Introduction / History
Vishwakarmas are also known as Vishwabrahmins. They are followers of Vishvakarman, the Hindu presiding deity of all craftsman and architects, from whom all Vishwakarmas claimed to have descended from. Hence, today the term Vishwarkama denotes a community or group of castes of artisans from India. These castes are the goldsmith, carpenter, blacksmith, copper-smith, stone-mason.
What Are Their Lives Like?
Aside from being known as Vishwabrahmins, they are also called Panchal meaning "specialized in five different works;" Kavi, Madhvi, Suhastasour and Narashansha identical castes in ancient Vedic reference; Rathakar, because they used to make the chariot for ancient kings; and Karmmalar in the Madras. Depending on which side - Northern or Southern side of India- the reference is made, there are many more names associated with the Vishwakarmas.
The Vishwakarmas played a vital role in the Indian village economy where their communities are widely spread across the country. They considered themselves "missionaries of civilization, culture and religion" as they spread Hinduism through their art. They have contributed greatly to Indian civilization and culture as city and temple builders, engineers, architects, and artists. In ancient India, Vishwabrahmins where highly regarded. However, they are not as highly esteemed by the Brahmins - the priestly castes. The origin of such feud is largely unknown, but one reason was the refusal of Brahmins to recognize the status of the Vishwakarmas to be at par with their status. The Vishwakarmas has also rejected the "pastorship" or "leadership" or "supremacy" of the Brahmins and have set themselves up as spiritual guides and religious teachers.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Their communal identity has always been strongly tied to their profession. With industrialization and more recently, globalization, the traditional artisan trade has been greatly affected. The economic and technological forces are buffeting their profession to extinction. This has contributed to a sort of identity crises - being unable to identify with the upper castes or the lower castes. They also have a rather unpopular history (until the 1980's) of identifying with the communists. Their socio-economic status varies from a very high level to the low level in different parts of India as they earned high wages in towns because of their factory employment and low in villages.
Their claim of "Brahminism" is based on their claims of lineage from the Hindu God, Vishvakarman who is claimed to be the lord of creation. Also, they claimed that it was the Vishvakarmas who are the real architects of the Indus Valley and the Brahmins are only usurpers of the glory.