Sargaalaya, in Kozhikode, provides the tourist an opportunity to interact with craftsmen from across the country.

The three S’s — Sea, Sun and Sex — are no longer crowd-pullers when it comes to tourism. They’ve been replaced by the three E’s — Entertainment, Education and Experience. Nothing exemplifies this more than the Sargaalaya Kerala Arts and Crafts Village in Iringal, an hour’s drive from Kozhikode. More than its beautiful scenery and a serene ambience, what has made this place a hit with the tourists is the presence of artisans and craftsmen from across the country and the opportunity to directly interact with them to buy whatever takes one’s fancy. A State Tourism Department venture, the village was designed by architect R.K. Ramesh and built by the Uralungal Labour Contract Co-operative Society, formed by labourers, on 20 acres of barren land situated nearly the national highway. Before the village came up, the site’s only claim to fame was being the birthplace of Kunali Marakkar, the naval commander of the Zamorin of Kozhikode, who fought Portuguese invaders. 

Biswajith Roy left his home in West Bengal five years ago and lives in the village fashioning furniture out of reeds and cane. Vezeto and wife Sera Telvo came from Nagaland to seek their fortune in Irinjal. “This place has given us hope. Business is certainly better here than elsewhere but we want to attract more in the comings years,” Sera said, placing colourful artificial flowers in her stall. In other stalls artisans from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odissa sell handcrafted products.

P. Bhaskaran, chief executive officer, Sargaalaya, says, “Handicraft exports have immense potential. India’s share in global handicrafts market is only a meagre two per cent. This year Sargaalaya will lead the efforts to boost exports to enable us achieve the mission of enhancing the artisan’s income.”

A crafts academy is being established to improve and professionalise training programmes. The authorities also hope that their proposal to name Sargalya a rural tourism village gets the green signal. Another proposal for support to impart training to 1500 women in neighbourhood is also awaiting Central government clearance. The Saragalaya Art Forum organises programmes like Theyyam and Kalaripayatu for visitors with local artists.