Metal craft is the second largest and another of the oldest cottage industries in Assam. Famous all over India bell-metal utensils, made from a mixture of brass and iron, can be found in almost every Assamese household. In the days of the Ahom kings gold, silver and copper were used for royalty and there is a rich collection of these items on show in the State Museum at Guwahati.
A formal Assamese dinner is served on kahi (plates) and bati (bowls) made by local artisans out of bell-metal and food kept in containers made from this material keeps fresh for a long time. Xorai, a bell-metal offering tray (now often made of brass and silver) fashioned on a stand with or without a cover, has become the traditional symbol of Assam and is used to offer paan (stuffed betel leaves) to visitors. Offering trays for food and other items that are placed in front of altars in the naamghar (prayer hall), decorative symbols during traditional functions like the Bihu dance and gifts to guests of honour are also often made from bell-metal.
Brass forms an important cottage industry in the Hajo region of Kamrup district, close to Guwahati and the Sarthebari region in the same district is famous for its bell-metal products like kalah (water pot) and tal (cymbals) with practically the entire population engaged in their production. Bell-metal items are also produced in Titabar, Jorhat district and Raha in the district of Nagaon.
These utensils make attractive souvenirs for visitors and in a bid to compete in today’s world modern artisans are constantly innovating new ideas for fashioning bell-metal into ornaments.