Bronze, an alloy of copper and tin mixed, is known as ‘kansa’ in Hindi speaking belt of India and ‘kanh’ in Assam and other parts of north-eastern India. Though Copper was in use for much longer, it was bronze that changed the way sculptures, tools, ornaments and kitchen utensils were made, around 3000 years, thus the name Bronze Age.
A number of bronze artefacts that have been unearthed in archaeological findings are, in fact, kitchen items such as cooking pots, bowls and plates.
The metal finds mention in our ancient scriptures, particularly in Ayurveda texts, wherein elaborate accounts of use of bronze kitchenware are given. There is a clear mention of the health benefits of Bronze utensils in these scriptures. One such text to quote is the ‘Rasaratna Samucchaya’.
Traditional kitchens in India still make use of traditional metal or metal alloy utensils, including those made in bronze. While in north India, there is use of bronze ‘kadaais’ for cooking. In Tamil Nadu, these pots are called by name of Vengala Paanai and in Kerala by name of ‘Bronze Uruli’.
Last few decades have seen modern homes move towards the Teflon coated non-stick cooking ware, which is now believed to be harmful for the body.
However, as there is growing awareness in present generation, the bronze-based and other traditional utensils are increasingly being used more and more in kitchens.
Where to find Bronze Utensils in India…
Bronze utensils are made in certain areas which are specially noted for metallurgical works. These centers manufacture different types of commerical use and decorative items from bronze metal.
Jagadhari is a well known town in North India famous for making metal utensils, including those of bronze. Another famous center is Jandiala Guru, close to Amritsar, where Thathera community is known for their age-old tradition of making metal utensils. Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh is another major center of brass works but bronze works and other copper alloy metal works are also performed here.
Bronze works and utensil making are also common in Thanjavur district, Swamimalai and Chennai in Tamil Nadu. Khagra in Mushidabad district and Nadia area of Bengal in East India also make bronze artefacts. Parev in Bihar is another major center for brass and bronze utensil making.
Munnar in Kerala is another important town known for its metal works and making of utensils. It is next only to Moradabad in North India.
Hajo and Sarthebari regions of Kamrup district in Assam is another important location. In Orissa, regions of Puri, Cuttack, Boudh-Kandhamal, Denkanal, Sundargarh, Balasore and certain other regions are famed for metal utensil making. These are known as ‘kansaries’.
Traditionally, Moosaries and Acharies communities within the larger Vishwakarma community have been doing this work.
How are Bronze utensils made?
Bronze is made by mixing copper (78%) and tin (22%) and heating at about 400-700 degree Centigrade. Bronze is malleable and can be drawn into sheets. This property allows for working on it to give desired shape. The molten metal is then moulded to form different utensils and the polishing is done by sand and tamarind juice.
Why Bronze for the earlier age Utensils?
Bronze is a durable alloy. Most of the artefacts that have been unearthed are still intact after thousands of years. It is because the alloy is resistant to wear and tear and can also remain scratch and wrinkle resistant for decades.
Bronze is tough to destroy. When exposed to moisture, bronze develops a coating which performs protective function.
Kansa ‘Bronze’ is also a good conductor of heat and is also capable of retaining heat. This helps in keeping food warmer and keeps its contents richer for a long period of time.
Kansa utensils also have germicidal properties. Depending upon the variation in type, concentration and medium of pathogens bronze metal kills these micro-organisms.
Why use Bronze utensils for Cooking?
Cooking in Bronze utensils retain almost whole of nutrient value of the food. These do not corrode easily. Further, there is no entry of toxic elements into the food if you are not using a very old vessel for cooking.
Bronze alloy lends alkalinity to food which reduces its acidic value and, therefore, benefits health.
Also, Bronze is 90% recyclable, which makes it environment-friendly.
Precautions while using Bronze utensils
Certain precautions while using bronze utensils are called for. These are…
1/3. Very old bronze vessels might have impurities of arsenic and lead which can leach into the food. Therefore, it is recommended to use a new bronze utensil. In fact, the traces of copper that enter the food provide multiple health benefits.
2/3. It is also recommended that acidic food items (those having tomatoes, vinegar, etc.) are not cooked in these vessels.
3/3. Ancient wisdom does not suggest use of ghee while cooking in bronze utensils or for keeping desi ghee preparations in bronze vessels.
In a remarkable study conducted to test the concept of Samskara Viruddha Ahara (food incompatibility) mentioned in Ayurveda with respect to storing desi ghee in bronze vessels, it was found that there is a marked deterioration of its quality and it may promote harmful effect on health.
Potential Health Benefits of Bronze ‘Kansa’ utensils
Cooking, serving, storing and eating food in bronze utensils has always been considered good because of its being corrosion-resistant as compared to copper. As an example, some believe that copper-based utensils, including the bronze ones, are best for cooking rice.
1/5. Helps moderate Vata’ Air’ element.
If one were to go by Ayurveda traditions, eating food cooked in bronze reduces vata which is manifested as dry skin, irritability and nervous temperament. It also reduces the pitta. It also helps reduce obesity and improve eyesight.
2/5. Can help reduce harmful bacteria
Utensils that are made of copper alloys such as bronze have certain antimicrobial properties, which can help kill bacteria naturally. In a study conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency it was found that 355 copper alloys, including many brasses, kill more than 99.9 per cent of bacteria within two hours of contact.
Due to its extraordinary health properties, Ayurvedic practitioners recommend bronze vessels for holistic healing, stress relieving and purifying properties. Kansa has an ability to destroy microorganisms making the metal hygienic for use.
It is believed that using ‘Kansa’ to eat food and drink water on a daily basis increases immunity besides purifying the food.
3/5. It is a natural pH balancer.
Their use is believed to lead to a good digestive system because of the alkaline nature of the “kansa” alloy. It purifies the food and leads to good digestion.
4/5. Helps balance Doshas
Water stored in Kansa overnight has the ability to positively charge water for balancing all three doshas. It is also believed to help in preventing water borne diseases like dysentery, jaundice etc.
5/5. A few other possible benefits
1. It is believed that copper helps in reducing fat which helps in aiding weight loss.
2. Copper is known to have anti-convulsive properties which helps in stimulating brain.
3. “Kansyam Buddhivardhakam” is a Sanskrit phrase which means that kansa sharpens our intellect.
4. It promotes the health of gut and immunity along with relieving stress and boosting energy levels.
5. Copper trace metals from bronze metal are believed to be good for thyroid glands to function optimally.
6. Copper traces also increases the production of melanin. This helps in restoring health of skin and slows down aging.
7. Copper element present in bronze is believed to reduce inflammation which brings relief to people having joint pains and swelling.
These benefits outline the fact that using bronze utensils in kitchenware, with some precautions, are good for health in multiple ways.
How to clean Bronze Utensils?
Once you have the bronze utensils, it is also important to know how to clean these properly. These shall be washed immediately after use.
1/3. Special Cleaning Agents-There are special cleaning agents which are meant specifically for bronze utensils. Abrasive or harsh cleaners are not recommended for use.
2/3. Vinegar and Flour Mixture- You can use a mix of salt, vinegar and flour paste and apply it for a period of about an hour.
3/3. Another option is to make use of lime and baking soda.