Rutuja Sahasrabudhe
Masters of Management Studies in Heritage Management,
Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University, India

In the heart of the city of Pune, Western India, lies Kasba Peth (a “Peth” being a residential-cum-commercial ward), the oldest part of the city, established around 1,300 CE.1 Kasba Peth is a densely packed area with narrow streets, blocks of houses, and temples. Nestled deep in this Peth is Tambat Ali, an alley of coppersmiths in the local Marathi language, where at present around forty coppersmiths (known as tambats) beat malleable sheets of copper (tamba) into a variety of traditional and contemporary products.1
The history of this age-old traditional craft of the tambat community in Pune dates back to the late 1600s during the time of the warrior king Shivaji Bhosale (1630–80 CE) who invited metal workers from the Konkan coast of Maharashtra to settle in the city by giving them the task of making religious objects and military equipment like temple finials and cannons from copper and its alloys.1 Gradually, the community grew and their work expanded in scope during the eighteenth century, when the Peshwa regime ruled this region.1,2At this time they started making letterforms for printing, coins, and cooking utensils.1 When the British East India Company forbade them from manufacturing arms in the nineteenth century, tambats increased their production of utensils for domestic use, beginning a practice that continues to this day.1
Today, the tambats of Pune are known for different traditional copper utensils like bamba (a coal-fire water heater), pimpa (a cylindrical water container), and handa or kalshi (other types of water containers differing in size and shape), which they have been making for generations.1,2 The majority of these utensils are made for the purpose of storing water, since drinking water from copper vessels is considered healthy.3,4,5 The significant element is that all these traditional products are handcrafted—no modern machinery is used.6
The work done here is identified as being unique to Tambat Ali, primarily because of the striking hammertone texture that the tambats beat onto the objects they make using different types of highly specialized tools. Each copper product travels through a chain of practiced hands until it ends up with experts in matharkam (the art of creating a perfect hammertone texture), a special technique used to strike the surface of the copper object with a precise pattern that gives the object its lustrous beauty and strength. This technique requires manual strength, concentration, distinctive gestures, customized tools, and, of course, years of practice.6

Pimpa (cylindrical water container)kept for drying under the sun after polishing it. © Mr. Murtuza

The tambats get to know if the matharkam done on the utensils is correct or not just through identifying the sound it produces while hammering.1 If the hammer is struck correctly on the utensil, the sound produced is clear, bright, loud, and ringing. However, if the hammer hits an incorrect spot or if the utensil itself is placed inaccurately on the anvil, the sound produced is dull and muted. It takes years of knowledge and practice in the community to build and master these skills.1
The main raw materials required for this craft are copper and, depending on the product, brass sheets. They are generally sourced from Mumbai and Pune cities.6 First, copper sheets are taken and cut into circles (depending on the required measurements).6 These circles are then placed on a heavy O-shaped structure made of iron and are beaten until the desired shape is achieved. The pieces that have been shaped are joined together by a cut-and-insert method. To make the bond stronger, swagi (a mixture of Raal kerosene oil and copper filling) is applied to the joints. These pieces are placed in a furnace and heated until the swagi mixture fills the joints. They are then immediately dipped in water to cool them down. Once the desired shape is achieved, the copper pot is then polished on a machine. After polishing, the next step is matharkam. Using traditional anvils and hammers, tambats have developed a range of highly practiced and precise motions to beat row after row of dimples in an even pattern on the surface of the copper products. This pattern is what defines their craft, giving it a unique identity. The process described here varies depending upon the type of utensil being produced.6
About three hundred practicing coppersmiths existed in the late nineteenth century, but only twenty-eight households currently remain.7 This decline in numbers can be attributed to rising copper prices, a drop in utility of copper vessels, and the relatively scarce financial rewards for a lot of hard, physical work.8 The current generation of tambats in Tambat Ali live in the same place their forefathers came to centuries ago. The younger generation have shown reluctance to continue this age-old craft, and nobody here is surprised that they are not entering the workforce and are opting for other employment opportunities.
The tambats live in a close-knit community and are dedicated to their art, though the work can be tedious and hard. Over the centuries they have contributed greatly to the cultural life of Pune. With recent technological advancements, older forms of living are threatened, but these tambats have still managed to survive and evolve. They have now started producing copper products that better meet the demands of the urban market of today.8
To safeguard their craft, the tambats believe in collaboration.1 Many have recently started working with external architects and designers in making contemporary products like flowerpots, masala dabba (spice boxes), lamps, and much more. The partnerships between tambats and designers or architects are sometimes one-time projects in which the former basically provide labor, but in some cases there is a collaborative and close relationship that brings mutual benefits to both communities socially. With the proliferation of design schools in India, there is now more acceptance of design as a viable profession. The younger generation of tambats are now becoming designers by engaging with these schools. Their attitude toward the craft is changing. They no longer identify their parents as mere workers or laborers, but recognize them as artists. As specific words for craft and design do not exist in the Marathi language, the word kala (art) is mostly used by the tambats to describe their work. They too now like to think of themselves as artists and not just coppersmiths.1
Today in Tambat Ali, you can see participatory design activities unfolding, indigenous knowledge of the tambats being valued and recognized, and some economic imbalances being tilted in the right direction.1 But the issues of social, cultural, and environmental sustainability still remain; these continue to be difficult to address and the future of the tambats is now open to speculation and imagination.1 Nevertheless, through initiatives from local NGOs, private-sector industries, and some sensitive designers, the tambats of Pune have regained motivation and are now ready to face the challenges of the modern world, equipped with their traditional knowledge and skills.1,8

1. Prasad Boradkar, “Copper in Tambat Ali: Design, Craft, and the Transformative Properties of a Material in Pune India” (PhD thesis, University College London, 2022),
2. Natasha Nargolkar, “The coppersmiths of Tambat Ali, Pune,” Sahapedia, 14 December 2018,
3. Jaya Jaitly, “Making copper products in Pune: a look at the traditional and contemporary processes of making copper products in Pune,” Google Arts & Culture, 2017,
4. Vasudha Rai, “Cooking in the right kind of vessels can actually make you healthier,” Vogue, 22 May 2018,
5. Parmita Uniyal, “Know the health benefits of drinking water from a copper vessel as per Ayurveda,” Hindustan Times, 23 November 2021,
6. Adyasha Rath, Aishwarya Chopra, Arpit Katiyar, Bhavana Sawant, Kadambari Goyal, Kriti Agarwal, and Saiyam Marwah, Mathaarkam: Tambat Ali, Pune (Fashion Communication, National Institute of Fashion Technology, Mumbai, 2016),
7. Pune Cultural Mapping Team, “Tambat Ali,” Sahapedia, October 2021,
8. Dipanita Nath, “Know your city: Pune’s Tambat Ali is home to a vanishing Peshwa-era tradition,” Indian Express, 5 June 2022,