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The Arts and Crafts of Tamil Nadu

India is a very diverse country.

When one travels form north to south, it almost seems that one is traveling through several countries. Each part of the country has its own language, culture, dress, food habits, etc. Similarly its arts and crafts are all different form state to state. Each state is well known for some craft or the other or noted for some type of sari.

There is frequently a reference to some art form in the history of Tamil Nadu. Kautilya or Chanakya, advisor to the first Mauryan Emperor Chandragupta, frequently refers to the pearls fisheries, controlled by the Pandya Kings along the South Indian coast, cotton handlooms from Madurai and sandalwood carvings. The sculptures of Mamallapuram of the Pallava Period are outstanding.The famous bronzes of Tamil Nadu were perfected during the Chola Rule. Tamil Nadu´s arts and crafts are heavily influenced by the ancient temple architecture of Tamil Nadu.

The tradition of spinning finds mention in the history of Tamil Nadu.Kancheepuram, near Chennai, Kumbakonam,Arani, Coimbatore and Madurai are famous for exquisite saris in silk and cotton. Kancheepuram is perhaps the most well known for its silk saris. No South Indian wedding is complete without the Kancheepuram Silk Saris. It s reputed for its luster, texture, durability and very fine finish. The border is woven separately and then attached to the body of the sari. The border was made of gold thread in the olden days. But now, the weavers have switched over to silver because of the prohibitive cost of gold thread.

The most famous of Tamil Nadu´s art forms, bronzes, continues to be copies of the Pallava and Chola images, of which the most well known figure is a Nataraja, Dancing Shiva which depicts a dancing Lord Shiva. Another popular figure is that of the Elephant God Lord Ganesha. The bronze idols from Swamimalai near Tanjore, are very popular. The idols are created in oxidized, antique and natural finish.

The brass lamps produced in Tamil Nadu date back to the Pallava and Chola Period. The early lamps of stone and shell became terracotta, metal and brass lamps. The lamps are decorated with figures of parrots, peacock, or elephants and other birds and animals. The making of the bell requires expert craftsmanship, as the alloy of copper and tin has to be in the right proportion to get the correct sound. Bells like temple, church and other bells are mostly made at Kumbakonam in Tanjore District.

Mat Weaving is also a very ancient art in Tamil Nadu. Made from different materials like grass, leaves and coconut palm, they have an exquisite design. One such made from a local grass was sent to Queen Elizabeth in 1953 as a gift on her coronation.

Tanjore Painting, which is identified with, Tamil Nadu, originated in the 10th century. The themes are mostly pictures of Hindu Gods, embossed slightly with plaster, then covered with gold foil and precious stones. Tanjore Art Plate is also quite popular. They are made from copper with silver and brass patterns embossed in it.

Other than the traditional gold jewelery, Tamil Nadu is also noted for it Temple jewelery. Worn as the name suggests by the temple dancers in history. it has now been modified slightly with smaller designs. Now it is made form silver dipped in gold and with semi precious stones.

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