The Thatheras of Jandiala Guru in Amritsar struggled with financial difficulties and drifted away from their traditional occupation even as their art form found its way to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The lack of working capital forced the craftsmen to be entirely dependent on the Kasariyas who were exploitative middlemen and forced the artisans to work in extremely poor conditions with low and irregular wages.
Project Virasat is trying to bring back the Thatheras to their traditional occupation by unifying and organising them into an institutionalised setup and help them realise greater profits and higher incomes, with the support of the Tourism Minister of Punjab, Shri Navjot Singh Sidhu and under the guidance of the DC of Amritsar, Shri Kamaldeep Singh Sangha.
Goals and Objectives of Project Asbah
To preserve our cultural heritage and revive the traditional art form
To provide higher incomes and greater incentive to work to the craftsmen
To promote health benefits of copper and brass utensils
// The Community and the Business Model
The Thatheras of Jandiala Guru possess a legacy that can be traced back to over 200 years ago, when the village was established as a colony of craftsmen during the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The community produces handcrafted copper and brass utensils using the traditional technique of hammering. In 2014, the craft made it to the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
But exploitation at the hands of Kasariyas and lack of stable incomes due to reduced demand for copper and brass utensils (due to the onslaught of steel and aluminium products) had forced these traditional craftsmen to seek employment in other domains, thus resulting in the decline of the art form. The ones who remained had to work as mere labourers in dingy, unhygienic cells with no electricity, exposed to risks of hearing impairment and other health hazards.
Project Virasat aims to revive the art form with the following five-step business model:
Triple Bottom-Line Impact
Development of contemporary designs, provision of finer tools, and upskilling of the artisans through training workshops by noted craft researchers and industry majors has led to increased market demand for the products of the Thatheras. Also, our efforts to ensure sustainable access to demand avenues for the Thatheras have been realised through the setting up of our own retail outlet in the popular tourist destination of Gobindgarh Fort in Amritsar as well as our own direct retail website www.p-tal.org. We have also gotten online listings at major portals such as Lal10, Engrave and SouvNear.
Higher revenues through impressive sales being realised through these demand avenues, and increased profitability in niche markets has led to a substantial increase in regular incomes for Thatheras. In addition to this, the support of the Punjab Government has enabled access for the Thatheras to grants worth Rs. 10 lakhs each year for the next four years.
The craft form of the Thatheras in Jandiala Guru is revived with increased interest being shown by traditional craftsmen of the village who had chosen other professions, to get back to making handcrafted utensils again. The rejuvenation of self-esteem can also be linked to the unified legal existence the artisans now enjoy, in the form of an SHG, a society, and an Udyog Aadhaar. Besides, our efforts at upskilling the craftsmen through workshops by noted craft researchers and industry heavyweights are also improving the social standing of the Thatheras. The Government’s proposal to sponsor the promotion of the craft as a signature craft of Punjab shall further motivate the craftsmen.
Project Virasat has significantly improved upon unhygienic hazardous working conditions by providing safety gear and industrial grade ear muffs. The numerous health benefits of brass and copper utensils shall prove to be of immense benefit to the users, with increased lifespan and healthspan.
// Our Vision
In the near future we are looking at enabling Government sponsored promotion of the craft as a signature craft of Punjab. In the long term, we aim to set up P-TAL branded permanent retail outlets in upmarket areas of Indian cities to ensure continued demand. We also aim to provide international exposure to the craft by enabling export opportunities with an ultimate goal to make the Thatheras world-renowned and establish Jandiala Guru as a tourist hub.