Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Silver Jewellery of Hupri

The village of Hupri near Kolhapur has today become a busy and well known place for silver jewellery. Silver jewellery of unique craftsmanship is executed here with traditional artistry.

The speciality of siliver jewellery of Hupri is payal or anklet of various types of length and design. Hupri is also famous for the seamless silver balls known as gujrav. These hollow silver balls combined with solid ones, known as rawa are added to payal as per design needs. There are a variety of designs created through the stamped-out dies. Skilled craftsmen of Hupri turn out complicated payals of different names such a painjan, koyali, kamarpattas etc. They also make special kinds of necklaces. Silver jewellery from Hupri is in great demand at home and abroad. Jewellery shops in Kolhapur, Miraj, Sangli, Belgaum etc make good business of Hupri jewellery as women-folk in those areas and elsewhere clamour for such silver ornaments.

The silver alloy used for jewellery is a compound of silver, copper and zinc which is heated over a coke fire, over the choola constructed indigenously. Clay-graphite crucibles, brought from Kerala, are used for pouring the alloy into cast iron moulds of various traditional designs.

The process of making the seamless, hollow, silver balls is equally interesting. It is a laborious task though. A tiny square piece of silver is beaten into a hemisphere. Two such hemispheres are placed over each other but cross-wise. By rolling the pieces in a groove on a special grindstone, all the eight corners are folded over. These are then coated with the borax-ammonium sulphate mixture and placed on an ash-covered tile, in rows. After heating them with a hand-operated kerosene blow-torch, the pieces being to puff up like purees. It is truly a fascinating sight to watch!

The story of Hupri silver jewellery goes back to the first decade of this century, precisely the year 1904. in that year Krishnaji Ramachandra Sonar switched over to making ornaments in silver from gold. He would have hardly imagined that his silver craftsmanship would one day rise to such a height that within the nest four decades it would make Hupri synonymous with silver smithing.

The master craftsmen of Hupri moved with the times. Many changes took place in their karkhanas) work - shops). Replacement of an imported, hand operated 'pasta' machine for making silver strips and a fly-press for stamping out dies have changed the scene completely. Few years ago there were 9-10 karkhanas (work-shops) employing 20- 30 craftsmen. During the span of fifteen years the number of karkhanas reached to 60 and over 200 skilled craftsmen.

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