It is hard to beat the beauty of a well-crafted bronze statue. Often in the news in the context of smuggling, the gold-like metal exudes divinity. The Panchaloha images — so called because of the amalgam — are always in demand as a premium artefact. This is one ancient craft, exclusive to South India, which thrives thanks to its beauty and the sentiment of tradition associated with it.
Swamimalai is the hub of bronze products and the family of the late S. Devasenapathy continues to preserve the legacy left by the master craftsman. Conferred a national award in 1984, he had taught his sons — Radhakrishna Sthapati, Srikanda Sthapati and Swaminatha Sthapati — the nuances of this ancient art. This family dates back to the period of Raja Raja Chola, who deployed their services in the construction of the Big Temple in Thanjavur. A group of architects, led by Akora Veerabhadra Sthapati, migrated to Swamimalai, after the consecration.
The sthapatis meticulously follow the procedures prescribed in Silpasastra in the making of the bronzes. “Each deity has a sloka, which has to be recited, and the posture of the idol is important too. Silpasastra has laid down norms for 32 kinds of Ganesa idols but these days modern versions, which are totally against Agama, are made and sold,” observe the sthapatis, who are the Asthana Vidwans of Kanchi Kamakoti Pitam. The Acharyas have visited their workshop and blessed them. Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati honoured Devasenapathy Sthapati and his sons many times. He was especially happy with the senior’s Nataraja idol, a masterpiece, made for the Vellore Jalakanteswarar temple.
The patent given by the Government of India came as a boost to the craft. The high standard maintained by the craftsmen over the years has made Swamimalai the exclusive hub of a fine art, buyers coming from across the globe.