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.