My father was in the Army and our family was fortunate to have been able to travel through India along with him. We were exposed to numerous places and cultures. Probably this has had an everlasting impression on us.The beauty of the Kashmiri people, the gardens of Kashmir, the very atmosphere of the place were breathtaking.
We traveled mainly by road. This helped us to meet with people, observe their culture, see garments and dresses worn in different regions of India, taste different kinds of cuisine, participate in festivals of the season...all amazing memories.
My father was an artist. He was very good with sketching and free hand drawing. I may have inherited that flair and took to painting. My mother was a trendsetter with her style and way of dressing. She used to design clothes and accessories for friends and relatives. My sister was very good at needle work. She did and continues to do amazing embroidery like smocking, button roses etc
I did not like needle work as one had to toil for hours to get results. Whereas with a paint brush, one stroke could speak volumes!!! I liked quick results and have worked with different mediums, like portraits with oils, charcoal, water colors, fabric painting, Tanjore paintings , Batik etc. I liked to try different art styles with the brush! Father was keen on sending me to Bombay to study in the prestigious J.J School of Arts. This was around the 1970's. We come from an orthodox family and sending girls that far to Bombay and that too, to a boarding school was not considered appropriate.
Around the same time my elder sister was engaged to be married. In India it is commonly said that " Marriages are made in heaven" and I believe it is true! Instead of going to JJ School of Arts, I got married to my brother-in-law's cousin while I was still in College in Madras !
Ravi Reddy, my husband, is a handsome,kind and understanding person. I have indeed been fortunate! We lived in an extended family which has many merits. Extended families have a great support system and there is always company. One is never alone or lonely! We learn to adjust with all the members of the family. Extended families were the norm in India till mid 20th century.
In due course of time we were blessed with two sons, Karthik and Kaushik. The family and the two boys kept me on my toes, which I enjoyed. We belong to a fairly wealthy family, where social events, children's school, and their activities kept me busy!
I was once again lucky ! My mother- in- law was an artistic person. She used to do amazing needle work. She was keen that I kept myself busy with the art work ! Once my boys were 10yrs old, school and games kept them busy and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I started painting and designing sarees and blouses for my friends.
It was then that my husband asked me to take up embroidery as a business enterprise! He was a pillar of support. But for him, I would not have achieved what I have today! It was not easy as I was getting into "business". It was no longer a "hobby" and I would be away for many hours looking for threads for embroidery, cloth in the textile market and good tailors and embroiderers.Ravi encouraged me and took good care of the boys in my absence from home..
I named my business enterprise - SOUNDARYA LAHARI- WAVES OF BEAUTY. I dabbled in all kinds of hand embroidery like Ari, zardosi, mirror work, cross stitch, applique, bead, gota and several other kinds.I have trained lot of men and women. Even girls who helped me with house work were trained into skilled artisans!!-
Some of the most popular forms of embroidery that I would like to write about are ARI, ZARDOSI, GOTA .
The fabric to be embroidered is stretched on a suitable sized framed table and the craftsmen comfortably sit on the floor to work on the design.Tracing of the design on fabric is a pretty laborious task and an art by itself.The design is first traced on paper, pricked with a fine needle or a pin.Then the design is placed on the fabric and a mixture of chalk powder and kerosene in liquid form is rubbed on the tracing paper with cotton. Once it dries the design is visible on the fabric.
There are a number of stitches which are used for Ari embroidery.`Aar' or the hooked needle used for Ari work forms tiny circular chain stitch to make beautiful designs.The needle is passed into the cloth and the thread is picked up by the hook and brought back to work the design.It is amazing how one can do cut work, satin stitch, filling , sequins work, bead work etc with ari needle!! Ari work is widely done in Gujarat.
Zardosi is a Persian word which means, " Sewing with gold string" The Mughal era in India brought richness to costumes by doing Ari and Zardosi work.
The fabric to be embroidered is stretched on a suitably sized framed table and the craftsmen sit comfortably on the floor to work on the design. The designs are drawn as for Ari work. A spring like wire called kora, sadhi or nakshi is cut into desired length and worked along the patterns drawn on the fabric.
The needle goes through the wire and keeps the gold wire along the pattern. Sequins, beads, stones etc are used to make zardosi more elaborate.
This stitch is the pride of Rajasthan. It is a special kind of embroidery using the applique technique. Strips of gold, silver, copper ribbons of varying widths are stuck or pasted on the fabric with edges sewn down in conformity with the patterns. Gold string or coloured thread is normally used in stitching and fixing the Gota to the fabric. The finished product looks beautiful indeed.
Strange and unpredictable events occur in ones life. In 1986 I met up with aunty Malathi and uncle Rama.They were great friends of my parents and like family to us. They knew me from age 3!! I did not know that they were in Travel Business. Malathi Aunty saw my work and asked me if I could put up a fashion show for her Incentive group that was visiting Chennai (Madras) in 1987!! I was thrilled! This was a challenge.
The models were my son Karthik, nephew Ananth, both 16 years of age and their friends who were also in their teens. The female models were my niece Nitya and her friends! The eve was a grand success and a profitable one too, as I had my work on display for the group to buy!!
This inspired me and gave me confidence to organize another fashion show for a Singapore client. I had to do embroidery on yards of fabric to be made into gowns!!! It was very challenging. It was a great show and a satisfying one. I have done a lot of similar shows for French, U.S.A and U.K.
I had always wanted to visit Rajasthan and Gujarat for I had heard and read of their special textiles, embroidery, garments, and crafts. I had also read of their unique culture, magnificent Temples, Forts and Palaces . I requested Indebo to arrange a tour through Rajasthan for 20 ladies (cousins) - The Reddy Group !! This was in Nov 2006. We visited Delhi- Alsisar- Bikaner- Jaisalmer- Jodhpur- Mount Abu- Udaipur - Pushkar- Jaipur
The few places that have remained in my memory!
Jaipur - the capital of Rajasthan, is colour washed pink - the colour associated with auspiciousness and Rajput hospitality. This Pink city of fairy tale palaces, rugged fortresses perched on barren hills and a city of broad avenues is picturesque. Hawa Mahal ( Palace of Winds ) is a fascinating facade in its beauty and design built for the Ladies of the Royal household in the 19th century.The women of royal families could watch the various activities taking place on the streets, without being seen ( as they had to observe purdah ) This explains why Hawa Mahal has tiny windows and screened balconies.
Amber Fort, the capital of the erstwhile state of Jaipur until 1728 has halls of Public and Private audience, a Sheesh Mahal (Hall of mirrors) magnificently inlaid with mirrors and precious stones. We saw marble palaces which are marvelous examples of medieval Rajput architecture. Jag Niwas is an amazing Palace built in the middle of the lake.
Mount Abu - the only hill station in Rajasthan, situated at the southern tip of the Aravali range, with its cool climate, houses the stunning array of the exquisite Dilwara Jain temples dating back to 11th to 13th centuries. Constructed entirely of white marble, these magnificent temples are noted for intricate carvings and tine trellis work which are truly exquisite.
Jaisalmer or the ' Golden City ' is situated atop a ridge of yellow sandstone in the midst of the ' Thar ' or the Great Indian Desert. The 80 meter high fort, perch on the hill, houses the entire township within its ramparts. It has enchanting narrow lanes dotted with exquisite havelis, beautifully sculptured Jain temples of 12th to 18th century and magnificent palaces and typical desert life of people and animals. The camel ride on the sand was great fun. All of us cousins had a camel race !!! We were very lucky to see the sunset.
The sacred lake of Pushkar is believed to be from the beginning of time and the rare temple to the Creator of the Universe - Lord Brahma, on the banks of the Lake Pushkar has been a place of pilgrimage through ages. We felt humble to have been able to visit this town.
Dargha Khwaja Sahib Moinudhin Chisti in Ajmer is the most sacred of all Muslim shrines in India. The city of Ajmer is a true amalgam of two rich cultures, Hindu and Islam. The Dargah is sacred to followers of Islam as also to those of other faiths who are his devotees.
Udaipur, a kingdom ruled by the Sisodia dynasty for 1200 years with its kaleidoscope of fairy-tale palaces, lakes, temples, gardens and narrow lanes strewn with stalls. The city carries the flavour of a heroic past, epitomizing valour and chivalry. The reflection of these buildings in the placid waters of the Lake Pichola is an enticing sight. Udipur palace over looks lake pichola. It showcases the finest elements of Rajput culture and arts. Rajasthan is full of colourful arts and crafts. Tie and dye, blue glazed pottery, gota work sarees, gemstone, jewellery etc. Very interesting Gesso work...the inner hide of the camel is used to make lamp shades, vases , hip flask etc.
We shopped a lot and it was a delightful tour. Every place we visited was interesting, the accommodation good and the sites and crafts amazing ....
This was in 2006 - 5 years ago ! Rajasthan inspired us to visit Gujarat in March of 2011. Gujarat is a treasure trove. We visited....Ahmedabad- Patan- Modhera- Dasada- Bhuj- Jamnagar- Dwarka- Somnath [Veraval]- Bhavnagar- Mumbai. Let me share with you our experiences of some of the rare arts and crafts, interesting places not usually frequented by tourists and Pilgrim Centers of Gujarat that we visited over a period of 12 days!
Near Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the craft of making temple hangings known as Mata Ni Pichedi can be seen . It is a 200 year old Kalamkari art. Mata Ni Pichedi means 'Mata' 'Goddess', Ni means 'belongs to' , Pichedi 'the hanging made to hang behind the image of Mata. Goddess Durga, the `active form' of the Mother Goddess in Hindu philosophy, is the destroyer of evil with weapons in the multiple arms given to her, looking fierce and commanding. She is in the center of the painting. Motifs of numerous subsidiary deities, mythical stories, priests, devotees, fauna, flora are drawn all around her. The colours used earlier were Natural dyes but gradually the community involved in this art form has started using chemical colours.
Patola is a a time consuming and intricate weaving of double ikat. Sarees, scarfs are woven in elaborate fine-coloured silk yarn where the warp and the weft are all dyed according to designs and are then woven with great precision. The finished products are indeed very expensive. Flowers, animals, birds, human figures form the fundamental design. Unbelievable weaving on a hanging loom of about an inch to inch and a half per day. We were fortunate as Indebo had arranged for us to see the weavers weaving an elaborate intricate saree !
We were lucky to meet with Mr. Khatri, the master of Rogan Art who has kept this art alive! He is a National award winner. Castor oil is heated and turned into a firm semi solid paste. Vegetable dyes are used for colour and these are hand pounded and mixed with the semi solid castor oil paste. The painting is done on cloth, with a thin iron rod pulling the castor oil paste. The artist folds the cloth in order to ensure the correct shape and symmetry. The designs are free hand drawing and are done on the right or the left half of the cloth as per the convenience of the artist. This has to be done fast, as the castor paste should not be allowed to dry up.The blank half of the cloth is then pressed on the crafted half and the picture is complete! Amazing.... there are only 6 crafts persons making Rogan in India - why, may be all over the world!
Banni tribes live in quaint little villages in the desert . We had a pleasant experience of ethnic hospitality. They sent their vehicle to pick us up from the main road.They hosted a fabulous lunch. We were served bajra rotis, potato, buttermilk and home made butter which was out of this world ! Their handicrafts - quilts, embroidered fabrics, beaded jewellery, file holders etc made by the housewives and children were shown to us and we bought them all !!
The Sun temple at Modhera even in its present - day ruined state is magnificent. The colossal tank in front of the temple is called the Surya Kund (The pond of the Sun). Several miniature shrines adorn the steps of the tank which form an art gallery on their own !
Prag Mahal is a splendid Palace made of italian marble and sand stone. In spite of the damage caused by the earthquake in 2001 the palace is still exquisite. The palace is now used for shooting Bollywood and Gujarathi movies.
Dasada - The stay at this resort was refreshing. We stayed in traditional village huts with all modern facilities. We were entertained with a lively tribal dance and delicious food. This place is a bird watchers paradise in winter. We were lucky to see flamingos , storks, cranes in large numbers.
Somnath Jothirling is the first among the 12 Jothirlingams of India. Lingams are symbols off Shiva. This beautiful temple is built on the shore of the Arabian sea. The place is also important as Shri Krishna of Bhaghavatham and Mahabharatha took his last journey from here.Nageshwar Jothirlingam is the tenth among the 12 Jothirlings of India. The lingam is more or less like an oval 3 faced Rudraksha, a seed of a tree with medicinal qualities which is considered holy.
Dwaraka was the capital of the Kingdom of Sri Krishna of Bhaghavatham and Mahabharatha. There is a palace which is now a 5 storied temple made out of lime stone and sand. There is a flag ceremony which is performed four times a day. A person is designated by the temple to climb onto the top of the temple tower to change the flag. This ceremony costs Rs. 10,000/- per time and is booked in advance for years. After changing the flag a coconut is thrown from top of the temple tower as a blessing for the devotees. We were blessed to see this ceremony in the evening. The sunset on the banks of the Gomati river was a grand spectacle. !
The Jain temples of Palitana are on a hill top. Palitana is a Temple City with gleaming marble monuments. There are over 850 temples atop the sacred mount Shatrunjaya Hill ,which means 'hill that conquers enemies'. Thirthankar Adinatha, the first of the 24 Thirthankaras of Jainism, is the main deity on top of the hill. My sister Aruna and I climbed 3,572 steps, a stiff two hour ascent, An amazing experience ! This is perhaps the only temple where no human stays the night in Palitana. All climb up in the morning around dawn and return around sunset, even the caretakers of the Temples! Gujarat is a blend of sightseeing , pilgrimage and shopping.
The Reddy group was thrilled as we were received like Maharanis in every hotel we went to in both Rajasthan and Gujarat. The guides were very informative.The Palaces, Havelis and hotels we were booked in were very nice and in the heart of the city. We were able to go around on our own for shopping
Traveling with INDEBO has been an unique experience for us. The driver- Raj Kumar and the help, Harish were kind and understanding and the Luxury Coach, very comfortable. We are now looking forward to our next INDEBO experience, our third trip which will be to Orissa !!
Ms. Anita Reddi
2 / 1, 15th Avenue,
Chennai - 600031
Cell: +91 98404 79379
Places visited in Rajasthan : Jaipur - Capital of Rajasthan, Alsisar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jpdhpur, Mt Abu, Udaipur, Pushkar & Jaipur'
Places visited in Gujarat : Ahmedabad, Patan. Mpdhera ,Dasada, Bhuj, Jamnagar, Dwarka, Somnath & Bhavnagar'
|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.