Friday Review

The dazzling canopy

Kovil Kodai made at Chindatripet Photo: K.V. Srinivasan  

It is a familiar sight at villages and towns across the State to see vehicles lining up to the corners to give way for the procession of temple ‘raths’ or ‘chapparam.’ One cannot miss the structure deftly decorated with the magnificent ‘kovil kodais’ or ritual umbrellas, bright appliqué thombais and torans, the f zari-embroidered flowers on the background cloth rivalling the beautiful floral garlands festooning the bejewelled ‘utsava murtis’ seated in the temple car. The procession progresses turning the whole atmosphere euphoric as one could see the religious symbols on the ‘kodai,’ sparkle and the thombai embedded with glass and sequins gitter due to the light from the ‘arati.’ But have we ever wondered how much of efforts go into the making of these umbrellas (Kodai) for the temple, torans, thombais, who are involved in its creation? There are many who have rich experience in temple decor.

In Chennai, the umbrella is made in Chintadripet by 20 artisan families, belonging to the Saurashtra weaving community, whose ancestors migrated to the city 250 years ago.

Walking down Ayya Mudali Street in Chintadripet, where all the umbrella artisans live, one sees half or fully finished ‘thombais’ ‘kodais’ and decorative cloth hanging in tiny units where the artisans are busy making cane structure, intricate umbrella frames and doing embroidery and appliqué work on ‘thombais’ or drawing designs.

Magesh, a known for his ‘kovil kodai’ and ‘thombai’ works says, “I can make a complete ‘kovil’ kodai’ from crafting the very complex cane frame to embroidering motifs in zari, sequins and thread on the cloth which encases the frame. The temple ‘kodais’ for the rath and ‘chapparam’ yatra have specific motifs and colours. According to Magesh the ‘chatries’ for Siva and his consort and for Ganesha, Murugan etc are multi-coloured with embroidered ‘Nandi,’ ‘lingam’ and so on. And Tte ‘Kodais’ for Vishnu and his avatars use white and brown combination with motifs of shankha, chakra, naamam, etc”. “Making ‘kodais’ or ‘thombais’ is passed on through generations. Apart from crafting an entire umbrella from start to finish am also adept at making “thombais’ and muthangi’ dress (pearl studded costumes) for the gods. I also involve different individuals for doing embroidery work.” His 88-year-old aunt Kausalya Bai, busy weaving a toran in a home made loom, is an expert in ‘jhala’ making. “I’ve been making jhalas for 60 years,” she says.

Magesh’s umbrellas can be seen in temples all over Tamil Nadu and also at temples in New York and Moscow. His “kodais’ for Siva and Vishnu temples are beautifully finished with every detail in place. He also accepts orders for decorative ‘kodais’ used to decorate the ceiling at marriages, theme parties and so on. His thombais reflect a fusion of classic perfection and free flowing art. “I can make thombais” of any size and my “Kodais” span the diameter sizes from 4½ to 18 ft,” says the artisan who mainly focuses on temple craft. “It is, a work of passion and devotion, concludes Magesh. He may be at 96771 77197.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 1:55:13 AM |

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