Tradition meets modernity! This online platform revives the only form of indigenous Indian handicrafts in the UNESCO Punjab
In India, many forms of arts and crafts make up its diversity. Spanning all regions, they are different because they differ in various ways. Several generations have dedicated themselves to preserving the art form, providing them with a livelihood.
Over the years, budding young entrepreneurs exploit the potential of craftsmen. Their expertise with the internet and their connection to the modern world has spawned a lucrative avenue that works for their well-being.
An example of this is a brand that features copper and brass products. Dubbed “P-Tal,” it brought copper utensils back into fashion and gave craftsmen the respect they deserve for the hard work they do.
Only form of Indian craftsmanship on the UNESCO list
The platform name is a fun and innovative take on metal with plenty of benefits. ‘The full form of P-Tal is ‘Punjabi Thathera Art Legacy’. It aims to recognize a form of Punjabi craftsmanship known for its hammered copper and brass utensils and other objects. He was born in a town called “Jandiala Guru” located in Amritsar district.
The ‘Thathera’ settlement at Jandiala Guru dates back to the 1800s, as it emerged during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. A guardian of arts and crafts, the ruler encouraged skilled artisans from Kashmir and other parts of the country to come to Punjab.
The indigenous craft form is the only Indian representative on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. Keeping its history in mind, the team at ‘P-Tal’ wants to preserve the art form by showcasing it on an e-commerce platform. “When we went to investigate this particular group, we found that this community was the only one practicing the only handicraft in the country listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They had this distinction,” said Aditya Agrawal, the chief of company of P-Tal. The Logical Indian.
P-Tal: Bringing the work of ‘Thatheras’
Despite the achievement, the artisanal form was on the verge of extinction. From economic exploitation to lack of unity, India’s only UNESCO-listed handicraft was disintegrating. Agrawal adds: “Most of these artisans are over 50 years old. They made traditional utensils that found no place in today’s market because they had no idea of the modern designs that could be incorporated into their work.
Each form of traditional craft has a necessary intervention. However, the ‘Thathera’ work needed an urgent overhaul to save itself from eventual decline as UNESCO was about to drop it from the list. Along with the core team, Aditya Agrawal sought to help artisans. It consists of him, as well as Kirti Goel and Gaurav Garg. While Garg works on community engagement, Goel brings his unique design expertise to the table.
The P-Tal team worked closely with the artisans for six months to a year. Knowing their needs and those of the market, they assisted the craftsmen in their work and guided them where necessary. “We had to work closely with them for some time in Amritsar itself. We started making minimal changes to their existing designs,” says Aditya Agrawal. An example of this is a “paraat clock” made by removing the base and attaching a clock to it.
Another popular product was the copper water dispenser made by adding a tap to the traditional copper pitcher. Other items include tea cups, saucepans, cocktail glasses, and more. Along with this, the team encouraged artisans to be sustainable. “We told the craftsmen that if you take a sheet of brass and make a great product, there is always a certain amount left over. By using them, it could generate more profit by making small products out of them,” Agrawal adds. .
Giving Craftsmen Online Exposure
For artisans across the country, COVID-19 has proven catastrophic. Since they had to stay at home, this only added more problems to their livelihood than before. With the existence of P-Tal, the platform gives Jandiala Guru artisans visibility as their work and story is now known everywhere.
Many artisans have followed in their father’s footsteps by embarking on this craft form. A 33-year-old man named Pankaj Kumar recounted The Logical Indian, “I have been doing this job since I was eight years old. My father was ‘thathera’ himself, but I took this job right after his death to support my family. The P-Tal team gave us and our art form much-needed recognition, and they also provide us with the raw materials.”
The online platform has also provided employment opportunities for young people. “My father ran a small general store in town, and I used to help him. Then one day, Mrs. Kirti and Mr. Aditya offered me a job in their business. a day or two after I decided to join. I learned the ropes in 3-4 months and started enjoying my job here. Madam and Sir helped me every step of the way. , and I am delighted and grateful to them,” a youth says an artisan named Ashu Kumar.
For the “Thathera” community of Jandiala Guru, getting an audience on the internet was not among their wildest dreams. With P-Tal making this possible, the dying craft form is on its way to rebirth and is here to stay for eternity.
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