Illustrious Art of the Deccan

Bidriware is a renowned metal handicraft that derives its name from Bidar, presently in Karnataka. Bidriware represents a unique metal ware that is named after the region of Bidar, which was an important part of Hyderabad state before independence. It was first practiced in ancient Persia and it was later brought to India by the followers of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. The art form developed due to a mix of Persian and Arabic cultures followed by fusion with local style, resulted in a new and unique style of its own.

It was believed to have originated in 14th century AD during the reign of Bahamani Sultans who ruled Bidar in the 14th–15th centuries. The Nizam of Hyderabad introduced the art form in Aurangabad, which was part of Nizam’s Hyderabad state until 1948. Bidar in Karnataka state and Hyderabad in Telangana are popular centres for Bidriware in India. Due to the striking inlay artworks, it is considered an important export item of India’s handicraft market. This native art form has also gained the Geographical Indications (GI) registry. Bidriware is an eight-stage process. These are moulding, smoothening by file and the process of designing by chisel, followed by engraving using chisel and hammer where pure silver inlaying is done. It is subjected to smoothening again, followed by buffing and finally oxidizing by making use of soil and ammonium chloride.

Bidriware is manufactured from an alloy of copper and zinc metals, in the ratio 1:16 by means of casting. Initially the presence of zinc imparts alloy a deep black color. Firstly, a mould is created using soil and this is made malleable by adding castor oil and resin. The molten metal is later poured to create a cast piece followed by smoothened through filing. The casting is further coated with a strong copper sulphate solution to gain a temporary black coating. Then the designs are etched freehand over this using a metal stylus.

This is eventually secured in a vise and the Bidri craftsmen make use of small chisels to engrave the designs over this freehand etching. Fine wire or even flattened strips of pure silver are clearly hammered into the grooves. The item is then filed and buffed, as well as smoothed to remove the temporary black coating. This results in a silver inlay that is not that clearly distinguishable compared to the gleaming metallic surface, which is now completely silvery white. The Bidriware item is now completely set for a final blackening process. Here, makers use a special variety of soil that is available only in select places. This is mixed with ammonium chloride and water for producing a paste.

The mixture is further rubbed onto a heated Bidri surface that darkens the body without affecting the silver inlay. The paste is clearly rinsed, revealing a shiny silver design looking stunning and resplendent against the rest of black surface. The oil is applied as a finishing touch for the product to strengthen the matt coating. The finished product is now shining black with a brilliant silver inlay.