Metalworking Traditions of Kammalar and Vishwakarma of Southern India (Virtual Book Reading and Lecture)

Srinivasan, Sharada (2020) Metalworking Traditions of Kammalar and Vishwakarma of Southern India (Virtual Book Reading and Lecture). [Video]

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Abstract: The Kammalar and Vishwakarma of southern India represent ageold artisanal communities who have left behind an indelible imprint in terms of material culture and metals heritage. However, although the artistic legacy of temple sculpture and metal icons, lamps, bells, vessels is generally known, there are lacunae in terms of a finer appreciation of their techno-cultural aspects and trajectories, the living heritage of the knowledge systems and intertwinings with the socio-cultural aspects. The seminal book project completed in 2019 and related lecture of Sept 2020 on the Metalworking traditions of the Kammalar and Vishwakarma sets out to chart the trajectories of important craft traditions in various parts of southern India to explore the intertwinings of culture and technology, maker and material, process and product, art, craft and science, ritual and function, past and present. Chola inscriptions mention the Kammalar, the once powerful artisan communities who were organized in five-fold kinship groupings; akin to the crafts communities of the Viswakarma, who trace their lineage to the mythical Lord Visvakarma, the divine architect of the Hindu pantheon and his five children. Ethnometallurgical studies in and around south Indian temple towns and cultural hubs in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangan are reported. These range from the metal icons made by Sthapatis at Swamimalai, harking back to the famed medieval Chola bronze legacy to lesser known icon making traditions in Karnataka; from the ritual metalware of temple bells and lamps in Nacharkoil to the distinctive foundries for uralis or vessels in Mannar; and from the vanishing practices of the Kammalar in Kerala of making high-tin beta bronze vessels and cymbals to the exotic metal mirrors of Aranmula, Kerala. Apart from the copper-bronze repertoire, the trajectory of ferrous metalworking communities is also touched upon. These range from the last testimonies of the ‘ukku’ Kammari in Telangana, who made ‘ukku’ or wootz steel, a famed high-grade steel of antiquity that was exported to West Asia to make the fabled Damascus blades, the Karuman Viswakarman blacksmiths of Tiruvannamalai and the intriguing flexible urumi swords of the Kalaripayattu tradition from Kerala. The intangible heritage and distinctive ritual practices of the craftspeople is touched upon; such as of their autonomous temples, mediated by their own priests such as at Nagamangala in Karnataka and the fading songs of the Kammari blacksmiths of Telangana. Two DVDs have also been made with Prof Sharada Srinivasan’s narrations, and one on bronze, bell metal and marginalised high-tin bronze traditions and the other on steel makers and blacksmiths. The overview on the present status of crafts also draws from the past 3 decades of Prof Sharada Srinivasan’s seminal archaeometallurgical and ethnometallurgical researches on metal crafts traditions and metalware.
Item Type: Video
Additional Information: This virtual lecture by was delivered on 19th September 2020 for IGNCA, Bangalore
Keywords: Metalcrafts, Vishwakarma, Kammalar, Cholabronzes, swamimalai, thanjavur, aranmula, mannar, wootz
Subjects: Programmes > Heritage Science and Society Programme > Crafts History
School of Humanities > Heritage Studies
Programmes > Heritage Science and Society Programme
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2022 05:29
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2022 05:29
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