A Collector’s Treasure : Aranmula Kannadi
India is a land full of cultural and heritage treasures. If you are a collector of unique antique treasures, then India will never disappoint you. Many unique handicrafts can be found across the length and breadth of India. The state of Kerala is one of the interesting states when it comes to metal craftsmanship. Aranmula Kannadi is one such unique and brilliant metal handicraft produced by a group of skilled, metal-casting artisans of Aranmula, a heritage village in Kerala.
What is Aranmula Kannadi:
In Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala, Kannadi means mirror. Aranmula kannadi is a unique metal mirror crafted by a group of artisans in Aranmula. The mirror is made from an alloy of copper and tin with other trace elements. The composition is kept secret by the community of artisans and they have closely guarded this secret for generations. It looks just like a glass mirror but shows zero refraction characteristics. This means that it does not distort the image like the glass mirrors. This can be tested by putting a finger or a paper on the mirror. In glass there is a gap between the finger or paper and its image but in aranmula kannadi, there is no gap. In glass mirrors the reflection takes place at the back surface but aranmula kannadi a front surface reflection mirror. As in glass mirrors the light travels through glass twice to reach in to the eyes, , it gets refracted and changes the direction which causes distortion in the reflection. Even though a metal, it is as brittle as a glass mirror.
The aranmula kannadi is considered as an auspicious object in Kerala. It is believed that keeping this in the house brings good luck, prosperity and wealth to the owner. This is the reason people gift aranmula kannadi to their near and dear ones on the occasion of marriages, house warming ceremonies and on other auspicious days. The mirror needs to be maintained in a proper way. This need to be kept in room temperature, away from heat and dust and needs to be cleaned in a proper manner to remove finger stains and other marks.
How it is made :
The making of aranmula kannadi is a time consuming and difficult process. It demands a great practice, focus and tremendous amount of patience to produce a perfect piece. The artisans work tirelessly in the sun with a minimum support of poorly constructed thatch and in the heat of furnace. They make the alloy by putting the raw materials in the mould and casting it in the furnace. The composition of the raw materials is only known to the artisans. The molten alloy is removed from the mould after breaking it and then cut in to the desired shapes. Then the artisans polish the alloy pieces for several days to obtain a desired reflective surface. These are then mounted on to the desired frames mostly brass or wooden frames in some cases. The design of the frames vary from a lotus flower to a peacock shape and other beautiful shapes. The mirror is ready for sale now.
The legend of Aranmula Kannadi is linked to the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple (dedicated to Hindu God Lord Krishna). A few centuries back a group of metal craftsmen were brought to Aranmula to build the Parthasarathy Temple. While working on the crown of lord Krishna, the artisans stumbled up on a metal so shiny that it reflected like mirror. Over a time period they improved the composition of the alloy and perfected the mirror. The composition is kept secret and passed to the next generation of the artisan community.
If you are artistically inclined, then you should visit Aranmula and check out the fine murals of Parthasarthi Temple on the banks of river Pampa. While you admire the 18th century beauty of the murals, you can also shop for Aranmula Kannadi.