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The passionate collector

One can't help being impressed after a visit to Kamala Vasudevan's home: her collection of antiques is priceless. Her pursuit of antiques has taken her to old bazaars and temple towns where she has acquired her best collectibles.



Each piece in Kamala Vasudevan's house speaks of conscientious upkeep.

THE LADY is an eclectic mix of antique collector, art history writer, travel writer, and a raconteur of Hindu mythology. Kamala Vasudevan, a bundle of energy, has played all roles — that of wife, mother and mother-in-law. This thoroughly modern woman is now ready to play an all new role of travelling and writing. This elegantly dressed and sociable lady, hailing from a Tanjore family, was born in Shimla and later lived in Delhi. Being married to a civil servant, she travelled with him all over India, which exposed her to varied cultures.

She fell in love with antiques at very early age, and believes that a country's true history and identity lie in the everyday articles its people use. Also, from a pure aesthetic point of view, our traditional arts and crafts, especially those executed as votive offerings, are exquisite because the craftsmen made them with single-minded devotion, untainted by commercial intention, as they were meant either for the deity or royalty.

Any excuse is enough to set off Kamala talking about antiques. Her other passions include books on art, music, and visiting temple ruins. This "certified nastic" says her interest in temples is purely aesthetic. Being of the old Tanjore stock, it is no wonder that her home looks like a Tanjore agrahara. For her, all the gods — painted, embossed, and carved — in her apartment are alive and playful. She enjoys their company every moment to the accompaniment of classical music, about which she is equally passionate. Her beautiful apartment is redolent with the scent of sambrani fumes. This, she says, is a natural pesticide that protects her antique pieces. Her two sons are in the U.S., but she is never lonely in this divine extended family. Her pursuit of antiques has taken her to old bazars and temple towns where she has acquired her best collectibles.

Her day begins at 4.30 in the morning, and to the strains of classical music, and armed with brushes and duster, she begins her routine of caring for her beloved antiques. This work of love takes her almost seven to eight hours. It's been worth it for her. Each piece speaks of conscientious upkeep. My eye falls on a stunning Garuda Vahana, occupying an entire corner, poised as if to take flight. It is her favourite piece too. Krishna in every form seems to be dancing in her living room while a serene Rama occupies another corner. Leather puppets turn iridescent as light filters through them, while heavy, intricate antique furniture gleams in the sunlight. Old and traditional vessels retain their shape and polish as evidence of proper caring.

Her interest in antiques extends to old jewellery too, both gold and silver, and she is currently writing on the subject. Five of her books on Ganesha, folk theatre, ritual masks, and classical dances have been published in English, Spanish, and German. She has also written for dotcoms on Hinduism.


This multi-faceted woman was a buyer of craft and jewellery items for a shop in San Francisco for whom she designed the catalogue, logo, and website. Another website she designed was for a yoga school in California.

At the request of the Karnataka Tourism Department, she undertook a field trip to Hampi to write on Vijayanagar relics about which much had not been written. She produced a CD with 14 such spots with detailed descriptions and photo images shot by her. She also documented some little-known Yellamma temples dating from the Vijayanagar times.

Kamala can be contacted at kamalvas@vsnl.com

R. NANDITA

Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.

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