This quaint town is home to a dying craft — the Aranmula kannadi or Aranmula mirror, which was honoured with the Geographical Indication tag in 2005.
The metal mirror is an example of India’s mastery over metallurgical techniques.
According to local beliefs, Aranmula kannadi is considered an auspicious object that brings luck, health and prosperity.
The metal mirror practice has been in use much before the appearance of modern-day glass mirrors.
Its technical know-how is confined to only some households in Aranmula.
According to a popular tale, eight craftsmen and their families from Tamil Nadu were brought to work in the Parthasarathi temple.
During their work with different metals, the craftsmen came upon the special alloy that had sharp reflective properties and doubled up as a mirror.
They then presented a crown to the king that contained the mirror as part of the decoration.
Pleased with their metallurgical skills, the king invited them to stay back in Aranmula.
Although the alloy used in making the special mirror is a mix of copper and tin, its preparation is still in secret.
Its uniqueness is that it is front-reflecting, unlike glass mirrors where reflection takes place on the back surface. In Aranmula kannadi, the light does not penetrate into any refractive medium like glass. The reflection is on the top metal surface.
As per Kerala traditions, the mirror forms part of ashtamangalya set — one of eight auspicious items usually arranged and displayed at functions like marriage.
However, with time the craft started languishing. There was no patronage and promotion of the product. Fake products and machine-made mirrors are also threatening the age-old art form.
In the last 15 years, the craftsmanship has witnessed a slow revival. More awareness is being created about the product and it is being displayed in fairs and exhibitions outside of the state.
Aranmula kannadi is expensive. A small three-inch mirror costs at least Rs 3,000. Depending on the size, the price can go up to Rs 1,00,000.