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Traditional Crafts

Kerala, teeming with coconut trees, is famed for its coir, coconut shell products, carvings, cast bell metal work, jewellery, granite idols, pillars, carvings in wood, especially rose wood or sandal wood, snake boat models and other figurines.The traditional arts and crafts of Kerala include Mural Paintings and the Paintings by the great artists like Raja Ravi Verma and Handicrafts items.

Paintings
Kerala's rich tradition of painting has it's roots in the magnificent Frescoes and Mural fouPepal  Leaf Paintednd in the temples and the churches here.

Certain rituals like Kalamezhuthu also reveal this tradition of painting. Before the advent of paper and ink, natives used the Palmyra leaf for inscriptions and pictorial representations.

In modern times, Kerala's paintings attained international repute with the works of Raja Ravi Varma, who has been described as a 'Prince' among painters. Prominent among those who influenced the growth of modern art, were K. Madhava Menon and K.C.S. Panicker.

There are two major institutions of Kerala where painting is taught as a subject, namely, the college of fine arts, Thiruvananthapuram and Ravi Varma School Of Fine Arts, Mavelikkara.

Murals Paintings
The Murals of Kerala bear the stamp of uniqueness in aesthetic composition and technique. Murals came into vogue in Kerala as early as the 8th century AD.

The most antique Murals of Kerala are found in the Thirunandikkara Cave Temple in Thiruvananthapuram district, now a part of Kanya Kumari district of the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. The temple and palace Murals of Kerala are invariably sagas of Hindu gods and goddesses and visual poems of their heroic deeds.

The Murals in Padmanabhapuram Palace offer a feast of colours and motifs for the connoisseur of art. The triple storeyed 'Uppirikka Malika' houses the retiring chamber of the king and the heir apparent.

The main chamber has its inner walls decorated with fine Murals of gods and goddesses. The central motif is Anathapadmanabha, the chief deity of the erstwhile Travancore Maharajas.

The Murals of Krishnapuram Palace near Kayamkulam are visual wonders of artistic perfection. Gajendra Moksham, the largest mural panel in Kerala is a major attraction. The Murals of Mattancherry Palace are dramatic picturisations of the Ramayana and the Bhagvatha.

The Murals of the Shiva Temple in Ettumanoor provide an insight into the earliest forms of the Dravidian mural art. Coconut Shell CraftThe mural of Shiva as Nataraja, symbolic of the eternal cosmic dance, is the most outstanding Mural here.

Coconut Shell Craft
Coconut shell craft is a popular craft in Kerala as coconut trees are found in abundance here. A high degree of skill is required for carving coconut shell as it is hard. The main centre for coconut shell craft is Calicut district in Kerala. The common products are cups, flower vases, snuff boxes, sugar basins, nut bowls, powder boxes and spoons etc and also products decorated with brass, which are in great demand.

Coir Products
Making of coir and its products one of the main village industry of Kerala. Coir is extracted from the protective husk of the Coconut. Coir is used to make a range of floor coverings, door mats, floor Mattings and rugs, crush-proof pile carpets, Flowered Mourzouks etc. The mats come in a range of colours and intricate designs. Besides that rubberised coir, a blend of coir and latex, is also used to make mattresses and cushioning. The husks separated from the nuts, are retted in lagoons upto ten months. The retted husks are then beaten with wooden mallets manually to produce the golden fibre. The fibre is later spun into yarn on traditional spinning wheels called "Ratts", ready for dyeing and weaving into myriad shades of floor coverings. Some of the main centres for coir products are Alleppey, Kollam and Calicut. The products are exported on a large scale to other countries.

WoodcarvingWoodcarving
Kerala has one of the richest traditions in wood carving. Temples and palaces are the best preservers of the wood-carving styles of Kerala. Doors, windows and ceilings of most of the ancient houses are testimonial of the high level of craftsmanship and tradition of wood carving. Carvings aremade on rosewood, sandalwood, cedar wood and teak. Life-size wood carved figures which are highly stylised with exaggerated features, gestures and postures like the characters of Kathakali dance drama, mythological and religious figures were produced. Now items also include intricately carved Elephants in different postures, other animal figures, paper weights, lamp stands, Jewellery Boxes like Nettoor jewellery boxes in its unique conical shape, with brass edgings at the corners, decorative furniture etc. Kerala style of work on sandalwood and rosewood is quite distinct from that prevalent elsewhere.

Metal Inlaid Wood Craft
The main centre for the craft is Ernakulam district in Kerala. Rose wood and white wood pieces are cut into required sizes and pasted on a plywood base according to the particular design and polished. The brass metal pieces are fixed in different designs to make the final product. The product include Dancing Lady, Peacock, Candle Stand, Star Wheel, Kathakali Heads, Key Stand and Butterflies etc.

Screw Pine Products
Screw pine mat weaving is an ancient craft and one of the major cottage industries in Kerala. Three types of mats are woven with Screw pine leaves. The main centres of this craft in Kerala are Karunagapalli Taluk of Kollam Dist, Mavelikkara and Karthikapalli Taluks of Alappuzha dist. Thazava, Vachrai and Vallikunnam Panchayaths, some villages in Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam Districts. Screw pine leaves are also woven, hand embroidered and shaped into products like household linen, straw hats, and carry bags.

Horn Carving
Horn carving is an ancient craft practiced mainly by artisans belonging to Viswakarma Community in hiruvananthapuram. A wide range of products like flower set, birds, animals, combs , cigarette cases, lamps etc. are made out of horn.

Bamboo Mat Paintings
Bamboo mat painting is one of the major craft in Kerala. The artisans initially make mats of required size as canvas and paint on it. Painting on the mat requires more concentration than ordinary painting. Most of the paintings are human and religious figures, animals, birds, scenery etc. in different size and in attractive colours. The products looks beautiful with bamboo reed frames at the top and bottom.

MetalworkMetalWork
Metal work is an ancient art of Kerala. The production of Temple bells and lamps have been in existence from very early times. Kerala is a home of bell-metals. Gleaming bell metal alloyed from a mixture of brass, tin and copper provide the raw substance for making tower-like lamps. Different types of cooking vessels, like the magnificent 'Varpu', tumblers for drinking etc are some of the other bell metal items. Trivandrum, Irinjalakuda and Kasargod are the main centers of bell-metal. The religious icons from Kerala has a wonderful directness, devotion and serenity associated with them like the unusual icon of the tandava dance, known as gaja tandava or gajasamhara, where Shiva is crushing the demon in an elephant form. The chief centres in Kerala for icons are Trivandrum, Payyanur is Cannanore district, and Angadipuram in Palghat district. A special and famed product of Aramula, a village near Chengannur in Kerala is the metal mirror made out of an alloy of copper and tin and its polished face resembling glass because of its wonderful reflecting quality.

Other crafts
Papier-Mache Masks - Papier -Mache masks of Kerala dancers in different poses are available. Kathakali faces are one of the common subject matter of Papier-Mache. Banana Plant fibre, Cora grass, Rice straw etc are used to make various products. Banana fibre is woven into floor coverings, each a square foot in size, are then stitched together according to the size desired, Rice straw is used to form a silken collage of native scenery on black silk and Cora grass is used to make mats are best examples for the above.

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