In India, many art and craft forms make up its diversity. Spanning across regions, they are different as they stand out in various ways. Several generations have dedicated themselves to preserving the art form, providing them livelihood.
As the years go by, young and budding entrepreneurs are tapping into the artisans' potential. Their expertise with the internet and connection with the modern world gave rise to a lucrative avenue that works for their welfare.
An example of this is a brand that showcases products made out of copper and brass. Called 'P-Tal', it is bringing back copper utensils in vogue and giving the artisans the respect they deserve for the hard work they do.
Only Indian Craft Form In UNESCO List
The platform's name is a fun and innovative take on metal with numerous benefits. 'P-Tal's full form is 'Punjabi Thathera Art Legacy'. It aims to give recognition to a craft form from Punjab known for utensils and other items made out of hammered copper and brass. It originated in a town called 'Jandiala Guru' situated in Amritsar district.
The 'Thathera' colony in Jandiala Guru dates back to the 1800s, as it came up during Maharaja Ranjit Singh's reign. A custodian of arts and crafts, the ruler encouraged skilled artisans from Kashmir and other parts of the country to come into Punjab.
The indigenous craft form is the only Indian representative in UNESCO's 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 survey this particular cluster, we found out that this community was the only one which was practising the country's only UNESCO listed craft. They had that distinction," Aditya Agrawal, the business head of P-Tal, told The Logical Indian.
P-Tal: Bringing The Work Of 'Thatheras'
Despite the achievement, the craft form was on the brink of extinction. From being economically exploited to lack of unity, India's only UNESCO listed craft was disintegrating. Agrawal further adds, "Most of these artisans are over 50 years old. They were making traditional utensils that did not find a place in the current market as they did not have an idea about modern designs that could be incorporated in their work."
Every traditional craft form has a necessary intervention. However, the 'Thathera' work needed an urgent revamping to save itself from the eventual decline as UNESCO was about to delist it. With the core team, Aditya Agrawal sought to help the artisans out. It consists of him, along with Kirti Goel and Gaurav Garg. While Garg works towards community engagement, Goel brings her unique design expertise to the table.
The P-Tal team worked closely with the artisans from six months to a year. Understanding their needs and that of the market, they assisted the craftsmen in their work and guided them wherever necessary. "We had to work with them for some time in Amritsar itself closely. We started making minimal changes to their existing designs," Aditya Agrawal explains. An example of this is a 'paraat clock' made out of 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 teacups, saucepans, cocktail glasses etc. Along with this, the team encouraged the artisans to be sustainable. "We told the artisans that if you are taking a brass sheet and making a great product, there is always some amount which is left. By using them, it could yield more profit by making small products out of them," Agrawal adds.
Giving Artisans Online Exposure
For the craftsmen around the country, COVID-19 proved to be catastrophic. As they had to stay home, it only added more woes to their livelihood than before. With P-Tal's existence, the platform gives the Jandiala Guru artisans exposure as their work and story are now known everywhere.
Many artisans have followed their father's footsteps by getting into this craft form. A 33-year-old man named Pankaj Kumar told The Logical Indian, "I have been doing this job since I was eight years old. My father used to be 'thathera' himself, but I took this job right after his death to support my family. The team at P-Tal has given us and our art form much-deserved recognition, and they also provide us with the raw materials."
Artisans At Jandiala Guru
The online platform has also provided employment opportunities to youngsters. "My father ran a small general store in the town, and I used to help him. Then, one day, Kirti ma'am and Aditya sir offered me a job in their company. I thought about it for a day or two, after which I decided to join it. I learnt the ropes in 3-4 months and started enjoying my work here. Both ma'am and sir helped me at every step of the way, and I am thrilled and thankful to them," a young artisan named Ashu Kumar said.
For the 'Thathera' community in Jandiala Guru, getting an internet audience was not in their wildest dreams. With P-Tal making it possible, the dying craft form is on the path of revival and is here to stay for eternity.
Also Read: Celebrating Kutch Culture! How This E-Commerce Platform Employs Artisans' And Showcases Regional Crafts