A bride in Kerala has eight auspicious things that are gifted to her at the time of marriage. One of the most treasured among them is the Aranmula Kannadi, the hand mirror from Aranmula town. It is considered an essential in every household as an harbinger of good luck and fortune. The mirror is however not an ordinary one, it is handmade by a community that holds its secret tight.
The town of Aranmula is known for the river Pamba, its famous annual snake boat regatta and the temple of Lord Parthasarathy or Krishna. Legend has it that when the crown of the idol at the Lord Krishna temple here broke, a family of master craftsmen were brought here to recreate it. The story goes on to say that it is by divine will that these craftsmen stumbled upon the secret formula of copper and tin that gives the metal its unique shine. The secret remains within the towns artisans and the mirror remains till date a good luck charm that is present in all traditional households.
What makes it different?
The Aranmula kannadi is considered till date one of its kind and its makers keep their metallurgical secrets till date. Unlike other mirrors, the kannadi’s reflective surface is made of a specific alloy of copper and tin, that gives it a superior shine. The Aranmula kannadi is said to be distortion free; hold a paper close to the surface of a mirror and you will see a gap between the image and the original paper. However, try the same with the kannadi and you will see there is no gap, leaving a distortion free image.
The making of an Aranmula Kannadi
Each Aranmula kannadi is made by hand and through a very painstaking process that has not changed over the decades. The mould for the mirror is made using mud sourced from the local region, into which the hot alloy mix is poured to set. Once the metal base is set, it is polished used a clay powder mix for several days to result in a reflective surface. Further polishing is then done on a soft velvet cloth till the mirror finish is achieved. The process is a delicate one and hence an artisan can make around 15 kannadis in a month.
Why own an Aranmula Kannadi?
The association that the Aranmula kannadi has with Lord Parthasarathy, gives the mirror a legendary place in Kerala’s culture. It is no wonder that the Aranmula kannadi has become a inexcusable part of the bridal give-away. The mirror has a place of high esteem in puja rooms across the state. It has long been considered a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck.
Traditionally, the Aranmula kannadi becomes a heirloom piece that is passed on from mother to daughter and so on. Initially, the mirrors used to be made as a hand-held variety or vaal kannadi – a mirror that had a handle to hold. Later this gave way to mirrors with stands so they could be displayed. Yet another product that hails from the Aranmula stable is the Cheppukannadi or box with mirror – a little box that holds vermillion and opens up to a mirror on its lid. The Aranmula Kannadi has withstood the test of time to stand in homes across the world as a symbol of Kerala’s aesthetic workmanship.