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Janmamad Salemamad Luhar

Three centuries of bell making

Janmamad Salemamad Luhar belongs to the Muslim Luhar community of Zura, where for generations, his family has made sturdy and beautiful iron-coated copper bells, many adorned with ancient geometric symbols and floral motifs.

Luhar estimates that his family has been involved in bell making for more than three centuries. He first learned the craft from his father and by the time he was 18, he started managing the family business. Copper bell-making requires attention to detail at each step in order to achieve the beauty of sound and appearance so prized in the tradition. Janmamad’s ability to tune his bells is a skill he considers a gift from God.

Bells are made from carefully selected iron sheets gathered from area junkyards. The body of a bell is made by molding the rectangular strips of iron plates into a hollow cylinder. It is then topped with a hemispheric hollow crown. No welding is used. During the forging, artisans continuously check the sound quality of the bell. The final stages involve coating them with powdered copper and heating them in a furnace to fix the copper onto the surface. Before going into the furnace, these coated bells are bound in thick cakes made of clay, water, and cotton rags. The purpose of this step is to mellow the heat of the furnace which would otherwise burn the copper to black.

Originally, the creation of copper coated bells evolved from the need of pastoral nomads to keep their herds together. The bell maker would work with the herder to tune the bells until the herder was satisfied that the animals would recognize and follow the sound.