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Bidriware, Hookah

Bidriware (Kannada: ಬಿದ್ರಿ ಕಲೆ ) is a metal handicraft that originated in Bidar, Karnataka, in the 14th century C.E., during the rule of the Bahamani Sultans.[1] The term 'Bidriware' originates from the township of Bidar, which is still the chief centre for the manufacture of the unique metalware.[citation needed] Due to its striking inlay artwork, Bidriware is an important export handicraft of India and is prized as a symbol of wealth. The metal used is a blackened alloy of zinc and copper inlaid with thin sheets of pure silver.[citation needed]


A end 17th century, Bidriware Hookah base at Louvre

The origin of Bidriware is usually attributed to the Bahamani sultans who ruled Bidar in the 14th–15th centuries. Abdullah bin Kaiser, a craftsman from Iran was invited by the Sultan Ahmed Shah Bahmani to work on decorating the royal palaces and courts. According to some accounts, Kaiser joined hands with local craftsmen and gave birth to Bidriware under the rule of Second Sultan Alauddin Bahmani[1] Since then, the craft has been handed down succeeding generations mostly among the local Muslim and Lingayat sects.


1. Tracing the history of Bidriware, by T. V. Sivanandan, statement by Dr. Rehaman Patel researcher on Bidri Art, The Hindu, January 24, 2012 p 6

Process of making Bidriware[edit]

Cup with lid, Bidriware, ca 1850 V&A Museum

Bidriware is manufactured from an alloy of copper and zinc (in the ratio 1:16) by casting. The zinc content gives the alloy a deep black color. First, a mould is formed from soil made malleable by the addition of castor oil and resin. The molten metal is then poured into it to obtain a cast piece which is later smoothened by filing. The casting is now coated with a strong solution of copper sulphate to obtain a temporary black coating over which designs are etched freehand with the help of a metal stylus.

This is then secured in a vise and the craftsman uses small chisels to engrave the design over the freehand etching. Fine wire or flattened strips of pure silver are then carefully hammered into these grooves.

The article then is filed, buffed and smoothed 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.

The bidriware is now ready for the final blackening process. Here, a special variety of soil which is available only in the unlit portions of the Bidar fort is used.[2] It is mixed with ammonium chloride and water to produce a paste which is then rubbed onto a heated bidri surface. The paste selectively darkens the body while it has no effect on the silver inlay.

The paste is then rinsed off to reveal a shiny silver design resplendent against the black surface. As a finishing touch, oil is applied to the finished product to deepen the matt coating. The finished product appears black with brilliant silver inlay.

Bidri artisans tell that identifying good quality of soil from the fort is done by tasting it with the tip of the tongue and this knack is passed on from generation to generation.


The Bidri designs are usually patterns such as the Asharfi-ki-booti, stars, vine creepers and stylized poppy plants with flowers. Traditional designs include the Persian Rose and passages from the Quran in Arabic script.

Bidriware in other places[edit]

A Bidriware wine decanter

While Bidar in Karnataka and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh are the most vibrant centers, this art is also practiced in few other parts of the country like Purnia in Bihar, Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh and Murshidabad in West Bengal. The designs are mostly conventional ranging from creepers, flowers and sometimes human figures.

In Bellori, a village near Purnia, local craftsmen known as the Kansaris are engaged in molding and turning bidri vessels. The sonars (goldsmith) then do the engraving and polishing. Also found here is the gharki a less sophisticated variant of the Bidri. Another variant of the bidriwork can be seen in Lucknow’s Zar Buland, where the ornamental designs are raised above the surface.



  1. ^ "Proving their mettle in metal craft". timesofindia. January 2, 2012. Retrieved January 2, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Bidriware mementos for delegates at Kannada Sahitya Sammelan". The Hindu (Chennai, India). 2006-01-25. Archived from the original on 23 April 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-25. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dr. Rehaman Patel, Karnatakada Bidri Kale" (Bidri Art of Karnataka) Ph.D. thesis, Dept. of Studies in Visual Art, Gulbarga University, Karnataka-India 2010 published by Dept. of Kannada and Culture, Govt. of Karnataka, 2012
  • Krishna Lal, Catalogue, National Museum Collection Bidri Ware, National Museum of India, New Delhi, 1990
  • Susan Stronge, Catalogue, Bidri Ware: Inlaid Metalwork from India, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1985
  • Narayan Sen, Catalogue on Demascene and Bidri Art, Indian Museum Culcutta, 1983
  • Anil Roy Choudhury, Catalogue, Bidriware, Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad, 1961
  • Ghulam Yazdani, Bidar-Its history and monuments, published by Nizam Government, printed at Oxford press London, 1947

External links[edit]