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In a small village in the southern Indian state of Kerela, lies the secret of handcrafting Aranmula Kannadi. This truly unique object is in fact a mirror. But not just any mirror. The reflective surface is made of a metal alloy!
Aranmula is well known for Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple dedicated to the Hindu god of love and compassion, Krishna. The holy Pamba river flows through this temple town and once a year a regatta of boats is organized on its waters during the harvest festival of Onam. But it is the unique metallurgical handcrafting of the metal mirror, Aranmula Kannadi that stands out. The locals believe that the mirrors bring luck and prosperity and therefore, despite its exorbitant price every household has this auspicious object.
The metal mirror have been in use long before the advent of the modern mirrors. The details of their construction are still shrouded in mystery. Only a few artisan households in the village hold the technical know-how of making them. The metal mirror have become a part of ‘Ashtamangalya’ set which is a set of eight auspicious items arranged together during religious ceremonies.
The Origin of the Metal Mirror
The origins of the metal mirror can be traced to the Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple located in the village. It is believed that during the earlier construction phase of the temple, eight artisan families were brought in from Thirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. They were responsible for all the artwork and carvings to be done in the temple.
On one fine morning, when the artisans were working on crafting a bronze crown for the presiding deity, they accidentally discovered the remarkable reflective property of an alloy of copper and tin. From then on, they tried different variations of the alloy and perfected it. This became the standard of making the mirrors and 2000 years later, is still followed strictly and is a classified secret.
No one knows the actual composition used for making these mirrors. They are formed from an alloy of copper and tin mixed in a well-guarded ratio. The reflection on the mirror is frontal and therefore removes the deviation which occur on other typical mirrors. Once the mirrors are cast in molds and allowed to cool down, the artisans spend multiple days polishing them to achieve the desired result. The image reflected on the mirror is true and distortion free.
There is a quick test to check the distortion free nature of the reflection formed by the mirror. Bring a piece of paper and touch the mirror at one point. You will find that there in no gap between the point where the paper touches the mirror and the actual reflection. If you perform this same experiment with a modern mirror, you will find a gap due to refraction of light.
The Aranmula Kannadi remains a truly unique and bizarre feat of metallurgical skills achieved by the artisans. And even though, the prices are aptly high, it is must buy. After all, not everyone is willing to show you for what you truly are!