Asi kirpaan khando khadak tupak tabak arr teer||
saif sarohi sehthi yahai hamaarai Peer||
– Sashtra Naam Mala, Patshahi 10th
Punjabis know that weapon is the true lord, but they don’t know the artisans who make weapons.
Our village is home to many Jathedars (leaders) of Damdami Taksal of Sikh faith. For generations, we have been engraving the traditional weapons; we are the fourth generation. Being artisans, our forefathers could make anything from a wagon to a rifle. Their work covered a whole gamut of artisanal jobs, be it masonry, black smithery or carpentry. Our grandfather worked both as an artisan and as a member of Subhash Chandhar Bose’s Azad Hind Fauz (Indian National Army).
We make spears, swords, double-edged swords, and other traditional weapons related to the armory of Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji. We make daggers ranging in sizes from one inch to three feet. We craft Panth (faith) weapons and we live by Panth’s Sikh code of conduct.
Our diverse clientele consists of locals, Sikhs from abroad, and Akal Takht Jathedars. Our price is not fixed. It varies according to the order and demand of the client. However, our sales have dropped because other villagers have started selling the weapons as well. Their product is not hand-crafted. They simply buy weapons from outside and resell in the village. Another big player in the market is the Made in China weapon, which is machine made using cheaper material and can be easily found in the market. Our weapons are made of wrought iron, Sheesham wood, and other traditional materials. From molding to engraving iron, we do everything with our hands. Therefore, it is easy for discerning clients to distinguish our weapons easily.
A weapon is crafted in multiple steps. First, the iron is molded into the shape of a particular weapon. Then the woodwork is done to make the encasing. Finally, the engraving is done. The last step takes many days to finish as the nature of work is intricate. Also, it takes longer if the weapon is small.
I don’t see a bright future for our coming generations in this craft. In the past, we had one or two clients per day. These days, we hardly get one client per week. The worth and appreciation of handmade craft have plummeted; the sale decreased as well. We don’t earn much. My son completed a diploma from ITI and works as a car mechanic at present. He has learned the traditional craft, but he does not want to carry it forward. He wants to go abroad.
Damdami Taksal: A Sikh Seminary, teaching the reading (santhyia), analysis (vichar) and recitation of the Sikh scriptures, with a separate code of conduct than mainstream Sikhism.
Akal Takht: primary seat of Sikh religious authority and central altar for the Sikh political assembly
Story by: Harinder Firaaq
Translation: Jasdeep Singh
Edits: Sangeet Toor