the literature and the metal images excavated by archaeologists
establish the fact that the art of bronze casting has been
continuously practised in India for more than five millennia. The
Indian metal smith is known for various methods of metal-working and
has created forms with vision, conception and sensitivity of a
sculptor. Copper and
tin were the earliest non-ferrous metals to be used by man.
Later, these were mixed to form an alloy called bronze.
The Matsyapurana describes various methods of casting
there is an extensive use of brass, bronze, copper, iron and bell
metal in India. Ornaments, utensils, icons and figures are made out
of different metals. These objects are further embellished through
punching, engraving, inlaying and enameling. Interesting brass and
iron-work is done in Ladakh, where highly ornamental and soundly
effective kitchen stoves are made purely by hand. Many items are
made here by the combination of silver, brass and copper. Copper
vessels of Kashmir with floral designs and calligraphy show
excellent artisanship. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat present wide range
of brass items. In South India, metal icons, especially of bronze,
are extremely popular. Tamil Nadu is one of the famous bronze
producing regions where the artisans or stapathis produce
stylistic images conforming to Pallava, Chola, Pandyan and Nayaka
periods. The images of
Trimurthi and Durga are the most common.
Kerala produces distinct bronze statues of Shiva's tandava
dance, described as the gaja tandava. Karkal in Karnataka is
an ancient centre that specializes in rare Jain icons.
is known for its Dhocra casting and silver filigree
work. Cigar boxes, jewellery, baskets and decorative trays are the
popular items made in the silver filigree. Hyderabad is famous for silver objects like paandaan
(betel-leaves box), ugaldaan (spittoon), itardaan
(perfume-box), silver models of Charminar and bronze statues,
especially of Roman soldiers and the statue of Mephisthopheles and
Margarita (male and female forms in one statue). In North India,
copper and brass lamps are made in a variety of shapes and styles.
The pahaldar lamps and Jaipuri lamps are the examples.
Uttar Pradesh is the largest brass and copper-making region in India
with numerous centres. Centres like Etawah, Moradabad, Varanasi and
Sitapur produce lotas or water-pots and ritual articles like tamrapatra,
panch patra, sinhasan and kanchanthal.
ornamentation is undertaken at Delhi, Jaipur and Moradabad.
Embossing work or repousse is done by raising the
design in relief. Engraving
is done on a metal by cutting or scratching lines on it. The Jaipuri
engravers produce lacquered and engraved brassware in an amazing
variety of articles: hanging lamps, boxes, bowls, picture frames and
plates. In Jaipur the engraving is done in three styles. Marori
work has minutely lacquered designs that cover the entire surface in
its effect both rich and subtle; 'chicken' has flowers
motifs against a chased and lacquered background and 'bichi'
is a delicate pattern of flowers and leaves on a lacquered surface.
Marwar in Rajasthan is famous for it zinc-pots called badla.
The badlas, which are usually round, semi-circular or
rectangular, are sometimes fitted with ice chambers and taps.
creates a decorative effect by arrangement of lines and dots in a
definite artistic pattern. The
kammalas of Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu are famous for metal
encrusting work. Moradabad
has become famous for khudai or metal engraving work done in nakashi
style. They produce a fine and delicate work called barik kam.
Koftagiri or damascening is another technique of
inlaying a light metal on a dark one. It is mostly practised in
Alwar and Jaipur to make popular articles are swords, daggers and
and Jaipur are known for meenakari, the enamel work on gold.
Singh I introduced the beautiful meenakari work
to Rajasthan around the end of the 17th century. Enamelling or meenakari
was originally meant to protect gold, which in its pure state is so
malleable that it can easily wear away. However, the technique soon
came to be used for all sorts of object de arts. The charming
technique of laying fine brass or copper wire into carefully
chiseled grooves in a metal or wooden surface is called Tarkashi.
The patterns, an amalgam of Rajput and Mughal styles, are floral,
leaf and creeper.
bidri work in which silver inlay work is done against dark
backgrounds is practised in Bidar in Karnataka. Silver and
brass are inlaid upon an alloy of zinc and copper, which is
blackened by dipping the object into a solution of copper sulphate.
It is the contrast between the black surface and the shiny inlay
that makes the object look dramatic. It is done in various styles
like tarkashi (inlay of wire), tainishan (inlay of
sheet), zarnishan (low relief), zarbuland (high
relief) and aftabi (cut-out designs on overlaid metal sheet).
metal craft unique to Himachal is the mohra. Mohras or
metal plaques representing a deity are common in Kullu and Chamba.
Most of them represent Shiva, but masks of the mother goddess Devi
and other deities are not uncommon. The head is sculpted in bold
relief, while the neck and shoulders are more summarily treated.
These mohras are taken out of the temples on a palanquin in
processions during religious festivals like the grand Kullu Dussehra.
has a unique art called the Newari art, which consists of
bronzes with beautiful soft reddish patina. The phurpa or
the ritual or magical dagger of Tibetan Buddhists consists of
three-sided blades made of copper alloy and bronze in which the hilt
usually shows three heads of protective deities, the common being