Saturday, 23 November 2013

Dakshina Chitra

Dakshina Chitra is a very popular heritage village located on the Southern outskirts of Chennai, on the way to Mamallapuram (previously known as Mahabalipuram). Some months ago I had visited this place with members of my sketching group (Chennai Weekend Artists). My friends were delighted with the sketching opportunities at this venue, and since then we have made two more visits to the place. I am convinced that we will be going there many more times.

During our second visit to Dakshina Chitra there was a performance by a troupe of drummers from a neighbouring state. In the short time available before the start of their performance I managed to do a couple of quick sketches of a couple of the artistes. These served as warm-up exercises to my main sketch of the day. This was a sketch of the Chettinad House. Chettinad is a small region in Southern Tamilnadu known for its local cuisine, architecture, and consequently its skilled masons, carpenters and craftsmen.

Our most recent visit was last month. This time there was a newly constructed building called the Chikmagulur House which caught my eye. It represents the type of houses seen in a certain part of Karnataka, a neighbouring state. As has been my practice over the last few months, I sketched this and the other sketches of the day directly in ink with a Hero 578 fountain pen.

My next sketch was of a cluster of thatched houses typical of rural Tamilnadu. We use different types of thatched roofing in this region. The roof in this cluster is made of river-bed reeds and is considered a higher quality of thatch roofing. The space under this type of roof is much cooler than under other types of thatch roofing which use the woven leaves of palm trees.

Villages in Tamilnadu have temples dedicated to a guardian deity. These temples are called Ayyanar Temples and the priests in these temples come from the potter community. As a result, the icons in and around these Ayyanar Temples are usually made of terracotta. Dakshina Chitra has showcased one such temple and my next sketch was of a white painted terracotta idol facing this temple.

After each sketching trip one of the members of the group posts a report of the visit and the other members then upload their sketches and photographs of the day into this thread. If you would like to see what others in my sketching group sketched on these visits please follow these links:

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Doll Bazaar, Mylapore

Navarathri is a festival celebrated widely throughout India over nine successive nights. In several Indian languages the word means “nine nights” and perhaps that is why the festival is called Navarathri. There are many variants of this festival and in South India, and in particular in Tamilnadu this is a time when people arrange dolls and religious icons in an artistic manner within their houses and invite their neighbours over. There is therefore a lot of socialising over these nine days.
Each family tries to outdo the others in the selection and artistic arrangement of the stuff that they display. This results in lots of doll bazaars (markets) springing up in the weeks preceding this festival and during the festival itself. Most of these bazaars sprout around temples. The vendors spread out their wares on the pavements or hawk them from pushcarts.
In even the recent past most of these dolls were made of eco-friendly material like clay, wood, reeds and so on and were made by local craftsmen. The displays therefore also served to showcase local crafts and arts. But of late I see plastic dolls of Hindu deities, made in China, flooding our markets. To me this robs this festival of much of its charm and relevance.
During this year's Navarathri I visited the area around the Mylapore Temple along with others in my sketching group to sketch the doll vendors. Although I did sketch some of them the dolls themselves were small and therefore did not figure too prominently in my sketches. But I think I did manage to capture some of the character of these informal and very chaotic shopping areas.
I sketched all four on location, directly in ink, using a Hero 578 fountain pen.