Featured Heritage

Tambat Ali – Pune's Ancient History of Royal Coppersmiths

Thak…thak…thak… the beating sound has been lodged in their ears and blood for 400 years now. With a dedication closer to meditation, they go on with their work, meticulously following a pattern imprinted on their minds. Hours later, a beautiful artwork emerges from a mere piece of copper metal; ever so delicate yet invincible in its form. As you watch them work, a sense of peaceful haze envelops you amidst the rhythmic sound, transporting you deeper in your mind; a state of numb mindfulness.
The art consists of everyday objects turned into beautiful pieces by utilising the passed down knowledge from the bygone era. It consists of cooking and storage utensils, show pieces, etc. The utensils go through a process of heating, cooling, annealing, and finally ending with the ‘mathar kaam’; the art technique which produces the signature rhythmic sound. The finesse of all the years of practice are visible in the pieces wherein, each mosaic pattern is consistent.

Who are these people? They are the artisans of Tambat Ali; a small artisans’ region that till date exists in Pune. To an outsider, this inhabited region may seem to be congested and highly inappropriate for art. However, the best kinds of artifacts were produced right here in the old eras and the production still continues.
The name ‘Tambat’ comes from the Marathi word ‘tamba’ for the metal copper. They came into recognition 400 years ago during the reign of the Peshwa in Pune. Originally, they were from the Konkan region. They were a part of an old social system known as the ‘Bara Balutedars’ and their role was to fulfill the religious, economic and military needs of the Peshwa Kingdom. Right from copper coins and coronation paraphernalia to military weapons, they served the royal family incessantly. If you visit the Tambat Ali now, you will witness their 7th generation.

The art, however, does not flourish as it used to anymore. As time passed, the dynasties changed, innovations took place and machines came into existence. The artisans didn’t give up at this revolutionary stage; they merged the machinery with their handicraft and continued the creation of copper beauties.

A sad smile spread across the old artisan’s face when we asked him if he sees any future in their hereditary royal art. It won’t transcend down the next generations, he said, as the new generation youngsters aren’t interested in taking the art any further. Currently, most of the creations are exported as the demand for authentic, ancient art is bigger in the outer states.
Keeping a heritage intact and growing is something that we simply wish and hope for, these Tambats, make it happen every living moment of their life. Hearts so pure and welcomes so warm, follow the sound of a hammer beating on copper… and you have reached the vibrant heritage destination.