Satnam Singh. Keresley Colliery Worker. Coventry. 1970


Amarjit Chandan
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In our lore, there is hardly any reference to an appreciation of kirrti – the artisan and kirrt – the work, besides the legend of Guru Nanak’s visit to woodworker Laalo’s house, when he broke the plain bread with the ‘lowly’ artisan rather than having a meal of pancakes hosted by moneylender Malik Bhago.

There is no poem or visual artwork (photograph, painting, film) eulogising, celebrating or revering kirrt. In Gurbani kirrt and ghaal refers to rituals and voluntary service to find God. Even in the twentieth century, our menial poets did not revere kirrt.

Brahamanism’s raison d’être is –  A person working with his own hands is menial and lowly. The word kirrti and pride in kirrt is the product of Punjabi migration to the west. Capitalism breaks apart the arrogance of caste origins. The word kirrti founded in the divine foundry must be imagined by Punjab’s first Marxist thinker and founder editor of magazine Kirrti Bhai Santokh Singh in his travails as a worker in America. It is quite a point to ponder that our artisans worship their tools in the name of Vishwakarma – Brahma’s son and the architect of the ancient cities of Lanka and Dwarka. On this auspicious day every year, the artisans clean/mend their tools and clean their workshops. No Jatt farmer is heard to be worshipping his tools.

Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet addresses the worker as a prophet:

This earth is not balanced on the bull’s horn,
this earth is balanced on your hands.
God is your hands.

Vancouver. Early 1900s. Vancouver Public Library
Stone Cutter. Gill Cavert. Hammersmith Hospital. London Nov 08-Pic Amarjit Chandan
Sikh Lumberjack. Museum of Civilisation. Ottawa. May 2007..Photo by Amarjit Chandan
Knife makers. Wazirabad. c 1995. Pic Akram Varraich
Artisan Pooran Singh Pritam of Malaud in the Mehra Cloth Mill of Amritsar, 1933

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