Trying to strike while the metal is hot

Bewitching brass

For those who have a passion for artwork and are interested to know the history of brass work in India, a journey to Pembarthi, a little hamlet tucked away around 60 km from Warangal, in Janagaon division, Andhra Pradesh, would be well worth the effort.

Pembarthi is synonymous with brass artefacts and sheet metal brass engravings, and having a look into the ancient art form of Pembarthi would be a journey back in time.
In the olden days, the craftsmen depicted their carving skills in stone works while building temples. With the emergence of brassware, carving on brass metal came into vogue.

The ruins of Vijayanagar kingdom in Hampi have excellent brass carvings that were highlighted by the ancestors of Pembarthi craftsmen.

The brassware tradition of Pembarthi flourished during the reign of Kakatiya rulers of Warangal when a large number of temples were built and metal sheet carvings were elaborately used to adorn the royal chariots and shrines, but faded into oblivion with the decline of the Kakatiya Empire.

It was during the period of the Nizams of Hyderabad was the brassware tradition revived.

Hence, one can get to see that Pembarthi artefacts sport a secular look, and they are a happy blend of both Hindu and Islamic cultures of India.

One of the most common brassware artefacts of Pembarthi is the betel nut box, better known as paandan, which depicts Islamic influence on the metal sheet carvings of Andhra Pradesh.


The kind of brass sheet used by Pembarthi craftsmen is one and the same, but the designs stand out from the brass works of Moradabad and Benares.
At Pembarthi, there is a wide basket of brassware items that make up stylish and decorative pieces like scent containers, also known as ittar pots, flower vases, hanging metal lamps or chandeliers, mementos and plaques.

It takes around two hours to complete the brass carvings for an artisan. The brass artefacts of Pembarthi are reasonably priced and would not burn a big hole in the pockets of art buffs.

The small gift items begin from Rs 100, and depending upon the intricacy of carvings and the size of the item, the price can go up to Rs 4,000.

In today’s digitally connected world, the brass works of Pembarthi have not been promoted across the world.

There is hardly any demand for carving gods from the Hindu pantheon for Pembarthi craftsmen these days, and their work is confined to the carvings of
prize trophies, mementos and wall plaques. The craftsmen are trying their best to pass on the art to their next generation.

Those interested in buying them can  do so at the Lepakshi outlets in most cities.

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