Thanjavur Art Plates: Craft of cultural and commercial importance

The vintage craft of making Thanjavur art plate dates back to the reign of Marathas during early 1800s which has till date managed to retain its cultural and commercial value after almost two centuries.Thanjavur Art Plate was given a Geographical Indications (GI) tag in 2007, as a proof of its long heritage.

‘Thanjavur kalai’ as it is called in local vernacular is an art that incorporates embossing, etching, engraving and filigree on metallic surfaces, it requires the skills of a metalworker, jeweller and a designer of not just patterns, but also tools. That is why it is quite common to see four or more people work on each step of an artefact.

In past, craftisans were engaged in fulfilling the orders for royal gifts like salvers, jewel boxes and vessels like water pots and ewers but in its contemporary version, the craft has been commercially reinterpreted as ‘Thanjavur kalai thattu’ or Thanjavur Art Plate, a ceremonial platter made with silver, copper and brass layers in three stages: the base plate with alternate copper and silver panels, a bigger embossed silver motif on the central section, and the setting of globular jigna or sequins in the secondary relief.

Pandemic may have hit the artians badly but the, the State Government-run handicraft emporium,Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu are trying to facilitate the craftisans and planning to open a dedicated unit to produce Thanjavur Art Plates. “The implements will be available in our common workshop, which can be used by artisans for a nominal charge,said an official.

Cover image source: JLine Arts

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