Bronze Making Swamimalai

By Sanjeev Nayyar | 2016

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We had lovely idli, dosa for breakfast and then moved around the town searching for bronze makers. The owner of this shop agreed to spend some time with us. Simply put process is - use hard wax to make model, then use soft wax to make design of finer points, cover with Alluvial soil, clay and sand layer covered. Mould kept in sun to dry for 2-3 days.

Instruments and materials used. Hollow mould heated again before he fills it with five metals ie copper 75%, 24% brass, lead 1%. Five metals symbolise give elements of nature and the five senses. After 24 hours remove sand layer and clay so what is left is image in fine metal. 5 metals also called Pancha Loha.

Designing finer points in wax model. Image in fine metal is then chiselled, filled, softened and carved. The image is then joined with the base. Swamimalai success in bronze making is because it is close to river Cauvery whose silt is rich in silica, ideal for making strong moulds.

At work, finer aspects of design. Opening of eyes of image is the final step. The shop belongs to Ramalingam Sthapathy 0435 2454074, 91 9360551420. His is the 13th generation at work. He and others in Swamimalai are overflowing with orders from India and abroad.

Finer aspects of design. Shri Sthapathy and other makers should note that Chinese have started producing such images and will cut them on price. POOMPUHAR the state handicraft emporium has a big manufacturing unit here. We missed try to see.

Old images. A 3.5 feet images 35 days of continuous work and would cost about Rs 2 lakhs. "Even today, traditional artisans, known as Sthapathis, create these images according to a fixed set of rules and guidelines laid down in the Shilpa Shastra, an ancient treatise on art. The main centre for bronze casting in Tamil Nadu is Swamimalai."

Shri Ramalingam employs 11 workers and belongs to the Viswakarma community. We reached early morning say 8.30 ish so few shops opened. Enjoyed meeting Ramalingam and nice of him to share making process with us.

In the neighbouring shop was this photo. They are National Award winners. They are S Devasenapathy Sthapathy Sons 0435 2454429, 2454058. Lots of their work was ready for export to temples in the U.S. They are three brothers so bigger compared to Ramalingam. To see pictures of BASTAR CRAFT Click here

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