M.Rm.Rm. Cultural Foundation

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Woven Baskets To Athangudi Tiles: Get Great Home Decor From This Chettinadu Crafts Store

Gautham posted on 24th March

Manjal founder Visalakshi Ramaswamy realised that a number of kottan — beautiful, handmade baskets {a Chettinad craft and tradition} were vanishing and recognised that there was a need to revive traditional crafts like these. Thus began her journey with the M. Rm. Rm. Cultural Foundation and Manjal. The foundation was started in 2000 as an NGO that would research, document and attempt to revive traditional Chettinadu crafts. The first phase of documenting, led Visalakshi to a number of villages in Chettinadu over a course of four years learning about textiles, crafts and arts.

The product of this was The Chettinadu Heritage, a book with her work and Manjal, a store tucked away in MRC Nagar selling products handmade by women from these villages. She also recognised that to cater to an urban market, Manjal would have to experiment with designs and colours. This can be seen with kottans as they are made into baskets, trays, boxes and bags in different colours. All products are priced moderately here. Do visit Manjal to purchase and support this exciting line of traditionally made products and this new initiative.

Basket Case

What began as Project Kottan is Manjal today. With an aachi helping, 10 women from the Keelayapatti village were trained to make these traditional palm leaf baskets in its original colours and patterns and often decorated by beadwork and crochet work. These kottans come in a range of hues from hot pink to a fluorescent green. We can see these colour baskets making it to our living rooms for all kinds of storage solutions and pretty decor. Other products incude a plastic version of the traditional palm leaf bags {in vibrant colours too} and they have an interesting saree native to the town of Karaikudi. This sari or also called a selai, and has existed for more than 250 years. Checked in the centre, it has two borders and is made from silk threads. The USP of these sarees are these unique checks, stripes and colours. 

Wait, There's More!

When it’s Chettinad, its signature and gorgeous Athangudi tiles have to be involved. The tiles stocked at Manjal are completely handmade and although their making is a cumbersome process, the end products are just stunning. The creation of these were in the decline as they couldn’t compete with the factory-produced tiles. The foundation supported this initiative by reviving the production units and began a research project at IIT-Madras looking at how to further improve production time, quality and durability of the tiles. Fun fact: Splash a bit of water on these tiles and your room will remain cool for the rest of the day!

If you visit a traditional Chettindu home, you will see the walls finished with wall paintings, which were done with stencils. The painters who specialise in this art originate from a village called Kothamangalam but there has been a decline in the number of families which follow this. At Manjal, instead of painting directly on walls, the designs are done on wooden panels. This way, the paintings can be sold readymade.

So, we suggest you ditch those ultra expensive home decor stores and instead support your local crafts by bringing these gorgeous products home.

M.Rm.Rm. Cultural Foundation

R A Puram
Gift Shops