What is Bidri art? It is a handicraft by artisans who fix sheets or wires of gold, silver or mother of pearl into metal and wood. This is done just as labourers fix steel frames between rows of tiles on the floor. The skills are passed on from generation to generation in the families of artisans. It is not taught in any school or college. Artisans make furniture, utensils, boxes, flower pots, ash trays, cuff links, paper cutters, and other household and decorative items using such inlaid metal or wood. The Rangeen Mahal palace inside the Bidar fort has stones inlaid with mother of pearl. The Royal family of the Hyderabad Nizam had wooden tables inlaid with mother of pearl. The tomb of Behmani King Ahmed Shah Ali Wali is decorated with coloured tiles that are fixed in lime mortar walls using the Bidri inlay technique.
Artisans prepare moulds of zinc and copper and etch beautiful designs on the surface. Silver wires or plates are hemmed in to the designs and the item is immersed in a chemical solution. This gives the body a distinct black colour to the mould. The shining silver pattern stands out in the black background. The black colour does not fade at all. The Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad has Bidri artefacts that are over 500 years old.
King Allauddin Shah of the Behmani dynasty in the 14th Century promoted the Bidri art. He brought in master craftsmen from Iran and Kirman and trained local artisans in the historic city of Bidar. He also provided a market place for Bidri craft. Since then, Bidriware has become synonymous with Bidar.
Bidri art has gained the Geographical Indication tag to certify that this product cannot be made anywhere else except Bidar. This is because artisans use blackened mud from the caves inside the Bidar fort to prepare the base material. This mud has not been exposed to sunlight for centuries and has some special chemical qualities. Bidriware cannot be made without this mud.
Bidar has three national award winning Bidri artisans — Mohammad Rauf, Rashid Khadri and Mohammad Moijuddin. Shah Majeed Khadri is a merit award winner. They have formed Black Gold, a federation of Self Help Groups of Bidri artisans. They keep travelling around the country exhibiting and selling their ware.
Artisans prepare moulds of zinc and copper and etch beautiful designs on the surface. Silver wires or plates are hemmed in to the designs and the item is immersed in a chemical solution. This gives the body a distinct black colour to the mould.