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Showing posts from November, 2017

The Enchanting Art of our Tribes

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In a small house on the outskirts of Bhopal, two city dwellers engaged in a conversation with a Bhil artist. For the uninitiated, Bhils are an indigenous tribal community found in the western Deccan regions and central India among other smaller clusters in the subcontinent. While the simple old woman narrated the wonders she witnessed during her last visit to San Jose, her audience couldn’t help but ask her, “What did you eat during all those days?” A couple of bananas in the morning would prepare the old lady for the day of presenting her artworks before the art crème of the city, interacting with the audience and being celebrated for her exemplary creative eye. But Bhuri Bai, one of India’s first contemporary Bhil artists, was unfazed by the international hullabaloo. She continues to be the simple charmer creating those intricate artworks that are stark in form and colours, yet successfully conveys the vibrancy of life forms. At least that’s what Rasika Kajaria and Mandira Lamba di…

Finding ourselves amidst a serene forest in the foothills of the Shivaliks

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At one point of this ‘endless’ journey we almost begin to think that The Kikar Lodge is an illusion. A nature resort of the name does not exist. Why else would it prove so elusive? The winding dirt tracks go on and on and every time you ask a passer-by, he offers a fuzzy reply about a big hotel that is still far, far away. Our tummies are rumbling, our heads throbbing (we’ve been negotiating the Punjab countryside for over half a day now), the mercury is steadily dipping, Ropar is getting darker by the minute and our driver is losing his cool at the drop of a hat suddenly.
Well, he’s been cantankerous since we started from the Capital. Every second minute he has needlessly stopped the car to ask which way Punjab was. This, even after entering the Land of Five Rivers. Yes, he has been trying our patience for long. But on that, some other day... So, what was all that we had heard about this private forest reserve at the foot of the Shivaliks? A blissful and luxurious nature resort that…

Reviving Lost Traditions

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It’s almost like a precious jewel fondly tucked inside the varnished wooden box. This gem, handwoven by a weaver in a nondescript address of Varanasi, bears the hallmark of exquisite craftsmanship, quality and intricacy. Most importantly, it mirrors the legacy of tradition and heritage. This elegant six-yard wonder, and similar stunners, can charm the discerning today because of the labour of textile designers Swati Agarwal and Sunaina Jalan. Doggedly reviving the dying weaves of Banaras with a fresh design perspective that is both luxurious and versatile, these sisters-in-law have infused new life into forgotten warps, wefts, designs and fabrics. Their limited-edition heirloom saris, under their eponymous label, are synonymous with bespoke brilliance. As the soft mulberry silk rustles against the skin, you marvel at the subtle glamour of their extravagant craft. Opulent, with the dazzle of real zari, yet feather-light, a true jewel this is…
Imbibing the love for heirloom saris from…

Once upon a time, on the banks of the Vembanad...

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I wake up with a start at the sound of pitter-patter on the roof. The door is open and wet wind gushes in. The husband is singing Rabindrasangeet, lazing on an easy chair and staring into nothingness. Big rain drops create patterns on the pregnant Vembanad. Life couldn’t be more idyllic...
Delhi’s humdrum had sprung in us a desire to shun urban civilisation. We asked Stanley, our host in Cochin, about a place that would take us closer to village life. He told us about this farmstay on the waterfront, off the beaten tourist tracks, that would actually give us a true picture of what life in a Kerala village is. Food and accommodation in the farmstay as well as a night in a houseboat rowed by sturdy men was promised.
We wait eagerly for our first glimpse of rural splendour. As the car approaches a narrow muddy pathway, red tiled huts peek through the foliage. An old man, the owner of the stay, greets us with coconut water. The rains stop and the verdant landscape gleams in a sunny haze. …

Taking Bharatanatyam places

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In a presentation by Padmashri Geeta Chandran’s dance company, Natya Vriksha called Anekanta last November, Sharanya Chandran relates how the Bharatanatyam renditions were inspired by roots of Jaina philosophy. The audience in Delhi were stoked by how the traditional dance form was exploring the existence of multiple truths of life. Opposites could co-exist. While the grammar of the dance form was intact, the dancers experimented with stage design, stagecraft, music, movements and choreography. Says Sharanya, “To translate the very abstract theme of Anekanta into an aesthetic visual experience, we tried multiple choreographic devices. For instance, there was a segment on how the alarippu (the first pure item taught to any student of Bharatanatyam) could be performed differently using various rhythmic interplays but they all converge in the sama (last beat).” The ancient dance form communicated this universal philosophy innovatively. Anekanta will be staged tomorrow at India Habitat Ce…

With the Kings of Karauli

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History has it that the rulers of Karauli, an erstwhile princely state of Rajasthan, kept tigers as pets. They bottle-fed tiger cubs just as we do to our baby pugs and Pomeranians. If you walk down its serpentine lanes, you’ll hear stories about the political intrigues at Timangarh Fort, if not praise of its rich architecture. Scores of pilgrims flock to the temples of Madan Mohanji and Kaila Devi nearby round the year. There are over 300 temples in this town, which form the focal point of two big religious fairs held here annually.
Raval, or the City Palace, is another treasure trove where the royal family lived before moving out to the lovely Bhanwar Vilas palace in 1938. The present king, Maharaja Krishna Chandra Pal, is the descendant of Raja Bijay Pal ji, the 88th descendant of Lord Krishna who originated from the Yaduvanshi kingdom of Mathura. Now that is quite some lineage. As we ride the wave of festivities, my mind reminisces about the moments spent at Bhanwar Vilas, almos…

Fresh and fabulous

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Here’s the story of a true-blue convert. When Anika got married to Akshay Gupta two and a half years back she wouldn’t even consider wearing a handwoven Banarasi sari or lehenga for any one of her wedding functions. Afterwards, even when her mother-in-law passed on several of her heirloom saris to her, she kept remarking that though each one of them were exquisite she would drape them once she was older. “As I kept looking at the saris I wondered why I did not identify with them despite each being so pretty. Then it dawned that they were too ornate and heavy for my taste. But the fabric, the intricacy of the weave, the zari and the stories behind them were so fascinating. As a young girl I wanted something lighter, finer and in a pastel shade. I went back to the weavers in Banaras, with whom my family has been working for the past 150 years and charted a different design module. Once I recognised the mastery of the craft and the magic of the weaves there was no looking back,” relate…

Heritage Call in Bengal

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Bawali, a nondescript little dot on the map of Kolkata, hides little tales in its serpentine folds. That it was inhabited by the Bauli tribesmen 500 years back, that it encouraged prolific trade and commerce under the zamindars and that the Mughals patronised the townsfolk. You won’t hear these stories anymore.
Not unless you walk into The Rajbari Bawali, a 350-year-old heritage mansion that has been restored back to glory from the brink of destruction. I give it to Ajay Rawla’s vision and unrelenting toil as well as the indescribable efforts of his team, for giving this gem a new lease of life. Last summer, while vacationing in my homeland, I broached the idea of a weekend in the rajbari before ma. She’s kind of a homebird. But the heat and humidity had sapped all of us, including my hyperactive tot. We needed the change.
Rajbari Bawali appears out of nowhere after a 2-hour drive from the city. Standing grand in white with naked brick walls, it’s smelt like a fragile page from an …