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They love our city

If you have a weakness for traditional handicrafts, check out this bazar



Patachitras tell stories on palm leaves. — Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

BANGALORE MOVED from being Pensioners' Paradise to Silicon Valley to Choked Roads City. But they love it all the same. Yes, artists from all over India are finding Bangalore a good market for their handicrafts. "We go to Chennai, Coimbatore, Ernakulam, Mysore, Pondicherry, Chandigarh... but Bangaloreans are one of our best customers," says Jatin Kumar Sahu, President of Bhubaneshwar-based Kalinga Handicrafts Industrial Co-op Society Ltd. And that is the reason why he has brought the fortnight long Orissa Craft Bazaar to the city within months of its previous sale here.

Handlooms from Orissa, Pochampalli, Kanchipuram, Jaipur, Kashmir, and Lucknow sit in colourful piles next to shimmering gems from Rajasthan and fine filigree silverware from Orissa. The exhibition, at Rajalakshmi Kalyana Mandira, sponsored by the Government of Orissa, has a good stock of carved idols, wall murals and brackets made of wood, stone sculptures, and a whole lot of other useful handmade things. "I shopped till I dropped when Kalinga came to the city in July," said one shopper, who has sprung back to raid the exhibition once again. The prices are attractive.

Since I recently lost a purse with my credit card inside it, the first thing I buy is an ikat purse for Rs. 35. Nearby, the ikat sarees tantalise me. With obvious passion, weaver Raghunath Sahu of Sambhalpur rolls them out — Sachipar and traditional Pasapaalis, tussars, and silks. The price of the fabric depends upon the number of designs repeated in a length of the fabric. Saris come in the range of Rs. 260 to Rs. 2,500, the silks between Rs.1,000 and 2,200. Dress and choli material from Rs.50 to Rs. 128 a metre.

Handloom bed sheets from Pochampalli are stocked on another side of the hall. In the Jaipur stall, tiny cotton salwar suits for toddlers come for Rs.150, and for adults there are sets priced at Rs. 250. At the Orissa stall, patachitras tell stories on palm leaves. Appliqué work products reveal that artists have gone beyond traditional motifs to charm customers with chic, modern designs.

The city has at least four handicraft exhibitions running simultaneously now. Whether it is a reflection of people's buying power or the passion for art is debatable. Handicraft exhibitions are not just for what one can buy. One gets to learn a lot about many things. For instance, jewellery maker Om Prakash of Jaipur tells me that the colourful stones that I see actually come from Japan, Myanmar, Italy, Nepal, Orissa (garnets), and Tamil Nadu in big blocks. Only Jaipur has the expert cutters, who then make the jewellery. One also learns that Indian artisans are getting more savvy what with their own e-mail IDs and marketing licenses.

The bazaar is at Rajalakshmi Kalyana Mandira, 726, 46th Cross, Sangam Circle, 8th Block Jayanagar, Bangalore 560 082. It is on till October 15.

MALA KUMAR

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