As mentioned in my previous post, Natchiarkoil is an eclectic town near Kumbakonam and forms for an engaging visit in more ways than one. Apart from the Nachiyar Kovil or Thirunarayur Nambi Temple, the village is famous for its handcrafted lamps. There are several factories in the town that make the exclusive Kuthuvilakku which is also called the Annam lamp. These brass lamps are used to light oil lamps and are found in most temples in South India. It is also a common fixture in the pooja room of most houses.
The lamps are made mainly from brass and consist of four main parts, the base, the elongated stem, the main oil receptacle or “thanguli” and the top or apex. The thanguli is deep to hold the oil and has spouts on the periphery which are the place holders for the wicks. The top or the apex is ornamental and is usually crafted in the form of a peacock, swan or even a lady holding the thanguli. It is also called the “Prabhai”. All these individual parts are manufactured separately and then joined together by a system of screws.
The Nachiarkoil lamps were accorded the GI (Geographical Indication) tag in 2010 and the lamps here are made of both brass and of bell metal. They come in a plethora of sizes and are made by the local Pather (Kammalar) community who migrated decades ago from Nagerkoil to Natchiarkoil. These lamps have intricate work and are ornately finished using the loam or wax moulded technique. All materials for the moulding are sourced locally.
The lamps are not only sold and distributed all over India but also exported to countries like Singapore and Malaysia. With close to 120 factories, Natchiarkoil is a key centre for the Kuthuvilakku lamps. “There is heavy demand for these lamps all over. We manufacture close to 24, three feet lamps in a week” says Rahul whose father has three factories that employ about 40 people.
Click here to read about another GI accorded craft near Kumbakonam.