Kansa, The Wonder Metal
Kansa is an alloy of 85% copper and 15% tin. This traditional service ware, hand beaten by tribal craftsmen, has been used by generations for its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties.
The craft of making kansa is perhaps one of the most important in terms of the number of artisans engaged in its practice for their livelihood. It is traditionally practiced by the people of the Kansari caste, who can be broadly described as metal-smiths or copper-smiths, and has reached a high degree of perfection in Orissa. There is a concentration of Kansaris at Kantilo and Balakati in the Puri district although fairly large number of artisans also live in Cuttack, Ganjam and Sambalpur districts.
In the famous grantha Rasaratna Samuchaya, we find significant insight into the medicinal properties of Kansa metal: it promotes healthy red blood cell development, regulates thyroid gland functioning and strengthen bones.
The process consists of placing the molten metal into an earthenware container, and after repeated hammering and beating the object gets its desired shape. Plates or thali, deep round containers, water containers and buckets or baltis, large cooking utensils, handis, and ladles are the major items manufactured in the beating process.
Kansa metal can be easily identified as it gives a sharp sound (Teekshna Shabdam), is soft (Mridu), smooth to touch (Snigdha), and it turns red on heating (Dahe Raktam). It has also been widely used for utensils due to its many properties: low melting point, workability (both with hand tools and modern machines), durability, electrical and thermal conductivity.