An array of local stuff

Creative skills at their best.

Creative skills at their best.  

THE SMELL of incense and sandalwood pervades the air as one walks into the Pudu Mandapam, opposite the Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple. It seems to be raining exhibitions and fairs in Madurai, and the latest is the Khadi and Village Industries Commission's (KVIC) handicrafts exhibition.

It comprises 27 stalls put up by the Khadi and village industries, mainly from the southern districts, including Madurai, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga. Each of the stalls boasts of an array of khadi goods as well as products unique to the region.

Besides the usuals, there are some surprises: hand-woven silk sarees and dhotis, Siddha medicine powders in capsule form to allay their bitterness, Khadi carpets, colourful showpieces, bags and paintings.

`Go local' seems the mantra of the exhibition, as it showcases rural people's enormous capacity for industry and innovation. Locally available resources and skills go into making unique, specialised products, which are a customer's delight, not only because they are of good quality available at a reasonable price, but also they give the customer the satisfaction of contributing to the welfare of indigenous industries.

So natural.

So natural.  

Pillows and mattresses, fruit preserves, honey and dates, processed food such as pickles, pastes and baked items, showpieces made out of shell, wood and other indigenously available materials, detergents and herbal soaps and powders, an impressive array of leather as well as rexine footwear, incense, furniture and pottery constitute the popular items available for sale. Khadi goods range from smart formal shirts, which can give the international brands a run for their money, to khadi sarees, kerchiefs and wall hangings. At one level, the exhibition is in direct contrast to its supermarket and multi-national contemporaries: the products do not boast of a spectacular or glossy packaging; nor do they claim to be made of an assortment of ingredients and chemicals. They are simple but skilful and impressive derivatives of natural resources available to the local artisan or manufacturer. Consequently, they come with less risk, especially the cosmetic and food products. "Barring the minimum addition of natural preservatives, there is no chemical added to our products," says a seller of neem and sandalwood soaps.

These industries, besides being of economic importance, have a social significance. Several of them employ rural women and the elderly, providing them the much-needed opportunity to earn livelihood by developing suitable creative or marketing skills. The exhibition is on till January 14.

Preethi Chandrasekar

Photos: K. Ganesan

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