Friday, February 09, 2007

Kala Ghoda, Handicrafts and Chozha bronzes

Mumbai is making it a tradition of celebrating the "Mumbai Festival" around January every year. Its a month long celebration of arts, food, culture, living and the Spirit of Mumbai. A lot of the events around this festival revolve around the Kala Ghoda arts district area of Mumbai. In my novel efforts to beat jet-lag, I figured making a few pit-stops at these events would keep me engaged in the afternoons.

I visited the Kutch Handicrafts Fair in Kala Ghoda. They were showcasing a whole bunch of hand-made, hand-painted crafts ranging from pillow cases, bags, patchwork quilts and bedsheets, dresses, paintings, decorations etc...The colors used were brilliantly and uniquely Indian and the workmanship was refreshingly all-human (as opposed to machine-made stuff is what I mean).

The Mumbai Food Festival, for all its hype, doesn't really deliver. I took a brief glance at the stalls but was turned off by the lack of anything innovative. Bhel puri, chaat, pizza, pasta etc..lined the stalls and sure enough, crowds were milling around each of them. Recovering as I was from flight food, my taste buds were just craving regular, delicious, home-made jeeraga rasam and I was able to safely skip the food fest with zero temptation..:)

The Pottery Mela in Colaba perhaps took the cake of them all. It really blew my mind to see what could be made out of plain clay - beautiful, sturdy wind chimes, hand-painted and glazed dolls depicting various scenes of village life, key hangers, wall decorations, Ganeshas in different poses and much, much more. I'd never realized that wind-chimes could be made out of clay. The villagers were indulging in direct selling themselves. And truly, its worth every rupee spent to encourage such cottage industries!

I fell in love with a village couple doll-set they'd showcased. The man, clad in a simple white dhoti, kurta and turban was enraptured in playing the dholak. The Rajasthani woman,sitting beside her husband, had her head downcast, the colorful pallu draped around her head modestly. Only the lower part of her face was visible. Her mouth curved upwards in a coy smile, she was playing a coconut violin (Kottangachi Vathiyam, in Tamil). The colors used in the dolls, the expressions on the faces and the beautiful workmanship still dance before my mind's eye as I write this. I desperately wanted to buy it but refrained just because I couldn't cart them to the US safely!

Hindu dharma says that a man/woman who allows the destruction of their country,culture or language in their own lifetime carries the burden of that sin through multiple lifetimes. Far be it from the Indian populace to destroy our own, wonderful rural cottage industries in the quest of all things foreign!

The Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is on from Feb 3- Feb 11. If one of you has a chance to visit Mumbai in this period, do check out this wonderful effort!

I wish Chennai had its own "Chennai Festival" where we could showcase the wealth of our region's culture! :)

P.S 1: In a case of misplaced enthusiasm (the "misplaced" qualifier arose later as you will discover in the following sentences), inspired by all I'd seen, I figured I should also look for arts from our own TN. I'd heard of famous Chozha Bronzes. So I marched into the Cottage Arts Emporium in Mumbai. I took a look at a particularly beautiful bronze of an elephant. It was about a foot high and definitely perfect as far as my untrained eyes could tell. Then I took a look at the price tag - Rs. 92,000! Gulp. Then, I realized that most of the bronzes came with a minimum price tag of Rs. 70,000. Another gulp. Thence ended my quest for Chozha bronzes (for now).

P.S 2: A week after this episode, I visited the Mayavaram temple. In front of the Abhyambikai Amman Sannidhi, there's a beautiful Chozha bronze of a "Paavai Vilakku". One has to see it to be amazed. I can't describe the beauty of it enough. So, I've given you a to-do next time you hit Mayavaram..:) The one on the left (Courtesy: is just an example.


ashokla said...

I don't think Chennai as such has a festival like Mumbai but
Mylapore Festival has been going on since 2000, I think. It usually takes place for a week in the month of Jan. They have various stalls featuring handicrafts and other items. They have lot of performances including folk as well as Carnatic. Their most sought after event is the Kolam competition during which the entire road in front of Kapali temple is adorned with kolams. It's a unique fest and one of the first of its kind. I think some other areas in chennai have also started events of same nature over the past few years.

Subha said...

Hey La,
Hmm..didn't know there was a Mylapore fest..Sorry we couldn't meet up in Chennai. I had a pretty hectic trip..