The stunning image in silver inlay work on a black surface, was made using the soil ofBidar fort
The souvenir that Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried back from Belagavi on Sunday was a statuette of the valiant queen Channamma of Kittur made by the Bidri artisans of Bidar.
The Queen who fought the British in 1824, 33 years before the first war of Indian Independence, was born in a village in Belagavi district. But her stunning image in silver inlay work on a black surface, was made using the soil of Bidar fort, 500 km away.
A team of six artisans, led by Mohammad Abdul Rauf, national award-winning craftsman, chiselled out 140 images of the queen in nearly 100 days. The team spent hours working in a 100 square feet workshed, including melting copper and zinc to form an alloy, create a master shield, prepare copies, etch drawings on them, hammer silver into the slits and treat it with soil from the Bidar fort, to give it a permanent black colour. Though the artisans work in an assembly line method, each statuette takes three or four days to be completed. Mohammad Abdul Rauf has sold the images to a Bengaluru-based jeweller for around Rs. 3,000 a piece. He does not know at what cost the souvenirs have been supplied to the KLE society whose centenary celebrations Mr. Modi attended.
Sadly, Mohammad Abdul Rauf did not know that one of the souvenirs was meant to be given to the Prime Minister, till some one told him in the morning. The meagrely schooled artisan cannot read any language other than Urdu and the newspapers he reads had not covered the event. My friend told me that a Kannada newspaper had carried the picture of the Prime Minister receiving the souvenir and since he had seen me working on it, he identified it.