arts and handicrafts form an invaluable part
of the Cultural heritage of Kerala.
crafts have the pride of place
among the traditional arts. Bell-metal casting
is an old time industrial art. It has involved
mainly two kinds of activities. Images or idols
of deities made out of copper, bronze and brass
are used for consecration in temples and other
religious purposes. Huge Varpus (shallow basins
of hemispherical shape), multi-layered lamps
and household utensils are all made of these
metals. These products are noted for their high
degree of perfection.
of the most artistic beauty are also made by
Kerala craftsmen. The Greek lamp (Changalavatta),
the Archana lamp, the Arati Dipa
etc., deserve mention in this context. The Aranmula
metal mirror has attained fame among the products
of the bell metal industry. A product of an
accident in metal casting, it is made of an
alloy of copper and tin and resembles the glass
mirror in every respect in point of utility.
The Koftagari work, one of the popular
metal crafts of India, is also being practiced
by a few artisans in Trivandrum. Figures of
deities, landscapes, floral designs and fancy
articles of a wide variety are produced in Koftagari.
craft is one of the ancient arts
of Kerala as is testified to by the temples
and churches of the State which abound in wood
carvings. Items of furniture like chairs, tables
settees, sofas, almirahs, cots, radio castings
etc., and models of animals and deities, toys
and Kathakali accessories produced by
Kerala craftsmen are very much in demand. The
models of caparisoned elephants and the carvings
of Kathakali dance-dolls are items of
craftsmen of Kerala have also developed a variety
of handicrafts using the rich wealth of flora
in the State. Screwpine mat weaving is one of
such handicrafts. Such articles as pillow covers,
cushions, vanity bags, purses, hats etc., are
also made of screw pine. The art of weaving
bamboo-reed mats, baskets and fancy articles
is also one of the simplest of Kerala handicrafts.
Kora grass is similarly used for making mats
of different sizes and colours. Rattan is used
in the manufacture of articles of daily use
like chairs, settees, teapoys, cradles, trays,
shopping bags and a variety of other utility-cum-fancy
articles. The coconut shell is used for the
manufacture of such articles of utility and
beauty as lamp stands, flower vases, ashtrays
etc. Coir carpets and mattings produced in many
attractive designs and colours find a ready
market in India and abroad.
and embroidery work of high quality is being
done by women in several parts of Kerala. The
Talangara village of Kasaragod taluk is famous
for the textile cap making industry. The cotton
caps manufactured here find a ready market in
the African and Gulf countries.
carving is another traditional art
of Kerala. The art was given an impetus by Swati
Tirunal Maharaja. An ivory throne made by Swati
Tirunal is still preserved as a show piece.
The craftsmen engaged in this art at present
produce a variety of models of mythological
characters, animals, birds, cigarette cases
etc., to cater to different tastes. A typical
specimen of ivory carving produced in Kerala
is that of the snake boat (Chundan vallam)
and it is cherished by tourists to the State
as a memento. The craftsmen engaged in ivory
carving also use other materials like the buffalo
born for practicing their art.
jewelry of Kerala is noted for
its artistic perfection. Each caste or community
had its typical ornament. An ornament of the
Nair women was Nagapadam or serpent hood,
so called after the shape of the pendant. An
ear ornament called Toda, a double convex
disc, was worn after dilating the earlobes.
Mukkuthi was an ornament for nose and
Kappu for the wrist. The most important
ornaments for the neck were Addyal, Yantram,
Avil Mala and Puli Nakham. Cherutali
was a kind of necklace worn loose over the breast
by Namboodiri women while Kasu Mala and
Oddyanam were used by Tamil Brahmin.
A kind of heavy guilt brass ring called Mekka
Motiram was worn by Christian women after
boring their ears in several places. Ottezhapathakkam,
Kombu, Tala etc., were also typical Christian
ornaments. Though most of the traditional ornaments
mentioned above have become defunct now, the
Kerala women are still found of ornaments, and
jewelry items like necklaces, bangles, chains,
earrings, studs etc., are now made by Kerala
goldsmiths in a variety of attractive designs.
from the main crafts described above, there
are also a few others which deserve mention.
carving is one such art, which is
mainly centred in Chengannur. The granite workers
manufacture a variety of articles like idols,
household equipment, pillars, survey stones
etc., which are in great demand. The manufacture
of musical instruments like Chenda, Maddalam,
Mridangam, Edakka etc., is done in some
places. The costumes and accessories required
in Kathakali and Teyyam are being
manufactured by some craftsmen. In Tellicherry,
the home of Indian circus, the peculiar kinds
of umbrella required by circus companies are
manufactured. Being a maritime State, Kerala
has its own handicrafts based on marine materials.
Conch-shell articles like paper weight, pin
cushions, ashtrayas, studs etc., are made by
craftsmen in the Trivandrum area. In Kasaragod
area articles like bangles, vanity bags and
name boards are made of glass beads. Thus the
legacy of Kerala in the field of arts and crafts
is a rich and varied one.