Rajasthan is home to flamboyant crafts and is equally known as the land of dazzling valour. Similarly, the craft of Koftgari / Koftgiri, practised by the 5th generation of the Sikligar community, is known for being both aesthetic and resilient. The community has kept the legacy of crafting everlasting weapons & armours for the warrior clan. The handles and casings of these weapons showcase an exquisite inlaid or beaten ornamentation, which also communicates the quality of the armour. This is popularly known as Damascening.
The alloy which makes the Damascening is believed to have been brought to India by Persian craftsmen during the 16th century. As per the historical records, this alloy originated in South India centuries ago, travelled across the sea, only to return with the graceful inlay work. The peculiarity of the craft is that though the weapons are heavily ornamented, they are still functional. There are three types of Damascening techniques: Te-hen- shah(deep inlay), Teh-Tula (gold or silver foil hammering), and Koftgari (cross-hatching pattern).
As explained by our craftsman, “First, the surface of the metal object to be ornamented is evenly scratched to create a rough, finely lined surface. It is heated on a stove until red hot and then allowed to cool naturally. Next, the object is clamped in a vice, and the process of embedding the wire into the metal is begun, where silver or gold wire is laid on the abraded metallic surface and pressed. The wire is further flattened with the aid of opni, or moonstone. Larger areas such as the tip of the dagger or other objects are executed in silver or gold leaf.” He adds that traditionally, hunting scenes were engraved or inlaid on the outer covers of the weapons. Back then, the artisans also possessed great skill in inlaying Arabic inscriptions. The curvature of Arabic letters required precision. After all, a variation in the curve could change the entire meaning of the engraved message.