The combination of copper and tin that forms the ‘Aranmula Kannadi’ is one of the best kept secrets in the State for it is passed on from generation to generation within a few families of craftsmen in Aranmula and their relatives in Palakkad. But a young artisan from the ninth generation of an illustrious lineage of craftsmen in Kozhikode has successfully developed a ‘metal mirror that emulates the same shine and clarity of the Aranmula Kannadi’ through trial and error.
It took N.K. Abhilash from Muchukunnu, near Koyilandy, here three years of tireless experiments and at least 14 casts to come up with the mirror. He is now trying to get a patent for his product that he fondly calls the ‘Koyilandy Kannadi’.
The clay factor
It was a challenge by a craftsman from Aranmula that pushed Abhilash into going after what was perceived as impossible. “He told me that the clay available at Aranmula was key to the finish for which the Aranmula Kannadi is famous for. I had to prove that the clay at Muchukunnu was good enough,” he told The Hindu with pride in his voice.
With a Plus Two level education, Abhilash has been helping his father Chanthukutti in their workshop for ages. He is from a family of artisans who have been making bronze and brass artifacts for nine generations. The ‘kuthu vilakku’, ‘thookku vilakku’, ‘kindi,’ ‘uruli’ and bells are their livelihood. The family used to make ‘hookas’ to be exported to the Arabian countries, but the business declined as people stopped using the smoking equipment.
The right combination
The rough flat graphite looking piece used as the mirror with a bronze handle is very brittle. “This piece is polished repeatedly to give the mirror finish. The reflection in the mirror will not be clear unless the combination in the alloy is right,” Abhilash said. He has made only one piece so far and it cost him around ₹15,000 just for the material.
However, he does not plan to go commercial with the mirror even after he gets a patent. “The mirror is the livelihood of the people in Aranmula. I do not want to interfere with that. I am perfectly content with my traditional craft through which I get enough business. I just wanted to prove to the world that I could do this,” he said. Besides, he thinks the mirror is not worth the effort and labour he put into its making.