Jandiala Guru, or commonly known as Jandiala, is a town in the Amritsar district of Eastern Punjab. A large concentration of skilful artisans make Jandiala Guru the hub for jewellery and utensils for the surrounding areas.
As you walk the streets of Jandiala, you are welcomed by the ‘thak thak’ sound of hammering of utensils but as you walk further in, you see the faces of men: men trying desperately to hold on to their art long forgotten, men weakened by the inability to feed their family. Generation after generation, the number of people who could carry the legacy forward falls, the solitary old man, having lost the ability to listen, sits back saddened as the culture of his past fades away into a future that looks very gloomy.
This craft form flourished during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. However, today only 30 families are working as artisans due to low income, competition from aluminium products and the unwillingness of the children of the thatheras to work in the same profession.
Mr Kamaljeet Sangha, District Commissioner of Amritsar, in collaboration with Enactus SRCC, a student-run, Not for Profit Organisation, has undertaken ‘Project Virasat’ with an aim to uplift the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru and preserve their dying art form of handmade brass, kansa and copper utensils. This is the only Indian Craft to be enlisted in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
To create a demand for the Thatheras in order to sustain their unique craft form, and in order to suit the modern day tastes and preferences, there are two committed and dedicated designers on board: Dolly Singh, a retired designer, and Kirti Goel, a recent graduate from Pearl Academy. With their experience and guidance, the District Administration of Punjab and Enactus SRCC have not only been able to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the utensils but have also added variety to the products that the community sells.
The brand name P-Tal, standing for Punjab Thathera Art Legacy has also been created in order for the craft form to get better recognition and identity in the market.
The project began with only one Thathera on board, along with whom stalls were set up at numerous exhibitions. After receiving a positive response and numerous orders for the products, more Thatheras became encouraged to join the project.
With the increasing number of Thatheras, institutionalisation was necessary. Thus, with the help of the District Commissioner, the Punjab Thathera Art Legacy was institutionalised under the Societies Act, 1860. Currently, P-Tal has 7 Governing Members and 11 General Body Members.
The Thatheras have also been unified in the form of a self-help group, owing to which they can avail multiple benefits under the SHG scheme. Other than this, a permanent retail outlet at Gobindgarh Fort in Amritsar has been set up, and the products have been listed on various online platforms.
The Launch Event of Project Virasat, organised by Enactus SRCC, is slated to be held on 27th May 2018 at 11 am in Jandiala Guru, Amritsar. Along with the project, the website where the Thatheras’ products can be bought will be launched as well. This event will be graced by the Hon’ble Cabinet Minister for Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Mr Navjot Singh Sidhu, Secretary of Tourism, and Cultural Affairs Mr Shivdular Singh Dhillon, DC Amritsar Kamaldeep Sangha.
With Mr Sangha as the driving force of the project, Enactus SRCC aims to expand the project times manifold in the coming years, and achieve its vision of reviving the art form.