War Crafts: Koftgari: Unravelling the Art of Damascening from Rajasthan
The ethereal art of weapon ornamentation — Damascening, is one of the most beautiful aspects of the armoury of Rajasthan’s royals. It is the overlay art of decorative Damascening (the term originated from Damascus Steel) of hard, ferrous metals with hair-thin precious gold, and silver metal wires, done by the Siklikar community in Rajasthan.
The art is believed to have been brought to India by Persian craftsmen during the 16th century after the Mughal rulers’ invasion. The peculiarity of the craft is that though the weapons are heavily ornamented, they are still functional. In ancient times, there were three types of Damascening art being done: Te-hen- shah, Teh-tula, and Koftgari. Our Craftsman, explains the process. “First, the surface of the metal object to be ornamented is evenly scratched to create a rough, finely lined surface. It is heated on a stove until red hot and then allowed to cool naturally. Next, the object is clamped in a vice, and the process of embedding the wire into the metal is begun, where silver or gold wire is laid on the abraded metallic surface and pressed. The wire is further flattened with the aid of opni, or moonstone. Larger areas such as the tip of the dagger or other objects are executed in silver or gold leaf,” he says.
He adds that traditionally, hunting scenes were engraved or inlaid on the outer covers of the weapons. Back then, the artisans also possessed great skill in inlaying Arabic inscriptions. The curvature of Arabic letters required precision. After all, a variation in the curve could change the entire meaning of the engraved message.
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