My recent trips to Aranmula to watch the Aranmula boat race and the Vallasadhya, got me an chance to meet some of the best skilled metallurgists.. It is none other than the people who make the Aranmula Kannadi (Kannadi means mirror in Malayalam). We met Gopakumar, a metallurgist who make a livelihood making the Aranmula mirror at his small work place just a kilometer from the Parthasarathy temple. These mirrors are are not silicon based glass mirrors, they are metal alloys, polished to perfection obtaining an undistorted image.
The story goes like this, five hundred years back, a clan of metallurgist within the Tamil Vishwakarma community from shankankovil, were brought to Aranmula by the then King of Pandalam, Kerala. The purpose of bringing them was the renovation of the Aranmula Parthasarathy temple.
During the course of working with different alloys, they found a combination of copper and tin to be very reflective with a silver tint. Further polishing gave the metal a very clear reflecting image which marked the inception of the Aranmula Kannadi. After the temple renovation, the metallurgists did not go back to shankarankovil and the king offered them land and many other facilities to stay back in Aranmula.
They make a mould with a combination of tile powder, paddy field clay and jute fiber. Into the mould goes the molten alloy of tin and copper, then condensed to a solid from. The metal is then polished to perfection, where you find the very fine reflection. The skill is in getting the metal polished to perfection until the reflection becomes perfect. The mirror is within the GI patent laws and is made in Aranmula and nowhere else in the world.
Written by Benjamin John