About Tamil Nadu Handicrafts

Tamil Nadu has a rich history of culture and tradition that has evolved over centuries. Tamil culture is aptly represented through the handicrafts of Tamil Nadu. From solid stone temple architecture and bronze figurines to the grandiose Tanjore Paintings and the elaborately carved brass lamps, Tamil Nadu’s traditional art and crafts add elegance and splendor to lifestyles of people of Tamil Nadu and all over the world. Apart from preserving antique artifacts from Chola and Pandya dynasties by reproducing their replicas, Tamil Nadu has become a world known destination for pilgrims of art in search of fine handicrafts of India such a Stone Sculptures, Bronze Figurines, Brass lamps, Wooden carvings, Tanjore Paintings, Kanchipuram Sarees and few musical instruments as well. The origin of most of the arts and crafts tradition in Tamil Nadu can be related to the influence of temple economy that prevailed for a long time in this part of the country. The various crafts of Tamil Nadu include :

1. Tanjore Paintings :

  • The Tanjore Paintings are classical south Indian painting style which originated from the temple town of Tanjore (or Tanjavur) in Tamil Nadu. These paintings are renowned all over the world and are the most significant art and craft form in Tamil Nadu. Their dense composition, surface richness and vibrant colors of Indian distinguish them from the other types of paintings.
  • These revered and traditional paintings depicting a pantheon of Hindu Gods and Goddesses is embellished with semi-precious stones, pearls, glass beads and gold foils colored in the vibrant hues. They are done on wood, glass, mica, ivory as well as on walls. The Paintings on ivory, mica and glass were introduced in the 18th century. The Modern Tanjore Paintings however also portray floral motifs, animals, birds as well as pretty human figures.
  • Though this art form originated in the 16th century during the rule of the Chola Dynasty, It was further patronised by the Tanjavur Nayaks and later by the Marathas. The fall of Vijayanagar Kingdom into the hands of Deccan Sultanates in 15th century resulted in large scale migration of painters who were earlier patronized by the rulers.
  • Some of them migrated to Tanjavur and worked under the patronage of the Tanjavur Nayaks. Subsequently the Marathas who defeated the Nayaks started to patronize this art. The artists began to absorb the local influence and the individual tastes of the Maratha patrons which helped evolve this unique style of Tanjore Painting.

2. Wood carvings

3. Stone Carvings :

  • Stone Carving is a rich craft of the state that has received high degree of excellence. Granite carving is very popular and sought after craft. Soapstone is another craft common here.
  • Tamil Nadu, the center of South India’s cultural extravaganza had exhibited a distinctive brilliance in its stone carvings during the commencement days of ancient Indian history. This primordial craft achieved prominence because of the generosity of the culturally refined ancient sovereigns who patronized the talented local craftsmen and kept the art form alive.
  • Among the relics of Tamil Nadu’s stone carvings that have been excavated from archeological sites, the granite figurines and statuettes deserve special mention. They narrate a sad tale of the vestiges of time. Contemporary granite carving is confined mainly around Mamallapuram and Chingleput, with the leading sculptors hailing from the local Vishwakarma or Kammaalar communities.

4. Metal crafts :

  • The various objects made of metal craft are mostly used for religious and utility purposes. Some such objects include lamp, trays, dishes, designs of deities, birds, flowers, and geometric patterns, toys, and so on.
  • Nachiarkovil in Thanjavur district is famous for light brown sand called vandal on the banks of the river Cauvery that is ideally suited for making moulds. Owing to the growing scarcity of copper, the bell-metal workers of the state have now switched to brass ware.
  • Some of the articles cast are vases in different shapes, tumblers, water containers, ornamented spittoons, food cases, bells, candle stands, kerosene lamps, picnic carriers, and a large variety of lamps. Of these, a few items like tumblers, food cases and milk containers are in bell metal and the rest are in brass. A special jar with a cashew-nut design and named after it has become a kind of hallmark of Nachiarkovil.

5. Kanchipuram Sarees

6. Musical Instruments :

  • Music and dance are the very important arts of the ancient people of Tamil Nadu. The musical instruments which are important for the purpose of this are made in areas situated around Thanjavur. The Tamil classic, the Silappadikaaram explains about an ancient musical instrument called as the wooden Yaazh. This Yaazh is similar to the harp and the shape is like a boat, fish or crocodile.
  • This was the first musical instrument used by tamil people which was replaced by Veena which is made of Jackwood. There ar still many traditional families involved in the manufacture of this Veena generation after generation. Other musical instruments which are made in Tamilnadu are the Thamburas; the flute or kuzhal, which is a type of wind instrument used by Lord Krishna and is made of bamboo, sandalwood and bronze.

7. Bronze Idols :

  • The ancient craft of bronze or “panchaloha” casting of icons which reached its apogee of excellence under the Cholas is done by the lost wax method. The icon is first made in wax and three layers of clay applied on the wax model which is then allowed to dry.
  • When perfectly dry, the clay coated mould is heated over an open ground oven and the molten wax forced out through appropriate holes in the icons. When the mould is completely drained of wax, molten metal is poured into the mould and allowed to set.
  • The mould is broken after a few days and the bronze icon emerges. Chiseling, detailing and polishing follow the process. The icon is now complete, the only one of its kind in creation.

8. Pottery :

  • Pottery is a beautiful art which is still practiced in Tamilnadu from ancient times. Ayyannar horses are the most remarkable ones of Tamilnadu. There is a belief that these Ayyanar horses protect from evil. These are usually made in the villages of Salem and Pudukottai. Many cooking utensils made of clay are still in use in Tamilnaduv