Origin: Tarakasi or Silver filigree in english, is a delicate type of work made from strings of silver.
Tarakasi originated from Cuttack, a city in the eastern state of Odisha. Cuttack lies in the delta of the river Mahanadi, and its biggest draw is its tarakashi work. So famed is Cuttack tarakashi that people have taken to call this place Silver city. Although Cuttack is a thousand years old, tarakashi is considered to be 500 years old, where it is said to be brought by Mughals and cultivated by trade with Java, Sumatra and other ports of Indonesia. Indeed the trade with Indonesia is so ancient and so reciprocal that exact tarakashi designs can be found in both places.
Most silver filigree artisans reside in Cuttack or in the environs of the Cuttack district and are traditionally involved in creating pieces for temples. Indeed every year for Durga Pooja a new mukhat (crown) in silver filigree is crafted for Goddess Durga.
Present Day: Today there are less than 1000 artisans working in silver filigree, hand made designs are time-consuming and more expensive hence the art has been seeing an unfortunate decline. Hand made designs are intricate and beautiful that cannot be replicated by machines, however in a price sensitive market machine made items sell more. Mutliple cooperatives have been set up but the impact will be seen in the long term.
Procedure: To make any silver filigree item, first silver is beaten and made into wires. Then these silver threads are soldered into various designs, it is like weaving thin strands of hair. To make the designs, we need to twist, turn and quill into the required shape, both ends are heated to join the metal. The most common tools used are scissors, pincers, tweezers and a big needle. Most of the handicrafts made belong to women in terms of Jewelry and there are also pieces for men like cufflinks, buttons and pins. The most common designs are curls, spirals, mesh (Jaal), creepers, animals and birds.
These handicrafts are exported all across the world and are frequently exhibited in Japan, France, Australia, USA and other countries.
Bring Home Silver Filigree: One can buy these handicrafts at local markets in Odisha like Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, outskirts of Puri and other small towns. You can also buy these handicrafts at State Emporium and Government Emporium. Filigree workshops in Cuttack can be found at Dolomundai, Nayasarak, Chandi Medha in Choudhary Bazaar, Balu Bazaar and Bania Sahi, among other places in the city.