On quiet summer days I sometimes reminisce about a hazy trip to Hyderabad, many years ago. The Musi River, historical structures soaring high, and detailed stone patterns; all is fair when it is called the ‘dreamland’ of art lovers. However, the most vivid memory of mine from the city is the enchanting ensemble of ancient artistry that it possessed; it had me bowled over!
It was during a casual visit to an antique store there that I had my first rendezvous with the art of Bidri; an exquisite piece of metallic earrings that the owner lovingly conjured from his cupboard. The primeval art resting in my palms was love at first sight!
The intricacy of the metallic wonders is a sight to behold. Counted among the most popular form of metal work that dwells in various forms in India, the art of Bidri it is a rich legacy handed down to succeeding generations since its inception. Brought into India during the 13th to 15th century through the mesmerizing land of Karnataka, the art is now as old as it comes. Though believed to be essentially Indian, the art disputably originated in Persia.
The Mughals, staunch advocates of all things aesthetic, yet again promoted the art in India, through the reign of the Bahamani dynasty of The Deccan. They introduced craftsmen to Bidriwork and facilitated innovation to great lengths; from then on began an evolution of the art that we Indians are proud to call ours today!
The beauty of ancient jewelry has remained unparalleled since ages. Be it tribes, gypsies or the upper-elite classes, medieval adornments have never failed to charm; they even define one’s personality. The Bidri form of jewelry is no less, with its distinctive traits and beautiful imagery. The opulence and natural glamour of the jewelry pieces is enough to enchant hundreds.
Bidri stands apart because of its strict association with being a metal craft. Created mainly out of Zinc and Silver, they are embellished using different techniques of appliqué, overlay, inclay and colour fixing using various tools. Bidri is perhaps the most popular form of ornamentation reflecting the skills of Bidri artisans. The carvings on most pieces are done using raw materials like clay, wood, metal, paper and marble even today. However, the most used materials are copperware and brass; the apparent reason for their incredible luster and shine!
The art has diversified strongly over the years, branching into various forms of jewelry, including jhumkas, maang tikas, tiaras and rattan churs, popular among modern-day brides as reminders of their ancient lineage and even their grandmothers’ jewelry boxes. They usually have inlays of Silver wire on all engraved designs, which largely turn out to be white and black in colour.
Owing to the varied development of Bidri, the ornaments present a blend of the local styles of Turkey, Persia and Arabic countries. They can easily be spotted through geometrical patterns, as well as flowers, leaves and human structures. Needless to say, the art has positioned unnatural control over jewelry preferences, carrying on forever the purity and fascination of the art.