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Monthly Archives: April 2016

  • The Masters of Clay

    The earth is what they worship, as most of us Indians do. But for the potters, the earth is more than special; it is what gives them their livelihood. Pottery has been known to mankind since times immemorial, and has evolved from being a home-necessity to a distinct art form.

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    India being geographically distinct across each state, the kind of soil available is varied too thus lending a unique feel to potter made across the country. n the Northern extremes of India, in Jammu & Kashmir, the pottery is decorative yet utilitarian for the cold winters. The Dalgate pottery of Kashmir made in the town of Chirar-e-Sharif is famed for its glazed style tableware of earthy colours. In another part of Kashmir, in Ladakh, pottery is moulded by hand with wooden and stone tools – oil lamps, tea kettles and barley wine pots are made here.

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    A little below in Jaipur’s Gangori Bazaar, Blue pottery is created - an old, yet distinctive tradition borrowed from Persia. Delhi too has its blue pottery villages - the Delhi Blue Pottery Trust on Factory Road is the place to go for learning all about this art form. Pokhran in Rajasthan is known for its pottery style with geometric etchings.

    In Central India, Alirajpur town of Madhya Pradesh is where families of potters create their famed ochre and white terracotta horses. Their creativity in clay extends to roof tiles, water pots, the chhalki (curd storing vessel) and even one for storing toddy - Bhutia.

    The tribes of Gujarat offer terracotta horses to their Gods; Tejgadh village has the most number of potter families that specialise in these horses. They also make terracotta utensils from black clay, lined with lac on the inside and outside giving it a red appearance. The lac helps retain moisture in food stored.

    Towards the Western coastline, Sandur in Karnataka’s Bellary district has a large potter’s community that shape clay by throwing and beating. While men work at wheel made pottery for storage, women also make small kitchen containers and plates. Potnal village in the same state has a community of women who make terracotta jewellery, with innovatively hand printed beads, baked and strung into necklaces and earrings.

    Down South, in Tamil Nadu, the potters of Virachalai village are specialists in making the famed horse man idols called Ayyanar dolls who are known as the guarding deities of villages. Using a mixture of clay, sand and paddy husk, the horse is first made into three sections and then put together. While Tamil Nadu has its traditional pottery styles, the Auroville community of potters in Pondicherry have introduced a stylised glazed pottery technique of their own. This community uses a blend of local clay along with other types of clay and make exquisite tea sets and other kitchen crockery items.

    Modern times have seen homes favouring metal ware for kitchens, making the potters of India a diminishing tribe. But it is not a totally bleak scenario, potters have creatively moved to making decorative home solutions that are now in demand world over for their style and technique. Mother earth wins after all.

  • Tamil Nadu: The state with the highest number of GI products

    India has a total of 236 GI products and Tamil Nadu comes first for the number of GI tags on its products, while Uttar Pradesh comes second. Darjeeling Tea was the first Indian product to get a Geographic Indication in the early 2000’s. Geographical Indications (GI) have become a matter of pride for the state, as well as the country. So what it is a Geographical Indication and how do these numbers add up?5

    As a member of the World Trade Organisation, India brought into effect the Geographical Indication of Goods Act in 1999. This was essentially defined as “A sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess certain qualities due to that origin”. The GI sign protects these products from being duplicated, thus assuring customers the quality that the product brings. Geographical Indications for products also enables the world to recognise these unique products, boost the tourism and trade for the country and the state, thus becoming a cultural and economic pride.

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    Tamil Nadu tops the list of local products that have been earmarked for GI. The state has submitted 50 products of which 24 have been approved by the registry. The most famous among these would be the Kanchipuram silk. The town of Kanchipuram believes its weavers are descendents of Sage Markands, the master weaver of Gods, and true to the tale, the saris stand out in their resplendence. Other textiles from Tamil Nadu to get the GI sign include Salem Silk, Kovai Cora Cotton and Arani silk. The hand-woven Madurai Sungudi is famed for its natural dyes and dotted patterns. It is the first product from the town of Madurai to get the GI tag, but it is closely followed by the Madurai Malli. The malli or jasmine from Madurai is in demand across the world for its seductive fragrance, from which branded perfumes are formulated.

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    A very unique product that is probably the only one of its type to get the GI tag is the Coimbatore wet grinder. An indigenous product of the city, this grinder’s matchless design helps millions across the country grind batter for their favourite idli and dosa. Moving away from food to culture, Indian dancers often get envious looks at their stone studded jewellery. The men behind the glitter are the artisans of Vadasery in Nagercoil district, who have for centuries made dazzling jewellery of a unique kind for temple Gods across South India. Nagercoil temple jewellery as it is called has earned itself the well deserved GI tag. Talking of dancers, the Tanjavur Dancing Doll is a study in not just arts, but science as well. This GI doll is made of terracotta, in such proportions that when shaken, the doll dances and comes back to its original state always, thanks to centre of gravity.

    Be it a brilliant weaving technique, a sumptuous traditional dish, or nature’s own flora, India has a rich tradition to preserve. In a world driven by patents and copyrights, Geographical Indications are a boon to protect India’s rich cultural and natural resources.

  • Kondapalli Toys - Finding joy in simplicity

    Kondapalli is a village, much like others in Andhra Pradesh but has a place in the world map. The world knows it by the toys it makes – the famed Kondapalli toys. Widely recognised for their bright colours and distinct features, these toys have the distinction of being handcrafted using an age old process for over 5 centuries now.

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    The toys are made out of a special type of wood called Poniki that is light and can be easily crafted into shapes. Traditionally, poniki wood is used, also because these trees were the ones that were easily available near the village. The village of Kondapalli has families that have been involved in crafting the toys for generations now. It is believed by this community that their ancestors, many centuries removed, migrated from Rajasthan to Andhra Pradesh. Similarities in wood carved dolls from these regions are often related to this aspect of migration. The process of crafting these toys is quite an elaborate one. Wood from the trees is cut into size and dried for weeks to make it light, after which these pieces are heated before whittling the body of the toy. The main body is sculpted and then the rest of the body parts are attached using a natural gum made of tamarind paste and resin. The doll is then painted using natural vegetable colours. It is fascinating to see that artisans have retained the age old ways of crafting these toys over centuries.

     Over the centuries, the Kondapalli artisans have been crafting dolls that represent humanity in all forms– cobblers, fruit sellers; divinity in the form of Gods from mythological tales, animals and more. A scene from rural life as shown in this set is a typical Kondapalli tradition – musicians playing outside a house where festive cooking is happening, as the cow looks on. Dolls such as these were first used as toys by children, as they were safe to play with – well made, non-toxic paints and also light weight. Most importantly they also played the part of educating children on different festivals, mythological stories and the roles people play in life.

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    The supply demand cycle of these toys was kept steady by constant damages in the course of children playing. As time went by, economic progress and technology brought more variety of toys and activities to children. Kondapalli toys have now become part of the annual Navarati doll festival. Though this tradition keeps the delightful toys of Kondapalli alive, it is time children re-discovered the joys of playing with these simple toys. Bring home some tradition; gift your children this set of a herbal medicine man and tell them the stories that your grandmother told you. You will find them coming back for more! And at Kondapalli, a family of artisans will be thanking you.

  • Trending in Home Decor: White Metal

    India is renowned far and wide for its handicrafts, especially its intricate work with metal. A country that is rich in natural resources is bound to have different types of metal in each region. Diverse culture and a variety of metals only ensure that crafting these metals is an art in itself. One such unique metal is White Metal.

    white-metal-trolley-bowl-set Shop for this white metal trolley bowl set - Click Here

    White metal is an alloy consisting of several metals such as tin, antimony, bismuth, lead and zinc. A mixture of these in different proportions results in a silver coloured alloy that may not be as precious as silver but shines as much, if not more. It is used by artisans in idols, household decor items and even jewellery.

    There are many reasons why artisans use the metal; it is easily mouldable into shapes and yet sturdy. Most importantly the end product looks as grand as would something in bronze or any other metal. Take this figurine of Kamadhenu, the mythological cow with calf, made from white metal. Its exquisite detailing grabs the eye and its sheen makes it stand out like no other. This exclusively crafted item from Poompuhar can grace a home for many generations to come, with its elegance and lustre intact.

    Craftsmen use white metal as the base, over which silver is plated. The metal blends well in this way to produce silver embossed artefacts. With its unquestionable beauty, white metal also lends itself well to jewellery like anklets and earrings.

    While artisans favour white metal for its pliability and durability, there is no doubt that artistic pieces made from this metal are becoming the next big trend in home decor. Poompuhar offers a range of products that are styled in white metal and can be part of your home. Not just idols, very elegant pieces that are contemporary too are made from white metal. Did you know that while white metal is durable; it is also non-toxic, making it useful in a wider range of crafts? That’s the reason this mini trolley bowl set can easily become the center of attention on your dining table or the ideal house-warming gift.

    White metal artefacts are every art lover’s dream; their beauty apart, another reason to favour them is that they are economical too! You don’t need to save up to buy that bronze Nataraja; this white metal figurine is equally beautiful, wallet friendly and yes, lightweight. Poompuhar gives you not one, but three reasons to adorn your homes with more of these white metal handicrafts.

  • Facts about Tamil New Year

    As we usher in the Tamil New Year, here are some lesser known facts about the festival. Let the celebrations commence! Puthandu Vazthukal!  tamilnewyear celebration.

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  • Heritage-rich cities and towns

    TamilNadu has a rich heritage of majestic forts and intricately carved temples. Let us walk you through the origin of these heritage-rich cities and towns.

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  • Celebrate Tamil New Year with five uniquely crafted products from Poompuhar

    Poompuhar brings out a festive range of handcrafted products that represent the fine craftsmanship of Tamil Nadu. Here are some distinctive products that will add a sparkle to the Tamil New Year.

    Thiruvalluvar:

    Shop For this Papier Mache Sitting Thiruvalluvar - Click Here Shop For this Papier Mache Sitting Thiruvalluvar - Click Here

    When calendars across the world show 2016, we in Tamil Nadu are ahead of times by 31 years. To commemorate the birth anniversary of Thiruvalluvar, eminent Tamil poet and the author of the famed Thirukural, Tamil Nadu adopted the Thirvalluvar Aandu or calendar year. What better way to begin the Tamil New Year than bring home this papier mache depiction of the saint-poet, Thiruvalluvar! The hand-crafted representation of the author is bound to usher in wisdom and peace to your new year.

    Brass Uruli:

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    The New Year is marked with auspicious kolams or rice-flour designs on doorsteps. Get creative, and liven up your kolam with an uruli filled with flowers. This exquisite brass uruli with its polished sheen will attract the best that the New Year has to bring. At Poompuhar, the uruli is available in different sizes and weights to suit your needs!

    Brass Lamp:

    Shop for this Double Thagali Annam Plain Lamp - Click Here Shop for this Double Thagali Annam Plain Lamp - Click Here

    Light up your home this Tamil New Year, with a bright new lamp from Poompuhar. The beautifully hand-crafted brass lamp has not one, but two layers each with provision for five wicks. The brighter the better! The graceful Annam, mythological bird that can make out the good from the bad, guards over your house and keeps away the dark, both literally and figuratively.

    Arathi holder:

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    A traditional puja is incomplete without an arathi, the holy fire with camphor. This unique arathi holder from Poompuhar has been designed just for the ritual puja. Capacious enough to hold the camphor at a safe distance, and stable enough to stand on its own, this brass arathi holder will be the star of the New Year puja.

    Bells:

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    Ring in the New Year with these elegantly crafted brass set of bells, with a Ganesha engraving on three layers. While the Ganesha ushers in the good beginnings, the vibrant peal of the bells brings in the good vibrations to your home. The clear timbre of these bells will be the perfect accompaniment to your New Year puja.

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