2017

Copper Craft

Dastkari Haat Samiti

In Pune, Maharashtra, a four hundred year old community of copper workers continue to practise their craft 

Copper craft: Before and after polishing, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
The art of beaten copper work in Pune, Maharashtra, is located in an old part of the city called Shitolewada. Within its buildings, shops and workplaces, this locality contains the world in which copper craft survives successfully. 
Copper craft: Making of the tea pot, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

All metal workers are traditionally called Twashta Kasars, and the sub-community working here for the past 400 years, who works mostly with copper and some brass, are locally called tambats.

Copper craft: Workshop area, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Twashta Kasars migrated to cities like Pune, Nasik and Mumbai from the Konkan coast of Maharashtra to get better value for their articles of manufacture.

Copper craft: The workshop area, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

They were patronized by the Mughals, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the Peshwa kingdom as well as by local chieftains or administrative authorities like tax collectors, for whom they made idols of their particular deities, protective casings for stone idols, weapons, and most importantly, coins.

Shitolewada, the centuries old workplace of copper workers in Pune, presents till today an interesting mix of copper and brass products made entirely by hand.

Copper craft: Community space, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Deities, Patrons of the copper community
Copper, brass, bronze and other metal alloys have been historically considered among the higher categories of craft as the base material is not ephemeral in nature. In India, it has the added value of being used for sacred purposes like the creation of idols for all deities which are ceremonially worshipped. This raises the social status of their makers as well.
Copper craft: Community space, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Most communities in India have their own patron deity, apart from the overarching deities, who they believe gives them special powers.

Copper craft: Community space, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Mahakali is the patron deity for the copper workers as she is considered to be the source of immense physical strength which is needed to handle all processes of metal work.

Copper craft: Community spaces, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Mahakalika Temple, housing the female deity Mahakali, is the central point of the locality in which copper work has been going on for centuries.

Copper craft: Community spaces, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

From the outside, the community centre housing the temple is typically colonial, with elaborate iron balconies.

The pattern originally included heads of Queen Victoria within the design, which were cut off later, leaving only one behind, which is barely visible.

Copper craft: Community spaces, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Ganesha temple is housed on the ground floor of the community centre, the interiors of which are built in the Peshwa style.

Copper craft: Community spaces, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Lord Ganesha is considered the patron deity of the 'village', i.e., the larger community of people.

The Twashta Kasar Ganesha temple therefore has an important place in the community's life.

Copper craft: Community spaces, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The locality also houses a library building to cultivate the mind, apart from hand work, by encouraging education.


Copper craft: Patron house of the community, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The tax collector for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the patron of the craft and is still considered royalty by the locals.

The tax collector’s old home in Shitolewada is still occupied by the later generations of their clan.

Copper craft: Patron house of the community, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Sardar Shitole, the present head of the family, has many homes elsewhere but prefers to live here.

He says he cannot sleep unless he hears the constant, rhythmic sound of copper vessels being beaten by the workers!

Copper craft: Patron house of the community, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Some iron railings along balconies of the house erected by the British, may today have images of Shivaji, welded to them later by metal workers.


Copper craft: Bakahal; the workshop and houses around the courtyard, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Home and Workspace
The practice of copper craft declined during British times because the colonial rulers were wary of anyone making weaponry likely to be used against them, and because they needed to promote their own machine-made wares from Britain. Today, the multiple sounds of copper being hammered can be heard even before entering the homes and workplaces of these craftsmen.
Copper craft: Bakahal; the workshop and houses around the courtyard, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The houses of the copper workers are often built as two floors where the workshop and home adjoin each other, both upstairs and downstairs.

Copper craft: Bakahal; the workshop and houses around the courtyard, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Most craftsmen have their workshop in the front and their house behind.

Copper craft: Transition wall between workshop and the house, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The interior of a typical worker’s room shows hammers, clothes, pictures and an image of Lord Hanuman, also signifying power, hanging on the wall together.

Copper craft: Transition wall between workshop and the house, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The craftsman hang up their tools before changing their clothes and entering their living area after a day’s work.

Copper craft: Workshop area, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Craftsmen find unique ways of honouring Shivaji, who was one of the earliest patrons, by painting his portraits on workshop walls.

Copper craft: Coppersmiths house interior, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The interiors of a coppersmith's house are purely functional.

Copper craft: Coppersmiths house interior, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The copper vessels that are produced are extensively used by the women in the kitchen.

Copper craft: Community spaces, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The community lives in close proximity to one another and often share common spaces as well.

Copper craft: Coppersmiths house interior, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The workshops are an important part of the house and are equipped with all the necessary tools.

Copper craft: Coppersmith’s house exterior, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The craftsmen use all the available space in their workshop. The vessels are dried on the roof of the open workshop structure.

Copper craft: Coppersmiths house interior, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Water heaters are one of the most popular products that the craftsmen specialize in.

The workshops usually have water heaters and welding materials needed for making them.

Copper craft: Traditional market area ; famous for copper and brassware, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Copper Markets of Pune
In the market area, shops stock a variety of products made in copper and brass, ranging from images of deities, diya stands, articles for worship and lotas. Sellers display the wares outside the shops to attract customers.
Copper craft: Traditional Market area: Famous for copper and brass ware, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Tulshi Baug market complex is where copper articles are sold. It is a busy market always filled with customers.

Copper craft: Contemporary products, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Contemporary developments
Both traditional and contemporary objects have continued to be created. While the production of old products has been sustained by continuing cultural practices, the possibility of reaching out to a wider urban clientele has been readily grasped by some families of tambats, who have always been open-minded about moving with the times.
Copper craft: Coppre Studio, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Studio Coppre is a Pune-based design studio for contemporary copper products.

They have been working to revive copper craft, by promoting and preserving artisanal skills of metal workers, and producing and marketing handcrafted contemporary wares.

Copper craft: Contemporary products, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The studio has been encouraging the coppersmiths to adapt their skills to contemporary designs.

Copper craft: Contemporary products, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

With the encouragement provided by Studio Coppre, craftsmen have been able to showcase their skills in USA and Europe.

Copper craft: Contemporary products, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

This contemporary range of products has been exhibited and has a market all over the world.

Copper craft: Contemporary products, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

These design innovations have a universal appeal and help create new markets for the craftsmen.

Copper craft: Contemporary products, 2017, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly
Photography: Suleiman Merchant
Artisans: Balachandra Kadu, Ishwar Karade, Sharad Kharavlikar, Manoj Photfode, Ganesh Wadke, Arun Patil, Mahesh Nizampurkar,Ganesh Photfode, Uday Kavale, Sunil Kharavlikar, Satish Nizampurkar, Chandrashekar Salvi, Ganesh Karade, Ajit Pimple, Bharat Nizampurkar, Sunil Wadke, Pravin Kharavilkar and Sandeep Kharavilkar and fellow craftsmen.
Ground Facilitator: Jui Tawade
Documentary Video: Suleiman Merchant
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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