The constant chankars (sound of the hammer falling on the metal) of hammering utensils in the Thathiar Gali fills the narrow streets of Jandiala Guru, a small village located few kilometres from Amritsar. The Thatheras of Jandiala Guru have the skill of making handmade copper and brass products by traditional techniques.
This is the only craft form from India which is listed in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Thathiar Gali was established by Maharaja Ranjit Singh about 200 years ago, but due to mechanization and market sweeping due to steel and aluminum products, it is losing its existence.
Project Virasat, an initiative by the students of Enactus at Shri Ram College of Commerce, aims to revive this again in India. The Thatheras have formed an SHG named P-TAL (Punjab Thathera Art Legacy) with 11 members. They are facilitated in many ways which include provision of good quality raw materials, development of contemporary designs, equipment and training regarding the same, and various demand avenues.
Initially, the Thatheras would make huge bartans (utensils) like a patili which did not provide them with any income, as there was no demand in the market. To make their utensils competent, Enactus SRCC took two designers on board – Dolly Singh and Kirti Goel – who are the backbone of P-TAL. They introduced 65 new designs which helped enhance the products.
Training and development sessions are now conducted in Jandiala Guru. The sessions include improving current designs, making new designs, perfecting the art of making lids, and techniques such as attaching the kundi (handle).
A trainer-trainee model is also followed, where the Thatheras presently working with us are given responsibility to get new Thatheras to work with them and impart the newly-learnt techniques.
Thus, presently working Thatheras train new Thatheras and supervise them to ensure that the orders are met on time and quality standards are maintained. This was one step towards making this project sustainable.
Eventually, after participating in various exhibitions such as Dastkar, India International Trade Fair, Jaipur Literature Fest, etc., collaborating with pan-India retail outlets based in Delhi, Chandigarh and Chennai, listing of Thathera products on premium e-commerce portals and a website of their own, P-TAL has emerged as a leading brand for handmade copper and brass products.
A team of 52 is working everyday to make the Thatheras self-sustainable. The government of Punjab and the district administration of Amritsar has helped us immensely in reviving this lost art.
A grant of ₹10 lakhs has been awarded by the government for the betterment of the project.
In the long run, the students of Enactus SRCC aim to collaborate with multiple retail outlets across India and open their own P-TAL Store, along with tapping the international market.