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Haroon Ibrahim Maniyar and Bangle Makers

Haroon's Interview Summary

According to Haroon Ibrahim, including his father, grandfather, great grandfather, and now his sons and grandson, around seven generations have been involved in the bangle-making craft. Haroon recollects his childhood days when he started learning this attractive and decorative craft. Being a veteran of the bangle-making art, he holds the distinction of having worked on both ivory and acrylic bangle material. During the age of sail, India emerged as one of the chief markets for ivory along with America, England, Germany, the Netherlands and France. Kachchh, especially with the efforts of merchants from the region, managed to procure the best and most highly-prized ivory from central and east Africa. This basic fact is known to Haroon, and he also knew that much of the ivory came from the African ports of Mombasa and Dar-es-Salam. He then explains how to actually make bangles out of ivory. The bangle makers also worked with wood to make bankoda,which served as a walker, wooden toys and wooden kitchen utensils. They also did lacquer work and made several lacquer items.

Haroon then interestingly recalls a period 50 or 60 years ago when two brands of ivory became well-known and popular among the bangle makers, the Maniyars. These were Hans mark and Janak mark ivories. The brand Hans, owned by Bhatia Hansrajbhai of Mundra was the leading ivory and was marked with rubber stamp in the shape of a swan (hans). In Mundra, one of the towers still has the Hans trade mark inscribed on it. A tusk with the Hans stamp indicated that it was a quality product. Haroon also recollected the names of the leading distributors of ivory, Khoja R. Suleman and Hansrajbhai Bhatia, who each had firms in Mumbai and Africa. According to Haroon, ivory in those days was easily available in great quantities. The owner of the Janak brand Nandubhai was identified by Haroon as a particularly generous man. He recollects the manner in which Nandubhai did business in ivory; he would roughly divide the bulk of the ivory into five parts or piles known as dhagi, which were sold to the ivory workers at the rate they wished. He never bothered much about the profit. Ivory was brought ashore from the steamers and circulated through the country via the railways.

bangles.jpgIn the past, the bangle makers moved from village to village and sold bangles from house to house at 10 rupees per pair. They were compelled to walk several kilometres. After working tirelessly for six days they could earn up to 400 rupees but made only a nominal profit. During their lives as peddlers, they took two khadi, or bags, with them; one of which was loaded with the bangles and the other full of miscellaneous items such as food to use during the long travel between the villages of Meghpur, Baladiya, Dahisara, Morpar, Nanpar and Kera. After selling the bangles the Maniyaras would come back and again make bangles for four to five days for the next round of their sales. In a day they could make around 20 to 25 bangles with the help of their main tool call sanagado. Other than that, tools such aspati, arekhano,chinu,andpanu were used in those days to make bangles with the hands. Two men sitting in front of each other chopped the elephant tusk using a karvat, or ivory cutter. They perfectly knew the measurements for each piece.

Haroon also takes great pride in telling us that he was the last to serve the Raj as ‘Rajjo Maniyar’, meaning the Maniyar who worked for the last Raj of the Royal Family. He made bangles during the weddings of Prithviraj and his younger brother. Usually, for wedding celebrations, it was the Maniyars who get the orders for bangles. When they were called to work for the royal house they were placed inside the Pragmalji Tower. During the wedding celebration at the palace they lived in the palace premises for eight days and continuously made bangles for the wedding trousseau. Working for the Raj they could earn between 700 to 800 rupees and they felt extremely happy to receive the royal order. Thus, Haroon and his family hold the honour of having the title of the Royal Maniyaras, who exclusively manufactured for the Rao’s family. In the days when the royal dynasty was still ruling, they kept elephants in an elephant stable, recollects Haroon. The Maniyaras then chopped the tusks as per the required size to make their ivory bangles. It was interesting to note that Haroon believes that tusks grow back once chopped and that taking the tusks did not pain the elephants. Having had first-hand experience of serving royalty, Haroon and his descendants were also able to intricately design bangles in acrylic. The age of making bangles from ivory ended in 1990 when a total prohibition on the import of ivory was imposed by the government.

Haroon adds that bangles are one of the key symbols that signal whether a woman is married (suhagan). Answering the question why ivory in particular was used for making the bangles, Haroon guessed that it was probably used to symbolise Ganesha. In those days, Haroon told us, women wore 9 bangles on her wrist, and 9 of different sizes on the arms. Haroon’s forefathers did a lot of work for the Aahir community. Aahir women often required bangles weighing as much as 6 kilos on her arms and wrists. If these were all ivory bangles Haroon says they could be worth up to an amazing 30 lakh rupees.

bangles_2.jpgAt Haroon’s bangle making workshop there are eight workers employed altogether. For each of the different stages of bangle making – cutting, drilling, carving, colouring and decorating – different workers are employed. For each work of bangle making they have a perfect division of labour. The designs of the bangles are set and the workers manufacture them accordingly. They only need to be shown a design once and they can replicate it. Jari wado, gulab patlo, chandni, and super patloare the some of the names of the designs. Haroon believes that the bangle workers do not suffer from many health problems. In a day, the workers can usually make ten pairs.

His business has been efficiently managed and expanded by his two sons, particularly Imtiyaz, and his grandson Rameez. They spend much of their time in the family’s retail shop in Danda Bazaar, Bhuj. Rameez is proficient with each of the stages and he is a highly-skilled worker. Haroon appreciates his work, particularly his very fine carving and has now surpassed even his father’s skills. Rameez’s father also praised his son’s work. The family supply bangles in bulk to Bahvnagar and Rajkot. Some are also exported to Ahmedbad and Mumbai. More locally, peddlers and merchants buy from them and sell the bangles in their respective villages and towns including Gandhidham, Naliya, Mandvi, Anjar and Bhujodi. The family, therefore, do both retail and wholesale selling.


Imtiyaz Haroon Maniyar and Rameez Imtiyaz Maniyar's Summaries


Imtiaz's Interview Summary

Age: 42

Education: cClass 4

Imtiaz discussed all the different sizes of bangles which are made. He confidently stated that they can easily tell from the hands of women size of bangles they will require. They range from the smallest, a size 2, to 2.4, 2.8 and 2.10.

The work of decorating the bangles is usually done by hand. Carved decorations on the bangles are done with the help of a tool called emery and the intricate floral designs are also made with the help of kanas (filer). Having machines in the workshop has dramatically increased the productivity of what the workers can make from 10 to around 100. The sangado, their main tool is now operated with a machine. While one hand operates the sangadowith a machine the other hand sets the designs.

All the instruments they use are handmade, and they make designs for the worker’s reference just using a simple drawing on paper. Sabar jo singh, deer horn, which is easily procurable, is used as the material for the handle of the tools. Scrap material is used for making an initial design, as they strive for perfection in making their tools.

Imtiaz recollected the days when his father just earned five rupees a day and gave two rupees to the family and kept three for himself. His grandmother managed to earn seven rupees a day through doing bandhani work. Their profit in those days was extremely low.

Imtiaz has three daughters and one son.


Rameez's Interview Summary

Age: 22

Education: class 10

With great concentration, Rameez carves delicate designs on the bangles both by hand and using a machine. Rameez has been in the bangle-making profession for eight years. He strongly feels that while carving the design, if just one element is misplaced, the whole design and work that has gone into it will be spoiled.

According to Imtiaz, for weddings, they have batch of bangles known as chudla ranging from 100, 125 and150 rupees to 200. They get many orders because of their quality products.

The raw material for the bangle making is bought from the Ahmedabad-based Chopra and Company and the Rajkot-based Mohanbhai Agarwal. These raw material providers have manufacturing factories.

To their workers they communicate new designs just once and do not repeat instructions. Imtiaz reckons that an ordinary worker can earn 100 rupees per day and an expert worker can make up to 400 or 500 rupees a day. They pay daily wages to the workers.

Today, out of the whole Maniyar community, only ten to twelve families are in the bangle making business.



Short summaries of the interviews with the bangle makers


No one in Juber’s family followed bangle making work and therefore Rameez taught him the craft. According to Juber, although Rameez is his teacher and boss, he does not scold him. It took around one year’s time to learn the craft. When he first joined the workshop, Rameez felt that he was very nervous and not confident, but and now he knows his work in great detail.

Sohaib was not interested in his studies and took up the job of bangle making. He and Juber are cousins. Though he likes the work he does, he does not like to work on a Sunday as that is the day that he likes to play cricket. His favourite player is Said Afridi. His father also learnt the craft from Imtiaz’s workshop, but has now left to become a painter. Imtiaz adds that Sohaib is the grandson of Umarbhai’s who had his own shop although Sohaib does not work in that shop as it belongs to his uncle. All the workers one day wish to have their own shop, and Sohaib is no exception.

Sikander is the youngest of the workers and also does not look of his age, but he answered all questions with great confidence. He joined the workshop just three months ago. As a newcomer he is getting ready for greater responsibilities; at the moment he just inserts diamonds in the bangles as part of their decorative finishing touch. The next level of work that Sikandar will learn involves drilling and designing. Out of all these different aspects, Imtiaz that cutting is particularly difficult.

Many other have learnt bangle making from the family and some have even gone on to start their own shops. Those who left have maintained good relations with Imtiaz and the company. Imtiaz emphasises that they have a policy of harbouring goodwill and maintaining their credibility. They have endeavoured to develop their good name and good reputation in the market, and they frankly discuss the durability of their product and any flaws with their customers. Quality is what they emphasise above all.

Javed is also part of Imtiaz’s family. Rameez taught him and now he does all aspects of the bangle-making work. He likes all the different elements of bangle making including cutting, drilling, colouring the bangles, except the job of inserting diamonds in the bangle. Rameez calls Javed an all-rounder.

Saukat has been learning the bangle-making art for 12 months; no one in his family did it before him. Before joining Imtiaz he worked in screen painting for ten years. His father had a government job.