Valluvar Kottam is bursting with colour and creativity, as the milling crowds take in the handiwork of more than 150 craftspersons, including master craftspersons and State awardees. Spread before one are the treasures of ‘Hindoostan’ in a souk-like ambience. Beautiful textured weaves and enticing embroideries, bronze and brass artefacts, shell and silver jewellery, basketry and masks, classical Tanjores, and Madhubani and Phad panels beckon visitors with a heady mix of quality, classicism and innovation.

Looking for leather puppets and panels or a special puja mandap, stone flowers or a perfect Buddha head in terracotta? Or a particularly exotic filigree rose water sprinkler? You can pick up all these and more and also get to meet the people behind the creations at the Gandhi Shilp Bazaar, at Valluvar Kottam.

Munuswamy (Stall 19), a paramparik artisan, makes Ayyannar horses and grama devatas in different sizes. Says Munuswamy, “I began playing with clay at the age of 7. As I became more proficient, I decided to do something different, and worked at perfecting the miniature terracotta form. I have designed them myself, including a melding the Gorakhpur and the traditional Ayyannar styles.”

Munuswamy’s horses are decorated with terracotta baubles, payals and bells necklaces. They have a special sheen. One striking piece is the exquisite Buddha head. Perfectly proportioned features and a serene face make it a truly harmonised piece of art.

Artisan Shameer (Stall 90) from Kerala has carved a superb mandap out of rosewood, which is an exact replica of the Ayyappan temple. With the typical pagoda-like roof of Kerala temple architecture, the mandap also features beautiful woodwork and hand crafted brass fixings. Says Shameer, “I buy rejected rosewood pieces without grains from the market and fit them in the shape of a mandap. All the carvings, etching and the architectural details are hand-crafted by me.” The mandap is truly a one of a kind.

So is the lovely stone bouquet of flowers done by Orissa’s Ashok Kumar Maharana (Stall No.21) who is a hereditary sculptor. As a counterpoise to the burst of colours in the Madhubani and Phad craft are the pretty leather wall hangings, crafted in the ancient leather puppetry art form of Andhra.

Ranitha Rao, leather puppeteer and State awardee, sits surrounded by his wall hanging birds and animal mobiles (stall No.92) in which peacocks, parrots, monkeys and camels join in seamless harmony. He is busy drawing an ink outline of Radha and Krishna using a special kalam (pen). Once the beautiful outline is done, his wife does the delicate perforations. Later he will paint the surface with bright vegetable colours. Many of the wall hangings depict scenes from the epics.

At the mela, one gats a chance to interact with the artisans, discuss the process and history of their craft and get a glimpse not only of the products but a way of life where creativity and colour meet in marvellous synergy.

The Gandhi Shilp Bazaar is on view at Vallurvar Kottam, Nungambakkam High Road, till February 3.

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