Thanjavur district is a place of pilgrimage, where devotees of Lord Muruga trek to visit one of the six abodes of this Tamil deity. Image worship is a regular practice in Thanjavur and thus the art of making solid images flourished here. It is home to many sculptures that cast idols of metal, clay and stone, which has been their family tradition.
Swamimalai & Kubhakonam village in Thanjavur is famous for its traditional craft of making bronze icons or “panchaloha” in Chola style. The Satapathi who belong to the “Vishmakarma” community, which includes five sub-castes, practice this art: carpenters, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, goldsmiths and sculptors. Around 45-50 families of Stapathis, living in Swamimalai village, have been practicing metal casting since many generations. Their works are seen in many temples and museums in India, particularly in Tamil Nadu.
Currently, the 36th generation of Stapathi is pursuing this occupation and considers it as art, rather than industry, which needs spiritual commitment. Their lives have been dedicated to this craft.