Cuttack's fine silver filigree has a special place within the community during festivals, rituals and important ceremonies
In Odisha, the vegetation along the main highway announces the advent of ‘Puja’ or season of prayer, when the Goddess Durga in various avatars is celebrated in nine days of festivities and prayers called Navratri.
The wild sugar cane or kans grass, locally called kashphool, can be seen in full bloom to announce the beginning of this season of prayer or 'Puja'.
This season of prayer is an opportunity for the street vendors to sell their wares to the various pilgrims who visit the temples.
It sets into motion a flurry of decorative work from the hands of crafts persons, to flower garland makers to decorators of illuminated frontages on the streets.
Jagannath temple in Puri is an important cultural landmark for Odisha.
The temple is an important stop for all devotees who come to Puri.
There are many traditional silver filigree workshops around the temple area, which are frequented by both locals and tourists.
The working area is often decorated with posters of Lord Jagannath and other deities.
Various showrooms in the markets, use their window display to showcase silver ornaments for deities.
These showrooms cater to all kinds of buyers, and stock silver filigree items besides ornaments for deities as well.
The workshops where all the silversmiths sit are generally located behind the showrooms.
They sit in groups of 4 or 5, facilitating the complete process from twisting the silver wires to fashioning the products to cleaning the finished piece.
The process is highly elaborate, using precision machines and skilled handwork, apart from the ingenuity and creativity of these traditional artisans.
The craft is believed to have been introduced in Odisha when the Mughals established their rule in India.
Many designs employed by the artisans show the influence of elaborate motifs of that era.
The craftsmen also make filigree products using gold, and often use gemstones to enhance their designs.
Silversmiths excel in producing large ornamental pieces used to add grandeur to the idol of a deity during major festivals.
All production starts with craftsmen drawing the design on sheet.
While most of the processes involved in filigree production are manual, a machine is used to compress silver bricks into flat wires.
Cuttack is famous for its silver filigree work and the ecosystem that exits to support the silversmiths is what makes this craft successful.
Many families have been a part of this ecosystem for a long time and continue to grow.
The good business that the silver trade brings to the town, encourages all sections of society to live together in harmony.
Text: Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Artisans: Ruksar Ali and community filigree artists
Ground Facilitator: Ankit Kumar
Documentary Video: Ankit Kumar
Curation: Ruchira Verma