The Dastkar Mela at Meenakshi Mahal celebrates the incredibly diverse crafts of India
Taalif has been creating art ever since he can remember. He hails from the village of Khurja in Uttar Pradesh, known for its colourful glazed pottery. When he holds an especially pretty blue and white bowl, his face lights up. He explains how the artisans shape the bowl, fire it, cool and paint it, and finally fire it again after applying the trademark glaze.
“You can use it in the oven or microwave madam, but not on gas stoves or chulhas,” he cautions.
Taalif’s stall is part of the Dastkar Mela at Meenakshi Hall on Avanashi Road (near Nava India). The event has been organised by the Pushpanjali Khadi Gramodhyoug Sansthan.
Once you peel your eyes away from the profusion of colour at his stall — there are soup bowls, cups, mugs, salt-and-pepper shakers, degchis and jars, priced from Rs. 120 to Rs. 4,500 — check out the stall selling appliqué bed linen from Delhi. They are bright and beautiful; soft felt and cotton appliqué on a white or off-white base.
Choose from pillow and cushion covers with Chhota Bheem, giraffe and other animal motifs or elaborate bed spreads appliquéd right through. Pillow cases start at Rs. 200 and the spreads cost Rs. 2,900.
If you like lacquer ware, visit the stall from Channapatna right at the entrance. There are wooden bangles in vibrant colours glowing with polish and attractive contemporary toys such as a tortoise, a dancing giraffe and others.
There are two stalls devoted to Khadi — one from Meerut sells the fabric of Independence in all colours in the form of shirts and kurtas; another from Gujarat stocks kurtas and kurtis for women.
In one of the corners is a small stall that sells bead-worked purses, clutches and pouches from Uttar Pradesh. Women create these shimmering beauties at home to earn a living. A store from Gujarat stocks bead-worked blouses, anarkalis and dress materials.
A stall put up by a society from Madurai stocks Chungudi saris, some in traditional colours and others in dazzling new-age shades.
Plenty of tussar yardage and sets from Bhagalpur, block-printed salwars and bed linen, patachitra paintings… the exhibition regulars are around too.
The Dastkar Mela also sells dainty danglers hanging from lines, inexpensive fashion jewellery, glass bangles… just the kind of things that will make for thoughtful Navarathri thamboolam gifts.
Allow your nose to lead you to the exit — the pickle seller from Rajasthan sits there, opening each jar just a little to allow the tantalising aroma to do its job. Before you know it, there’s a queue lining up for mango pickle, garlic pickle and mixed vegetable pickle!
The Mela concludes on October 14. It is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.