If you are in Chennai and in a mood to shop for something unique yet traditional and classy, head over to Manjal that is a craft store in M R C nagar. It is run by the M. Rm. Rm. Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that champions the cause of rural crafts, traditions and textiles.
The store is a picture of vibrant hues and houses traditional palm leaf baskets and also the colorful handmade tiles of Athangudi.
Known as the Kottans, these traditional palmyra leaf baskets were originally made by the women of Chettinad, a region in Southern Tamil Nadu. They were used as containers and also as grain measures during the days of the yore. Colorful kottans decorated with beads were also used in religious ceremonies and was integral to the culture of Chettinad. However, this art has been fading and is almost extinct in today’s times. The M Rm. Rm. foundation has done a great job is supporting and reviving this craft and supporting these artisans.
The baskets on sale at the outlet are a riot of colors. Available in various shapes and sizes and in the brightest colors they are high on functional as well as aesthetic value. The baskets are a great gifting option as well.
I really loved the unique color combinations and the deftness with which they were woven. The baskets are extremely sturdy and are also available in sets of three or four. The sets comprise of baskets of the same color but in varying sizes. I was given to understand that the store service loads of bulk orders.
Apart from baskets, yet another traditional craft supported by the foundation is the handmade tiles of Athangudi. Made from white cement, sand and pigments, these completely hand crafted creations are brightly colored and were used to adorn the homes of affluent Chettiyars.
Manufacturing these tiles is a slow process and they require a laborious and specialized process of laying. All this has resulted in a steep fall in the demand for these tiles. The foundation does retail these tiles in order to promote and encourage the great skill and craftsmanship of the Chettiyar community. They not only source the tiles but also help consumers find personnel who can lay these tiles for them.
This article was originally published in Happy Trips. To read more on some unique places in Chennai, click here.