Exploring traditional craft – The copper bell makers of Kutch
The image is of a copper bell, something that we at Tamaala have fallen in love with. It is everything that a traditional/tribal art or craft form represents.
They are imperfect in finish, also no two bells look alike. They have a beaten look due to the process and the ringer is a piece of chopped drift wood. But, no matter how they look, their ring it true. And this is testimony to centuries of native knowledge and learning which we may tend to discount through our new age expectation of symmetry and i would dare say an acquired western aesthetic sense.
The metal bells are manufactured in the traditional process of heating and beating. Traditionally In Hinduism and Buddhism & Christianity, bells are used in religious ceremonies – they are supposed to drive out the evil spirits before prayer and bells are also called as ‘Khandika’ in Sanskrit. Before these bells were made in Zura but as time passes this craft spread to some other places like Nirona and Bhuj etc. Iron sheets, metal powder and mixture of raw cotton and mud are the basic input materials that go into for bell making.
There are five important steps to making these beauties – shaping the metal sheet, applying metal powder, mud wrapping, heating and tuning.Initially iron sheet is marked and cut. The edge, cut slightly to inter-lock to make cylindrical hollow. Then the metal sheet is shaped by placing on a rock, which has an impressions of varying sizes and shaped. The sheet is marked in to circle using metal compass to make a cap for the bell which is cut and bent by hammering the sheet to obtain a dome shape. The handle for the bell is made by cutting and shaping the metal sheet according to the bell size. Handle for the bell is attached by making a hole on the semi-circular hollow crown. Then the cylindrical body and the semi-circular hollow crown are skill-fully interlocked together without any welding but are beaten and driven in to the required shape.
The article is dipped in to mud water and then the metal powder made of copper and zinc waste pieces applied on the wet bell so that it holds. Then the mixture of raw-cotton and clay is kneaded thoroughly and wrapped around the article. The article is then placed in kiln using metal holder to bake with a high temperature. After heating the article is taken out from the kiln and cooled by dipping and pouring water. The outer layer of mud is removed by hammering carefully. The wood is cut and shaped in to required size to make a clapper for the bell and attached with the help of metal wire. The Luhars then proceed to tune the bell, by beating/gentle tapping to arrive at the fine final tune.
Do explore the Tamaala store for options suitable to you, and ring in happiness.
Till next time.