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BIG WONDER

The making of this `uruli' involved nearly the entire craftsmen community of the village of Mannar, famous for making bronzeware.


IF THE small can attract millions, thought Johnny Malayil, after seeing the 60 cm tall mannequin piss in Brussels, he was struck with the idea of how a very big object'd art would draw people from around the world. Draw them to his eclectic antique store, in the city. He began to dream of creating the world's biggest uruli, the traditional cooking ware of Kerala and got down to executing it. Supported to the hilt in this venture by his brother Sunny, the two got down to what they claim is the biggest uruli in the world today.


Measuring 12 feet, handle to handle, and weighing 3,184 kilograms, this bronze vessel took a whole year to be made. " It was a funny idea to begin with, but my brother felt it was possible. Initially the craftsmen involved were also not too confident except for the chief moulder, Jagannathan and the chief caster, Rajan. They took it up as a challenge and were prepared to risk it along with us. Both being god-fearing and of positive mindset have made this dream come true," said Johnny at the completion of his wish.


Made at Mannar, a village famous for this trade, the entire manufacturing process has been a saga of grit, hard work and determination. Using the lost wax technique and not the die cast method, the making of this uruli has brought a revival of an old way of manufacturing, not so common nowadays. It involves the pouring of molten metal in between two layers of a clay mould, from which wax is drawn out before the molten metal flows in and sets. The whole process is long drawn out and very intricate. Most urulis have traditional motifs of crescent, lizard, turtle or sometimes a snake made on them but for this the designs have been chosen by the brothers from old `urulis' and lamps at their store. "We had some polishers brought down from Delhi to give the finishing touches as they are the best in the country for polishing artefacts, and though a lorry will transport the uruli, a crane is required to install it. This piece is not for sale and cannot enter a container, so it will never go anywhere from here. In times to come people will throng to see this. A piece like this needs a perfect setting," feels Mr. Malayil.


A traditional craft such as this is beset with beliefs and tales, one being that a task so big, a feat so great, a piece so unique extracts a sacrifice from the makers. So, when the chief craftsman's father took ill and passed away it came quite natural to the artisan community that God had willed it for an accomplishment so big.


Almost the entire community participated in some way or the other in shaping out this grandiose venture. " They prayed very hard. Poojas were done at the start and at the end of every step of manufacturing. With an unbelievable uruli size to craft, the cautious workmen put in every worth their salt, until the perfect uruli was born," said an elated Johnny whose small little thought of a very big dream had finally taken shape.



And now a very big uruli, supposedly the world's biggest, costing a whopping Rs.7 lakh, a wonder, is at the antique store, Crafters in Jew Town, Mattancherry, telling a story of a dream come true and of the craft and talent of our artisans of Mannar.


PRIYADARSSHINI SHARMA

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