, with two circular gilt bells attached to it. This mark of distinction

Phoojadi: Another design showcases closely clustered stars in the form of a burning sparkler which is known locally as phooljadi/burning sparkler. The juxtaposition of the colours of pitch black night metal with the soothing warmth of silver inlays makes the pattern seem like firework sparkles. Animal figurine designs: The most prominent motifs inspired from


was formerly bestowed only upon the nobles of the highest order, and the last occasion on which an Emperor of Delhi exercised the privilege of conferring this honor was when Shah Alam bestowed the dignity on Lord Lake. The kings of Oudh displayed this dignity not only in its legitimate form but employed the fish as an emblem of their high position in art as well as in decorative architecture. Consequently the figure of a

(Fig 7.6) Intricate wooden carved parts of an arch in Rangeen Mahal, Bidar fort (Fig 7.7) Circular sini with tar nishan work depicting water with animals swimming in it (Fig 7.8) Farshi hookah,Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad


partly natural, partly conventional fish has found its way among the patterns with which the bidri manufacturers of Lucknow adorn their wares. Also, natural elements like water has been represented by concentric closed organic shapes that depict waves or ripples. In some pieces motifs of fishes are seen on a background of wavy lines or concentric shapes. It is also noticed that the European influence, particularly that of the French in the 18th century, left marks on decorative designing of bidriware. Designed in the zarbuland

Different forms of hookah base and ewer (Fig 7.9)

technique, on raised part of the metal by its careful carving, the farshi hookah/ flat bottomed also features lion’s heads, as shown in Fig 7.8.The designing is a mixture of Persian and European patterns. Circular flowers with five petals are in between decorative creepers of Persian origin. Some of the flowers have been given the shape of a lion’s head. Similar to the French emblem are patterns in between the heads. Also, with the increase in interest in the Ajanta murals in the current age, many of their decorative motifs found their way in the designing of new fashioned bidriware and at present, figurative drawings from


Box and cover inlaid in silver, Deccan, 18th-19th century (Fig 7.10) Vase: Form inspired from elephant trunk (Fig 7.11)




these famous cave murals are freely used. 7.2 FORMS AND SHAPES The products of bidri carry a unique combination of form and utility which complements the aesthetics of the motifs engraved on the metal surface. The bidriware have a great diversity and they have been evolving under the influence of different design ideologies and patronages. The articles include dibya/spice boxes for offering pan and supari/betel and betel nut of various forms; rectangular, oval, round, square, fish or leaf shaped, and with or without trays. Surahi/water flagons, thali/ trays, katora/water bowls with or without lid and tray, jam/cups, abkhora/tumblers, ugaldan/spittoons, sailabchi/wash basins, aftaba/ewers, mir-e-farsh/weights, palangpai/ cot legs, cosmetic boxes and bottles of varied shapes are other varieties. They vary both in shape and size. Some are very small even less than one inch cube, some are of medium size, while there are examples of large size objects.




The other important bidriware are sailabchi and aftaba. These particular vessels include a pair of large sized, circular sailabchi, with perforated cover in the middle, and an aftaba, slightly compressed, in the shape of a finely designed Persian wine flagon type. The museum has also a sailabchi, designed in the shape of spread out petals of a full bloom flower. That buds and flowers have evoked considerable interest in Persian art, is well known. The older pieces are mostly huqqa of different sizes and shapes; balls, bells, cones, nariyal/coconuts and kairi/mangoes. The nariyal shaped huqqa is very popular in Bengal, Bihar, U.P. and Orissa and also in some parts of the South, being easy to

Contemporary motifs on the wall plate (Fig 7.12) New form generation seen in the hair pin (Fig 7.13) Set of buttons with geometric design (Fig 7.14)


New form of umar khayam and tarkashi done on it (Fig 7.15)


handle and be carried in the hand. Kairi or mango shaped huqqa are generally of small dimension and also very easy to handle. Though the decorative patterns are Persian, the forms are purely Indian.



(Fig 7.16) Weights for floor covering, inlaid in silver and brass sheet, Deccan, late 17th18th century (Fig 7.17) Hookah base, 1870, depicting zarbuland (Fig 7.18) Sketches showing different techniques of bidri ornamentation



There is another class of huqqas with flat bottom and long neck more Persianised than the other forms. It has close affinity with the Persian wine flagon and is without a handle and spout. Its form and character suggest its favor with the aristocrats and those with a more refined taste. These huqqas have flat round base, while in others, the sides rise from smaller lifted base and widen near the bottom. Some have a long neck by gradual shrinking, while in others it is broader upto nearly half its height and shrink abruptly to form rings, and slightly widens near the mouth. The mir-e-farsh are weights, to keep chandni/ white sheet or other spread-outs, unruffled. The four legs of a cot are some of those medium size objects which came within the sphere of bidriware. Some candle holders, belonging to the large groups of bidriware

are magnificent. Bidri articles changed their shapes and decorative motifs with the advent of a new age and demands of society. Cigar boxes and cigarette cases, ash trays, vases, cuff links, kurta- buttons, fruit bowls and many other articles of daily use have found favor with the customers. The presence of Mughal and Rajput patrons and painters in the Deccan produced a revolution in Bijapuri taste and with the fall of Bidar in 1656, Bijapur itself in 1686, followed by Golconda in 1687, Mughal influence was all pervasive. Localizing bidri pieces therefore becomes difficult.The ewer shown in Fig 7.19 for example, has a shape known from Mughal miniatures of the mid17th century, but decoration is in a Persian style. This tips the balance of probability in favor of a Deccani provenance as the design would by this time be outmoded in the Mughal court. The arcading of the inlay on the neck and foot also derives from Deccani rather than Mughal architecture, but the form of the cusped arch seen on the lid attached to the handle is usually associated with the Mughals. 7.3 TECHNIQUES The craft of bidri employs a variety of techniques which give the products an extraordinary appeal that make them timeless and valuable. These methods of engraving have been the result of the artistic innovations that either took place during the advent of different dynasties in the Deccan or which were carried out by the creative artisans. Some of the techniques which are practiced consistently have been put forward in this document. Teh nishan: The pattern is cut in fairly deep grooves



(Fig 7.19) Ewer inlaid with silver and brass, inscribed on the rim, Deccan mid-17th century (Fig 7.20) Women artisans drawing different motifs


(Fig 7.21) Wall plate with combination of wire inlay and sheet inlay


which are round bottomed for inlaying wire or flat with straight sides for pieces in other shapes. The depth of the grooves should be about two-third of the diameter of the wires. The pure gold or silver is pressed into the grooves and is hammered down flat.The inlay should be the softest metal procurable, usually a pure metal like gold or silver, and carefully annealed. When the inlay is cut to fill the depressions so that it is level with the surrounding area, it is known as zar nishan. Sometimes silver is inlaid over a lead pad so that the pattern stands out from the surface, this is called zarbuland.


(Fig 7.22) Mehtabi work done of box (Fig 7.23) Contemporaary form of a flower vase with tarkashi technique on it (Fig 7.24) Neck of a vase showing silver and gold inlay with tarkashi technique



It is practically the same process of decoration as teh nishan except that the silver wires beaten in are not polished but are allowed to remain projecting above the surface. At times a reverse effect is created by developing the silver to create the effect of the background, so that the design stands out in Black. This is called ‘mahtab’ Munabatkari and Tarkashi: Tarkashi or inlay of wire is rarely used alone. Generally, it is combined with aftabi, teh nishan or zar nishan. In this technique a fine wire of silver is drawn and the design is made from that single wire. It is a very time-consuming and intricate process, demanding precision and great patience. Aftabi: The inlay may be of wire or sheet metal and some of the finest pieces have a design cut out of silver sheet so that it appears silhouetted against the body of the object. This is usually known as aftabi. In the aftabi technique, the silver sheet is cut into the exact sizes of the designs that are traced on it with a pencil from a prepared design on paper. Instead of fixing the silver sheet into an engraved pattern, the designs are cut out in silver sheet. For example, if a flower plant is drawn, it is first cut out in the silver sheet which is fixed to the object so that the flower plant motif emerges out in pitch black against the brilliant silver background. The designs are carved out as relief on the surface of the object and the silver sheet, cut out accordingly, is so employed that the relief design can be seen in contrast to its bright silver background.




8.1 73

08 In the making

The true essence of a craft lies in the journey of its manifestation into tangible products. The process represents the amalgamation of tradition, knowledge, skill and devotion and the resources that help in shaping the craft to its finest form. In this context, the craft of bidri is not an exception. The making of bidriware showcases the existence of synergy between the artisans and their apprentices which breathes life into the craft .The elaborate process of this exquisite craft has been documented to perfection. The five main stages that are followed in the process of bidri are: 1) Moulding 2) Buffing, filing and temporary blackening 3) Tracing and engraving 4) Inlaying 5) Blackening 8.1 MOULDING The process begins by creating a master pattern of the finalized product form with wood or acrylic, which is then used for moulding.


(Fig 8.1) Master artisan engraving the design of the piece


(Fig 8.2) Crucible kept on the furnace in which alloy is melted for the moulding (Fig 8.3) Master mould kept on wooden blank and powder is applied on it


The alloy prepared for the base material of the product is composed of zinc and copper. This particular combination does not rust or corrode. The utility of copper is mainly to allow zinc to take a better polish. The zinc content gives the alloy a deep black color. 8.5

(Fig 8.4) Frame placed on the wooden plank, master mould is covered with soil mixture for moulding (Fig 8.5) Half frame covered with soil mixture



(Fig 8.6) Artisan applying pressure on the soil by standing on the stand to compress it


(Fig 8.7) Removing extra soil and leveling the frame using steel scale (Fig 8.8) Wooden plank cover placed on the top to cover it


(Fig 8.9) By removing the base plank the frame is reversed and another frame is added on top of it (Fig 8.10) Removing the master mould and scoop out the soil to make channel to pour hot alloy (Fig 8.11) Pouring alloy with crucible into the moulding frame

The initial stage involves two persons preparing the alloy by melting the zinc and copper within a crucible in a furnace, whose temperature is raised to 9000C 9400C. The alloy requires 90% of zinc and 10% of copper. Simultaneously the mould making process is carried on by one of the persons while the other tends to the furnace and the crucible. MOULDING OF THE ALLOY: The soil mixture for preparing the mould is made by mixing red clay, resin and castor oil.The soil mix is kept for 2-4 hours before use. The master pattern is set in the centre of a wooden flat base and the metal frame is placed around it. The soil mix is filled in the frame and it is compressed by tapping it with the foot. The surface of the soil is then flattened by the use of an elongated metal plate and a wooden plank is placed on it. The whole set up is turned upside down and another frame is placed on top of it.The second frame is also filled with the soil mix and set properly as in the previous procedure. The two frames are then separated carefully and the master pattern is removed which results in a cavity of the form required for moulding. Channels are cut which connect to the cavity and then the two frames are joined by applying boric powder. The powder helps in easy detachment of the two frames.The molten alloy is then poured through the channels and the arrangement is kept stable for a minimum of 30 seconds







depending upon the size of the piece. The frames are then lifted and the moulded alloy piece is removed by the use of tongs. Finally the moulded piece is allowed to cool and the excess soil is cleaned from the pieces Sometimes when the mould cracks or gets deformed during the buffing process, the flawed piece is melted down to be used for moulding another form. 8.2 BUFFING, FILING AND TEMPORARY BLACKENING


(Fig 8.12) After opening the frame the molten alloy sets into the mould (Fig 8.13) Ready moulded pieces kept for filing and buffing

BUFFING: Buffing takes place after moulding of the alloy piece. The excess and rough moulded segments of the piece are removed and smoothened by using the buffing machine. For this purpose the rough side of the roller is used. Most of the artisans have their own buffing machine for their work. But a few big pieces need to be sent to Hyderabad.

(Fig 8.14) Buffing of moulded piece after moulding


(Fig 8.15) Filing of the piece to remove the rough edges (Fig 8.16) Temporary blackening done on the piece using neela tota



(Fig 8.17) Small cloth pouch containing neela tota is wet and then applied to the surface of alloy


FILING: Filing is the next phase for further smoothening of the alloy pieces so that the surfaces are leveled enough to be suitable for engraving and scribing. It is usually done by filers of different sizes and shapes depending upon the requirement. 8.18

TEMPORARY BLACKENING: In order to prepare the surface of the filed piece of alloy for engraving pattern, a small pouch containing moist copper sulphate is quickly dabbed over the surface. Copper sulphate is bright blue in colour, and the dabbing produces a black patination over the surface of the master design. This helps in creating the engraving pattern since it shall be easily visible on the blackened surface. 8.3 TRACING AND ENGRAVING

(Fig 8.18) Pasting of animal motifs traced on paper onto the alloy for etching the outline of the motif


a) Using Paper Paper tracing only happens when the design or motif is very intricate, contains figures, animals etc. or else when the quantity is too large.

(Fig 8.19) Artisan etching the design on the surface using chisel (Fig 8.20) Etched design on the surface and paper is removed using water


(Fig 8.21) Engraving and scarping of the alloy to set silver (Fig 8.22) Vase in which design is drawing free hand by the artisan using chisel

TRACING: Tracing is done just after the temporary blackening process. The motifs which have been selected to be put on the alloy piece are traced on the metallic surface in the following two ways.



At first the pattern or motif is drawn on paper by hand and then scanned to get several photocopies on paper. This is done to maintain the proportion of the motif and the size of the motif.The required design or motif on the paper is then cut and pasted on the moulded piece. After that the outline is made over the pasted paper by using a chisel and hammer. When the design tracing is done, the piece is dipped in water to remove

the paper. b) Without paper In this type of tracing, the design is directly made on the surface of the piece using chisel. This process happens only when the surface area is large and flat, so that hand drawing can be done or if the piece itself has the design engraved in the moulding process. Engraving: All the bidri patterns are made freehand, but simple aids such as a ruler and compass help in the correct positioning and arrangement of intricate design. After the pattern is drawn, it is entirely engraved by steel chisels known as kalam which are designed by the artisans themselves and are not available anywhere in the market. With the bidri piece fixed firmly on a wax platform or held in a clamp, the craftsman engraves the design by hammering the chisel over the markings. The engraving tools cut the design into the metal, which is lighter in colour than the darkened surface enabling the pattern to be seen more clearly. The engraving tools are either used for sheet work or wire work. This process is also known as chilai/ engraving in their local dialect.


8.4 INLAYING SILVER SETTING: After chilai, silver is set into the scraped area in the form of a wire or sheet which depends upon the required design. This process is done using chisel which is generally flat from the top so that it doesn’t break or cut the silver part. Soft hammering is applied on the set part so that it fits properly. Silver in the shape of wire or sheet is hammered into the grooves of the design. For the inlay of wire, only the outline path is engraved. For the inlay of sheet, the entire pattern is chiseled out


(Fig 8.23) Artisans sitting in his workshop and working on the inlaying process (Fig 8.24) Silver wire setting on the piece using hammer and chisel


(Fig 8.25) Silver sheet setting of the animal figurines



to create a ‘bed’ that accommodates the sheet to be inlaid. Bithai/inlaying is either patta ka kaam/sheet work or taar ka kaam/wire work, where either sheets or wires of pure silver are meticulously hammered into the grooves of the engraved design. Fine wire or flattened strips of pure silver are then carefully hammered into these grooves. It is to be kept in mind that only pure silver should be used so that it does not tarnish in final oxidization process. The article is filed, buffed and smoothened to get rid of the temporary black coating. This results in rendering the silver inlay hardly distinguishable from the gleaming metallic surface which is now all silvery white. Smooth filing is then done with sandpaper or files or with the help of a buffing machine. The surface is buffed and smoothened to remove any extra silver jutting out.

8.27 (Fig 8.26) Piece set with silver and ready for blackening process (Fig 8.27) Buffing the silver set piece to clear the temporary blackening layer and make the surface clean and even. Buffing is done with the soap in this process

8.5 BLACKENING It is the final stage where the silver set piece is blackened and a strikingly beautiful contrast of black & silver ornamentation is produced.


(Fig 8.28) Sometimes in buffing the silver may come off, then the artisans have to again inlay the silver (Fig 8.29) Applying kerosene to the buffed piece to remove the soap coating (Fig 8.30) The piece is then dipped in ash because ash will absorb the kerosene




In this process the piece which has undergone silver setting is buffed by the softer side of the buffing machine. The entire alloy piece gets a silvery look after the buffing process. The purpose here is to get a clean shiny and even surface. A buffing compound wax soap is applied on the buffing wheel to give shine to the piece. In order to remove the soap layer which is formed over the surface of the buffed piece, kerosene is rubbed on it by using a fresh cloth piece. The kerosene layer is then removed by applying ash and cleaned properly. After that a mixture of the fort soil, crushed ammonium chloride crystals and water is boiled on a tasla. The mixture generates a bubbly solution with the rise in temperature. The clean silver set pieces are then put in the boiling solution for 10 to 15 seconds. The reaction between the piece and the solution turns the silvery alloy black, leaving the silver inlay unaffected. The piece is then rinsed with water and rubbed with a clean cloth to reveal a shiny silver pattern resplendent against the black surface. As a finishing touch, coconut oil

is applied to the finished product to deepen the matt coating and enhance the brilliance of the silver inlay. As per the information provided in Dr. Rehaman Patel’s book ‘Bidri Art’, the soil consists of a soluble constituent which has 14 percent (nitrate and chloride present but sulphate and ammonia absent) and a insoluble portion consists of calcium carbonate and ferric contents. The active agent in the soil is an alkali nitrate and which when mixed with excess of ammonium chloride and applied with water on the alloy, gives the required shade of black.

The blackening solution cannot be reused after the first application. In order to be economical, some artisans prefer to make a paste of the fort soil, ammonium chloride and water. Hence, the amount of paste to be used can be controlled as per requirement. Sometimes at this stage, silver which is not set properly may come out during the second buffing, so the artisan has to set the silver again at this stage. Sometimes, the blackening does not take place completely and the piece has to be dipped again in the boiling solution for the second time to attain the desired outcome.

(Fig 8.31) Fort soil is put into tasla/ wide pan



(Fig 8.32) Adding water to the fort soil (Fig 8.33) Ammonium chloride power is added in the mixture for final blackening (Fig 8.34) Tasla is kept on the furnace and boiled





(Fig 8.35) The piece is dipped into the tasla and kept for 10-15 seconds while the mixture is still boling (Fig 8.36) The piece is taken out from the tasla and washed with fresh water


(Fig 8.37) Artisan applying coconut oil for better shine



The entire process of making bidri articles varies in general. Depending on the size of the product and the quantity in pieces, it may range from a single day to 3-4 weeks. Whilst meeting orders in huge quantity, the process is divided amongst multiple artisans based on their area of expertise. Engraving and the sheet setting

process are the most difficult ones and are done only by experienced artisans, whereas moulding, tracing, buffing, blackening, polishing, etc is done by remaining artisans. The compendium shown below summarizes the entire process of bidri for ease of understanding.

(Fig 8.38) Final piece of bidri craft (Fig 8.39) Picture showing stages of bidri from alloy making to final blackening (Fig 8.40) Final finished product after applying coconut oil



8.40 82



9.1 85

09 In transit

9.1 SALES The artisans of these clusters produce only on order. They receive orders from govt Craft Emporium of Karnataka, Kaveri, Craft Council of India Cottage, Lepakshi etc and also deliver to the local markets in Bidar and Hyderabad. They do not make products otherwise due to fear of overpiling/hoarding of expensive bidriware. The product range is priced from Rupees 50 for the really small pieces to lakhs for huge products. As per the information provided by one of the artisans, a dining table was custom made for Vijay Mallya costing around 4 lakhs.There is no hard and fast system for costing of Bidriware. Pricing of these products are done roughly based on the size of the product, the amount of silver used, the intricacy of the designs and manpower put into their making.


(Fig 9.1) Artisan doing packing for sending the orders to their respective clients (Fig 9.2) Artisan Shakeel Ahmed with his stall of bidriware in ‘All India Craft Mela’ that happened in Hyderabad in December 2017

Other than the stores, they also go for exhibitions to promote their craft. Though the stalls are sponsored by the Govt. of India, it is still hard on the craftsmen’s pockets, considering all other expenses involved. The travel, stay and daily expenses do not get compensated by the sale in these exhibitions. Few exhibitions where Bidri artisans constantly go to are Delhi Haat, Dastkar, etc. 9.3

(Fig 9.3) Artisan packing the pieces using newspaper


9.2 PACKAGING AND MAINTENANCE The finished products are packed and dispatched for the respective orders. The packaging is very crude and basic unless

requested otherwise. Pieces of crumpled newspaper are used to provide padding and safety during shipping. Special packaging is outsourced on request and is usually velvet padded boxes. The shipping is done at a price, through the local courier service. These artisans offer repair and maintenance free of cost in case of dullness and wear and tear of silver inlay. They also customize products, such as addition of velvet padding in hand mirrors. 9.3 CUSTOMERS The customer profile mostly comprises of tourists who are attracted by the charm of bidri and the exquisite craftsmanship. Other than tourists, the government of India is also a regular promoter of bidri, frequently placing orders for souvenirs and products for gifting to important guests and personalities.


(Fig 9.4) Box packaging as per the demand of the client. This type of boxes are directly purchased from the vendor in (Fig 9.5) Hyderabad Customers buying bidri articles in the store of M.A Rauf Bidri Crafts, Bidar (Fig 9.6) Products displayed on table in artisan’s place in Bidar








Bidri has evolved over the years.The traditional designs that demanded intricacy and intense craftsmanship has moved on to become much more simplified and contemporarized to meet the ever changing sense of aesthetic. Commercialization has reduced the consumption of silver and thereby the cost price to accommodate a wider range of consumers.Though the designs have evolved over time, the essence of the form and motifs have been retained more or less. These can be seen in their product range of buttons and earrings

to hookahs and spittoons.The fine silver lines continue to adorn the graceful forms in black, taking various shapes to serve a variety of purposes. The collection ranges from personal products to space and interior products. Currently, in the market there are various products of bidri craft which are a mix of traditional and contemporary products. Some of the products with details are given below.


Product: Wine decanter Detail: Tarkashi, Phuljhadi Size: 34 cm Price: ₹ 6000

Product:Vase Detail: Tarkashi, Phuljhadi Size: 24 cm Price: ₹ 2200

Product: Umar Khayam Detail: Tarkashi, Phuljhadi Size: 30 cm Price: ₹ 4000



Product: Paper weight Detail: Tarkashi Size: 6 cm Price: ₹ 350

Product: Paper clip Detail: Tarkashi Size: 7 cm Price: ₹ 150

Product: Bangles Detail: Tarkashi, Phuljhadi Size: 8 cm Price: ₹ 225-300

Product: Elephant figurine Detail: Tarkashi, Sheet work Size: 10 - 14 cm Price: ₹ 375-450


Product: Mango shaped box Detail: Tarkashi, Sheet work Size: 10 cm Price: ₹ 800

Product: Box Detail: Mehtabi Size: 8 cm Price: ₹ 1500

Product: Wall Plate Detail: Tarkashi, Sheet work Size: 15 cm Price: ₹ 1500

Product: Wall Plate Detail: Tarkashi Size: 20 cm Price: ₹ 3400 CHRONICLES OF BIDRI PRODUCT RANGE | 94

Product: Decorative top of stapler Detail: Tarkashi Size: 10 cm Price: ₹ 250

Product: Cufflinks Detail: Tarkashi Size: 2 cm Price: ₹ 300

Product: Bookmark Detail: Tarkashi Size: 5 cm Price: ₹ 250

Product: Oil lamp, show piece Detail: Tarkashi, Sheet work Size: 15 cm Price: ₹ 550


Product:Vase Detail: Tarkashi Size: 20 cm Price: ₹ 450

Product: Candle stand Detail: Tarkashi, Sheet work Size: 24 cm Price: ₹ 950

Product: Earrings Detail: Tarkashi Size: 3cm Price: ₹ 100

Product: Kurta buttons Detail: Tarkashi, Phuljhadi Size: 1cm Price: ₹ 200 CHRONICLES OF BIDRI PRODUCT RANGE | 96



11.1 99

11 Present scenario

The present situation of the artisans has been fluctuating gently, both progressively as well as otherwise. On one hand, the Ministry of Craft, NGOs and design institutes are working towards the conservation and upliftment of the craft. But in many occasions they have been unable to fulfill their objectives due to lack of funds, poor planning and coordination. More than anything, the artisans seek recognition and reward. Despite sight related problems and muscle fatigue that arise from long hours of work in addition to the economic crisis, these artisans continue to cling on to their work proudly and wishes to surmount such hurdles. Websites like Amazon, Craftsvilla, ebay, (apart from the government websites) have helped in increasing the income of the artisans, at the same time reducing the interference of the middlemen. After the government of India came up with the “Make in India” program, the Finance Ministry allotted INR 17 crore for helping the artisans. While the government organizations such as, All India Handicrafts Board and the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts come up with programs like Artisan Training Institute (ATI) and USTTAD projects, what also needs to be done is to take measures to ensure that these

policies are not misused and exploited by the wrong set of people. While about 150 artisans hold the Artisans Identity Card, only about 70-80 of them actually practice the craft. Artisan ID Card is a step forward in ensuring that the artisans get benefits that make their lives easier.The following are the benefits of this scheme : • Easy loan, insurance and credit guarantee • Easy to avail benefits of the schemes run by Government of India • Easy to participate in any domestic or international fair and event • The artisan can get the benefit of life insurance and Rs. 1200 per year for their children’s education between class IX and class XII • The program will benefit artisans from all over India who are unable to participate in international fairs due to their high investment costs. Space rental and infrastructure are also being provided free of cost to these participants.

(Fig 11.1) Artisan interacting with his son.


(Fig 11.2) Artisan identity card of one of the artisan in bidri colony


Securing the GI played an important role in promoting Bidri and bringing it to the view of the wider audience. This happened very recently and had a pretty big impact considering the fact that Bidri was almost on the verge of being abandoned due to the rising costs of the raw materials and receding consumer volume. The Craftmark programme enables Indian craft-workers and craft organizations to take advantage of economic opportunities in international and domestic markets and also, to break into the mainstream retail markets. It seeks to promote and protect Indian handicrafts by helping them become more competitive in such markets and by distinguishing authentic hand-made craft products from replicated machine made-ones. In addition to this, Craftmark is increasing consumer awareness about distinct handicraft traditions and the purchase of quality, authentic handmade crafts. 11.3

(Fig 11.3) Master artisan enrolling bidri artisans for the training program (Fig 11.4) A scene from design and technical development workshop of bidri craft in bidri colony during December 2017



Govt. of India came up with special incentives to encourage digital payments such as E-Wallet, Aadhaar Enabled Payment System, Card PoS, Unified Payments Interface and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data. Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojna addresses multiple facets of provisions that can be provided to these artisans such as Dastkar Shashktikaran Yojana(Community empowerment for mobilization of artisans into self-help groups (SHGs) /Societies), Design & Technology Up-gradation, Human Resource Development, Bima Yojana for Handicrafts Artisans (Aam Admi Bima Yojana (AABY)(provide life insurance protection to the Handicrafts Artisans). A lot can still be done to ensure the maximum utilization of the benefits of the schemes put forth by the government and the sustenance of the craft and craftsmen: • It is a good scope to bring the women folk of these communities forward and provide them opportunity to earn and be independent. • Promoting and expanding their training classes to other audience who are interested in learning about the craft would open up a huge scope of possibilities to promote and sustain it. • Online platforms help eliminate the middlemen, which means more profit for the craftsmen. Fabindia, Gaatha amongst few others have taken up these initiatives, but it is very necessary that they identify the holes in the ship before it sinks. • Design institutes at the national level, such as National Institute of Design, National Institute of Fashion Technology, etc. are taking up projects to document and record these rare crafts in an attempt to preserve them in an unaltered and authentic way.



(Fig 11.5) Artisans working together and learning silver inlaying in the training workshop (Fig 11.6) A woman artisan drawing motifs for the design


(Fig 11.7) Motifs being drawn by the artisans




12.1 105

12 The craftsperson

The artisans are the impetus for a craft. The culture and lifestyle of the artisans play a great role in shaping the craft to its existing form. Their family, society and the work environment matters in the development of the craft culture thriving in that area. 12.1 ARTISAN’S SETUPS In Bidar, the artisans are located in two specific regions, Kulsum Gali of naya kamaan area and bidri colony. The Kulsum Gali locality is situated in a town area and Bidri colony has been established in 2006 as an initiative for the upliftment of the craft and the artisans by providing a settlement for new and practicing craftspersons. The artisans of Kulsum Gali are few in number in comparison to the bidri colony but they are the people who have their own shops along with their residences. The artisans have established workshops in their own homes which consists of a small furnace and area for working on the articles. According to the financial status and resources available, each one of them has come up with an innovative method to create unique set ups. A major section of Kulsum gali and Bidri colony artisans have been conferred with prestigious awards. All the artisans of these two regions reside in pakka/permanent houses which either belonged to their ancestors or they have built them on their own. Majority of the craftspersons follow

Islam as their religion and some are Hindu. The cluster of artisans comprises of the original natives of Bidar and of those who have migrated in search of livelihood or due to marriage. The artisans usually dwell in a joint family set up, with one to seven children per family. Some of them start working as early as eight years of age while some have found themselves inclined towards learning the

(Fig 12.1) Showroom and workshop outside the house of an artisan


(Fig 12.2) Artisan with his own setup inside his house in bidri colony


craft after the age of retirement. There are certain artisans who have pursued higher education and jobs in the cities but returned to the craft business. Being unable to adapt in city life and lack of freedom in office jobs are some of the reasons for them to get involved in bidri craft. A portion of the artisans exist who have associated themselves to bidri only to avail the financial benefits provided by the government. They don’t practice the craft extensively but attend the workshops to mark their presence.


(Fig 12.3) Bidri workshop made from iron bars and tin sheets in bidri colony (Fig 12.4) Buddhiman working on a bidri article and he is utilizing empty paint box as stool for his work.


(Fig 12.5) Family practicing bidri craft in the front portion of their house in bidri colony (Fig 12.6) Artisan drawing silver wire in his workshop in bidri colony



The upcoming artisans are joining the craft cluster because of the reputation of the craft, retirement from their jobs and also due to minimal requirement of educational qualification for learning the craft of bidri. This job allows them to source income for their daily needs and offers them a compatible social life . One of the scenario is about an artisan, Buddhiman who has recently learned this craft. He is a retired watchman but keen to learn craft and do something for his livelihood. He has set up his own workplace in his house with minimum material requirement as shown in Fig 12.4. The Karnataka government and NGOs like Yuvaa have been working to help the Bidar artisans for a reliable payment schedule along with the search for profitable market venues which would allow them to thrive in this current age. It is seen that motifs, patterns and forms are very repetitive across all the shops, which causes lack of variety and the shops find it difficult to sell their items off the shelves. There is a need of a well guided plan of action that aims at refining the design language and the quality to elevate bidri’s market stature.

12.6 108


ABDUL RAUFF: Abdul Rauff s/o Shaik Ahmed, was born on 15th February, 1956 at Bidar, Karnataka. He belongs to a traditional artisans family and learnt this craft from his father. He has received the National Award in Handicraft in 2004. He has participated in various craft exhibition organized within the country and abroad. His craft work was also recognized by various government agencies like National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), Karnataka State Handicrafts Development Corporation, District Industries Center (DIC) Bidar. More than 130 people have trained under him. He has received the Shilp Guru Award for his valuable contribution and excellence in Bidri craft. He is the only master artisan in Bidar who has won President Award for his work.


ABDUL BARID (BABLU): Abdul Barid s/o Abdul Rauff is one of the finest craftsperson in Bidar. He has done his education, B.Sc in electronics and has worked for few years. But having more interest in the craft he joined his father in his workshop and started doing the craft. He has learned the craft from his father by just observing him since his childhood. His education is helping the family to grow business and managing clients. Bablu’s expertise is in sheet work.













13 Conclusion

Bidri is the crux of the identity borne by the people of Bidar and it has played a very indispensable role to shape their lifestyle in an inexplicable way. Like any other craft, it has gone through some inevitable changes in its tangible and intangible elements associated to it but still continues to sustain its core essence. Modernization and commercial influx that has been proliferating in the current era is posing a threat to the future of the craft as it is compromising the quality. Every craft deserves a well representation of itself to be portrayed before the people. This document is being presented as an encapsulation of data related to the craft, the artisans and lifestyle of the people who embody Bidar in all its glory. It’s the proof of the rich metal craft history symbolizing the confluence of many design traditions and artistic innovations related to the art of engraving. The process of documentation has been an opportunity for us to delve into the depths of Bidar’s history and the craft culture of the Deccan

region.To get involved in such a process, which focused on studying the nitty gritty of the craft by interacting with the craftsman in its area of practice, has proved to be an eye opener for us. In the wake of cultural shift and changes in the society it’s a challenging task of sustaining the craft without giving into the hands of modernisation. By sustaining a craft, one does not only talk about its preservation, but also about nurturing the soul of the community through the beliefs, work culture and lifestyle that are connected to the legacy of bidri. Its our duty to acknowledge the significance of the craft that is concerned with its history, the artisans and the heritage of India. So, as budding designers we hope that we have been able to put forward an insightful documentation that will aid in sensitizing the people about the value and remarkable finesse of this craft.



Point of contact

Name: Praveen Deganmadi Detail: Operator, Record room

Name: Anand Bhure Detail: Record Assistant, DC office

Name: Sameer Pasha Detail: Record keeper, DC office

Name: Mahadev Hangarki Detail: Record Assistant, DC office



Name: Ruta Anil Detail: Attendant, Bidar Library

Name: Mohd Arif Detail: Archaeological conservation office

Name:Vinayak Shirhatti Detail: Conservation assistant, Bidar

Name: Dr. AV Naganoor Detail: Assistant Superintendent archaeologist, Dharwad

Name:Vir Shetty Detail: Security guard, Museum, Bidar Fort

Name: Sayed Azmadulla Khadri Detail: Translator, Record room




Dhama, Manika, Of Soil and Silver: Bidri Metal Inlay Craft from Bidar, Karnataka, [website], 2015,, (accessed 26 January 2018) Subramaniam, Avinash, Meet the Bidris #HandmadeInIndia, [website], 2016, http://engrave. in/blog/bidri-work/, (accessed 26 January 2018) M, Roshini, Interview: Retelling the Story of Bidriware, [website], 2017, https://www., (accessed 26 January 2018) Author, I, usttad project – bidri craft technique, [website], 2017, https://unliked.wordpress. com/2017/10/10/usttad-project-bidri-craft-technique/, (accessed 26 January 2018) Author, I, Bidri Art, [website] 2019,, (accessed 26 January 2018) Author, I, Bidri/Inlay on Metal, [website], 2019, asp?CountryCode=india&CraftCode=002797, (accessed 26 January 2018) Pandey,Anjali, Bidriware:A Unique Metal Craft of India, [website], 2016, http://granthaalayah. com/Articles/Vol4Iss3/19_IJRG16_B03_27.pdf, (accessed 26 January 2018) K, Sarumathi, Preserving ‘Intangible History’, [website], 2017, http://www.thehindu. com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/archiving-the-life-and-culture-of-bidar/ article19903131.ece, (accessed 26 January 2018) Ainy, Indian Metal Crafts, [website], 2016,, (accessed 26 January 2018) Patel, R., Bidri Art: Inlaid metal work from Bahmani Sultanate, Bidar, District Administration, 2015. Stronge, S., Bidri Ware: Inlaid metal work from India, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983.



Salar Jung Museum, Bidri Ware: Illustrated Catalogue, Hyderabad, Salar Jung Museum, 1961. Pathak, S.K., Indian Silver, New Delhi, Roli Books, 2008. Department of Archaeology, Museums & Heritage, Bangalore, Heritage Series: Bidar, Bangalore, Department of Archaeology, Museums & Heritage, 2007. Jaitly, J.,The Craft Traditions of India, New Delhi, Tiger Books International PLC London, 1990. Jayaraj, B., Arts and Crafts of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh Handicrafts Development Corp. Ltd., 2007.


Bidri art derived its name from the place where it was made- Bidar in North Karnataka, a city which was a part of the Bahmani kingdom. The craft is governed by the interplay of contrasting black and silver colours on the surface of alluring forms that represents its rich heritage. It is the coalescence of many design philosophies that flourished centering the engraving techniques of Deccan and the old Persian style since its inception.

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Chronicles Of Bidri_Craft Documentation  

This book is a compilation of Bidri craft research study by students of National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar. Bidri art derived its na...

Chronicles Of Bidri_Craft Documentation  

This book is a compilation of Bidri craft research study by students of National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar. Bidri art derived its na...