Lucknow is a place where people have many skills. One such skill is the art of making chandi ka warq. It is not surprising to have confectionary stores offer customers sweets garnished generously with thin sheets of silver.
The paper thin sheets of silver are edible and locally called chandi ka warq. The word warq is Arabic meaning leaf. It is believed that the use of gold and silver in Indian delicacies dates back to the period of Ayurveda. Scientifically, silver acts as an effective anti bacterial coating and increases shelf life of the product. Similarly, gold is preventive and has regenerative powers.
Lucknow became a major center for the production of warq because of its demand in Mughlai cuisine. Chandi ka warq is not only used for covering desserts but also other food items like kebabs, phirni, paan, chavanprash, sewain and dry fruits. Chandi ka warq is also used to cover idols across the country.
It looks very beautiful but the process of making chandi ka warq is tedious and involves a lot of physical labour. While walking down from Akbari Gate in the Chowk area, it is possible to hear the sound of constant hammering. This is the sound of the warq makers. Rassiullah, a warq karigar from Irshad Warqwale’s shop in Chowk, explained the intricacies of the craft. The thin sheets are made by constantly hammering silver sheets laid inside a leather pouch placed over granite stone. In total 165 layers of silver strips are placed between layers of leather and hammered for over five hours. The craft of making chandi ka warq involves precision, and perfect coordination between the eyes and hand during the hammering.
It is interesting how this art has been passed down generations. Karigars as well as buyers enjoy this art form. Even though the cost of silver has reached sky high, chandi ka warq remains ever in demand. The constant sound of hammering is comforting to the people of Lucknow and the art is something of great value. It is a treasured art and makes Lucknow famous in the country even in the 21st century.