In medias res

Kailasanathar Temple

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My fascination for Kailasanathar Temple in Kanchipuram started after I attended a course on South Indian Temple Architecture by Chithra Madhavan at Dakshinachitra. A couple of friends and I visited the temple and stayed there for hours completely mesmerised.

I got to know Amar Ramesh recently and in a few months have become fond of his work and his unique style of storytelling. After months of painstaking effort his photographs on the Kailasanathar temple is exhibited at the Art Houz gallery in Chennai.

The photographs are magnificent, proud, arrogant, and truly portray the splendour of the temple. Somehow I am reminded of this verse in “Nirvana Shatakam” by Adi Shankara,

“I have no hatred or dislike,
nor affiliation or liking,
nor greed, nor delusion,
nor pride or haughtiness,
nor feelings of envy or jealousy.
I have no duty, nor any money,
nor any desire, nor even moksha.
I am that eternal knowing and bliss,
love and pure consciousness.
I am Shiva.”

Please do take the time to visit. The exhibition is open till the 2nd of March at the ART HOUZ,Chennai.

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Walking with Rama

Medhavi Gandhi

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“Sriram, I am here.”

It took me a while to figure out Medhavi’s office. After some initial reluctance I called her to help me with directions.

“Hey there,” I said after noticing a petite girl waving at me from a distance. She led me to her desk alongside a longish glass window with a gorgeous view of the lush vegetation outside.

Medhavi Gandhi, is the founder of Happy Hands Foundation based in Delhi. Her organisation trains youth in traditional craft forms like Dhokra metal sculptures from Jharkhand, Cheriyal scroll paintings from Telengana, Bidri craft from Andhra, Jadupatua paintings from Bengal under the guidance of master craftsmen. After training, these young people make use of the craft works and paintings to tell stories about heritage to school students.

“Traditional art works speak of stories, customs and rituals from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and folk lore. Our children are hardly exposed to any of these stories or these beautiful art forms,” she said.

I was impressed already.

She continued, “we also train artisans to create newer designs, improve their marketing skills and find new customers.”

Before I proceeded, a little rat paid a visit, probably curious to know about her work like me. But the hairy visitor’s sudden arrival got one of her colleagues riled up.

“We are now very excited about our new school programme on the Vijayanagara dynasty where we would get children to learn history through art, craft and puppets,” she said with the excitement of a little girl.

“I would love to start a travelling museum that would travel to our schools to teach children our heritage. Perhaps even an institute where people of all ages can learn these art forms.”

“How do you stay motivated in this lone race?” I ask.

“When I see a handmade craft, I see simplicity, I see grace, a story waiting to be told, an art dying to be promoted and I know there is a large audience waiting to hear these stories,” she replied confidently.

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