Indian handicrafts in Chennai: stuff dreams are made from and a missed opportunity

Handmade picture of rural life
Handmade picture of rural life
When you stay in Chennai, you may hear of DakshinaChitra, an “open air” museum in Tamil Nadu dedicated to South Indian heritage and culture. It is located 25 kilometers to the south of Chennai. The museum was opened in 1996 and is being managed by the Madras Craft foundation.
Without doubt – it is worth to visit and gives in a few hours a first introduction on South Indian traditions. Maybe at some point crowdy as many students from schools pass here, as well, but it is also a place where you can discover and see local differences from region to region.
Besides seeing different types of houses, getting information on traditions such as typical rural and tribal clothes, dances, food and craft techniques it is of course also a touristic place where some merchants sell their homemade craft pieces: paintings on silk, rice paper, very small and sophisticated carving on thin wood. Interesting pieces, because they are single pieces, individual design and no mass production.

I found an old man sitting a little bit apart from the place where most of the things were offered.The man was sitting under a tree in the shadow and had no own booth. He was sewing very small parts of colorful materials on a piece of cloth, 40 x 60 cm seize.
When I came closer, I could see that he was creating a rural life picture, piece by piece with a lot of patience. He was concentrated so that in a first moment he did not even notice that I observed him and his work. Then he smiled and started to talk, explaining what he was working on. His work was impressive. Colorful, showing many details, reflecting many particular situations of rural life. But it was even more – it was showing a vision how Indian life could look: healthy and lively cows and goats, women and men staying and talking together, children playing with balloons…

A rural Indian life scenario
A rural Indian life scenario
Without doubt it reflected a perfect integration of all beings. The different types of religions – temples, churches, mosques – in perfect harmony, houses and streets, and a clean and green nature around: Such stuff as dreams are made on.
He asked me to take a photo of it although I had told him before that I had no interest to buy. But he repeated his wish and I took a photo. And I did not buy.
Today I regret. The work would have been a nice souvenir and even more: Such a vision is something you should not let escape.

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