|Contributor: Barbara Brown
On 16th of Jan 2002, we started the journey in Kolkata with a visit to the Kali Temple, where long lines of pilgrims waited to make an offering. We then drove to Joka to visit the Gursaday Museum - great collection of embroidered textiles of Bengal known as `KANTHA', mostly antiques, collected over a period of many years by Sri Gursaday, an administrative Executive of Bengal during the British Raj.The ground floor exhibited these embroidered textiles. On the first floor gallery there were black clay press moulds for making sweets, terracota tiles and some earthern pots.
After lunch we went to Kumhar Tuli where sculptors were making clay female figures (life size) of Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning. They were getting ready for Saraswathi `Puja' that would be celebrated in February. The figures are made in straw forms and are very realistic female figures. They are sun dried and then decorated very artistically and look very human! These figures are made for just one occasion lasting a couple of days. After the festival they are taken to the river and the unfired clay melts down in the water.
I met the clay artist Anil Chandra Pal 499, Rabindra Sarani, Kolkata 700005 (Kumhartuli) I bought a small elephant figure of Ganesha from him for Rs. 50, equivalent to $1.10! On 17 Jan after visiting some villages where cotton weaving was the main occupation, we went to a Craft Mela - Exhibition & Sale. Several buildings had potters and pottery.
On the next day, we took a five hour drive to Vishnupur where we saw temples covered with terracota tiles depicting every day life and stories from Hindu Mythology. Bought two small terracota pieces for Rs. 20/ - both for 50 cents!
On 19th Jan, the head of the Crafts Council of West Bengal, Mrs. Ruby Pal Choudhari arranged for Crafts people of all media to come over to her home to demonstrate the making of their craft. There was a potter with his potter's wheel, he threw pots for us. I bought a clay bell for Rs.40 (95 cents)
From Kolkata our next stop was the neighbouring State of Orissa. We took the plane to Bhubaneshwar, the Capital of Orissa and visited near by villages where single Ikat was woven in silk.... every home had more than one loom.
Visited the mother Goddess temple dedicated to `Dharini' where offerings are made in small fired circular clay receptacles which held small lamps with wicks filled with clarified butter. The wick is lit and offerings placed in front of the shrine of Dharini Devi. I bought nine of these receptacles for Rs18/- (36 cents)
On 21st Jan we went to Harichandnpur, a village of terracota potters. I met the potter Bhagirat Sahu. He demonstrated on a wheel, which he turned with his hands. I bought three pieces of his completed pottery - an elephant, a turtle and a horse, all for Rs.100/- ($2/-) He wanted to give me the pottery as a gift but I insisted on paying him ! He carried the pieces to our Bus for me
On the the next three days we saw weaving in silk and cotton, stone carving and metal work near the city of Puri. We then took the plane to Chennai.
In Chennai we visited Dakshin Chitra - a Craft Complex recreated with typical homes from the four states of South India - Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh. Each of these homes exhibited the crafts of that particular State.
There was also a special exhibition of the Crafts of Madhya Pradesh. A potter by name Devidesin Prajapathy was exhibiting his work. I bought three pieces of terra cota figures for Rs. 70/- ($1.40) There was a potters house on the property where pottery was made and sold. Pottery was also sold in the Gift shop.
During the next three days we saw gold thread weaving in Kancheepuram, visited a temple and the homes of the Kalamkari artists in Sri Kalahasti. Kalamkari is free hand drawing with natural colors on fabric. The themes are mostly mythological with explanatory story writing in the local language, Telugu, of Andhra Pradesh
Our next city was Pondicherry which was formerly a French possession till 1961. We saw the making of `Hand made' paper and Indigo Dyeing at the work shop called Colors of Nature run by a Jesus Ciriza Larrraona, a person from Spain settled in Auroville, near Podicherry for over 17 years!
We visited the American Potter Ray Maker and his wife Deborah at their work shop - Golden Bridge Pottery. They were not at the work shop but I visited their home and gave them a copy of American Craft Magazine which mentions them and an ACGA Book.
From Pondicherry back to Chennai and we took the flight to Madurai. At Madurai we visited the famous Meenakshi Temple, the Flower Market and the Museums. We also visited the Tirumal Nayak Palace and saw lots of old pottery including clay burial jars.
From Madurai we drove to Coimbatore. On the road to Coimbatore we saw many pilgrims walking on a `five day' pilgrimage carrying a `Kavadi' - a Kavadi is a wooden bracket of the worship worthy Deities of the local region. We stopped to see Clay Ayyanar Horses with Village Protectors either riding the Horses or standing next to them. These protectors of the Village are worshipped. This is an integral part of the ethnic culture of Tamil Nadu.
From Coimbatore we drove to Mysore on roads through the mountains covered with Tea Plantations. Saw Toda Ethnic Hill tribe women embroidering on cotton cloth. Bought an embroidered shawl from the Toda lady for Rs.150/- ($3/-)
At Mysore we visited the Mysore Palace, which is now a Museum, very well displayed. We visited the Sandal Wood Factory and the Mother Goddess Temple dedicated to Chamundeeshwari..unique.
On the way to Bangalore we stopped at Ramanagaram. where we visited Asia's largest Cacoon Market where auction of Mulberry cacoons takes place for 362 days of the year! Farmers who rear the Cacoons bring them to the market and it is then auctioned to those who are engaged in reeling and weaving of mulberry silk.
That brought us to the last day of the East Coast tour of Arts and Crafts. We could not believe that we had been in India for nearly twenty days packed with unbelievable crafts, crafts people and events. It was a thrilling, memorable and a life time experience.
1225 Manzano Way
Sunnyvale, Ca 94089
Places visited in West Bengal : Kolkata
Places visited in Orissa : Bhubaneshwar & near by villages. Harichandpur for pottery & then to Puri
Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry
Places visited in Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry : Chennai, Pondicherry & Madurai, Coimbatore,
Kalahasthi in Andhra Pradesh
Places visited in Karnataka : Mysore & Bangalore
|Small places cannot be correctly located in these maps. May we request/suggest that you look into Google Maps for the location of these places in the particular States of India. Thank you for your understanding.