A treasure trove of rare art, artefacts & traditional ways

The art of making Cheriyal dolls in Siddipet district is one such handicraft, which he has been trying to keep alive.

Published: 20th March 2022 05:41 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2022 05:41 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purposes. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: It an age where natural dyes have been replaced by chemicals, several types of fabrics made from plants have gone extinct and hand-crafted dolls with cultural and historic importance are endangered. However, one man has been trying to preserve pieces of historical art and culture. R Ramesh, a textile businessman by profession, has been working with passion, to preserve and promote the traditional methods used by the artisans of the olden days. He has a rare collection of arts, handicrafts and antiquities, most of which have now gone extinct. 

Ramesh shows the Ramayana written
on palm leaves in Odia script

The art of making Cheriyal dolls in Siddipet district is one such handicraft, which he has been trying to keep alive. There are usually 56 dolls in a set made by nomadic tribes from Cheriyal, who use the dolls to narrate ‘Katamaraju Katha’ to the Yadava community. He has been trying to document their work, with a goal to preserve and promote their livelihoods and the art form.

Surviving change 

With around three decades of experience in jute processing, experimenting with natural fibres and standardisation of natural colour dyes, he has an enviable fibre collection. He made a fabric with linseed, banana, ramie, natural cotton, sabai grass, bhor, sisal and pineapple. His collection also includes tessa silk, jute silk, alpaca wool, pashmina woollen clothes and original Mangalagiri, Venkatagiri and Narayanpet handloom clothes with borders. He has preserved the formulae of 160 natural vegetable colour dyes, which are used on cloth and thread.

“If we want our natural dyes to be coloured fast, the correct process of dye-making needs to be followed. For that matter, the fundamental process needs to be followed in its right perspective to achieve good quality and results,” he opines, when asked why chemical-based alternatives are being preferred to traditional natural products.

Enviable collection

To prove his point, he shows his collection of century-old bell metal containers which look as good as brand new. Among them is a square-bottomed container with holes at a corner, which was used to drain starch after cooking rice. There are various other containers that have survived the winds of change without losing their appearance or other characteristics.

His collection also includes a wall-sized Kalamkari cloth with a pictorial representation of Ramayana, which was sourced from Sri Kalahasti temple, along with other similar clothes. He is a proud preserver of 400-years-old Ramayana scripture written on palm leaves, which he procured from Odisha.

He possesses a hookah used by indigenous people in Telangana to please the community’s religious elders before a tribal wedding and papier-mache figurines of animals on which original goatskin is pasted. He also flaunts a leather handbag which was probably made several decades ago in the Warangal region without any chemicals. The design, stitches and the model itself is so unique that the bag just can’t be duplicated in the present times. However, the craft has been lost in course of time.

“We need to bring back the intricacies and nuances in the traditional craft. By taking shortcuts, we are only competing and losing to an inferior craft. By keeping the fundamentals intact, we need to make the contemporary products acceptable to present-day society,” he says.

To make this happen, he opines that region-specific traditional arts and crafts need to be included in the school syllabus under the National Education Policy, so that even if 10 per cent of children who learn about these crafts continue to promote them in later years of their lives.


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