Hyderabad’s handicraft market is diverse: from exquisite pearl jewellery to silver-inlaid bidriware and wooden carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses, it abounds in a variety of unique exhibits. Some of these artisan crafts have been around for centuries and passed down, within families, generation by generation. Culture trip reveals what to look out for, where to learn more about the techniques, and where to buy these traditional artworks.
A craft that originated over four centuries ago, bidriware is the unique metalwork technique of inlaying silver within a blackened alloy of zinc and copper. The effect of the contrasting colours is striking. The technique is thought to have originated in Persia, but the use of zinc as the primary metal is an Indian concept. The name ‘bidri’ comes from the nearby town of Bidar, where bidriware originated. Tours are arranged to and from Bidar that allow you to see workshops where bidriware is made; it’s also easily found in most handicrafts shops in Hyderabad.
Kalamkari is an artisan textile work that involves printed cotton textiles. The printing can be done by hand or by wooden blocks. The ink is made from bamboo soaked in jaggery and water and is used to draw the contours; the colours come from vegetable and natural dyes. After the colours have been applied and dried, the fabric is washed. The result is a beautifully vivid painting, which can be used for various cloth surfaces, decorative or otherwise, and even on saris. Kalamkari paintings can be bought in any handicrafts store in Hyderabad, but LePakshi is known to sell particularly good-quality paintings.
Indian lacquerware is especially famous, particularly the art made in and around Hyderabad. Lac is actually a gummy deposit that can be obtained from certain insects. It is used to decorate wood or papier-maché objects. The ornamental work consists of various techniques including cloud work, fire work, pattern work and tin foil decorations. These can be seen at the Salar Jung Museum, as well as obtained at the various handicrafts stores and the markets by Charminar.
Salar Jung Museum 22-8-299-320, Darul Shifa Road, Afzalgunj Hyderabad, India, + 91 040 24576443
Hyderabad is India’s foremost manufacturer of pearl jewellery, and among the finest in the world. The pearls (cultured pearls) are first imported from China or Japan, and then processed and refined in Hyderabad. Hyderabad is famous for its drilling and grading of the pearls, both of which are extremely difficult processes which require a great deal of skill and precision. The hub of the pearl market is Laad Bazaar, Charminar, in Hyderabad, but the most reputable stores are Mangatrai Pearls and Jewellers and Jagdamba Pearls.
Filigree is an exquisite and precise jewellery metalwork that involves the soldering of various threads of precious metals (in this case, silver) and looks like metallic lace. In Karimnagar, near Hyderabad, artisans have been making stunning pieces of filigree artwork for centuries. The art provides everyday wearable jewellery in addition to temple decorative materials, boxes and jars, trays, and other utilitarian options as well as standalone pieces of art. The Nizams of Hyderabad were particularly fond of this craft and commissioned several items for their personal use. Silver filigree items can be bought at LePakshi as well.