Minister’s heritage trail promise keeps hope alive for Thatheras


Neha Walia

Amritsar, December 2

Cabinet minister Harbhajan Singh ETO, MLA from Jandiala Guru, recently announced that the government would develop a heritage trail along the Thathera bazaar in Jandiala Guru to promote the famed craft before the city hosts the G20 summit. While the announcement sends a hope among the handful of Thathera artisans left in the Jandiala, it is definitely not the first attempt to support and help the age-old traditional Thatera craft survive the onslaught of globalisation and capitalism.

There are a few buyers for thatheras utensils. Despite several attempts to popularise it, people have become used to polymer-based and plastic utensils. Sadly, not many families are keen to pass on the art to the next generation. —Pratap, a retailer at Hall Gate

The Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, who represent the traditional technique of making hand beaten, brass and copper utensils in Punjab since Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time, have been endorsed in the National List of Intangible Culture Heritage 2020 after, they had received the UNESCO’s coveted tag of intangible cultural heritage back in 2014. Since then, several projects to revive the craft and help the artisans community have been announced. A handful of families are left to carry the legacy of rich craftsmenship that was once known for its intricacies and shear skill.

“There are a few buyers for thatheras utensils, despite the several attempts to popularise it as people have become used to the plastic and other polymer-based utensils, which are cheaper and have flooded the market. The fact is that not many families are keen on passing on the craftsmanship to their next generation shows the struggle,” shared Pratap, a retailer of thatera and other utensils at Hall Gate. Pratap’s grandfather and is family were thatera artisans but he got into selling utensils and not making them as it offered better income.

Today, the average cost of a bottle or a bowl made in Thatera technique costs somewhere between Rs 800-1500, even more for a set of cutlery. For most artists, the cost of making is not covered let alone feeding their families.

The average cost of making thatera utensils, commonly used in kitchen till 80s and 90s, has also increased with respect to its selling price. In recent time, due to private curators and stakeholder involvement, thatera utensils have been made popular with overseas crowd given their sustainability factor and vintage appeal. Limited visibility through exhibitions and sponsored, curated displays have ensured that thatera doesn’t fade from our memory.

But the efforts seem short of giving a fresh lease of life to the community of artisans and their craft, which is on ventilator.