The art of bidri was very popular from the early 17th century. It derives its name from the city of Bidar, 128 km northwest of Hyderabad where it originated. It was used for a wide variety of everyday articles like huqqas, pandan (savoury boxes), surahi (wine flasks), mir-e-farsh (weights for carpets), sini (large plates), etc. The base metal of bidri is an alloy of zinc, copper, and lead on which elaborate inlay is executed. Fine wires as well as pieces of silver, brass, and occasionally gold are inlaid in grooves etched upon the surface of the article which is darkened with chemical treatment, creating a pleasant contrast between the design and ground areas. Popular designs are floral or geometrical patterns and also include motifs like the svastika – an auspicious symbol in India, the fish – a royal emblem of the Awadh Nawabs, and the mahipusht – a fish-scale pattern. Beautifully decorated huqqas were objects of prestige and social status. They were made in a variety of materials – glass, metal, porcelain. They were embellished and manufactured using different techniques such as bidri, damascene, fretwork, enamelwork, etc.
This piece is decorated with floral sprays and creepers inlaid in silver and brass. The techniques used are tarkashi (inlay of wire) and taihnishan (inlay of small sheets or pieces of metal). Near the brass mouth and on the two pipes above are chased and stamped designs without inlay. The two pipes would have been attached to necha (pipes) leading to the muhnal (mouthpiece) and to the chillum (container for coal).
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection.
Indian Decorative Art
Bidri – metal alloy inlaid with silver and brass
19th Century CE
Height 31.5 cm