The Amar Chitra Katha comics had much more to offer a young girl than just stories on mythology. The stories ,that focused on women especially had pages and pages of beautiful jewellery and drapes.
My favourite, however, was the floral jewellery. Be it Damayanti, Shankuntala or Sita in the forest, their natural beauty was highlighted by the simple charm of their flower accessories.
Stringing flowers together into garlands is an art that goes back centuries. From adorning deities, garlands gradually progressed into an optional accessory for women as well.
Festive occasions offered the perfect opportunity to bedeck oneself in flowers. Starting with adding flowers to one’s hair, the pretty blossoms soon made their appearance around wrists, necks, waists and ears. Floral jewellery was clearly here to stay.
Many years ago, the Pushpanjali exhibition organised by CCTN showcased a multitude of floral craft. The artistry and craftsmanship of our South Indian garland-makers is exemplary.
My cousins and I were fascinated by the thought of substituting our traditional jewels for one made with flowers. So we did just that ,for one cousin sister’s wedding.
The saris were brought out and the colours matched with the flowers available at that point. Quick decisions had to be made. A choker for one, a long chain for another and a dainty nethi chutti (maang tikka / papadi bottu) for the bride.
Mine was a pale-green Banares sari with gold and silver zari. The flowers I chose were nandhiavattam buds and green carnations. My request was for a wide neckpiece. What awaited me on the morning of the function was too beautiful for words.
The talented karigar had fashioned a chunky necklace that looked as intricate as something one would buy at a store. The white and green were accentuated by feathery strands of purple limonium and bits of gold ribbon. During the course of the entire function I floated about as if my jewellery came directly from the land of fairies ! I was surprised when something this delicate and fragile actually lasted for a few days.
Vijaylakshmi Rudrappan is the lady to be credited for all the designs. She works with garland makers in the city and teaches them to incorporate various designs into their work. A naturally creative person , she and her mother Indra ma constantly experiment with different materials that are found in nature. She is much too modest about her efforts and prefers to let the flower sellers take all the credit.
The hand work, she says, is all theirs. She just guides them into thinking differently and offers suggestions for flowers outside of the traditional ones. The kammal motifs that she taught them to add to the centre of the strands are one of the most sought-after designs. The kunchals that finish the piece are so delicate. The wearability quotient has improved. Earring backs and plain rings are bought and the woven floral pieces are attached.
Periasamy has been selling flowers for many decades. He has 20 people in his permanent employ and 20 more on a temporary basis when the load increases. Being involved in this kind of floral work, he says, is something new and one that they enjoy doing. It takes them about 15 minutes to make a ring and a couple of hours to make one necklace. An entire set takes 3-4 hours of uninterrupted work.
He also likes to pay strict attention to the quality. This is why he assigns the work accordingly. An odhiyanam or waist belt is made only by a specific worker, similarly for bracelets and earrings. Periasamy says that’s the only way he can be sure of the end result. He requires a couple of days notice to make the smaller pieces. For the bigger ones, he needs to be informed at least a week in advance for him to procure the necessary flowers. He grows the nandhiavattam needed to meet his requirements.
This art of tying flowers by hand is unique to Coimbatore and the south. Elsewhere in the country, flower strands are put together with needle and thread. While the needle is used to fix the flowers to the backing, the flowers are tied by working the fingers in a in a swirl and loop method. The neatness of each piece is a marvel of hand engineering. This year, add something different to your festive attire. Replace the metallic bling with adornment of a different nature. It certainly looks and feels very special.
To place orders, call Periasamy at 9994458374 or Kanchana at 9843346393