Bronze handicrafts in India are very popular. Firstly, the rich heritage of Tamil culture is beautifully reflected in the traditional handicrafts of the State. In addition, These ethnic art forms also help in preserving antique artifacts from Chola and Pandya dynasties.
Available at Bangalore:- Central Cottage Industries, Cauvery Handicrafts emporioum,
Shops in Chennai:- Giri Trading, Srushti the handicraft emporioum, The Museum company, Poompuhar, Cottage Industries Exposition, Central cottage, Ranee’s
Available at Delhi:- Variety Arts Emporium, Central Cottage Industries Emporium, Kairali, Poompuhar
Bronze is a metal alloy of primarily copper with approx. 12% tin. Tamil Nadu has a distinct culture of creating wonderful bronze sculptures right from the Chola period. The concept of ‘panchaloha’, that is casting deities in bronze, is a speciality in TamilNadu. This traditional craft flourished under the Chola rulers.
The Chola Dynasty ruled between the 9th and 13th centuries and encouraged building of Temples and handicrafts. The Chola rulers even expanded their territories to the islands of Sri Lanka and the Maldives (way beyond the Southern part of India).
Artisans create bronze idols by the cire-perdue (“lost wax”) process. They first make the icon in wax on which three layers of clay are applied and left to dry in the sun. Next, the mould is heated over an oven so that the molten wax could be drained out through suitable holes in the idols. Once completely clear of wax, the mould is filled up with the molten metal and allowed to settle down. The mould is broken off to uncover the bronze icon. The icon gets finishing touches in the later stages of chiselling, detailing and polishing.
The most popular bronze icon is that of the Natarajan (the dancing Shiva), which has been one of the much appreciated themes since the Chola period. In this art form, Lord Shiva is depicted as dancing within a flaming halo (denoting time). The circle corroborates with the popular Hindu belief that it is both cyclical and without end. The dance being performed by Shiva is the Tandava or the cosmic dance.
The old Chola Centres of Swamimalai, Madurai and Tiruchirapalli continue to make some of the best bronze icons as per the strict rules of Shilpa Shastra. In fact, the divine beauty truly comes alive in the hands of skilled Tamil artisans in these centers.