Metal crafting in Bangladesh is an ancient tradition with the earliest object, a punch-marked coin, having been made in the first century BC at Wari-bateswar, Narsinghdi. Based on traditional knowledge and the inherent skills of the artisans the craft attained a high standard.
Artisans over the years have produced an amazing range of cast and worked objects in metal, from temple-icons made by the lost-wax process to ornamental studs, like the one Nawab Sirajuddoulah wore during darbar (now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London). However, the most commonly crafted metal products were and continue to be vessels and utensils, in numerous shapes and sizes. These objects of daily use combine aesthetics with form and function to meet the everyday needs of their users.
Metals used in crafting have traditionally been copper, bronze (copper and tin alloy), brass (copper and zinc alloy), bell (tin and copper alloy) gold, silver, iron, panchaloha (literally, five metals, an alloy of copper, brass, lead, silver, gold) and ashtadhatu (alloy of silver, gold, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron, mercury).
In Bangladesh most of the commonly used household products are made from brass, bell metal or copper - Cooking pots, pitchers, plates, tumblers and bowls are made in diverse shapes and sizes. A variety of other products like tableware, tabletop and wall hangings are often made out of sheet metal by alternatively hitting and hammering the metal. The raw material is usually obtained from various sources - through smelting minerals; by melting old scrap or through the purchase of sheet metal. Since they need daily cleansing and scouring, the utensils crafted are usually of simple, graceful forms with hammered or incised patterns rather than raised decorations. However, other utilitarian articles like betel nut cutters, rice measures, lamps, ceremonial stools and kulas (winnows) are very often beautifully decorated in punched or engraved patterns of linear and floral motifs and in dots displayed in a variety of arrangements.
The artisans employ a number of techniques to craft the metal – including among others shaping, casting- both solid and hollow, engraving, enamelling and repousse work.
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