Musical bells of cattle in Gujarat

Juriya village of Gujarat is home to artisans who produce bells that are used by the cattle herders from the village.

The craft-men belong to the Luhar community which is classified as Other Backward Caste in the state. Anyone can be a copper bell artisan but these gentlemen make bells that produce musical tones.

They engineer a way to make a different pitch and a tone for each bell. Originally from Sindh in Pakistan, they migrated to India after partition. Brothers Razzak Saleh Muhammad and Janmamad Salemamad’s family have been involved in this craft making for more than 10 decades.

In this generational family business, they grew up watching their father and grandfather making bells and learned from the experts of the family. Most of the villagers are farmers and cattle herders by occupation as they practice livestock rearing and agriculture.

The copper bells are used by them to locate their animals properly amidst a herd of animals. The cattle herders and the Luhar community are engaged in an old age barter system of exchange. The former provides sheep or milk in exchange for the musical bells from the latter. In recent times, the artisans make bells that solely cater to the cattle herders but also for decorative purposes. The brothers make custom orders as per orders received over WhatsApp and email like wind chimes etc.

Their rates range from 30 rupees to 3,000 rupees depending on the type of order. These dedicated artists’ work involves a set of seven copper bells of increasing size, attached side by side, resembling a xylophone that resonates with the basic notes of Indian music. They make around 300 bells every day in their workshop.

The tools used to make the bells are also unique like a stone that is used to give shape to the copper bells. The artisans get these stones from the nearby Jhura hills. Hence, they just climb up the hills to find such stones that are essential for bell making. Some of the tools were handed down to them from their forefathers.

The women of the Luhar community are also involved in the craft-making process. They offer a helping hand in coating the bell in copper. The artisan then gives final touches to it in the workshop to give it a perfect pitch and tone. The Luhar community’s copper bell craft is an important handicraft in India. Even amidst the Covid-19 lockdown, this artisan family has kept the craft alive and hence deserves praise and appreciation.