Elements of worship, in silver

A silver-plated artefact made by Anil Pattar

Belagavi region has for long been the hub of silver work, especially utensils and jewellery, owing to its proximity to Hupri near Kolhapur, which is the heart of the Indian silver industry.  A new breed of craftspersons are now dabbling in silver as a medium to decorate the temples.

One of them is Anil Pattar from Belagavi. His home in Shahapur area doubles up as his workshop with a small furnace, tools and half-ready artefacts scattered around. What strikes one is the finesse and natural look of all his works.

Crafting in metal

A bust of Goddess Yallamma from Saundatti is something which is in demand and many such pieces adorn his workshop. Presently, he is working on creating a silver Basava as a cladding for a stone idol. Anil shows his latest works of art with pride, it includes badges and tie pins for the Maratha Light Infantry to be presented to the graduating cadets. His most cherished work of late has been the Military badges. The tiny pieces are quite difficult to handcraft. The springs of the pins, the clips, the Ashok Chakra and the Sharquat symbol are all labour intensive. Getting the design approved from the officers was also a long drawn process but everything was worth the effort, he says.  Anil says he can create any piece by just looking at a photograph.

When cladding an existing idol or doors, plain clay is kneaded to create the base and give the primary shape. Artists also use plastering to give the craft a smooth finish. Either silver dye, created using plastering material or silver sheets are used as the final coating.

Sometimes, resin is used as a supporting material below the silver sheets, when the artefact is hollow to prevent the damage of the silver sheets. For, the sheets are usually thin and the artist has to be careful while carving minute intricate designs.

Often, the artists travel all the way to the site with the separate pieces in order to check the measurements. And, then at the last stages, they go again to fit the final pieces. These pieces are created to fit themselves in accurate notches without the use of soldering. The solder is used only to attach limbs and such parts to the idols if needed. Most of the times, the silver is given by the clients and then the work begins.

Anil learnt his craft from his uncle who practices it in Bagalkot. He’s been doing this work for the past 18 years. Srikant Naik, a retired banker from Belagavi, has been a great support in rejuvenating his art, acknowledges Anil. Naik pitches in with handling the clay to clad the idols and taking the measurements. 

What makes Anil’s work all the more special is his work is entirely done by hand, including the minute detailing of designs and intricate carvings. It takes anywhere between a week to a couple of months to complete a job.  Many times, he works under strict deadlines to meet special occasions or auspicious dates as demanded by the temple authorities. At such times, his entire family pitches in to complete the work. 

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Elements of worship, in silver

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