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A fete, a feast

SILENTLY, THEY are toiling their way through the rough times and tough competition in the market. They know they cannot afford to rest on laurels they have earned in the past for their traditional skills of handicraft, so they keep making innovations, without blighting the aesthetics of the golden, old art.

They seem to follow what Winston Churchill used to say, "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep and without a shepherd and without innovation, it is a corpse." Witness an example put in practice blended with novelty at Rabindra Bhawan, New Delhi, where an exhibition of handicrafts through The Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation Limited is being held.

While religious sculptures of Ganesha, Laxmi, Balaji, Krishna and Vishnu made in panchdhatu are in majority, small and big panels depicting these gods embossed in brass, gold and silver capture attention. These gods find ample place in all Tanjore paintings as well. Find a specially sculpted five feet Natraja worth Rs.3.78 lakh here. One skilled worker Lokesh has come out with a Tanjore painting of `Tarasita', a Thai goddess dancing in exuberance, intricately carved in brass, gold, silver. Tarasita, he says, danced spellbound when a representative brought a message of Ram with a ring from Bharat (India). There are numerous stone carved and wood carved gods and goddesses alongside utility items too. Despite a fine, elaborate work, the prices do not pinch pocket. These range from Rs.150 to 5,000.

The other section at the Bhawan boasts of utility items; from baskets of brass wire and beads, to horses, elephants, dolls, ducks and chariot for key holders in brass, dogs, flowers, frames in composite stones, scented, floating candles with real, dry flowers embossed on them, handbags of cotton thread (crotia); all priced between Rs.90 and 1,500, abound. A plentiful rests for woman folk; from real pearl to precious, semi-precious stone jewellery, from Kancheepuram, cotton, batik, khadi silk saris, suits to dress materials, sofa cover, tablecloth, handkerchief, cushion and much more may lure. "It takes 40 days for a worker to weave one Kancheepuram sari," informs a labour.

Children too will not feel left out here. There is a special stall of colourful, wooden toys for them; from a simple lattoo to an abacus, priced between Rs.20 and 250.

"Competition has driven these craftspersons from Tamil Nadu to Delhi where they are not only finding appreciation but also value for their skill," reflects Hemlata, the manager of the Delhi showroom of THDC.

The exhibition is on till next Friday, July 23.

RANA SIDDIQUI

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