Innovative and authentic rural products are a big hit at the ongoing SARAS Mela 2012 at the Manjalikulam grounds in the capital city. Over 150 skilled artisans from across the country have showcased their wares, making the mela the perfect platform for them to exchange new ideas and implement suggestions.

A colourful casket woven around a wine bottle has been a favourite with customers at many melas, says Latha, an artisan. In fact, it was a customer who had suggested the idea at the Saras Mela held last year, she said.

Seventy-five-year-old Ratna Devi from Bihar has been selling Madhubani paintings for 30 years, but it was only recently that she began painting on t-shirts and creating Madhubani painted book-marks.

“Some people had asked me if I could do these paintings on t-shirts. College students wanted book-marks with these paintings on them. These were simple enough ideas to work upon,” said Ms. Devi.

The demand for decorative and fashionable wall hangings prompted Satyanarayan Pushti, a recipient of the Orissa State Design Award, to make wall hangings out of treated waste paper. Inspired by similar works that he had seen at other melas, his creation was born — an array of colourful fishes and parrots dyed in natural colours hung from a multicoloured sequenced thread.

Sometimes the artisans customise the entire product range to suit the customers’ taste and many have come up with artefacts for which orders were placed at last year’s mela, says Devaki, from Tamil Nadu.

“In North India, people are more interested in products made of bamboo and coir, which are not available there unlike southern States. In Kerala, people want artefacts made out of terracotta and clay,” said Ms. Devaki, who has put up for sale lamps and other decorative items made out of clay. According to the sales report till August 20, published by the organisers, products costing Rs.54 lakh have been sold, with products from Kerala being popular, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The Mela will conclude on August 27.