India Always Valued Copper, Now Modern Science Does

India Always Valued Copper, Now Modern Science Does

COVID-19 is proving again and again, day after day, that ancient Indian practices are deeply scientific and it would augur well to pay heed to them.

Over the last few days, the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, USA, have put out new research which finds that the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces. Scientists found that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. (Source:

BBC Future reports that Neeltje van Doremalen, a virologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and her colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, have done some of the first tests of how long SARS-CoV-2 can last for on different surfaces. Their study shows that “The copper surfaces tended to kill the virus in about four hours,” while lasting for upto 24 hours on cardboard and longer on plastic and stainless steel vessels.

Copper is an antimicrobial. Why? Copper ions come in contact with the membrane of the microbe and rupture it. Once the membrane is ruptured, the safety of the microbe is compromised. It enters the cell and interferes with the metabolism and other functions happening in the cell. Eventually the microbe dies.

Pic: Zishta Inc

It's not surprising that during ancient times, Indian priests would store water in their copper Kamandalam and the water would remain fresh for a long time. This water is known as the Tamra Jal - Tamra in Sanskrit meaning Copper. Even now, Indians use Copper Panchpatra to perform daily rituals. According to Ayurveda, Copper helps maintain the balance between the three doshas - Vata, Kapha and Pita and also helps to delay the ageing process. This is motivation enough to get yourselves a copper water bottle!

Indians also used Brass. Brass is an alloy of Copper and Zinc. Since it has copper, it has antimicrobial properties. Brass is alkaline in nature and is oxidised or in other words becomes acidic when it comes in contact with air. This is why brass is always covered when not in use.

Brass Coffee Filter: Pic Zishta Inc

Due to its alkalinity, it is used in the preparation of many cookware such as the Vengala Paanai, Uruli and the oh-so-famous Kumbakonam degree coffee filter. It neutralises the acidic nature of the food that's cooked or prepared in it. The Zinc in Brass regulates the immune system and its role ranges from inflammatory responses to antibody production. It also plays a role in wound healing by removing bacteria, tissue debris removal, formation of new blood vessels and scar formation. Using Brass can provide one with all these benefits.

India has been using copper utensils for millennia. Dr Tara Kashyap, Chitrakala institute of Advanced Studies, Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore, says during the Chalcolithic age, identified by later scholars as proto-historic period there was significant development by Indians in shaping and designing of utensils. “Copies of earthen ware in copper and bronze appeared in the form of bowls, vases, cups and dishes. Terracotta dough plates, stone querns, grinding mills, stone dishes and bowls were also used in large numbers,” she has written in an article on Indian Utensil history.

“Codification of rituals and classification of utensils was an interesting development which characterised Brahmana phase of Vedic literature. The Brahmana texts describe the implements, tools, furniture, vessels and utensils (Yajnayudhas) with corresponding mantras, their forms and functions. Bramha who is believed to have officiated as priest in religious functions, was in charge of the Yajnayudhas,” write Dr Kashyap.

She talks about Chinese traveller It-sting who wrote that Indians threw away earthen pots after use while the metal wares were washed and polished for further use.

Archish Mathe, Founder - Zishta Inc, which sells traditional Indian cooking ware, told CSP that they have recently started shipping abroad and now have “a slew of NRIs who see the value of these traditional products and have started ordering with us.”

Zishta works with more than 20 clusters of artisans across India from Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Orissa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Gujarat , Manipur, etc. “Our focus is bringing back our traditional range of home and kitchen products made of cast iron, soapstone, tin, bronze, brass, copper, Manipur black pottery, Solapur chadhar, River grass mats, clay ware, knives etc. Our focus is on leveraging traditional knowledge to inspire our homes to be more traditional and sustainable,” says Archish.

Zishta works with a cluster based in Maharashtra who have been making copper ware since the days of Shivaji Maharaj. Their unique tambat work is free hand beaten copper which is made of the highest quality copper. • Soapstone: This is available only in Tamil Nadu. It’s the most versatile cookware and can be used for all forms of cooking.

Archish says that all traditional cookware have immense heat carrying capacity so they cook food uniformly with minimal nutrition loss. “The alkalinity of the material used helps in neutralising the acidity in food which in turn prevents issues like acidity, acid reflux, stomach burns etc. As they retain heat, most of these cookware also work like hot case and can keep food warm for hours (especially soapstone). You don’t have to reheat food and reheating food is when you lose maximum nutrition.”

He adds that the anti-oxidant properties of these material helps in retaining the anti-oxidants in food thereby removing cancer causing free radicals from one’s body.

(Cover Photo and Video courtesy Heritage Trust. Inputs by Varsha Venkatraman)