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Brass: A Tale of Versatility and Durability

Does a dull, slightly blackened piece of a metal artefact lie in a corner of your room? Well, I have seen a lot of houses with such a scenario. When asked they say “it lost its shine and is no longer of aesthetic beauty.” The fact is that it still has its shine. It's only a matter of polishing it nicely before it will turn into its bright gold-yellowish colour and spread its beauty and charm in the room. Yes, we are talking about brass here, a highly underrated metal in present times.

But did you know that brass had a glorious past in India, in fact worldwide, a past wherein it was put into use for making everything from household utensils to guns and canons?

Let us briefly look at how important a role brass played in the development of Indian culture and society.

Brass was a commonly used alloy in India as early as the first century B.C. Brass articles of the first century B.C. or A.D. have been found on the excavation of ancient stupas. General Excavation of stupas at Manikyalaya revealed a copper box enclosing a brass cylindrical box cast and beautifully turned on the lathe. The great tope at Manikyalaya has been identified to be a mausoleum of the Indo-Scythian King Kanishka (first century B.C. or A.D.).

Reliquary casket, cylindrical in shape with a lid; made of copper alloy, corroded
Excavated: Mnaikyala Great Stupa

Retrieved fromhttps://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1848-0602-1-a-b

Another inscribed brass urn of the same date as the former has been discovered in a tope about 30 miles west of Kabul in the district of Wardak. This was similar to the ordinary water vessels used in India.

Bronze and brass were also used to make coins in ancient India. Circular punch-marked brass coins of Dhana-deva and Arya-Varma of Ajodhya (circa ist century B.C.) and kings of other dynasties have been found.

From this archaeological and numismatic evidence, it is clear that brass was in common use in ancient India as early as the first century B.C. It was known in India probably a few centuries earlier as it is mentioned in the famous Ayurvedic treatise Charak-Samhita (circa third century B.C.) along with gold, silver, copper and tin. 

The same medical treatise makes mention of brass in another place along with gold, silver, tin and bronze.

Circular Punch-marked coins made of brass

Uses of Brass

Aesthetically, Brass is well known for its formability and decorative attributes, in particular, its distinctive bright gold appearance. It is a highly malleable metal than copper or bronze which makes it easier to turn into different types of things. It is easy to cast and resists corrosion, including galvanic corrosion from saltwater. It also exhibits less friction which makes it valuable for making items that require constant movements like locks, valves, gears, bearings etc.  Brass is a great conductor of heat and has a low melting point.

Brass is highly durable and tarnish-resistant and some varieties may also contain Tin and Aluminium to further improve resistance and strength, especially for applications where the material will be used close to seawater.

Statues and Sculptures

When Indian artists made religious sculptures, they frequently chose durable materials such as metal or stone. Often called “bronzes”, most Indian metal sculptures- everything from portable household images to large temple icons were cast by the cire perdue (lost wax) process from a wide variety of amalgams. The most common metals were various alloys of copper (bronze, brass etc.).

Brass along with bronze was very largely used in making statues of gods and goddesses in the middle ages. An inscribed brass statue of Buddha 30 cm high and 13.5 cm. wide, of the sixth century, has been discovered in a Dharamsala at Fatehpur a village 20 miles due west of Kangra-kot. Another inscribed brass statue of a large size of about the 11th century discovered in Bengal has been preserved in the Dacca museum. 

A Vihara of brass built by King Harshavardhana who ruled from 606-647 A.D of the seventh century is a magnificent example of the skill of the ancient Indians in brass work.

It is needless to make any detailed mention of the smaller images of Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses made of brass from the middle ages down to our times, as they may be counted in their thousands in Indian temples and Hindu households throughout India and Tibet as well.

You can find an exquisite collection of brass sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses as well as Buddhist sculptures at Exotic India.

Solemn Shakyamuni, The Momentous Bhumisparsha Mudra

The Cosmic Glamour Of Lord Ganesha


Apart from royalty, all ordinary people used Brass utensils. It was also the preferred choice for Pooja Thali and other items used for rituals. Using brass items for puja is a common tradition in Hindu households.

We, at Exotic India, offer a wide range of brass pooja thalis and lamps having unique shapes and utilities. They have a nice aura to them which makes them perfect for adorning your pooja grih or temples.

Large Sumptuous Dancing Peacock Annam Lamp with Branching Vines and Bells

Home Furnishings

As mentioned earlier, brass is ideal for making handles, hinges, locks, panelling, etc. due to its low friction. Its metallic properties make it perfect to be used in pipes. In addition to the utility aspect, brass is sure to give aglow to your house with its shiny lustre. Having brass items add grandeur and a royal feel to the house. 

Tribal Door Knob 

Decorative Art

Another important function brass can have in your house is that of an aesthetic purpose. Brass wall hangings and decorative pieces are pleasing to the eyes and improve the glamour of your surroundings. Unlike other metals brass is relatively cheap but gives the same opulent look. You can check out the various decorative art pieces available on the website of Exotic India to admire the beauty of these items and paint a mental picture of how good they will look on your living room wall!

Peacock Design Wall Hanging With Hanging Diya

Musical Instruments

Brass has desirable acoustic properties appropriate for use in musical instruments. Depending on the composition of Copper and Zinc, the sound from the instrument differs. Generally, the softer the material the warmer and darker the sound produced; harder metal gives a brighter and more responsive sound. Based on this, brass is classified into Yellow brass (70% copper, 30% zinc), Gold Brass (85% Copper, 155 zinc) and Red brass (90% copper, 10% zinc).

Blending with Modernity

Brass was once a premium item. It had great demand in ancient India and was widely used for a variety of purposes. Even with the advent of using gold and silver for many of the functions that brass used to fulfil, it is still in demand. This is mainly because gold and silver are overly expensive and cannot be used for daily activities. Also, brass has many properties that make it ideal for certain uses and cannot be replaced by any other metal. It also has the beauty and colour for aesthetic appeal, deeming it no less than gold or silver by a majority of people. Therefore, large statues are now mostly made in good quality brass. It is also still in use as door hinges, curtain rods, handles etc. in premium homes. 

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