Bidri is an intricate metal craft item that originates from Bidar in North Karnataka. Located on the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border, the artisan community of Bidri and the craft are located on both sides of the border. Courtesy the craft line, this region has firmly established its cultural identity on the world craft map.
Interesting antecedents dot history of this craft, one that has a bearing on the brewing discontentment between the artisans of the two different states.
Bidar as history states was the stronghold of the Bahmani Kingdom till the 14th century. The antecedents of this craft date back to that era when a Persian craftsmen at the invitation of the Bahmani sultan migrated to this region, collaborated with the local artisans and developed this craft line. Thus in a nuanced sense, it may not be entirely wrong to say that this craft in its essence is of foreign origin, subject to innovation thereafter with Indian inputs. That it acquired an independent standing and Indian lineage by virtue of traditional endeavour merits reckoning in its relevant part.(thanks Sai, for adding this input)
Featuring prominently in the list of craft items to be exported form India, it however failed to do much for the socio-economics for the artisans per se. A couple of years back, this was a languishing dying art, with artisans migrating fast to other lucrative livelihood options.
Such was the scenario, up until two key developments put the craft back on the revival path; notably factors that carry significant importance in the ongoing G.I discourse and serve as examples to extrapolate in similar other G.I contexts..
Early last year, the Karnataka Handloom Handicrafts Corporation was awarded the much awaited G.I tag. Prior to this the artisans worked as an unorganized sector in informal clusters, appallingly exploited by the middlemen from Bangalore and Hyderabad without any significant economic accrual percolating back to them. Further the main raw material component, the sand sourced from the fort of Bidar which gave the metal artifacts its lustrous sheen, was difficult to procure adding to the woes of the artisans. This scenario prevailed until the \National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development started the Bidri cluster development programme and set up a Bidri colony in Bidar in 2002.
All well with the progressive initiatives launched to revive this dying art, save for one catch in the latch that’s been festering and threatening to assume full blown proportion lately. The G.I authorized user status has been awarded to the artisans resident in the Karnataka region; totally excluding the Hyderabad artisans from the tangible benefits that may accrue vide the G.I status. Unlike the EU Directives that provide for a mechanism whereby a joint recognition of G.I rights amongst the member states is possible, the Indian legislation mentions none. That be, administration and benefit apportioning becomes a ticklish intra-state issue Is there a reconciliatory path that does not create a disparity in the artisan community that share common traditional footprints?
Another factor that deserves to be highlighted in the Bidri issue is the play of innovation on the promotion of the G.I product. The age long debate on innovation and IPRs has largely been examined from the perspective of traditional IPR doctrines. Contrary to popular notions, this is one case where a sui generis G.I legislation has helped to foster innovation and the craft line “Some of the old designs and varieties, practiced for years by the artisans, had made Bidriware “obsolete” causing a slump in the market. A couple of years ago, Bidriware was considered to be a dying tradition in its home place. Bidriware is native to Bidar and has obtained Geographical Indications (GI) registratiion. In the recent times, things have started to look up for the work after innovative designs were developed by the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT). The experiment is the first of its kind in the long-practiced Bidriware tradition and one of the finest examples of the changing trends in Bidri.Artisans claim that the revenue stream stands substantially enhanced post this.”
As Darwin says, that there is no external design to the evolution of life, just infinite possibilities…
The Bidri in a sense may be so of foreign origin, but is ours to innovate, promote and nurture…