When you behold an Assamese wedding, the golden touch in everything will emphasize royalty in every aspect of the ceremony. Not only does the bride in her white and golden attire look gorgeous but the golden utensils that she takes to her new home are also known for their unique shine. These golden-colored utensils are made of nothing other than bell metal. Bell metal is highly valued in the Assamese society. Kaanh, as it is commonly called in Assamese, the hammering of bell metal into utensils is a sight to behold in Assam. It started right from the days when the British people ruled India; bell metal craftwork began as a cottage industry and spread across the state in no time. Bell metal is an alloy of copper and tin, with a higher content of tin than in brass.
Assamese Marriages and Bell Metal Utensils
When a bride leaves her father’s house and moves as a wife and daughter-in-law to another, a set of bell metal utensils as a gift from her maternal uncle or any other relative marks the beginning of her new journey in a stranger kitchen. It is a gift that has aesthetic importance and great cultural value in the society. This utilitarian metal symbolizes Assamese etiquette as the bride and the groom offer betel nut and leaves to the guests on a ‘bota’ made of bell metal. Modern brides today take utensils made of bone china to her husband’s home and do not realize the importance ‘kaanh’ has on Assam and its handicraft scene. They must not only understand the values but also the alloy’s historical and cultural connotations, which date back to the ruling days of the powerful Ahom dynasty in Assam.
Sarthebari and its Chimes of Prosperity
Sarthebari is situated at a distance of 90 km west of the cosmopolitan city of Guwahati in Assam. Once upon a time, the hammering of bell metal in almost every household here reverberated the tinkles of prosperity. Such is the history and importance of this shiny, golden-hued metal, Kaanh (Kansa). Even today, statistics prove that about 40% of the people in Sarthebari are engaged in the bell metal handicraft industry. The production centres of bell metal craftwork and utensils are known as Kanhar Shal. The handmade utensils of bell metal are a sign of warmth and royalty, and of course, the unique taste the Assamese people are known for.
Kaanh and its Medicinal Importance
While copper makes any item germicidal, bell metal has proved to be a very healthy metal. This unique alloy not only proves to be rich in minerals but also kills micro organisms within a few minutes of contact. Any copper-based alloy is also known to improve indoor air quality and bell metal is no less in this respect. It is an eco-friendly metal that also says ‘No’ to pollution as no machineries are used in its production but only the art of magical human hands.
Utensils Made of Bell Metal
Local artisans and craftsmen are known to make a range of items from bell metal that includes everyday utensils to the specially-used ones. While the Xorai, a traditional symbol of the state of Assam adorns a corner of every Assamese household, the kaahi (plate), baati (bowl), baan (traditional bowl), lota (traditional glass), and others like maihaang, ashana, charka, etc. adorn every Assamese kitchen. Xorai and Bota are also used to offer tamul-paan (betel nuts and leaves) and gifts to guests. Bell metal utensils are highly beneficial and one reason is that food kept in bell metal utensils stay fresh for a long period of time.
To know more about healthy Assamese breakfast items served in bell metal utensils, read The Toothsome Assamese Breakfast Scene: Curb the Extra Calories
The Bell Metal Panorama: A Trend That Must Stay Alive
The Assamese wedding scene must keep the trend of gifting bell metal utensils to the bride alive. It is the very fragrance of a bride’s new kitchen and a mark of the new journey she takes. The talented artisans who shape bell metal into a variety of utensils are the pride of the state. The trend of using bell metal utensils for serving food is a healthy tradition with a hint of royalty and sophistication that must be kept alive through Assamese wedding ceremonies.
You will find nine different types of kids in Assamese weddings, as mentioned in Nine types of kids we find at weddings!
Picture credits – http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in/dsource/gallery/bell-metal-crafts-sarthebari