Traditional Craftsmen Honored in South India

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
April 21, 2013 Updated: April 22, 2013

THRISSUR, India: Three traditional craftsmen were honored for their decades long contributions to preserve the dying out techniques of traditional building systems, in the south Indian city of Thrissur, Kerala. The honors were given by the Indian National Trust for Architectural and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Thrissur branch.

“INTACH honored them for their lifetime contributions toward ancient building craft which is fast dying today,” said Vinod Kumar, a member of INTACH-Thrissur.

According to Kumar, every piece of architecture in traditional Kerala was a handcraft piece with a craftsmen signature clearly imbibed in it. “Now as we go towards a more mechanized building culture, we are losing our invaluable heritage of centuries old craft.”

Kerala’s traditional architecture derives its system from the land, rich culture, and climate. Its uniqueness lies in the complex wooden roofs, elegant and humble proportions, and the ancient scientific-basis to its architecture.

“We choose a traditional carpenter, laterite stone craftsman, and oxide worker as each one of them is a master craftsman in his respective field. Each one of them is a rich repository of traditional skills which very few craftsmen have in today’s age,” said Kumar.

Traditional homes in Kerala were built using the laterite stones unearthed from the site. Just as wooden carpenters worked on wood, there were craftsmen who worked on laterite. In Kerala, these craftsmen are called “Kallssary,” which means stone-carpenter in the local language.

The 82 years old traditional craftsman, P. V. Thankamani, grew up in a family of traditional carpenters where the knowledge of carpentry has come down since many generations.

His skills involve calculating and laying down complex wooden roofs which are of many different form and complexity. Thankamani has been involved in the restoration of many thousands of years old temples and palaces around Kerala, according to a release by INTACH-Thrissur.

INTACH also honored 85 years old Sankunny Asari for his life-time of dedicated work and 62 years old oxide worker, Joy Elavally.

Oxide craftsmanship involves centuries old systems of coating walls and floors with colored pigments.

According to a release by INTACH, each region in India has its own anciently evolved craft forms. Such encouragement to traditional craftsmen will go a long way to make public aware of their build heritage.