This traditional craft flourished in the Deccan region since the early 17th century. Named after the city of Bidar, the capital city of the Bahamani sultans, the art form has long been known to connoisseurs of Indian art.
Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad has a few quality specimen from the 17th Century which illustrate the technical skills of the craftsmen in producing complex inlaid patterns. The 18th century metalware illustrates some of the shapes used for hookahs and inlay boxes and designs. This craft once flourished with the patronage of the Nizams of Hyderabad.
The Origin of Bidri
Over the last 180 years, Bidri craft was patronised by the Bahamani dynasty of the Deccan. It is believed that the technique was introduced from Iran. Allauddin Bahamani II, (1436-57), the story goes, took craftsmen from Bijapur where they were producing work of this kind and put them at Bidar. About 900 years ago, the craft was brought down to India by migrants from Iraq. The original home of the work seems to be Iran but it travelled to Ajmer in Rajasthan through an Iraq nobleman called Khaja Moinuddin Chisti. After many years, Abdullahbib-Khaiser, who was well versed in this art, came and settled down at Bijapur. Shivanna, a local carpenter won Khaisers confidence and was thus taught the art by the latter. Thus, Shivanna became the first native to learn the art.
According to Susan Strong (1985), the earliest unambiguous reference to Bidri is in the Charter Golshan, a history of India written in persian in 1759. Earlier in the 17th century, the Mughal style with its mixture of Iranian, European and indigenous elements had formed a new repertoire of ornaments which was distinct from the Deccan style. In the following century, Bidri flourished under the patronage of many royals, particularly the Nizam of Hyderabad. Bidar, Birar, Murshidabad Raipur, Shadnagar and Hyderabad became famous for the craft. Soon, Bidri earned international recognition through several exhibitions for Britain and France.
Among the most popular designs of Bidri is phulzeri which is known for its intricate flower engravings. This design needs five days to be completed. Tarkeshi, Mehtabi, Phulpatti and Dala are some popular designs used by the artisans now.