The art of metal work is known to Indians for almost 5000 years from now. The beautiful image of the dancing girl from Mohanjodaro bears testimony o this fact. This indicates the high level of workmanship attained by ancient craftsmen. Traditionally, Indian craftsmen have been using different metals like iron, copper, silver and alloys like bronze, bell metal, white metal etc to produce items such as pots, pans, utensils, photo frames, sculptures of deities, mythological figures and animals.
The iron pillar at Mehrauli (Delhi), belonging to the Mauryan is a fine example of Indian craftsmen’s excellence. During the Chola period also the art of metalworking reached great heights. The Chola craftsmen were past masters at making bronze sculptures. Sculptures are usually made with the lost wax technique. In this process a wax model of the sculpture or any item is created. This model is then covered with clay and holes are made into the clay. Finally molten metal is poured through the hole at the top, causing the wax to melt. The cavity created within is automatically replaced by the hot metal. The metal is allowed to cool and the final product is freed from clay and polished.
In the field of metal work a variety of styles are seen in different parts of India. In the Ladakh area of Kashmir traditional vessels are made out of iron and brass. Many richly engraved traditional household items like bowls, samovars, plates and trays are also made in Kashmir. In “Naqasi”, elaborate floral and calligraphic designs are imprinted on copper and silver items. These items are then oxidized, which makes the design to stand out from the background.
Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh is renowned for its brass items. A wide range of household items like pots, trays, bowls and ornamental pieces are made here and are decorated with intricate etching. Benaras is well known for cast sculptures of deities and household utensils.
Rajasthan too is known for its rich tradition of metal work. Here, Jaipur is the main center for brass engraving and lacquering. The main items that are produced here are photo frames, bowls, plates, boxes etc. Jaipur is also known for its bronze sculptures. At Alwar the art of Koftagari or damascening work is practiced. In many other states also the art of metal work flourishes. They are Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu.