Punjab, the ‘Land of five rivers’ is blessed with the Jandiala Guru which is a home to a skillful community of Thatheras. The community is popular for traditional craft of utensil making using copper, brass and kansa. The art of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru has made its way to the Representative List of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru is not only a source of earning a livelihood. Rather, the skill outlines their work ethos, work-life balance and status within the social hierarchy of the town.
Origin of the Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru
It was during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1883, that the Jandiala Guru, a craft colony was setup. The great 19th century Sikh Monarch motivated talented metal craftsman from Kashmir to dwell in the Punjab. The expertise of the Thatheras brought much of the fame for the Jandiala Guru.
Who carries out the craft of utensil making?
Thatheras, a particular group of people carry out the manufacturing process. They owe a distinctive historical and indigenous identity with an oral tradition that strengthen their talent. Both the element and community bear a same name – ‘Thatheras’.
The art of utensil making is inherited from generations to generations orally. Further, both male and female members play equal parts in the creation and processing of the artefacts.
How is the process of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru carried out?
It takes dedicated efforts of the Thatheras to mold cakes of metal into vessels that are useful and look immensely beautiful. A series of steps is followed to complete the entire process.
Step 1 – The molten metal is obtained after melting the Copper and Brass scrap in a large underground furnace.
Step 2 – This molten metal is allowed to cool in iron molds. The product so obtained after unmolding is then rolled into flat plates of desired thickness.
Step 3 – Once Thatheras buy these plates from rolling mills, they hammer the plates to give the desired shapes. From small bowls to huge cooking vessels, everything is obtained from the hands of the skilled artisans.
Step 4 – A desired temperature is required to curve thin plates into shapes. All this is done manually using Hand-held bellows and tiny wood-fired stoves which are buried in the Earth.
Step 5 – Various designs and seams are etched on these utensils by careful use of the hammer.
Step 6 – Cleaning of the vessel is done manually by using diluted acid.
Step 7 - Traditional materials such as tamarind juice and sand are used to polish the utensil. It is done in a special way.
Why the crafting of the utensils is carried out?
If facts are to be believed, eating in utensils made up of copper, brass and other alloys is beneficial for health. These vessels are not only used for utilitarian purposes but also hold ritualistic importance.