The bronze works of art from the land of Tamil Nadu are famed across the world. The bronze idols and statues continue to be exported to different countries. A small town called Swamimalai in Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu is home to all the craftwork.
Over 2,000 craftsmen live in this village, creating the iconic bronze idols which are called the Swamimalai bronze icons. The bronze icons have also received the much-vaunted Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
Like in the case of many art and crafts of Tamil Nadu, the skill and craftsmanship are passed on from generation to generation. The sculptors have been engaged in the metal-casting work for generations. History has it that it was during the reign of Chola dynasty (9th to 13th century AD) that the art reached its pinnacle. The bronze casting has been famed ever since then.
A community of artisans called ‘Sthapathis' makes the Swamimalai bronze icons. Presently temple idols and statues are being created by artisans. The idols of deities as standalone pieces or in groups are created.
The art of making these bronze statues follows the ancient 'lost wax method'. The cultural, spiritual and artistic value of this art makes it a significant part of the heritage. The craft work is carried out with great precision and involves intricate workmanship following the rules of the Shilpa Shastra. The icons of deities thus created are used in worship in temples and are also used by devotees in their homes for worship or as decors.