Meerut: In the congested bylanes of Lakhipura, located within the deep recesses of old Meerut, 45-year-old Noor Saifi lends final touches to the replica of a 16th-century steel gauntlet, an unusual sight for locals in this part of the world
Iron breastplates designed to look like those in the bygone era are placed across one corner of the small soot-filled room, waiting to be rebuffed and eventually turned into shining armour. They will be supplied as "medieval armoury" to European, Asian, and American markets. Many of these finely designed pieces have featured in blockbuster movies such as Russell Crowe-starrer 'Gladiator', Gerard Butler's '300', and Bollywood's own 'Brahmastra', viewed across the globe. Several pieces are used as ceremonial armour in foreign lands. Saifi is one of the many artisans residing in the walled city who work for medieval arms manufacturers and vendors in Meerut and Dehradun. These two north Indian cities are known to supply a major chunk of weapons produced by the Rs 350-crore Indian period armoury industry to the rest of the world. "Meerut has cheap labour and expert ironsmiths. There is no dearth of work here. Our workload has only increased over the years," Saifi says. He himself is a small exporter. Just 10 km away from Lakhipura lies another facility at the Parikshitgarh Road. Here, men are found forging beautifully engraved swords in foundries while the women are seen painting exquisite dagger handles in gold as well as silver.
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