When journey journal, Pollachi Papyrus, got here out with its first version in 2014, founder/editor Pravin Shanmughanandam was flooded with requests from readers to expertise what he had featured. “Until then, tourism was commercial and restricted to sightseeing. The town’s infrastructural facilities – like hotels and homestays – were coming up, but nobody had invested in the experiential part of tourism,” says the 30-year-old. On the time, he was returning after stints in Chennai and Bengaluru. Tungsten, the branding agency he had launched, catered to Pollachi-based sustainable agro companies and types making an area affect.
Eager on selling the city’s tradition, meals and wildlife, in 2015, Shanmughanandam started organising customised excursions to the city’s artisanal hubs. The Papyrus Itineraries has since hosted over 2,500 vacationers throughout 250 excursions. “Earlier, we [the next generation] were encouraged to move to cities. But as people travelled across the world and aspired to imitate lifestyles in the West, they realised how foreigners valued and yearned for a traditional, farming setting,” he says. The final 5 years have seen extra folks returning to their household occupation, farming, with a concentrate on value-addition. “They are marrying farming with entrepreneurship and linking it with design. With this as the core of the business, they believe profits will automatically come. People are not hesitant to call themselves farmers and wear the tag with pride,” says the entrepreneur, including how the Pongal competition (after a five-10 yr dip) is now celebrated grandly within the village, and attracts a sizeable viewers.
The excursions have a carrying capability, as he believes “tourism shouldn’t be the primary mode of employment for the artisans, so that their art doesn’t lose value. If we don’t protect them, they can get exploited”. It helps that the vacationers are advanced, ask the suitable questions and like travelling on a weekday, and never on holidays. Getting artisans concerned is vital. “The main issue artisans face is the lack of respect – which is why they are keen on interacting with visitors.”
Palm Leaf Artwork
It’s simple to determine T Krishnasamy’s home. One of many few practitioners of a craft that was used to brighten the royal palaces of the erstwhile Zamins of Uthukuli and Samathur, he’s finest recognized for his parrots, vibrant torans and fish crafted from tender olai or palm leaves. These cling from the door of his home, the place his spouse, Karupathal, greets us with a heat smile.
The sought-after artisan — he provided over 15,000 palm leaf artefacts to the Ambani marriage ceremony earlier this yr — shortly walks out armed with a bunch of lengthy, slender leaves, sits down within the veranda and will get straight to work. Swiftly slicing by way of the leaves, he cuts and bends them into strips, and in a few minutes, whips out an intricate flower with sharp bends. Quickly, a fish and a deer seem. “I can make 50-60 pieces in a day,” says the 64-year-old artisan.
Krishnasamy is a person of few phrases, and whereas he’s busy together with his leaves, Karupathal reveals off his newspaper clippings. Following the standard drill he’s used to when vacationers go to, as soon as he’s achieved, he holds up the items, smiles and poses for the digicam.
I t is a sunny afternoon once we stroll into Murugesan’s yard in a village recognized for its jaggery makers. A girl is busy feeding the fireplace (at a roaring 110° C) below two massive vessels the place contemporary palm juice is effervescent. Eight hours later, the shiny, golden liquid turns right into a thick, caramel-like consistency. It’s then set in coconut shells to type karupatti. Murugesan, who has been making jaggery since 1957, now retails below the model, Kavitamil. He tells us how, till 2006, he travelled to villages throughout Tamil Nadu promoting jaggery. “Soon, I was noticed by shops and cooperatives in Erode who started sourcing the sweet treat. They urged us to brand and package it before selling it to them. We expanded to the Chennai market after an exhibition in the city a few years ago,” he says. Kavitamil sells pana karupatti (a masala model with spices corresponding to jeera, sukku, and many others), pana kalakand and pana kalakand podi.
The clickety-clack of handlooms is audible a couple of yards from Nagaraj’s residence. He, and his brother, Mahendran, are busy on their pit looms. Nagaraj is engaged on brilliant orange, inexperienced and yellow Negamam cotton yarn to create summary motifs and a maroon border. Fifth technology weavers, Shanmughanandam tells us that their ancestors belong to the erstwhile Vijayanagara kingdom. “They even speak a bit of Kannada,” he explains, taking us by way of the weaving course of throughout 4 houses within the village. Dyed yarn from cotton mills are sourced by Lakshmi Textiles and offered to the weavers. It’s then drawn out, hand-spun to type threads, dyed, woven and handed again to the textile agency. A staff of in-house designers on the firm additionally present them with designs. “The weavers are working towards preserving a century-old art and are passionate about their work. But when it comes to recognition, they fall behind. Their own relatives and children don’t value them,” he says. We stroll into Arumugam’s residence subsequent door, which is designed round an enormous wheel fitted indoors. That is the place the wound thread comes for warping. They’ve been on the job for the final 10 years, however their son refuses to go to them; he doesn’t think about their work and life-style respectable. “However they’re thrilled with the curiosity from foreigners and different guests. We’ve had design college students from Italy who’re amazed with the method: a five-colour printing machine can get this fallacious, however a dyer at residence (utilizing his grandfather’s otakkal) will get the precision proper each time with every shade. It’s pure artwork.”
I t has been a protracted day and we attain Balasubramanian’s residence because the solar is setting. Not a perfect hour to see a potter at work, however we make it simply in time to observe him smoothing clay pots with a metallic hammer. As we stroll by way of the yard lined with mud lamps and pots drying in neat rows, we’re informed that he, and his youthful brother, Murugan, have spent the day crafting pots (30 a day), lamps and uruvaarams (collectible figurines).
Whereas the making course of is just like what potters throughout the nation observe, the firing makes Pollachi’s craft distinct. Potters like Balasubramanian nonetheless observe the normal course of. “We dry the pots and artefacts in direct sunlight for a day. Deep pits are dug and they (the products) are placed overnight along with coconut husk and coal, and then covered with sand.”
Curiously, the collectible figurines (horses and cows) — in brilliant blue and crimson hues — are purchased by locals and positioned in temples when their cattle fall sick.