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Unveiling the Beauty and Significance of Tarakasi

Odisha is home to one of the most intricate and delicate artforms – Tarakasi. It is a type of silver filigree work originating in the city of Cuttack, Odisha. Cuttack is known as the erstwhile ‘silver city’ because of its flourishing silver filigree industry. This highly skilled artisanship is nearly 500 years old. Filigree work constitutes of artisans shaping wires made from silver into complex, intricate designs. The silver wires are bent to form shapes of birds, animals, flowers, deities etc. Filigree craftwork requires highly skilled deft craftsmanship to design the rich web-like pattern of silver lace. The filigree artists are called ‘Rupa Banias’ or ‘Roupyakaras’. They are highly skilled traditional silversmiths. Some of them have their family business, some are self-employed or some do it as casual workers. Since the beginning, the filigree work of Cuttack is caste and hereditary based. At present, the Bania caste is mostly engaged in this work and few from the fisherman community are also seen to be doing this job for the sake of breadwinning.

For Tarakasi, Rupa banias or silversmiths use alloy of 90% or more pure silver. At first, silver ore lumps are melted in claypots over coal fires and then the melted silver is poured into rod-like thin moulds. The moulds are cooled by submerging in cold water. The rods are then thinned out using machines. The whole process is tedious and involves manpower and effort as it is done mostly by hand. The wires are then carved into definite shapes and designs by the artists’ skilled fingers. Once, the final shapes are crafted, the filigree work is soldered to make sure the design details remain intact. Tongs, cutter, hammer, hollow pipe, die for silver balls, small tongs, platform, small hammer, metal knife, earthenware pot, pair of tongs, earthen stove and oil container are the tools used for this filigree artwork.

The popular figurines depicted in silver filigree work include miniature animals, birds, flowers, models of Lord Jagannath, Konarak wheel, bicycle, Taj Mahal etc. Ornament and jewellery designs are famous in Odisha for its detailed and intricate silver filigree work. Especially, the backdrop of Durga puja pandals showcase the glory of the Tarakasi silver work at its finest.