Inventory no.: 885

Bidri Flask/Surahi, Deccan, India


Silver-Inlaid Bidri Water Flask (Surahi) & Lid

Bidar, India

circa 1890

height: 34cm; weight: 2.734g

This water flask or surahi is in traditional northern Indian Islamic form, with a large bulbous body, a low ring-mat foot and a long tapering neck. It is also complete with a stopper. It is profusely and finely decorated with silver inlay using the bidri technique. The decoration is typically Islamic with scrolling foliage within geometric borders. The body has six large scalloped cartouches filled with palmette motifs, the silver of which has been further engraved to enhance the overall complexity of the decoration. The lid, the shoulder of the body and the base are all decorated with borders of lotus petals.

Very few pieces of bidriware are marked but importantly, the base of this item has been engraved with ‘Made in Gulzar / Deccan / Bidar’ and what appears to be an Arabic letter followed by the Arabic numerals for 5 and 2. This rare inscription allows the place of manufacture of this piece to be pinpointed precisely, a rare luxury among

bidri pieces.

The flask is unexpectedly heavy in the hand – it weighs almost 3 kilograms.

The condition of this piece is exceptional – unlike most extant examples of

bidri, this piece has no losses to the silver inlay.

Bidriware is believed to have originated in the city of Bidar in the Deccan. It is cast from an alloy of mostly zinc with copper, tin and lead. The vessels are overlaid or inlaid with silver, brass and sometimes gold. A paste that contains sal ammoniac is then applied which turns the ally dark black but leaving the silver, brass and gold unaffected.


Lal, K., Bidri Ware: National Museum Collection, National Museum New Delhi, 1990; and Stronge, S., Bidri Ware: Inlaid Metalwork from India, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1985.

Inventory no.: 885


to see another bidri surahi.