‘Darpan’ is one of the rituals in Deity’s worship in the temples wherein a mirror is shown to the Deity or sun rays are reflected from the mirror to the Deity. For this purpose, Kerala has a tradition of using characteristic mirrors made of metal. These mirrors are well-known as ‘Aranmula Kannadi’. This mirror is one of the ‘Ashtamangal’ (8 auspicious) objects mentioned in the culture of Kerala, i.e. one of the eight sacred objects to be used in auspicious rituals such as marriage. It is believed that these mirrors bring prosperity and good fortune, and they represent ancient India’s advancements in metallurgy. The process of making these mirrors and the proportion of alloys used in them have been kept secret since prehistoric times.
To obtain information about this mirror, on 21.3.2019, the seekers of ‘Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalaya’ visited the village of Aranmula in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, where the mirrors are manufactured. There they visited the Shrikrishna Handicraft Center, a factory that manufactures these mirrors. The owner of this factory is Shri. K. P. Ashokan and this is his family business since generations. He is an active member of the Vishwabrahman Metal Mirror Manufacturing Society, an association of entrepreneurs making such mirrors. He gave enlightening and useful information about the whole process of making this characteristic mirror.
1. What is ‘Aranmula Kannadi’?
Aranmula is the name of a village and Kannadi means mirror in Malayalam. Therefore, the metal mirror made in the village ‘Aranmula’ got the name ‘Aranmula Kannadi’. Aranmula is situated on the banks of the river Pamba in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. Shrikrushna’s famous Parthasarathy temple is located in this village. Aranmula Kannadi, a characteristic mirror, can be seen in many shops around the temple. The reflective part of these mirrors is made by applying specific process post mixing of copper and tin in a specific proportion, while the frame of this mirror is made of brass. The characteristic feature of these mirrors is that if an object rests on the mirror, then the object and its reflection in the mirror appear very close to each other (there is no gap between them). This is because the reflection of the object in this mirror is rendered on the surface of the mirror itself. Ordinary mirrors have a coat of reflective chemicals on the back of the glass. The reflection appears on the chemical coating. Therefore, if an object is placed against an ordinary mirror, the distance between that object and its reflection is equal to the thickness of the glass of the mirror. This shortcoming is absent in Aranmula Kannadi. This is a unique feature of this mirror. (Photo No. 3)
‘Aranmula Kannadi’ in the shape of a conch
2. History of Aranmula Kannadi mirrors
Hindus have a tradition of using the best things for God. The mirror of ‘Aranmula Kannadi’ got created with the grace of God and due to the intense yearning of devotees that the mirror to be used in the ritual of showing ‘mirror’ in the worship of a Deity should also be excellent. Shri K.P. Ashokan who is in the business of making these mirrors narrated the history of the creation of these mirrors as follows.
His ancestors left their native village for the construction work of Shrikrushna’s temple ‘Parthasarathi’ and they settled in Aranmula. One of his ancestors received the knowledge of making metal mirror in a dream. Accordingly, he tried to make a mirror and since then making of metal mirrors began. Although these mirrors are currently available in a variety of shapes, their conventional shapes such as conch shells, padmas, etc., and their length-width are fixed.
3. The process of making Aranmula Kannadi (metal mirror)
The overall process of making Aranmula Kannadi is as follows.
Aranmula Kannadi consists of two parts, the reflective metal part (mirror) and the brass frame in which the mirror is fitted. Both these parts are drawn on paper.
The process of making molds for mirrors from clay, cow dung etc.
3B. Making molds according to drawings
According to the drawings made on paper, molds are made from clay, cow dung, sawdust, katha, cotton cloth etc. to make the mirrors. (Photo No. 1)
A metal round made by pouring a mixture of copper and tin into a mold
3C. Making a mirror and its frame by pouring molten metal mixture into the mold
Molten mix of copper and tin blended in appropriate proportion is poured into the mold to make the reflective part of the mirror, while the molten brass is poured into the mold for making the frame of the mirror. When the mixture cools, the mud from the periphery is removed and the metal part is cleaned. (Photo No. 2)
3D. Giving diligent finishing to the mirror and frame in initial form
The mirror, which is initial form, is rubbed by the polish paper for a few hours and once the reflection is clearly visible on it the final form of the mirror is ready. Lot of efforts are needed be taken at this stage.
If an object is placed on ‘Aranmula Kannadi’, the object and its reflection in the mirror can be seen adjacent to each other without any gap!
3E. Fixing a metal mirror in a brass frame
A round or oval shaped mirror made of metal is fixated in the frame with the help of lacquer, wax etc. This is how ‘Aranmula Kannadi’ is formed.
– Kum. Priyanka Vijay Lotlikar and Shri. Rupesh Laxman Redkar, Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalaya, Goa. (19.10.2019)
A humble appeal to seekers, readers and well-wishers!
‘India is a diverse country. This country has many distinctive arts, crafts and artists. If you have any information about them, please do let us know. Also, if you have any special artwork (e.g. ‘mural’ paintings, palm leaf manuscripts, etc.) and you want to donate it for spiritual research and collection, then please inform us. ‘