Saturday, November 27, 2010

SANTHANALAKKSHMI . . . the art of hand-weaving

" Many years ago when i first came to Bangalore, I sold off my few hundred hand-woven antique sarees and traded them in for the cooler jeans. How i repent it now?! " When i heard Chitra Karuppiah (or 'Santhanalakshmi' as she is fondly called by many) lament so, one could clearly sense her sincerity and passion towards her current profession.

I am sure that many of you may have passed by the old Naga theatre (now lemon tree hotel) on St John's road near ulsoor lake. But i wonder how many of you have noticed this cute little store that reads ' Santhanalakshmi - Pure silk & cotton sarees' with some lovely kolam designs in red and a small little 'charka' (clearly showing her passion for the organic and the hand-woven art of weaving) outside.

The store started by Chitra over several years ago (she was earlier located at 'The Sanctuary near safina Plaza) is a treasure house of sarees that showcase the cultural richness of Tamil Nadu. "My father started the very popular Bangalore Biryani Hotel in coimbatore in 1945. He ensured that we inculcated some of the best values around us - we were taught Hindi  by a private tutor as he felt that we must speak the language fluently and I even learnt to play the veena. We would visit temples every week and spend holidays at our grandfather's farm in idyllic fun. We would have some of the best weavers come home to make custom-made sarees for all the women in our household for any festive or special occasion. "

Geeta in one of her own creations

With a childhood drenched in everything that was richly south-indian it is no surprise that Geeta (who trained to study law) ended up reviving some of the most beautiful sari traditions that have long been forgotten. " I work with my weavers in Karaikudi who for many decades have been working for my family. Each of  my sarees has been hand-woven with absolutely no compromise in the quality of cotton or the art of weaving." 

Traditional 'pattu sarees with kalamkari pallu

Tamil Nadu Meets Andhra- the traditional kanjeevaram silk with kalamkari work on the pallu - around Rs 5000/-
The colours and combinations are personally chosen by Chitra and she is no hurry to 'mass-manufacture' sarees. As she removed each saree and proudly explained the nuances of each , I could not but help wonder in amazement at the wealth of information that stood before me. So right from the typical chettinad checks cotton sarees and the big border chettinad-kandanghi-inspired-silk sarees to the mutli-coloured temple border sarees and modern interpretations of kalamkari , there was no dearth of beautiful designs in this store. Here below are some of the creations that most impressed me.

the rarely seen coarse cotton saree typical of chettinad - the kandanghi cotton - with bold striped huge borders on either side. Ms. Sonia Gandhi picked up a few of these at Chitra's exhibition in Delhi organised by the Crafts Council of India.

the typical 'kandanghi' border chettinad cotton, re-interpreted in a modern silk form
the traditional temple border interpreted in a multi-coloured modern avtaar
'Muthu Kanna Pettu' - a traditional pattern revived in a contemporary mauve

silk saree with 'paalum palum' inspired pallu
the 'cult' bright silk checks made popular by actress Saroja Devi in the Sivaji starrer tamil blockbuster movie 'Paalum Palamum'
once called 'Chinnalam pattu' or silk for the poor...revived. Rs 800/-

the once popular 'Ganga-Jamuna' cotton saree with huge borders on either side .

a traditional 'antique' border revived - the typical cotton one in pink revived in a silk format in blue

a chettinad revival saree - notice the rarely seen 'tissue' work between the saree body and palav area..with the orange temple motif reincarnate! Rs 1250/-

the popular peacock or 'mayil' motif in a contemporary avtaar!

the typical daily wear of many a south indian woman - the 'sungudi' saree
Women like Chitra are few and their cause, rare - To protect and conserve the dying traditions of India and to rightfully give credit to the 'artisans' who spend days to weave that one elegant cotton saree. It was the most beautiful 2 hours that I had ever spent in any store...i got to see a whole lot of south India and i savoured every moment of it. I hope you do too!

the simple yet elegant typical chettinad-checks cotton sarees - from Rs 800 to 1250

Kudos to you Chitra and to your kind!!! 
Address :- Santhanalakkshmi Pure Silk & Cotton Sarees, #174, st. John's Road, Near old Naga theatre of Hotel Lemon Tree, BAngalore - 560 042. Tel - 080-40925414/9343548543

Monday, November 22, 2010

RATTAN TEXTILES - Padharo mhare des....

I first came to know about Ratan textiles by a friend of mine from Delhi around 2 years ago. When i visited the store then, it was close to 830pm and the store was in the midst of shutting down. I remember feeling like a kid in a candy store, seeing their gorgeous stuff. However seeing that i had absolutely no time i quickly picked up a pair of gorgeous 'rajasthani' print cushions. One of them, a nice pink cushion (as you can see in the chair below) has always been a conversation point whenever friends came home, Ever since then i have wanted to go back there.

the pink cushion on the left is a 'Ratan'

 This november i finally did get the opportunity to visit their store. Ratan is located in the very popular and lovely Meherchand market in delhi. So on a diwali morning i decided to visit their store. As i walked down the market, i could see their store facade at a distance, beautifully decorated with marigold flowers. This time round i had all the time in the world and thankfully no one to crib about how late it was getting; so i was quite relieved! Ratan textiles is originally from Jaipur and they are known to export their stuff all over.

One might find Ratan to be similar to the Anokhi stuff but far more reasonably priced. I especially loved their range of mens and womens-wear on the 2nd floor. 
the mens shirts prices start from Rs 420/-

As always the women have all the options

i love this print!!

The sweet lady assistant at the store patiently showed me all their stuff ; though the manager was quite disinterested in my enthusiasm (just like the last time).

" Err! can i please be spared of your un-necessary jibber-jabber !"

I also got to see some of their signature rajasthani printed cushions. 
add that bright splash of colour to a dull corner with this cute pillow

i had bought this from my last trip

The range of home furnishings - including bed covers, bed sheets, quilts, etc. were quite colourful. The best part about them was that they were quite reasonably priced too.


single and double bed-sheets/spreads

If one is looking for gifts to give then this is definitely the place to come to. Lovely hand-made paper boxes, exam pads with beautiful prints, cards, etc. My absolute favs were a pair of exam-pads in orange and turqouise blue. One had a print of the eiffel tower while the other had the leaning tower of Pisa. And each cost Rs. 99/- only !!!
note the orange exam-pad with the leaning tower of Pisa, at the rear end of the 3rd shelf!

colourful note pads

Address : - 21-22, Meharchand market, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.
Tel - 011-24657600 

Friday, November 19, 2010

1469...preserving the panjab heritage.

the store signage that caught my eye

There are a few things i am passionate about. One of them definitely being appreciating good design and shopping. I even have friends regularly calling me up to ask,"Hey da! Where would i get a nice simple paper lamp shade? " or "any idea where i can get some good furniture?...And i would gladly rattle off a few store options.

During my recent trip to the Delhi, the 'mecca' of shopping i got thinking on seeing a beautiful shop. I started feeling a desire to share my experience with my other friends. For the first time, i felt the urge to blog !! 

So here i am, at the start of my all-new blog-journey. Via this blog i hope to share my various shopping expeditions and help people add to our burgeoning economy  :-) . Naturally, the subject of my first blog is this sweet little store that has inspired me to blog, a store that is very traditional, very indian and celebrates Punjab...1469, on Janpath road, Delhi.
'Phulkari' duppattas

The first thing that strikes you when you enter the store are the bright 'phulkari' work duppattas. Intrinsic to the daily wear of women in Punjab, Phulkari is an intricate form of emrboidery that is striking and not to mention colourful. 'Phul-kari' literally meaning 'flower-work' originated in Punjab, in India and Pakistan.

a 'phulkari' work duppatta in striking green

Everywhere you looked in the store, one saw hints of everyday life in Punjab. The traditional fans, Parandhis- the colourful tassles that women adorn their braided hair with, pans, colourful Jhootis , purses, bangles etc.

The store at a glance...a parade of colours!

the colourful fans

the sweet assistant at the store

Colourful Parandhis!!

the stair way leading to the 2nd floor

Two floors of warmth and colour soaked in some lovely shabad music playing in the background. Every nook and corner housed something interesting... something 'Punjabi.

Below the cash counter

interesting blocks

My eye also caught some interesting knick-knacks for home inspired from the punjabi way of life...clocks, framed art-work, framed quotes in the punjabi script, block prints...

Block prints of Punjabi alphabets
Wall Clocks

Coasters ... Punjabi!!!

Framed cards of old hindi films!

i wonder what this beautiful caligraphy reads...

The store had some cool t-shirts too!!
It was a lovely one hour spent in the store. Amongst the scores of the Benettons and Zaras of the world, it is truly heartening to see stores like 1469 that give you the goosebumps and make you feel proud to be an Indian. For the sake of our arts and crafts, I hope that this store does well...after-all it is stores like these that bring to us city-morons the fragrance of our earthy villages. Amen!

The wall above the cash counter!