A community , 15% of the Indian population, still in political wilderness and in the brink of professional extinction.
Globalisation at present has added to their traumas.
This has also incited subtle shifts in their identity projection at present. Creating a new community consciousness on the bedrock of primordial glories and its deployment in the present politics of communal bargain becomes salient in this process.
The community has many peculiarities that make its case unique and precarious especially in the case ofKerala. First of all, the artisan community, Vishwakarma, is the largest single group under the Hindu fold in India with a population of 18 crores.
Similarly this is one of the very few castes in Kerala that has its representation outside the state also. It is the third largest community after Ezhavas and Nairs in the Hindu fold.
Yet the artisan community never made a decisive social or political presence in India or in Kerala. In the case of Kerala they were always marginalised and are specifically noteworthy for their ineptitude in fetching the communally brokered political privileges.
Vishwakarma community could never consolidate itself like other communities either politically or communally. It failed to organise politically since it never had a philosophical vision needed for political organisation. On the other hand, it could never organise communally also since it lacked a spirituality that could impart symbolic coherence to the community’s aspirations.
We have lost the label of the Hindu itself due to the lack of this spirituality and have become outcaste Hindus.
The vishwakarma community’s identity had always been pivoted around our profession, almost aprioristically. The craft traditions, go back to the ancient Indus Valley civilisation itself. Work manuals inherited from the early history manifest high influence of cosmology, geometry, astronomy, physics, meteorology and metallurgy . It is a true fact that vishwakarmas were the real architects of the Indus Valley civilization.
The identity of the community suffers from a number contradictions engendered both within and without. This may be, because of the ‘bad ego’ deriving from the nature of the respective professions of each group. The goldsmith, since he works upon the precious metal, thinks that he is the most superior. The blacksmith, since he works upon iron, which is the most essential and strongest of metals, thinks that he is higher. On the other hand the bell metal worker and stonemason since they make human and even divine forms think that they are the greatest. Carpenters feel that they are the creators of buildings, doors and furniture, most essential things for living. The very medium they work upon and the natures of the profession foment jealousy towards each other and prevent the community from coming together.
Again the community always identified with wrong ideologies and causes at wrong times, thus thinks many influential ideologues of the community. For a long time, to be exact till 1980s, the community identified with communism, which hampered their prospects. Almost 70 per cent of the community had always been Left Front supporters headed by the CPI and CPI (M) But the Left Front never did anything worthwhile to improve our condition. Similarly the identification with the communists also prevented from participating effectively in the freedom struggle led by the Indian National Congress. The community failed to organise under an eminent community
leader during the freedom struggle, which in fact happened to many other communities, like the Nairs and Ezhavas
The first communal organisation of the Vishwakarmas in south India was started in 1903 in Madras namely the ‘Vishwakarma Kulabhimana Sabha’. After that we see a number
of communal organisations budding, growing, splitting, merging and vanishing among them. The year of India’s freedom, 1947, witnessed the formation of the Akhila Thiruvithamkore Vishwakarma Maha Sabha (ATVMS) in the Travancore area. After
10 years in 1957 it grew into a statewide organisation called Akhila Kerala Visvakarma Maha Sabha (AKVMS). Many local associations coexisted with this frontal organisation while many associations emerged newly due to factional rivalry in this period
They also organised under two political parties of their own namely Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) and Bharathiya Labour Party (BLP) in 1980s and 1990s respectively, to negotiate more effectively with the government, but failed miserably.
The identity projection at present evinces a more critical outlook and negotiatory spirit as necessitated by the political bargains based on communal headcount and the worsening employment conditions. As a result there has been a deliberate effort recently
to put a check on the fissiparous tendency prevalent among the community organisations earlier and a conscious effort to show unity. This had an initial success when the three communal organisations AKVMS, VSS and TVS merged into KVS on March 14, 2001, the eve of the assembly elections. This was done primarily to negotiate with both the Left and the United Fronts for more political spoils in the name of the community. The Left
Front headed by CPI(M) didn’t oblige, so KVS declared open support to the United Front headed by the Congress. The Congress dealt with them better and gave two assembly seats to the community members, one of which they won. The United Front also assured them in their manifesto that if they came to power they would implement the most important demand of the community: that they should be declared as ‘traditional labourers’.
But nothing of this sort has happened.
It is noteworthy that the Vishwakarmas have aligned with all the political fronts in the last 30 years in the major elections. It seems that with every decade they change support. Except for a short interlude they were the supporters of the Left Front in the 1980s. Early 1990s saw them shifting the alliance to BJP. They along with a few other backward communities (OBCs) formed Bharathiya Labour Party (BLP) and aligned with BJP in the elections. The alliance broke miserably later. Again, as we saw, the birth of the new century had them shifting allegiance to the United Front under Congress. This alliance has also not fructified in any meaningful way till now. Our communal politics therefore becomes a restless itinerancy from one camp to the other and getting more debilitated with each switch over. The image the community as a whole conveys is undependability and opportunism for many from other political parties. All political parties in Kerala view them as a taken for granted vote bank that could be lured on the eve of the elections.
But such political wanderlust, normally equated with ideological effeminacy, could be critical in its long-term effects when seen in the backdrop of the growth curve of Hindu nationalism in India.
The community is pragmatic and would only resort to a political line that could help them solve their problems in the occupational front. “Everybody knows that in Kerala BJP is never going to come to power. So what is the point in supporting them? Of course out of sudden resentment with the other two Fronts, which ignored the community,we have to think about a new alternative.
Notwithstanding their identification with what is potentially negative in the Visvakarma
community, all political leaderships refuse to share power with us in any meaningful manner. They also try to nurture Vishwakarma as a vote bank. It is clear that all political parties treated us very badly in the 2011 election. When we asked for a specific number of seats for the community members in return for political support the leadership retorted brazenly. One of them asked, “Who in Kerala will vote for a vishwakarma if he is fielded as a candidate in the present situation?”
It seems that there are some congenital flaws at work behind our no-escape situation and perennial political marginalisation. Firstly, there is something innate in our ideology and worldview that prevents us from rallying under a coherent political ideology or political leader. Secondly, there is some structural elasticity in our worldview that facilitates our identification with political ideologies of all hues: from left, centrist to far right. Thirdly, though we are the largest single community under the Hindu fold in possession of a religio-ideological system potentially as xenophobic as militant Hindu nationalism we have never shown any capacity to rally under it in a combative manner. Fourthly, as a corollary to the above, in their hands this potentially explosive super-brahminic ideology becomes an instrument of subjection and self-surrender.
Without being able to identify with either the upper castes or the lower castes on caste questions, or with left ideologies or rightist forces in the political front the Vishwakarmas ofKerala aimlessly straddle one shelter to another. Theoretically they become important as their case gives some important leads regarding the manufacturing of community identity by castes in the middle level especially caught up in the economic throes of
post-capitalism and globalisation at present. We should remind the words of venerable Visvavani Natarajan, the first English professor from the community: “The people who once made palaces, temples, great monuments and some of the wonders of the world in India are today making septic tanks and toilets. They grow like the snake-gourds, downwards”.
Globalisation in combination with mechanisation is wielding a devastating influence on the traditional arts and crafts of India at present. The case of the traditional artisan community of India, vishwakarmas, becomes a sordid tale of pauperisation and dispossession in this context.
We admit, as a scattered society, vishwakarmas may not be a vote bank.
But as a society having 15% of the population we can prove ourselves as a decision maker. That’s why we are thinking about a new political community network of artisans – the Real owner of this Earth!
With clear-cut political ideology and manifesto why don’t we come foreword in the forth-coming Lok Sabha Election ( 2014) to prove our strength and will power as a political power?
This is an opportunity to find out 21 candidates from our community to prove our strength in this political game…
As the real creators of the earth, we need political representation in this democratic country.
Think about a political crusade…political renaissance…
100 Vishwakarma students for Indian Civil Services Exam
History has proved that individuals can bring about large scale positive change in the world by seemingly insignificant acts.
Teaching less privileged children is one such powerful act which can go a long way in removing illiteracy and solving many other problems in the communities. Education and literacy are the keys to a good future of the community, yet much of our population remains illiterate. Everyone has a social responsibility to help eradicate illiteracy. Many of us want to utilize money for social development but probably don't have the motivation or enough time to reach the deserving needy people.
‘Each One; Teach One’ concept is about to remind our social responsibility to share our earnings with the less privileged section of our society.
It's your choice how you want to make a positive difference.
‘Each one; Teach one’ is all about teaching the financially backward and the needy bright students in our community to be placed in the Indian Civil Service, so that they have a comfortable life and hence can brighten the future of our community. We need to focus on the aspect of teaching such people and look at prospering their life as well the community status.
India has a population of over a billion. Unfortunately, half a century after independence, we, Vishwakarmas, still have the dubious distinction of having the most number of illiterate people. A community claims 15% of the population is away from the mainstream .Only when 100 per cent literacy is achieved we can hope to progress. And we need our people in the Indian Civil Services to promote our community. It's with this in view that the movement, "Each One Teach One” has been designed.
There is no doubt that quality education is a guarantee to quality of life and a secure future. When we talk about various plans, projects and schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, Mid-Day Meal and laws like the Right to Education Act to promote and ease the access to education, we actually aim for social development of our nation. But are we, the Vishwakarmas, actually dedicated to the cause of making education accessible to our needy children?
Most of the students from economically challenged backgrounds, where scarce attention is paid to education. We have bright students and rich people to support them.
We are aiming to place 100 bright students, in the Indian Civil Services ( IAS, IPS, IFS etc ) Exam 2012 by providing training in association with Career Coaching College, the trend-setters since 1984.
The ‘Each One; Teach One’ programme fosters community development by conducting various activities and programmes for bright students like Civil Service Exam coaching, personality development, vocational guidance and providing the children with nutritious snacks. Such positive intervention in the life of a child makes the child feels wanted and loved.
Financially sound people should shoulder the responsibility to sponsor each student in our community to help them reach Indian Civil Service as a part of community development.
India, since ever, has been divided into the privileged and the deprived. A ray of hope that could reduce this division is ‘education’. But unfortunately, the access to Indian Civil Service has not been easy for the deprived Vishwakarma.. The poor Vishwakarma kids are either left to work as child labourers or denied education due to lack of resources and awareness.
We invite financially sound people to come into action and take the initiative to bring hope to lives of millions of the deprived children of Vishwakarma and bring some fortune to their lives.
Apart form the plans initiated by our government or collaborative efforts made by some non-government organizations, the educated young people of our society can contribute by spreading awareness about the need for education and practicing simple phenomena like ‘Each One Teach One’. If teams of students from colleges decide to take up the challenge, not only they would spread awareness about the need for being educated, it would also be a motivation for others who are concerned and equipped but cannot work for the cause due to family constraints.
Apart from this, the young, educated and enthusiastic brains can also play a role in the strategies framed by the government for making education within the reach of every Vishwakarma child.
The success of the goal of ‘Each One; Teach One’ is possible only if the economically sound people become dedicated to the cause and commit themselves to make a difference towards this ‘real development’ ofVishwakarma community.
Please support an underprivileged bright student to get IAS / IPS/ IFS today.
There is no official count of exactly how many community news papers exist in Kerala, but each one support their community indirectly.
Everybody knows that Malayala Manorama and Deepika support Christian community whereas Kerala Kaumudi support Ezhavas. Chandrika, Madhyamom, Thejas, Varthamanam and Siraj support Muslims and Mathrubhumi stands for the Nair community.
Community journalism is a powerful tool for community development and change. Kerala Kaumudi is the best example to see how a community came forward with media support.
But the role that these newspapers play in effecting change in low-income communities is the strongest argument on their behalf. A Vital Role
As media companies continue to merge and grow, the news gets further and further away from ordinary people’s lives and from minority community concerns. Communities like Vishwakarma ( 15% of the Kerala population) without their own newspapers have little access to local news and information. At a time when our issues have faded from state and national political agendas, the absence of a widely read record of the issues confronting our communities is even more serious.
Community newspapers are critical because they can return to issues repeatedly, shedding light on them until they are resolved. Large newspapers and TV news, on the other hand, may drop in on the neighborhood once to report on a problem but are unlikely to return for months, if at all. And reporting in community papers almost always leads to coverage further up the media chain.It’s a true fact that the coverage of little papers has a huge effect on bigger papers. It presses the envelope of what bigger papers are willing to cover.
It also brings the attention of larger media to stories they would have no other way of knowing about. Almost all-news cable channel routinely follows up on articles in the Newspapers.
There are other benefits of a community newspaper. The Mullankolli situation and the Thankamoni issues are perfect examples of how local papers make it more difficult for politicians and bureaucrats to ignore a particular community. Then there’s the notices and event listings that get people circulating in a neighborhood, driving up attendance at community meetings and cultural events.
Community news papers also boost the self-image of struggling communities that usually only receive major media attention for criminal activity. The only time that your problems are in the major papers is when there’s a gang suicide or some scandals.
An effective community paper contribute to change in Vishwakarma community and that they are a tool and an impetus for community organizing and improvement efforts.
Vishwakarmas are called as Missionaries of Civilization, culture and religion because they spread Hindu Religion to the whole world through their art. Ernest B. Havell says “The northern quarter of India (Patliputra) was assigned to Brahmins and certain of the higher craftsman such as gold smiths, armor, ironsmiths and workers in precious stones. The association of skilled craftsmen with Brahmins and Kshatriya is additional evidence that craftsmanship did not hold inferior status in Indo Aryan society. The Stapathy or master builder is described in the Shilpa Shastra as officiating at religious ceremonies which preceded the laying out of the Indo Aryan town or village and some of the metal workers and carpenters of the south of India still retains as their caste indication the name Acharya which denotes“teacher of religion”. In ancient India Vishwabrahmins had great importance. Only Vishwabrahmins could hold the degree Jagatguru i.e. Teacher to whole world which can be seen in the saying ‘Vishwakarma is guru to the world’. Highly acclaimed ‘Indus Valley Civilization’, oldest university in the world, Nalanda Viswavidyalay, great temples, townships etc are the creation of Vishwakarma community.
According to Indian traditional belief, Vishwabrahmins are descended from five sons of Lord Vishwakarma. In finest period of Indian art, particularly between eighth and ninth century, they claimed and enjoyed a social status in the community, equal to Brahmins. The art of engraving and sculpture had attained a high stage of development. The craftsman being deeply versed in national epic literature always figured in the history of India as missionaries of civilization, culture & religion. The intellectual influence being creative and not merely assimilative”
Post independence, the community has not been able to fully capitalize on the immense political and economic opportunities of the times and failed to consolidate as a socio political bloc due to the lack of a cohesive ideology and imaginative thinking. Their inability in becoming a political powerhouse like the Ezhavas and the Nairs was primarily due to the absence of a collective leadership and political acumen. Coupled with a distinct lack of unity among the various sub castes and the posture of each sub sect claiming superiority over the other meant that they were ineffectual in forming a united front to agitate or negotiate for their legitimate demands.
Vyasa portrays Visvakarma in Mahabharatha as follows:
Vishwakarma, Lord of the arts, master of a thousand handicrafts,
carpenter of the gods and builder of their palaces, fashioner of
every jewel, first of craftsmen, by whose art men live, and whom,
a great and deathless god, they continually worship
The Aryans of the Vedic times were deemed as the chosen people of god to whom
the formless god revealed the perfect knowledge of the Vedas. Some time after Creation they came down to Aryavarta – the territory between Himalayas and Vindhya mountains, the Indus and Brahmaputra – and then became the masters of the earth. They instructed the inhabitants in the ‘mother of all languages’, the Sanskrit, before falling into idolatry and superstition [Jaffrelot 1996:16]. The legacy of the Aryans continued through the Brahmins who instituted polytheism and caste system, the pivots of the Hindu culture later. In the ensuing hierarchical order the Brahmin became the apex point to whose pre-eminence everything in the Hindu world was subjugated. The locus of this pre-brahminic world was Aryavarta itself and the civilisation they gave rise to was the Indus Valley
Civilisation. The Vedic Civilisation and the Indus Valley Civilisation were one and the same. This was an ‘Artisan Civilisation’ in contradistinction to the later authentication that it was aryan/brahminic. It was an egalitarian civilisation with no caste divisions in it. The arts and sciences were highly developed in this milieu with thousands of treatises produced on astronomy, metallurgy, chemistry, geography, physics, textile technology,
architecture and even aerodynamics. They made even aeroplanes using a rare alloy called ‘rajaloham’ (royal metal) [ibid:24-27].
In ancient India the artisan was an artist par excellence: the ‘silpi’ or ‘silpan’. The products of arts and crafts were not considered as inert or alienated objects of their creators but something that contained the live creative spirit of the artist or the silpi; more precisely instead of objects they were subject objects. This creative spirit that shaped the objects of art or crafts was part of the cosmic spirit that ruled everything. Hence the products of arts or crafts were equally the vehicles of Maya, the playful expressions of the Absolute. And therefore the exclamation of the artist or craftsman before his or her creation “O how did I make it?
The symbol par excellence that represents the community is its patron lord Visvakarma himself. As mentioned previously he is the divine architect who as the demiurge of Brahma created the universe and everything in it, according to the Hindu religion.
But this god also suffers from confusions as regards his status within the Hindu pantheon.. In an interesting complement the destiny of the god and his people coincide. The god’s exalted position in the pre-brahminic Vedic cosmology, the eventual
cutting to size by brahminic theology as an artisan god, and the present marginalisation with limited appeal and no temples become an ironic commentary on the destiny of his people who also lived through a similar historical trajectory. The god is being acted
upon at present by the modern forces, which recreate and legitimize him in strange shapes and roles backed up by quaint theologies
, “The May Day celebrations also resulted from the actions of the Visvakarma brethren of America. It started in Chicago with the strike of carpenters for stipulating the eight-hour per day job schedule.” Even though the Visvakarma people had been the true architects of the Indian civilisation they never amassed any material possessions for themselves. They built great temples, palaces and all the noteworthy monuments of this culture like their patron in the celestial world. If they wanted they could have built the most ostentatious temples for themselves. In the matter of worship also they in turn identified with the simplicity and authenticity of nature.
When other communities embraced modern education and marched forward, the Vishwakarama looked the other way and thus lagged behind. The long years of social and economic backwardness, the division into various subcastes and the political neglect has put the culturally progressive vishwakarama on a back foot.
Hence it is high time that the various sub-castes of the community must come into one united front and form a social and political organization solely dedicated to the educational and social upliftment of the community.
Vishwakarma Global Foundation is an initiative of NRIs to support Vishwakarma community educationally, culturally, politically and economically to uplift from the present pathetic condition.