Firozabad – The City Of Glass Bangles Industry
Firozabad in my mind was always the city of glass bangles. Every time I looked at piles of colorful, bright shining glass bangles in fairs and markets across India, I wanted to visit the town. So, this time when I went exploring Holi in Mathura Vrindavan, I decided to take a detour to Firozabad.
Like all unstructured trips, this one also had a small surprise for me. I discovered a lovely Jain temple as soon as we entered the city of Firozabad. More on that later.
Firozabad Glass Industry
Making of Glass Products
Our first stop was the Lazer glass unit that manufactures all types of glass items like drinking glasses, jugs, bottles and even the headlights of vehicles. I thought that they only manufacture glass bangles. I was wrong. Firozabad is as engaged in manufacturing many types of glass products.
The owner of the glass manufacturing Mr. Subodh Jain unit walked me through the process of manufacturing common glass items. The process included both the manual molding and automated process using a dye. I walked through the noisy factory, looking at sand and recycled glass taking the shape of fresh utility items in a matter of hours.
With an artisan like precision, the employees turned the molten glass into handles of jars. Another one was cutting the unwanted parts of a glass giving it a clean finished look. On a slow conveyor belt, the products moved from one stage of production to another as much as they moved from one space in the big hall to another.
At the end of the hall, a very mechanical dye making unit was busy creating dyes for future products. Not too far from it the neat clean cardboard boxes packed with ready to ship products. Have used glasses, bowls, bottles all my life, this is the first time I saw them coming to life.
Other items manufactured include chandeliers, glass bottles for all purposes and Glass Art at times.
My small industrial tour took me behind the scenes of the glass industry.
We moved next door to see the Glass Bangles.
Glass Bangles Manufacturing
Piles of bright red colored bangles welcomed us. They stood out with their bright color in an otherwise drab environment. In a room, the long rolls of bangles were being cut to create single bangles. I was looking at the last step done at this bangle manufacturing unit.
Nikhil Bansal, the young owner of India Electrical Glass Works welcomed us. Even though we had landed unannounced, he took out time to show us the whole process of making glass bangles in his factory. This is the beauty of small-town India. People adjust their work to accommodate a visitor, even when she is a stranger with no appointment.
Video: Behind the Scenes Glass Industry in Firozabad
Get a glimpse of manufacturing in the glass industry.
Fun Facts about Firozabad
- It is also called Suhag Nagari because of the bangles.
- In Firozabad Bangle industry a dozen is counted as 24 i.e. a dozen for each wrist. They sell it the same way in the wholesale market. The retail sale is, however, another story.
- Bangles manufactured here are the ones with a joint, and each bangle is joined manually. Bangles without joint are made with a dye and as per Nikhil, only in Pakistan.
- Before it became a city, this area was dominated by dacoits.
- There are more than 400 glass work units in the city. Most of these would come under small scale industrial units.
Making of Glass Bangles
We started from the piles of sand that is rich in Mica that comes from Jaipur. It is mixed with some chemicals and put in a kiln to melt. The temperature goes up to 1500 deg. You can feel the heat as you go close to it, although the mud coating manages the heat quite well.
The raw glass is then mixed with color and again heated in the huge containers inside the kiln. Once the color is mixed, molten glass is picked up at the edge of a long metal stick. As soon as the glass is out of the kiln, it starts solidifying within a matter of seconds. A worker gives it a conical shape before adding more molten glass to it.
Firozabad Glass Bangles Video
With enough glass on the stick, the still burning red hot glass is kept in front of a worker, who gives it a long conical shape. You can see the red hot glass turning into dark red and then finally red, which in this factory was the color of bangles manufactured.
Though the bangles remain the primary produce here.
This lump of colored glass at one end of a long metal stick then goes into another kiln. This time a small bit of it is rolled over a pipe to make a long spiral roll. The diameter of the pipe decides the size of the bangle. The long rolls are taken out and kept in a pile. Again, when they are brought out of the kiln, they are almost black but within minutes they are of the color of bangles.
Broken pieces of bangles are everywhere. No one is bothered. They will simply go back into the kiln and come back as another bangle.
These rolls then move into the room that I first saw. Each roll is cut in a straight line with absolute ease using a diamond tool. At the other end, you have a pile of single bangles open at one end. They would now be picked up by small entrepreneurs who would join them one by one at their homes or small workshops.
After they are joined, some embellishment work may be done on them, including any cutting work. Finally, they reach the colorful Bohran Gully of Firozabad, where they are sold in wholesale.
Bangle Bazaars in Firozabad
You see carts full of bangles, usually in one single color moving amidst the crowds.
Walking through the colorful lanes on either side of the main bazaar of Firozabad is a delight. Walls on both sides are bright yellow and in the foreground are the colorful shining bangles. Lovely aesthetics. You see the business of bangles, as the piles are traded, loaded on bicycles, packed in brown paper.
Packing of delicate glass bangles is an art in itself. To see them stuck together with a small incline in a way that they would not break is a pleasant surprise. The speed with which young men pack them is amazing. Do watch them pack these bangles towards the end of this video.
Though the city is relatively new, the tradition of making glass bangles and bottles from recycled glass is very old in this region.
Things to see in Firozabad
Glass bangles remain the top most attraction.
History goes back to the days when it was a part of Chandravar region that was under the Chauhan kings before invasions began in India. It is still a small village 5 Km from the city. The place was inhabited by Jain families and hence was home to Jain temples.
The city as it stands today was set up by Firoz Shah, a mansabdar of Akbar in 16th CE. Gazetteer records suggest it came under various rulers including Bajirao Peshwa, Jats, Marathas & British.
Digambar Jain Temple
Like I mentioned above, my first stop was the Jain temple. It is a fairly large temple dedicated to 24th Tirthankar Mahavir Ji. It was built by the family of Jain Seth Chhadamilal.
What is interesting in this temple is the largest Bahubali statue in North India. Temple officials told me that the statue indeed came from Karnataka a few years back. Like the large Bahubali statues there, this is also made of a single stone.
I walked around in the temple complex that was pristine and peaceful before stepping into the chaos of an industrial town.
There is another Jain temple bang in the middle of the market. The idol here is believed to be unique. In the interest of time, I saw this temple only from outside.
How to Reach Firozabad?
It is about 40 km from Agra and makes for a perfect half day trip from the city.
From Delhi, it is about 250 km and can be done as a day trip, though it may be a bit of a stretch.
Tundla Railway Station, about 20 Km from the city is the main railway station, though the city also has a railway station.
You need 2 hours to see the city, its temples and its bangle bazaars.
It is a great Shopping destination as the bangles are available at wholesale prices but you need to buy huge bunches of similar bangles.
Being an industrial town, it has hotels, but maybe not high luxury hotels. I would suggest doing a day trip from Agra or Mathura as I did.