Monday, April 6, 2009

Madurai - A temple town full of tailors!

A new project took me to explore the sights, textures, tastes and smells of a new place - Madurai. The project explores temple textiles linked with the Meenakshi temple in Madurai. It was concieved by Visalakshi Ramaswamy, founder of M.Rm.Rm foundation which works in the area of reviving traditional craft skills.
The trip started with a visit to Meenakshi temple. An experience difficult to describe, it engages all your senses. The crowds were maddening due to the ongoing temple festival and the ongoing renovation activities added to the chaos!
The first phase of the project involves a study of the traditional decorative textiles produced for the temple like canopies, ornamental coverings for the temple elephant and the bull etc. This led us in the search of the makers of these pieces and we discovered "puddu mandapam" the local market for tailoring materials and other bric-a-brac. It was a child-in-a-candy-shop moment!

A bunch of tailors sit in the semi open market, busy making garments for tourists in cloth of their choice, bags, quilts, temple textiles sometimes involving intricate machine embroidery. As i watch them stitch i wonder how they manage to concentrate in such chaos but this is not an uncommon sight in India!

I also got to sample some amazing home cooked chettiar cuisine at the house of our gracious hosts

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