Chandi Tarakasi

Crafts require precision and dedication. When it comes to fine carving, it requires the most skilled artisans to create beautiful works of art that can adorn people’s homes and bodies. One such craft that originated 500 years ago and continues to enamour people is the Chandi Tarakasi.
Chandi Tarakasi is Popular in Cuttack. Image source: Google Arts and Culture

Chandi Tarakasi is Popular in Cuttack. Image source: Google Arts and Culture

Did you know Cuttack is also called the silver city of India? The city is primarily famous for the unique craft that earned it this moniker. The age-old practice of silver filigree is also known as Chandi Tarakasi.

The craft of Tarakasi was mastered by the expert craftsmen of Odisha, from where the art form became extremely popular. Even today, a majority of craftsmen working on Tarakasi are from Cuttack. Like any craft, the Tarakasi requires patience and finesse. Craftsmen work with pure silver, which is placed in a clay pot that heats over hot coals. In order to keep the temperature regulated, the coals are shuffled manually.

It takes about ten minutes for the silver to melt, after which it is poured into a mould which lies submerged in water. Followed by this, the rod is put in a machine that compresses it into an elongated wire. The process of making the long wire is tedious and is performed by hand. Two men are required to perform this job. This is an extremely traditional step that has yet to change with time.

Once the wire is ready, it is spread out flat, and the designs are hand carved. The other process requires moulding of the wire, where the artisan manipulates the flame to heat the desired part of the wire. The wires are soldered using borax powder and water. Once the powder has been sprinkled, the silver is then exposed to fire again. The heat from the fire ensures that the design stays intact.

Once the piece has cooled down a bit but is still warm enough to be shaped, the artisan will skillfully give it the shape of the desired ornament. To keep up with the times and consumer demands, artisans also employ other techniques such as granulation and casting to give the product a more finessed look.

The filigree jewellery is famous for its heavily detailed patterns. Artisans spare no effort to carve out the most beautiful designs as they seek inspiration from nature, Hindu mythology and religious sites. The filigree jewellery in Odisha is even more opulent as it is studded with semi-precious stones. Toe rings and anklets are considered auspicious, and there is an increasing demand for them. The jewellery worn by Odissi dancers is prepared through the Tarakasi technique.

In the Durga puja held at Cuttack, goddess Durga is adorned with Tarakasi jewellery. People’s love for beautiful ornaments keeps the artisans of Cuttack busy, and even today, the craft receives the admiration it deserves.

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